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Goodbye, Consult Counterplan

obamaFor the past 15 years, the consultation counterplan has been a stock component of the negative’s argumentative arsenal. Beginning on the 1993-1994 Commander in Chief topic, teams argued that the Aff plan should be done, but only after a process of prior, binding consultation with a 3rdparty (NATO, Japan, Congress, etc.). The Neg argued that Consult competed based on an exclusion of the immediate and certain adoption of the plan mandated by fiat.  

Although the subject of considerable controversy, the consult CP has seen considerable competitive success and has remained popular, being produced as a generic by the lion’s share of high school debate institutes over the past decade. The prevalence of consultation, despite a noticeable dislike amongst a sizeable portion of the judging community, can be explained by two factors.

First, a negative judging bias on important theory issues (plan inclusiveness and rigid adherence to functional competition) has disabled the most potent source of Affirmative offense: theory. Even if it has not, the widespread feeling that “no one votes on theory” has served to discourage a generation of debaters from attempting to initiate such discussions.

Second, absence of specific literature has made it difficult, if not “impossible” for Aff teams to produce specific answers. News to the world: the consult CP does not exist. It is made up. The USFG would not, and will not, give another country veto-power over our actions, foreign or domestic. Ever. Bush wouldn’tEarly signs suggest Obama won’t, either.  Why? Because it is absurd. Multilateralism and cooperation are one thing. Clearly subordinating the interests of one state to another, especially when the “consulting” state is populated by politicians who have been elected to serve the interests of their own country, is something entirely different.

So, why is consultation an argument at all, if no evidence has been written about it? Well, Neg teams have been playing fast-and-loose with their interpretation of terms like “prior,” “binding,” “genuine,” in evidence about consulting.

For example, one of the “best” cards ever written for the consult CP:

Mochizuki ’97 (Mike, Brookings Review, Spring,

As the U.S.-Japan alliance becomes more reciprocal, the United States must genuinely consult Japan, not merely inform it of decisions already made.


A healthier alliance demands prior consultation. As Japan musters the courage and will to say "yes" to collective defense and security missions, it should also gain the right to say "no" when it disagrees with U.S. policy.

Sound good? Yes. Say “Japan should have veto-power over U.S. action”? No.

“Prior” just means before acting. “Genuine” means we have to really sit down and talk and listen. Not that we have to do everything they tell us – just that consultation has to be in good faith. Also, the statement “USFG should do X” does not mean that it should be done in exactly one way – Japan may be able to have input on implementation and secondary policies – which is different than “merely informing”. Finally, Japan has the “right to say ‘no’” – but that doesn’t mean the U.S. must listen, no matter what.

Admittedly, some of these readings require interpretation, which can be subjective. But the Neg’s interpretation of this evidence and others like it is as arbitrary, if not more. Why? Because the process of consultation is made up. Mike Mochizuki would not write an article that the U.S. should give Japan veto-power over eliminating corn subsidies – because there is exactly zero-percent chance that that would actually happen. Would the U.S. cooperate and talk to Japan first? Maybe. Would Bush/Obama/Future Popularly Elected President let Japan decide what our Medicare policy will be? Get real.

Here’s some insight into the academic world: not every single written word is scrutinized to the extent that debaters would like. Sometimes an author will say “human survival” – when they really mean that an issue is a matter of life-or-death for a few people (not the whole world). Likewise, that Mochizuki or the Consult NATO authors said “genuine” or “say no” one time does not mean that we should automatically interpret all of their writing to be about veto-power consultation – as currently conceived of in policy debate.

All of this left Aff teams feeling frustrated. Theory wasn’t much of an option and even hard-working teams had difficulty crafting applicable answers (other than to say that the consulted entity hated the plan – which teams had to prove was true of the whole world – a bad standard for determining desirable actions).

Well, frustration be gone. I present, the first piece of evidence about theconsultation counterplan, ever:


Binding consultation crushes U.S. leadership

Carroll 9 (James FF, Notes & Comments Editor – Emory International Law Review, J.D. with Honors – Emory University School of Law, “Back to the Future: Redefining the Foreign Investment and National Security Act's Conception of National Security”, Emory International Law Review, 23 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 167, Lexis)

n221. See Thomas Friedman, Op-Ed., 9/11 is Over, N.Y. Times, Sept. 30, 2007, § 4, at 12. This does not mean, however, that foreign countries should hold a veto over U.S. foreign or domestic policies, particularly policies that are not directly related to their national survival. Allowing foreign countries or international institutions to veto or modify unrelated U.S. policies would make a mockery of our foreign policy and destroy the credibility of American leadership. International cooperation does not require making our policy subservient to the whims of other nations. See generally The Allies and Arms Control (F.O. Hampson et al. eds., 1992). See also Khalilzad, supra note 177.



1. The argument is obviously true – and has no answer. Neg “multilateralism good, key to heg” evidence is solved by the perm.

2. It internally cites Khalilzad 1995 – one of the Top 10 best pieces of evidence in the history of debate – providing a true internal link to global nuclear war.

3. Ununderlined, but useful, is the section about “foreign or domestic” – very useful on the current high school topic.

4. Jamie Carroll is a former debater who recently finished law school at Emory. He debated for Wake Forest from 2002-2006, received three First Round At-Large Bids to the NDT and was the runner-up at the 2006 NDT. His status as connected to the debate community is more of an indict of the consult CP (that someone with knowledge of how it was deployed was required to write evidence about it – because no one else would) than of “evidence from debaters”.

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