Debating Techniques

Well watching a self-identified debate team alumnus at work is instructive. It seems a key debating technique is to isolate and identify a weak argument not made by those on the “other side”, identify that argument as theirs, and then deconstruct it. See for example, Mr Schraub as a case in point, who identifies an argument regarding Iraq, in which the “emphasis on sovereign states” and a “cold war strategy” in dealing with terror in which the recent Mumbai attacks are used as an example.

However in real life such a technique is not actually conducive to any sort of irenic constructive discussions of any sort, alas. The only (actual) argument regarding “sovereign” states regarding the WoT was that a key part of strategy would be to prevent and discourage sovereign states from encouraging or fostering international terror within their boundaries. The idea is that when a sovereign state offers a safe haven (and funds) for organization then the numbers and resources for terrorists grows by order(s) of magnitude and that preventing that then is a priority. Clearly as well, all the instruments available to pressure nations (and to encourage them not to) are to be used, with military force as a last resort.

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  1. Hindsight is 20/20, and that’s a huge backtrack from the actual conceptual framework from which the War on Terror has been prosecuted. My original “statecentrism” post, I think, demonstrated pretty clearly how the focus on states as the battleground upon which the war would be fought operated to the virtual exclusion of NGOs as independent actors worthy of concern. I don’t think any reasonable observer can say the war in Iraq was just a bitty part of a broad, terror-centric strategy that took as its primary focus terror, rather than states, as a threat.

  2. Boonton says:

    Has anyone noticed here that terrorists *want* war between sovereign states? It seems pretty clear to me that the Indian terrorists were not thinking they were going to overthrow India’s gov’t and establish Islam. Their goal is to provoke India into attacking Muslims (who themselves have been put upon by Hindu terrorists) in India and Pakistan. Their goal appears to be to ‘prove’ that Muslims states like Pakistan cannot exist peacefully with non-Muslim ones like India and that Muslims cannot live in a non-Muslim country without being targetted. Their goal, then, is to force a war between Muslims and non-Muslims in which Muslims would be have to choose between peaceful co-existence in secular societies and giving up their religion. Even though most Muslims are not of the Al Qaeda mindset, Al Qaeda wants to force the situation to become one of having to choose unity under one banner or death.

    Sadly it seems this insight is missed by many supposedly intelligent neocons who are all to eager to play along with Al Qaeda’s script.

  3. Mark says:


    I don’t think any reasonable observer can say the war in Iraq was just a bitty part of a broad, terror-centric strategy that took as its primary focus terror, rather than states, as a threat.

    Uhm, not exactly. Let’s see what part of the argument you actually disagree with.

    First, do you agree or disagree that state supported (or failed states) providing havens for terrorists within their borders through explicit support or implicit by not treating them as criminal increases greatly the terror problem?

    Second, do you agree or disagree that Iraq prior to the Iraq war was such a state?

    So … if Pakistan cannot police its own internal regions effectively (failed state?) … what “intelligent neocon” is eager to attack Pakistan to “fix” the problem?

    What problem or failure of perception are you trying to highlight?

  4. Boonton says:

    The cynic might argue that the failure is India’s since the terrorists didn’t attack Hindus living in Pakistan but Indians living in India. More to the point the ‘policing its own region’ argument isn’t really the point here. Even if the terrorists clearly came from Pakistan they could have just as easily been homegrown in India or for that matter from any Arab country including Iraq.

    As for who is arguing for an invasion of Pakistan by India, no one yet but not because that doesn’t fit neocon thinking but because:

    1. Neocons are somewhat unfocused now after being so roundly defeated.

    2. Advocating a hot war between two nuclear powers is not an easy thing to do.

    3. Our policy has been to look the other way on Pakistan so advocating an Indian strike on them puts our neocons in an awkward position.

    The answer, IMO, would be to encourage India to make an immediate show of friendship with Pakistan and quietly imply to Pakistan that they must do exactly the same if they don’t want to put themselves at great risk. In the meantime security must be ramped up as much as it can. The jihadist strategy of forcing a conflict between Muslim and non-Muslims cannot be allowed to win since that is the only real way Al Qaeda can gain support among Muslims, by positioning them in a corner where there is no other choice.