I must preface my remarks
by saying that I have never debated in the National Forensics League, or
any other public high school debate league. I have participated in
debate for the last four years as a home-educated student. As such, I am
familiar with the rules and theory of my league, and not yours. I come
from a background that heavily emphasizes the stock issues, so what I
will present may not perfectly apply, but the ideas may at least serve
to stimulate your own thoughts concerning the topic.
The public school topic
is, as you know, Resolved: That
the United States federal government should establish a foreign policy
significantly limiting the use of weapons of mass destruction. To
make a plan work, (solvent) you must therefore restrict to a large
degree the use of WMD's. The problem is that you can only do this by
changing US foreign policy.
In my opinion, the
meaning of the word use is
essential to an understanding of the resolution. As a result, I will
focus on this point throughout the rest of this article. I will begin by
falling back upon two dictionaries, The
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition,
2000, and The Cambridge
International Dictionary of the English Language, 2001. I chose
these two dictionaries because they suited my purposes and they are
probably familiar to most of you. Other dictionaries may define the
words in the resolution differently allowing for a variety of plans. I
certainly do not hope to explain every possible plan, I merely hope to
show you some of the interpretations of the resolution that I see.
The Cambridge International Dictionary of the English Language
defines use several ways, here are three:
to put to a particular purpose
to reduce the amount of or finish, such as by eating it, burning
it, writing on it or changing it chemically; to consume
to take advantage of; to exploit
The first definition is
very open, allowing you to determine what a
particular purpose means. This definition is also dangerous because
the negative team can easily argue that their idea of what a particular purpose means is equally valid.
It could be more
difficult to argue that the second definition is legitimate, but it very
much brings to mind the idea of firing or detonation. Of course, the
level of such detonation is basically zero right now, so you will have
to be careful if you choose to utilize this definition.
The third definition
seems to be even more distant from the resolution, but limiting the
exploitation of WMD’s is a concern. Whether you wish to address
exploitation of US WMD’s or foreign WMD’s is up to you, but it is
possible to argue that the exploitation of US weapons does not fall
under foreign policy, and that foreign policy would be powerless to
actually limit exploitation of foreign weapons.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines use
several ways; here are a few of them:
The condition or fact of being used.
The quality of being suitable or adaptable to an end; usefulness.
A purpose for which something is used.
These definitions provide
some intriguing possibilities. The first sense of use is important
because it opens up the realm of proliferation. By presenting the
resolution as Resolved: That the United States should establish a
foreign policy significantly limiting the fact of use of weapons of mass
destruction, you change the discussion to one of possession- the essence
of the proliferation debate.
The second definition, if
applied, would give the resolution a very new meaning, specifically,
limiting the usefulness of WMD’s. How one would go about fulfilling
this understanding of the resolution, I am not sure, but I have no doubt
that possibilities exist.
In my opinion, the last
definition has the most potential. Under this explanation of the word use, instead of limiting the number of weapons or the level of their
detonation, the resolution would now call for the limitation of the
purposes for which WMD’s are used. Changing the US policy for firing
its own WMD’s is something that can be done with more surety than
limiting other nation’s use of WMD’s by manipulation of our foreign
The biggest obstacle to
most of these definitions is that foreign policy does not guarantee
anything. If you are trying to limit something with foreign policy
instead of in it, you will have a lot of trouble convincing a judge that
your plan has any reasonable assurance of solvency.
As I mentioned earlier, this resolution can be interpreted in many different ways, the above examples are just that, examples. I should also note that I have worked through only one word of the resolution, and I did so with but two dictionaries. There are more than two dictionaries available to you, and there is more than one word in the resolution. How you ultimately define the resolution is incredibly important, use the resources available to you carefully, debates will often be decided upon how well you have defined and analyzed the resolution.
Benjamin K. Schubert,