Impact Defense

A former labbie had a bunch of questions that I am going to break down into component parts, but the cliffs notes is they lost to a stimulus politics disad with an econ impact. This shouldn’t happenever. But especially right now.

Nevertheless, this person was in lab with me for 7 weeks so if I didn’t convince them in that amount of time to try something else odds are low another blog post is going to do it so though I will hate myself later I guess we can talk about how to impact defense correctly (IDC).

First, there is a difference between “a problem with impact defense” and “being lazy”. No matter how good an argument is/could be, if you are lazy its going to be bad. In the context of impact defense a certain amount of laziness is baked in (refute the specifics of the disad? psshh just read impact defense) that doesn’t mean that laziness isn’t a factor. There could be a whole variety of things to talk about here but I hate this so lets be brief: you need the BEST card. Not a “good” card, not even a “great” card, you need THE BEST.

What I mean is usually when you are reading impact defense something odd has happened- you’ve been caught by surprise on an argument. Your 1AC said abolish the death penalty and the neg reads an 11 card disad with a million internal links to get to a US-Russia war impact. You decide to read one of two impact cards

-no US Russia War

-US Russia war doesn’t escalate

The problem with both of these is most likely that they don’t assume the internal link. Assuming the neg is good they have a disad who’s LINK CHAIN may be ridiculous, but several individual links may be quite sound/good. So while in general the risk of a US-Russia war may be very small, they are saying something changes this equation dramatically. By just reading defense you ignore these prior links that may answer/defeat the argument in your defense.

So, when I say “the best” what I mean is don’t read a one line card that says “war between us russia not likely” after you randomly highlight words across 8 pages. You need a card that not only makes the argument, makes it forcefully, but also anticipates/responds to the other side. Impact defense is something you should read your 1 best card on and only read more if need be (i.e they read cards that engage/respond to the warrants in your cards).

Whenever I am judging (or scouting) debates I have a few word docs open. One is called “wiki trolling” where I copy/paste any card/argument that looks good/I should steal. One is called “scouting” where I keep track of arguments the team needs to answer. Another is just called “impact defense” and in this doc I paste all the impact defense cards I see and make them compete against each other in a Highlander-esque struggle to be number 1. What I mean is that in this file there are like a few hundred debate impact arguments organized alphabetically, and under each header there is 1 card. When I judge a debate if the neg reads 3 impact defense cards during prep time I go to my impact D word document and compare the cards the neg read to what I already have. If its better -old card deleted. If not- old card lives to see another day. Here are some rough numbers (I don’t keep track of this all the time obvi but did just because of this email) from the college Gonzaga tournament

-in 6 debates judged and maybe another 10-15 where I scouted/looked at docs I had 31 impact defense cards to compare

-5 of them were “better” than what was already in the doc, which means 26 were not

-there were 8 instances where extension evidence was read for an impact defense card. In 7/8 of those I thought the extension evidence was worse than the original card/served no purpose

-the team whos impact was being defensterated read an extension card in 9/31. Of the 22 who did not read an extension card 13 had a better original card than the defense card. Of the 9 that read extension cards they directly addressed the neg warrant(s) in 3/9 or 1/3rd of cases

SO- if you insist on answering the CJR causes climate change disad by attacking the ‘climate change is bad’ part- at least make sure you have the best card.

Second, I want to draw a distinction between “direct” and “indirect” impact defense.

Direct impact defense engages with the specific aff warrant

Indirect defense does not respond to specifics, but instead makes a global claim.

Let’s look at an example. The 1AC is Saudi arms sales- i vote aff, errr, sorry- to continue they say

-arms sales embolden Saudi

-this causes confrontation with iran

-that causes Iran/Saudi war

Direct impact defense would say “Saudi controntation with Iran does not cause war”

Indirect impact defense would say “no Iran/Saudi War- economic interdependence”.

Why is this difference relevant? Well an indirect claim can be true, but defeated by the affs specific internal link. Economic interdependence is the idea that trade raises the cost of war. If I import all my widgets from canada I may be loathe to attack them (lol yea right canada) for fear of losing the widgets. While this general fear may stop a war, if the aff internal link effects the economy than it might take this defense out. Let’s say the aff internal link is US- Canada trade war, well that may mean I already lost access to my widgets and so its no longer a deterrent.

Similarly, if what Saudi does to “confront” Iran is economic sanctions than interdependence isn’t going to prevent war anymore.

This is why 90% of impacts people read in debate are now silly “miscalc” impacts, which should stop and judges should put their foot down.

You see for like 20 years people have been saying “no war-deterrence” and then reading 11 war disads. This unbeatable strategy threw the aff for a loop- how on earth can we win our war advantage given deterrence clearly makes war impossible????? Well there clearly can’t be any indict of deterrence, so what if we just say “miscalc” and then everytime the other team makes an argument we say “doesn’t assume miscalculation” and just move on? Brilliant.

So if your impact defense file looks like




The problem is you aren’t being specific enough with your one card. This might be obvious in an instance like reading a SCS defense card instead of a Taiwan defense card- different geography. Many people will notice that mistake but not notice that the neg is reading “no diversionary war” when the aff econ decline= war argument is about something else like nationalism.

Third, recency. This shouldn’t matter for a lot of these things but the cult of impact defense thinks it matters very much so if you want to play their game you need to cut/get updates.

So, below you have two cards for recent economy impact defense. In the next part we will go over what the differences are/how that would effect where and when you would read them.

Walt, PhD, 20

(Stephen,, 5-13)

On balance, however, I do not think that even the extraordinary economic conditions we are witnessing today are going to have much impact on the likelihood of war. Why? First of all, if depressions were a powerful cause of war, there would be a lot more of the latter. To take one example, the United States has suffered 40 or more recessions since the country was founded, yet it has fought perhaps 20 interstate wars, most of them unrelated to the state of the economy. To paraphrase the economist Paul Samuelson’s famous quip about the stock market, if recessions were a powerful cause of war, they would have predicted “nine out of the last five (or fewer).”

Second, states do not start wars unless they believe they will win a quick and relatively cheap victory. As John Mearsheimer showed in his classic book Conventional Deterrence, national leaders avoid war when they are convinced it will be long, bloody, costly, and uncertain. To choose war, political leaders have to convince themselves they can either win a quick, cheap, and decisive victory or achieve some limited objective at low cost. Europe went to war in 1914 with each side believing it would win a rapid and easy victory, and Nazi Germany developed the strategy of blitzkrieg in order to subdue its foes as quickly and cheaply as possible. Iraq attacked Iran in 1980 because Saddam believed the Islamic Republic was in disarray and would be easy to defeat, and George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 convinced the war would be short, successful, and pay for itself.

The fact that each of these leaders miscalculated badly does not alter the main point: No matter what a country’s economic condition might be, its leaders will not go to war unless they think they can do so quickly, cheaply, and with a reasonable probability of success.

Third, and most important, the primary motivation for most wars is the desire for security, not economic gain. For this reason, the odds of war increase when states believe the long-term balance of power may be shifting against them, when they are convinced that adversaries are unalterably hostile and cannot be accommodated, and when they are confident they can reverse the unfavorable trends and establish a secure position if they act now. The historian A.J.P. Taylor once observed that “every war between Great Powers [between 1848 and 1918] … started as a preventive war, not as a war of conquest,” and that remains true of most wars fought since then.

The bottom line: Economic conditions (i.e., a depression) may affect the broader political environment in which decisions for war or peace are made, but they are only one factor among many and rarely the most significant. Even if the COVID-19 pandemic has large, lasting, and negative effects on the world economy—as seems quite likely—it is not likely to affect the probability of war very much, especially in the short term.

Walt, PhD, 20

(Stephen,, 5-13)

One familiar argument is the so-called diversionary (or “scapegoat”) theory of war. It suggests that leaders who are worried about their popularity at home will try to divert attention from their failures by provoking a crisis with a foreign power and maybe even using force against it. Drawing on this logic, some Americans now worry that President Donald Trump will decide to attack a country like Iran or Venezuela in the run-up to the presidential election and especially if he thinks he’s likely to lose.

This outcome strikes me as unlikely, even if one ignores the logical and empirical flaws in the theory itself. War is always a gamble, and should things go badly—even a little bit—it would hammer the last nail in the coffin of Trump’s declining fortunes. Moreover, none of the countries Trump might consider going after pose an imminent threat to U.S. security, and even his staunchest supporters may wonder why he is wasting time and money going after Iran or Venezuela at a moment when thousands of Americans are dying preventable deaths at home. Even a successful military action won’t put Americans back to work, create the sort of testing-and-tracing regime that competent governments around the world have been able to implement already, or hasten the development of a vaccine. The same logic is likely to guide the decisions of other world leaders too.

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