Beware of dissipating your powers; strive constantly to concentrate them. — J. W. von Goethe
In my book, I made a mistake: I said that my lead character read Faust in college. This is clearly a mistake because people don’t read Faust in college. Faust is anathema to the academy, as can be seen in latent hostility in increasingly lackluster translations done by (presumably progressively postmodernist) academics. Goethe may well have predicted this in the gradiation of academics as he presented them, from Faust to the knowledge-loving Wagner to the power-lusting Baccalaureus. Indeed, A. S. Byatt seems to actively channel Baccalaureus in his preface to David Constantine’s translation when he says “Nobody much likes Faust himself, and very few think his belief in ‘striving’ ought to have been sufficient to save him.”
But let’s compare some translations that set up the character. While there are a great many translations to choose from, I’ve got Bayard Taylor’s translation as my oldest, Philip Wayne’s from the mid-20th century, and David Constantine’s from 2005.
But all my joy has left me too,
I know that it’s nothing good I know,
I know that what I teach won’t mend
The minds and the manners of humankind.
I’ve neither goods nor gold and neither
Honour in the world nor any splendour.
Wayne’s Older Translation
And in return am destitute of pleasure,
Knowing that knowledge tricks us beyond measure,
That man’s conversion is beyond my reach,
Knowing the emptiness of what I teach.
Meanwhile I live in penury,
No worldly honour falls to me.
Taylor’s Oldest Translation
For this, all pleasure am I foregoing;
I do not pretend to aught worth knowing,
I do not pretend I could be a teacher
To help or convert a fellow-creature.
Then, too, I’ve neither lands nor gold,
Nor the world’s least pomp or honor hold –
There are three things going on in this passage: a judgment on knowledge, a reflection on the human condition, and Henry’s relationship with power.
The newest translation suggests that there’s plenty of things to know, but that Henry doesn’t like like them: the defect is in Henry’s attitude.
The middle translation suggests that the only way to really gain knowledge is to gain more knowledge: the defect can be overcome by Henry if he just learns even more.
The oldest translation suggests that the accumulation of knowledge has not been worthwhile: the defect is in a misapplication of life to pedagogy.
The newest translation claims that people need to have their minds and manners mended: they started well, but then broke and need fixing. Note that mending is particularly non-aspirational: the subject is only moved closer to its original position, not actually restored to it.
The middle translation claims that people need to be converted: they need to be changed into something else.
The oldest translation claims that people need to be helped or converted: this is much more clear on their need to aspire out of their status. It is also worth noting that this is the only translation where Henry refers to them as “fellow;” other translations have them as, effectively, the Other with an implicit dichotomy between the authoritative teacher and subjugated student despite Henry’s disavowal of the correlation between knowledge and authority.
Constantine does full-stop detachment between Henry’s profession and what he hasn’t profited by it. His failings are multiple, but unrelated.
Wayne runs poverty coeval with Henry’s profession, very passively suggesting that wealth and honour might have fallen to, rather than been grasped by, Henry. This is, in essence, the salaried employee realizing that they should have asked for a promotion instead of just doing a great job and hoping to be noticed.
Taylor regards wealth as competitive to the profession: not only does Henry feel that he is failing at his profession but “Then, too,” he is failing to be economically gainful. This exposes a deeper irony in the work, that being that Faust is set up to bargain with the devil precisely because he feels that he has been unsuccessful in “selling” his life to his academic work; his time has been converted into worthless knowledge that helps nobody and doesn’t even provide base material profit to him.
The difference in characterization between these three translations is clear, but should also provide warning when characterizing Henry in some way that doesn’t hold for later action, as Dr. Luschei does in her doctoral thesis claiming that the “story line turns on Faust’s longing for love, power, and recognition and we see from his manner of living why these represent a temptation for him.” Indeed, Goethe goes to great trouble to show that Faust is recognized and loved by Wagner, by the student who would become Baccalaureus, by the townsfolk that exacerbate Faust’s long-festering guilt and inferiority complex. As far as the quality of his apartment is concerned, it is no stretch to suggest that “this dungeon still I see. This drear, accursed masonry” is Goethe’s equivalent of Shakespeare’s claim that the whole world is a prison “in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ th’ worst,” as voiced by Hamlet. It strikes me as strange that we readily dismiss Hamlet’s disdain as hyperbolic but, knowing that Faust is in a similar state of mind and particularly distraught by insight into the hyper-reality of academia, regard Faust’s description as objective and lucid.
Furthermore, exactly contrary to Luschei’s synopsis is the discussion of Faust’s final plan in Part 2, Act 4, Wayne translation:
And there your lust for fame begins:
One sees you’ve been with heroines.
So realm and rule to me will fall;
The glory’s nought, the deed is all.
Yet unborn poets will proclaim
To all posterity your fame,
More fools with folly to inflame.
Shut out from life, you have no part
In things that stir the human heart.
Your bitter mind, where envy breeds,
What can it know of human needs?
Put another way, the “active nature” that God put in people (per the Prologue in Heaven, Taylor translation) creates a duty to act, regardless of consequence. Thus the Will To power is a personal orientation that pursues Freedom From inhibitions, rather than a Freedom To pursue a specific end. And the very critical difference between these two positions is not just that the hallmarks of having Freedom From may vary slightly — or not — from those of having Freedom To, but rather that the Freedom From, as driven by the Will To, doesn’t end — it’s based on an infinitive. Why do billionaires need more money than they can possibly ever spend? They don’t; it’s only a side effect of their infinitive Will To power. Similarly, Faust didn’t need to take over the little hovel that wasn’t his except that it was putting a boundary on his infinitive Will To.
To be fair to Byatt, I can see how people who have power sans will, or imagine they have (academic) power, or will never have power would not “much like Faust himself,” as Goethe was kind to none of those sorts of people throughout Faust and, more critically, they are quite simply not much like Faust himself at all.
But Faust is a cautionary tale for people who have or can cultivate a Will To power. It warns against all manner of things — from spending too much time in school to the dangers of fiat currency, from choosing an inadequate life-partner to irresponsibility towards the future. But the point that it finally sticks with in my reading of it is that future action redeems the past, not by looking backwards and trying to repair what went wrong but by looking forwards and trying to aspire beyond and make something of it.
This post is about getting nifty Twitter Summary cards and similar OpenGraph summary cards for Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn on a single-author copy of WordPress. It’s not too difficult, except for the misinformation that makes it impossible.
Several hours of woe and tribulation later, I have added the following to my possibly-unnecessary header-article.php (which is called from single.php as get_header("article")):
I installed Elliot Condon’s Advanced Custom Fields plug-in as the easiest way to add a single piece of metadata to an article (I called it “summary”) and fetch it back out again because adding a summary slug should be simple, and not necessarily an excerpt. And now it is; thanks Elliot! I also added a custom functions.php to my -child theme’s folder to enable “Featured Images” nee “Thumbnails” — it is simply <?php add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' ); ?> and now I can attach images to my posts that aren’t currently showing up in my posts because I haven’t asked them to, but they will show up on my cards. I may add a condition in the future to default in my favorite thumbnail if I don’t attach a specific featured image to a post.
I could probably augment this further by including heights and widths for the image in use, picking up my Twitter ID from my WordPress User Profile (under “Users” if you, like me, haven’t seen it before), or gone with my numeric twitter:site:id instead of my changeable user name.
My testing shows that Google+ picks right up on this stuff with only a little bit of caching, which is great. Facebook tends to cache the card for rather longer, so it does work but it’s difficult to test revisions with. Twitter wants you to grovel for their approval — or at least click a button and wait a couple of weeksafter you have implemented Twitter Cards to their algorithmic satisfaction — before you can see the results showing up in tweets. For a company that forces people to abandon grammar and spelling to get ideas out faster, this seems like a particularly backwards maneuver. The up-side to Twitter is that you can feed your card into their validator until you’re happy with it — though that’s not the same as it actually working and adding value in the wild.
I haven’t tested with LinkedIn because I’m not particularly linked in to… yeah. I’ll get around to it later.
It is worth noting that Twitter seems to have the staunchest restrictions on the way they read the card. They want:
The title to max out at 70 characters.
The description to max out at 200 characters (though I’ve also heard 160).
The image to be under 1mb (reasonable) at least 60px in each direction (really?) and if they go more than 120px in either direction then they’re going to get cropped.
The site to load in under 3 seconds for their validating algorithm.
If you follow those rules, your summary should show up fine for Facebook and Google+ as well, assuming FB and/or G+ didn’t cache an earlier copy of your pre-successful metadata.
Given the topic Resolved: The continuation of current U.S. anti-drug policies in Latin America will do more harm than good, the first question we should be asking is what the current U.S. anti-drug policies in Latin America are.
The ideology of the drug war is that repression, violence, and destruction are ample tactics to stop drug trafficking. It shapes policies that have militarized Latin America and serves as a legislative tactic to maintain US power in the region.
4,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Latin America and as many as four U.S. Navy ships are plying the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines of Central America. U.S. Air Force pilots clocked more than 46,400 hours in 2011 flying anti-drug missions, and U.S. agents from at least 10 law enforcement agencies spread across the continent. … In the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War, the U.S. has militarized the battle against the traffickers, spending more than $20 billion in the past decade. … a $1.6 billion, 4-year Merida Initiative was launched in 2008 [in 5 countries]. … The latest iteration is the $165 million Central America Regional Security Initiative, which includes Operation Martillo (Hammer), a year-old U.S.-led mission [that] has no end date.
The United States will be using the same anti-drug policies in Central America as it has used in Colombia and Mexico, where results have been murky at best. Both countries have seen the corruption of public officials and the armed forces, and many dead civilians…
Mendoza notes that Mexico has has 70,000 deaths in the past 6 years and earlier action in Columbia was accompanied by 44,000 deaths.
Alvarez continues starkly:
U.S. anti-drug policies have not been able to impede production of drugs in Colombia, or other parts of South America. They have not been able to stop drugs smuggled through Mexico, and they have not been able to stop the historic high number of illicit drugs that enter the United States today. Nonetheless, U.S. policymakers are attempting to replicate the same failed strategy, as they turn to Central America, sandwiched between Colombia and Mexico, in an attempt to cut off the traffickers before they ever reach Mexico and the U.S. border.
The word among current employees, psychologists and counselors, according to an article by Dealbreaker written in the past year, is that drug usage has not dropped. … “Drugs are so accessible to the average person, let alone the person who is well-spoken and professional,” [Seabrook Clinical Director William] Heran said. According to Heran, the trend in Wall Street drug consumption is using a Pez dispenser with the head of a red devil containing pills of Oxycodone or Percocet.
So even if we do manage to confiscate and destroy some specific drugs before they get to the U.S. market, we aren’t really cutting down on the overall availability of drugs. Really, we’re Oregonians: we’re not going to buy cocaine imported from halfway around the world when we can buy locally-sourced pot and meth. Joking aside, the point is still valid: between common non-Latin American drug sources, over-abundant and readily misused prescription drugs, and fun new combinations of household chemicals that aren’t illegal yet, $20 billion and 110,000 foreign deaths haven’t improved our position against drugs. So what’s going on instead: American Imperialism corrupting foreign leaders.
Latin American leaders have protested the deployment and maintenance of U.S. troops in [Costa Rica]’s counter-narcotic operations as a cover for Washington’s desire to flex its military might in the region [and] A leaked U.S. Air Force document outlined that the purposes of U.S. forces in Colombian air bases would not be restricted to counter-narcotics operations but would offer “full spectrum operations throughout South America” and would meet threats from “anti-US governments.” … [But] Honduras’s Minister of Security, Oscar Álvarez … wants to share tactical and strategic information and receive economic aid from the United States [and] The government of El Salvador … welcomed assistance in the form of intelligence officers and economic aid.
So what we’re seeing here is our troops on indefinite foreign deployment with active scope creep belying their alleged — and thus far unsuccessful — mission, while we allow foreign leaders to actively solicit donations from us to keep them attuned to our interest rather than being dependent on their peoples’ interest. So bear this in mind: anybody talking about corruption in Latin America? Well yeah, we’re the ones actively corrupting them.
So I’ve judged a couple of late policy rounds which were effectively decided by the 1NC turning themselves out of the round with poorly thought-out Ks that they were not so much biting as actively gnawing upon. So let’s spend some time talking about Ks in the hopes that you won’t run them badly, will be able to defend yourself against a badly-run K, and might even run a K cleverly.
There are generally three types of Ks: Useless Ks, Not Actually Ks, and Rhetorical Ks.
The Not Actually Ks are actually attacks on stock issues of the affirmative, usually either Harms or Solvency. For example, running a Marxism K against anything is essentially saying “The affirmative team has selected the wrong harms to solve because they’re not solving for the harms caused by capitalism — specifically pervasive and growing inequality.” And then a lot of time has to be spent building up the new Harm that needs to not just displace but fully trump the affirmative’s frame of reference out of the round. This is usually easier if you can provide a counter-plan to answer your own K, or at least sever the Affirmative solvency with analysis extending from your K. The simpler Ks are the ones that go after an attitude that undermines solvency, like “nobody believes in individual responsibility which counteracts rather than extends any benefits of government policy” (which interestingly goes against biopower silliness). The overall point of this is that I don’t know of any judge that prefers Ks to attacks on Stock Issues, so if you can re-package a K to be a Stock Issue attack, you should.
Unfortunately, the typical reason why a Not Actually K isn’t just an attack on a stock issue is because it’s really a Useless K. The Marxism K is always going to be a Marxism K because The Glorious Revolution Is Not A Policy Solution, such that the alternative of the K to addressing the bigger scarier problems of the world is… do nothing. The alternative to this is to have a way out of the K for the affirmative. For example, if the actual harm is “systemic facilitation of misogyny and violence against women as a result of ignorant mass transit planning” then the affirmative can just turn around and say “okay, we’ll plan smarter with our plan, and thank you for raising this important issue,” to which the negative has to say “thank you and you’re welcome” because if they reject the affirmative’s co-opting of their K — especially without a counter-plan that addresses their K — then they’ve ensured that the K is insoluble and thus can’t impact the decision one way or the other. Overall, a K that focuses on status quo harms but refuses to address them or go into how the affirmative plan can’t do what it claims to do because of the pervasiveness of the larger harm is just verbal wanking and a waste of your judges’ time.
The easiest way to make a Useless K even worse is to flatly declare a monopoly on it a la a Rhetorical K. For example, telling the affirmative that they can’t access a Marxism K because they entered the round with a Capitalist mindset as demonstrated by an economics advantage they’re willing to drop also inadvertently tells any judge who was considering that economics advantage that they also have the wrong mindset and thus cannot vote for the (useless without the not-a-policy revolution) Marxism K. In an amusing similar example, a response to a (woefully underdeveloped) Feminism K claimed that “either the K could be co-opted or Patriarchy is genetically inevitable,” to which the negative flatly rejected the co-opting of the K and (rightly) said the genetic Patriarchy claim was reprehensible — without realizing that by flatly rejecting the co-opting of the K they’d effectively made the K unfeasible and the alt (Patriarchy) inevitable. Oops. If you don’t have a way to address your criticism of the status quo and flatly reject the affirmative’s attempts to accept your criticism of the status quo, then you’ve effectively claimed that the harms of the status quo are inevitable and are back to verbal wanking, only louder and prouder.
But the actual Ks that might also be effective as critiques are Rhetorical Ks, where the point of the K is to criticize the style or substance of the opponent — either affirmative or negative — for something that was said in the previous constructive speech. These commonly include:
Politics of Fear for when the opponent has threatened nuclear war, bioterror, and other ways to become extinct, but no positive incentive to take action other than “not die.” The opponent is either setting up imaginary threats or overplaying actual threats and claiming to be the only way to save everybody from them, which tends to be ridiculous as demonstrated by the long history of policy debate and the lack of nuclear wars regardless of judges’ decisions. If your opponent can sever out of terminal impacts, they may be able to squeak out of this one.
Crisis-Oriented Policy Making is very similar to Politics of Fear, except that it relies on a brink of Now! and can have positive side effects. The opponent is trying to get the judge to make a snap decision to either avoid a fate or take advantage of an exigent situation without fully considering the repercussions (or even feasibility) of the policy decision. Furthermore, any policy success achieved with a faux-crisis merely encourages the creation of future crises as a platform on which to set policy: can you say “Fiscal Cliff”? If your opponent can restrain their partner from saying “it’s try or die!” repeatedly, they may not link into this.
Hyper-Reality comes out when a link story goes on for too long or fiat is being abused in strange and unfeasible ways. At its core it effectively says that all staged debates are just symbolic discussions a.k.a. ineffectual verbal wanking (true enough in a hypocritical kind of way), but because you’ve chosen to participate in the debate you should hold off on bringing out a Hyper-Reality K until the debate has degraded into stupid implausibility. This is possibly the only K that can make a good Education impact: when the opponent is talking about things that are ridiculously unreal, everybody is becoming dumber by listening to their time-wasting verbal wanking.
Intelligence Fixing is what you call it when somebody claims to have researched their plan without finding any dissenting or opposing evidence to it — or at least not any that they’re willing to share with you. You set this up in cross examination by asking about the dissenting evidence. If they claim to not have any then they either didn’t research well enough or are lying, and if they tell you that it’s your job to have evidence against their plan then they’re clearly withholding evidence because they prefer petty personal victories to actual good policy. Either way, any policy plan with no downsides is disingenuously powered by wishful thinking, and the opposition’s refusal to provide any meaningful counters to their claims should be viewed as highly suspicious. This K should be linking the opposition’s plan to the decision to invade Iraq (see also “Downing Street Memo”) because that’s where real-world impacts are most tangible. Feel free to double down, pointing out that a couple of kids probably can’t save the world with an 8-minute elevator pitch. This K should work well if you’ve got a lot of generic disadvantages and can’t figure out what else to do. Of course, a canny opponent might weasel out of it in cross examination by actively giving you ground — “well, we have to deficit spend and a lot of people don’t like that, and [insert trivial but pertinent plan-specific disadvantage here]” — at which point they can beat the perception that they’ve fixed intelligence.
Fascistic Partisanism is just fun to say, but it comes up when a link-story has the Other political party doing something which causes new harms, or as the core of the Inherency stock issue, without addressing why the Other party is behaving in the way that it is. For example, it might be true that Republicans are blocking all legislation, or Republicans are blocking all legislation because they’re spiteful bastards, or even that Republicans are spiteful bastards that will cause economic collapse and nuclear war, but if it is then the team making those claims should be able to explain how Republicans hold most of congress, a substantial portion of the senate, and got millions upon millions of votes in the last presidential election. The point is that refusing to engage with the thought processes of the roughly half of the nation that sits on the Other side of the aisle is bad policy making, and the toy fiat in the round is not going to be waved like a wand but rather swung like a bludgeon, indicating that actual inherent blockages/harms will likely persist beyond the debate and as the opponent carries their us-versus-them mentality into the larger politicized world.
Of course, running with any of these Rhetorical Ks means that you have to watch your rhetoric to ensure that you don’t bite them. The worst example I’ve (recently) seen of this was a K against the dehumanizing practice of describing people by their socioeconomic condition. Not a bad K until you consider that socioeconomic condition is exactly what needs to be considered when looking to redistribute power (so don’t run it unless you and your judge are 1%ers intending to preserve the status quo), but then the team also ran a Marxism K… with Marxism pretty much exactly labeling people by their socioeconomic condition to divide into the Us/Them camps, et cetera. I was saddened first by their lack of coherent thinking and second by the prospect of having to sit through another hour of incoherent shouting before the round was over.
So, to recap:
If you’ve got a fairly generic topic-based K, develop it into a Stock Issue attack or don’t bother with it.
If you’ve got Ks based on rhetoric, listen carefully to your opponents to ensure that they bite them, and then watch your language to avoid gnawing on them yourself.
Final Bonus: one thing I’m really not looking forward to next year is a mass-proliferation of Marxism Ks. Yes, there are socioeconomic problems that our current practice of faux-capitalism has exacerbated. No, Marxism isn’t going to help. A quick reading of Camus — specifically towards the end of The Rebel — or Foucault can give you ample information on this, but the blunt of it is that The Glorious Revolution Is Not A Policy Solution: never on the floor of the house or senate have the words “This plan just isn’t Marxist enough” been uttered, at which point the Marxist K would be biting a Hyper-Reality K if one were to be presented.
One of the questions I’m fielding with increasing frequency from my students, current and former, is what kind of music I listen to. And while my overall collection includes probably a bit of everything finely skimmed off of what I would consider to be “the best,” actually reviewing my playlists reveals a particular penchant for a musical/lyrical structure when can persist through misery and despair but still conclude with a tenacity for life.
I suspect that my musical tastes are likely compensating for a lack of real misery in my life. I am not the disenfranchised kid from a broken home that is the common centerpiece of Green Day‘s or The Offspring’s punk songs, or the oppressed outsider common to the industrialized KMFDM perspective. I endeavor to avoid the emotional traumas that are the underpinnings of much of U2 and their ilk. And I would not spend much time listening to any of them if I didn’t know the path from “Song of the Century” to “See the Light,” from “Dogma” to “Trust,” or from “The City of Blinding Lights” to “Breathe.”
None of this is to reduce the impact of — for example — Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, or dismiss the super-saturation of Collide’s work in my collection, or the fragmentary issue-oriented contributions of, for example, The Heavy. But there is a surprising tendency and an emerging behavior in many of my playlists which, I believe, ultimately serves to make the listener feel good about being human.
So now that we’re deep into the heart of our NFL qualifying tournament, I can talk about how to affirm Resolved: The United States is justified in intervening in the internal political processes of other countries to attempt to stop human rights abuses, and I will in just a moment.
Most affirmative positions will be confused by how this resolution uses intents to justify actions regardless of consequences when real-world consequences tend to be disastrous. Really, the United States hasn’t closed Gitmo and got help from 54 other countries in abusing human rights — we shouldn’t be claiming that we’re justified in any interventions to prevent human rights abuses. But the mistake that the negative might make is thinking that just because an action isn’t justified means that it won’t be taken when we have a Long History of Bad Ideas playing out in a predictable fashion. What we have to understand is that an action may still be necessarily taken with a noble acceptance of guilt in lieu of justification. As Reinhold Niebuhr explains in The Irony of American History:
The tragic element in a human situation is constituted of conscious choices of evil for the sake of good. If men or nations do evil in a good cause; if they cover themselves with guilt in order to fulfill some high responsibility; or if they sacrifice some high value for the sake of a higher or equal one they make a tragic choice. Thus the necessity of using the threat of atomic destruction as an instrument for the preservation of peace is a tragic element in our contemporary situation. Tragedy elicits admiration as well as pity because it combines nobility with guilt.
In short, we can do everything the affirmative is going to say that we’re going to do, but do it accepting that we are causing harms that can never be fully justified but we instead choose to bear the guilt. And this is unavoidable due to the conflict between the group dynamic of a nation such as the United States and the externality of other peoples’ human rights. Indeed, our choice to intervene in other nations political processes is based not on their actual behavior, but rather how we want to think about ourselves. Niebuhr explains in Moral Man and Immoral Society that:
The growing intelligence of mankind and the increased responsibility of monarchs to their people have placed a check upon the caprice, but not upon the self-interest, of the men of power. They may still engage in social conflict for the satisfaction of their pride and vanity provided they can compound their personal ambitions with, and hallow them by, the ambitions of their group, and the pitiful vanities and passions of the individuals who compose the group.
Thus it isn’t the “attempting to stop human rights abuses” that would have us claiming our government was justified in intervening, but rather our belief in our government’s vicarious virtue that makes us feel it is justified. This subtle but distinct shift moves the affirmative case off of its alleged base and shows the resolution to be false.
The resolution is asking us to evaluate actions by intentions. Those actions — interfering in foreign affairs — aren’t our actions; they are being done by people in the executive branch of our federal government. And we either elected them, or elected the person who appointed or hired them into public service. And both at the point where they are employed in public service and/or elected by the public, we must necessarily expect that they have Good Intentions because that reflects back on the populous (us). But there’s a funny thing about having Good Intentions, and it is that a person with good intentions will believe that whatever they choose to do is justified by their good intentions — or, more to the point, their great, pure, and noble intentions which form (in their mind) the core of their character and are the basis for their public service. For example, former President Bush still thinks that his decision to invade Iraq was a good idea [saw it on the news a couple of days ago] because he believes he did it with great, pure, and noble intentions and to admit that it was a quagdebaclamire — a debacle stuck in the middle of a quagmire — would be to call his intentions into question, which then calls his identity into question, and any strong ego (like those of almost anybody, but certainly anybody who can get elected president) is going to reject that flat out: people will readily and continually lie to themselves about what they’ve done to avoid having to question their belief in who they are. So the thing is that if we want to work with these people, we have to expect their best intentions.
So we’re going to value the Expectation of their Best Intentions. I expect that you judges have the best intentions of imparitiality coming into this debate and I thank you for your service to our education. And I expect that my opponent has the best intentions in arguing that interventions are not justified because they so often have problematic side-effects and violate some notion of national soverignity et cetera. Similarly, we should be expecting the best intentions of our elected government, because we want to justify our ongoing democratic process instead of being compelled to open revolt.
And the criterion we’re looking at is which best intentions we’re talking about: claims to attempt to stop human rights abuses. After all, government officials may attempt to justify their actions via other claims — stopping terrorists is popular — but for the set of best expectations that they’re justifying in the current resolution, they’re necessarily going to be claiming to fixate on human rights abuses.
C1: Now we’re going to necessarily be horrified and outraged when things go wrong. And my opponent is going to tell us all about that. But what we have to understand is that if we want to change our leaders’ direction, we have to work with their claims of having the best intentions…
“Riccardo Orizio interviewed seven [other] dictators, including Idi Amin, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Mira Markovic… and Jean-Bedel Bokassa… Every one of them claimed that everything they did — torturing or murdering their opponents, blocking free elections, starving their citizens, looting their nation’s wealth, launching genocidal wars — was done for the GOOD of their country. The alternative, they said, was chaos, anarchy, and bloodshed. Far from seeing themselves as despots, they saw themselves as self-sacrificing patriots.” (from Talk of the Devil, summarized in Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me))
Indeed, we can reasonably expect that Syria’s dictator Assad views himself as a latter-day Lincoln, struggling to preserve the unity of his nation. But if all of these horrible evil Other people can justify their actions by their belief in their inherent goodness and public service, how much more justified are the people we’ve elected (and are not in active revolt against) going to feel about their actions? They are always, always going to believe that no matter how badly an intervention goes, that at least they made things better than those Horrible Horrible Human Rights Abuses they went in to stop.
C2: And regardless of how this round turns out, there will be interventions. The whole “greeted as liberators” perfume that was doused on the Iraq invasion by a Republican administration was recycled from a certain Bay of Pigs fiasco that was ordered under the administration of Democrats. The government’s gallantly botching the use of power, both hard and soft, on the international stage is a bipartisan activity that’s been going on for almost certainly longer than anybody here has been alive. And it’s certainly going to continue because the one quality that tens of millions of Americans can agree that any presidential candidate must possess is strength of will, demonstrated by absolute decisiveness, which is just veneer for self-justification that allows them to give orders based on their best intentions. So the thing you have to bear in mind while my opponent is speaking is that while they’re going to be talking about how great it would be if we could respect other nations or the UN or whatever, America — the America that hasn’t closed Gitmo, the America that has expanded drone attacks to include killing American citizens without trial or even charge — is also the America that re-elected President Obama despite not closing Gitmo and secretly expanding the drone war, which should totally be unsurprising because it’s the same America that re-elected President Bush despite a lack of international support for the invasion of Iraq. Saying “that’s not justified” doesn’t make it stop, it just stops dialog because the person in power knows that we don’t respect their best intentions.
C3: So let me be clear on this point: my opponent is probably going to be correct in almost everything they claim in their case. The problem is that they’re not going to be stopping these interventions, and indeed will make mitigating the negative effects which are totally obvious to them even harder: As Tavris and Aronson observe in Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)
“Self-justification not only minimizes our mistakes and bad decisions; it is also the reason that everyone can see a hypocrite in action except the hypocrite. It allows us to create a distinction between our moral lapses and someone else’s, and to blur the discrepancy between our actions and our moral convictions. … A president who justifies his actions only to the public might be induced to change them. A president who has justified his actions to himself, believing that he has the truth, becomes impervious to self-correction.”
So, in affirming the resolution, we can work through a criterion of human rights while valuing the best intentions of our government, but only if we accept their belief that the action was justified. The negative dialog would be “that invasion wasn’t justified, get our troops out, and — by the by — you’re also a horrible person” and we’ll find that we’re still staying the course or even surging in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever. But the affirmative dialog would be “okay, so we’re trying to give them democracy and protect human lives, and those are noble goals: so let’s work harder to minimize civilian casualties, and maybe back off and let them form their own government instead of supporting some local elites to mimic our own?” And in order to have that dialog, in order to mitigate all of the negative side effects that my opponent will tell us about, we have to be willing to believe that our elected officials really do have the best intentions.
[Note: a clever negative may attempt to advocate Open Revolt to put an end to unjustified government action. At this point, the negative becomes and enemy of the state and may be subject to targeted killing by a drone, which would be perfectly justified -- claims the government in power -- to protect the domestic tranquility of the nation, while also making it impossible to vote for the negative position in the long-term such that the debate cannot be permanently resolved in the negative. We do live in troubled times.]