Write along with me: The Saudi Aff

I am writing a Saudi Arabia aff for the camp packet, and though I’m a cheater/already wrote this aff during the LD topic I thought I would do a series of posts outlining the process so any younger debaters who wanted to try and write their own aff could follow along.


First things first- research gets easier as you learn about a topic. You will better know what articles look/sound good and know what things you need cards on/what you don’t. In that spirit, here are some introductory materials on US arms sales and the war in Yemen which will be the main advantage.


Youtube playlist 

Dig Podcast Episode



Where do we start?


Well, Saudi will be a BIG aff. What do I mean?

-they are one of, if not the (more on this later), biggest purchaser of US arms

-in terms of “current events” this is by far the hottest issue in US arms sales


This means there are a lot of articles, many potential strategies, and therefore you will need to cover a lot. Why should you bother? Answer on tomorrow’s podcast.


So given the breadth of the topic, at least initially you will want to try and get your foot in the door in a relatively easy way. So we are going to start with “think tanks”.

A think tank is basically a professional research organization- they research issues relevant to debate/the government and then write articles and position papers talking about what the government should do. These articles are generally

-longer than newspaper articles

-written by someone with unique knowledge of the area

-chock full of footnotes (esp the longer ones) (note- many now forgo footnotes in favor of internet friendly hyperlinks which makes your job even easier as you just have to right click/open in new tab while you are reading instead of searching for it)


This makes them a fantastic place to start as you are basically “piggy backing” off a professional researcher- they are engaged on the issue daily/are reading articles and if you find a 40 page .pdf from Brookings on Saudi its gonna have links to 20 or so other articles that go the same way. Once you read a few of these you will want to make notes for future searches. Things you will want to pay attention to

-authors- you will want to do follow up searches for “their name” “saudi arabia” “arms sales” because if they write one good article odds are high they have more or they are cited in other articles

-pay attention to field terminology- in the context of Yemen there is lots of geography you will need to learn to understand/explain arguments. For example we frequently faced negatives who would argue “there is a ceasefire deal in the SQ- this solves the case, the aff ruins that process by abandoning Saudi Arabia”. Now, I don’t know if this is just a debate mistake or willful obfuscation, but the “cease fire” only applied to one city, the 4th largest in the country, which is also SPELLED differently as either “Hudaydah” or “Hodeidah” and those are only the 2 most common, its also translated as Hodeda, Hodeida, Hudaida- so in one round the neg read 4 cards with different spelling to argue “its not just one city”…. There are also different factions of “Yemenis” who support different versions of the government- not gonna get into all the minutia now- its covered in the youtube videos.

-watch for neg args- you always need to do answers when you do a file, but if its your aff you need to like a hawk looking for potential neg arguments because you need to be ready in case the neg reads it as a disad.


So to start, you can use this think tank database. It is a custom google search made by a Harvaaaaaaaaaard librarian so you know its good. It has a broad mix of think tanks so you will get both conservative and liberal.

The one thing I don’t like is you can’t (or I don’t know how) to set a date range like you can with regular google (you can sort by date, but not say like last 6 months and then sort by relevance) .


We are going to follow the steps outlined here 


Step  1 – Broad Searches

Let’s start with Saudi Arabia Arms Sales


We could add a restriction like US or United States to try and find articles only about US sales, but given “fill in” will be in 100% of bad 1NCs you will need to know more than just the US position.

So what I do when I start research is take a new chrome window so that I can sort all the tabs in one place. So open a new chrome, go to think tank database, and run that search


You won’t be running this at the exact moment I did so your results may look slightly different but it should be about 800,000 results

That’s a lot. So generally what I like to do when I do an assignment is read everything- that is clearly not possible here. So what we are going to do is look through the first 200 results and just based on the title try and identify the 20 articles that look the best for the aff. This can be done very quickly- you just skim through the titles and any that sound really good you open in a new tab.


So on my results list as you can see the 2nd result is “Are big Saudi Arms Sales a Good Idea?” Well thank you CFR that is the EXACT question we are trying to answer- so I would open that one. Looking at it its a survey of multiple foreign policy experts and what they think. Not the greatest for cards (in terms of quality) but it gives you names to search and introduces some of the key arguments- but right now we don’t care about that, we are just trying to find the top 20.


Now I will say, you get better at this over time. 2 Examples

-CATO- a propaganda mill for sure, but even blind squirrels find nuts occasionally and some of the American Gladiator champions of debate Doug Bandow and Ted Galen Carpenter both have articles in the first few pages of results. These authors, whatever their other problems, write GREAT debate cards- very argument focused, good impacts

-Human Rights Watch- while much more ideologically aligned with myself, Human Rights watch can’t write a good card to save their lives. So even though there were several good sounding titles due to experience/being burned before I generally avoid.


So after that I had these results, which I have broadly sorted into “looks aff” and “looks neg”






Report: The Role of U.S. Arms Transfers in Human Rights Violations- World Policy Institute – Research Project

Report: The Role of U.S. Arms Transfers in Human Rights Violations- World Policy Institute – Research Project













The $110 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia is fake news

^ this one is important/will be a recurring theme. Many people who write about Saudi Arms sales have no idea what they are talking about/will regurgitate incorrect facts- and many times 1NCs will contain 3 or 4 entire disads that are complete nonsense if you know what you are talking about.


After Khashoggi, US arms sales to the Saudis are essential leverage






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