Consult NATO Counterplan Essay (Dan Shalmon 1998)

Someone asked me if I still had the old Consult NATO essay that Dan Shalmon wrote in 1998.  I do!


By Dan Shalmon, University of California at Berkeley (1998)


The NATO founding Treaty requires consultation between the allied partners. Relevant parts of the treaty that speak to the importance of consultation include:

“The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them.

Article 3

In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.

Article 4

The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.” The above is the text of the North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington on April 4, 1949. The italicized sections should make it abundantly clear why this year’s topic contains fertile ground for arguments that relate to the organization spawned by this treaty: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO’s founding document affirms the importance of mutual self-defense, cooperation and consultation on issues that implicate the use of weapons of mass destruction. For those of you who have debated on foreign policy topics before, the significance of the statutory language should be obvious by now: this means you can run the NATO consultation counterplan. Although some debaters and critics have dismissed this argument as a cheap-shot or an easy way out of doing case specific strategizing, the truth of the matter is that NATO consultation should be regarded as a strategic tool – and like any weapon in debate, it can only be as intelligent, specific and well-debated as the person employing it.

The NATO Consultation CP argues that before adopting changes toUS foreign policy that in some way implicate the NATO alliance (this is your link argument) we should first consult the member countries and see what they think. During the process of consultation, the CP argues that the US should advocate the plan but be receptive to any modifications or concessions on unrelated issues that the European nations might want us to make. The net benefit is that close consultation between the US and its allies preserves the cohesion of the NATO alliance and US-EU relations generally – laundry list impact cards abound.

Setting Up Counterplan Competition

Setting up consultation CP is an art, and as such, it takes practice – I suggest doing several practice cross-examinations with your partner or at institute before attempting to win big debates on them. This sort of CP very rarely competes with the text of the plan (unless someone is silly enough to write in “enforcement guaranteed” or some such nonsense) which means that you must get the Affirmative to make concessions to you in the CX in order to successfully argue the CP later in the debate. I suggest that if you think you can win on this argument, you prioritize it above all other concerns in your CX of the 1AC. The most effective way to start these CX’s is to ask seemingly innocuous questions. For purposes of this discussion, we will say that the Affirmative is running No First Use. (As an aside, the link and solvency literature for this CP against this particular affirmative is overwhelmingly good). Your end goal in this CX is to get the Aff concede that their plan is implemented immediately and cannot be vetoed, changed or altered by external actors (i.e. they fiat enforcement).

Here is an example of how an ideal cross-examination would go:

Neg: So what exactly does your plan do?

Aff: It means that we won’t ever use our nuclear weapons before another country uses theirs on us. (Note to Neg: If the Aff spends more than 10 seconds explaining, politely and quickly shut them up – they’re stonewalling you and you don’t have to take that from them)

Neg: So if your plan passed, under no circumstances would the US ever launch its weapons first in a conflict situation?

Aff: Nope, never.

Neg: Well, I mean – what if the President got really scared – the man’s not terrifically bright you know, perhaps he’d panic or something and launch first in a crisis or something. (You need to make this sound like you are making an elementary argument about possible solvency or implementation issues)

Aff: Well our (insert cite that doesn’t actually say this) evidence says that we solve that because… (again, do not let the 1A ramble for more than 15 seconds).

Neg: So no matter how bad it gets, we won’t ever launch our weapons first?

Aff: Nope.

Neg: Ok so, could we pretend like we were going to launch first just to scare people into listening to us, you know just threaten?

Aff: Well we might threaten….

Neg: So how do you solve x, y and z if no one knows that No-First-Use is a sure thing?

Aff: Well…. (They stutter because basically the Aff has to concede this to solve perception-based advantages)

Neg: Ok fair enough. So what if the military really, really wants to? Would you just fiat that they can’t have their way?

Aff: Yeah, we wouldn’t let them do it.

Neg: So what if some other government official – or an ambassador from another country that we swore an oath to defend really really wanted us to launch or just threaten a launch?

Aff: Well…. (Now you cannot let them weasel out of this – they have made a series of concessions about the way that their plan would be enforced so don’t let them backtrack – embarrass them if need be) we wouldn’t do it then either.

If the 1A tries to be sneaky, start getting indignant – how is the Aff topical if they don’t guarantee that their plan changes US policy? How could you run a DA if an angry conservative congressperson could repeal the plan? If you act like you’re really infuriated, chances are they will start admitting that their plan will pass despite the objections of external actors. If they start waffling because they know the CP is coming and say that ‘well we wouldn’t just disregard the irate congressperson/ambassador….’ Ask rhetorical questions like “Oh, sweet – so if we win our link to the Helms DA we flip your whole case? Tight.” If they say ‘we just do whatever normal means is?’ ask questions like “Okay, hotshot, what is normal means?” and immediately they’re in a double bind – if normal means is like a consultation CP then all you need to do is win backlash arguments or public popularity to beat the case – and (more importantly) the Aff is probably conditional and definitely not topical. If normal means is ‘we do it and we don’t care who opposes it’ then you have a guaranteed link to your CP, which is now un-permutable.

Do not spend one second more than is necessary on these cross-ex questions because it will tip your hand. And do not ever ask facially obvious questions at the start of the 1AC CX – your first question should never be “So, Aff, do you or do you not consult NATO prior to the adoption of your plan and allow for minor modifications?” There is an unwritten rule in debate that anyone who does this automatically loses and gets at best a 26. This may be one of the most aggravating things a debater can ever do that doesn’t somehow involve the deployment of an inappropriate bodily function. While it may become obvious after a minute of asking facile questions like the above that you are trying to get consultation links, it is far more intellectually elegant and thus more enjoyable to watch than some bumbling idiot asking questions that clearly reveal the Neg’s 2NR strategy before the 1NC has even spoken.

Now that you have brilliantly set up the arguments that you want in the 1AC CX here’s how you can debate the most basic Affirmative arguments against this CP. For ease of reference they are divided up into Permutations and Substance (i.e. real arguments):

Defeating Common Affirmative Answers

Some people think these are the best arguments against these sorts of counterplans. I agree, except that no talented debater should ever lose on a permutation on this particular consultation CP given the quality and specificity of the permutation answer evidence.

The most common permutations (followed by stock answers) are:

Permute: Do our plan and the CP but don’t let NATO change the plan

NOTE: ANY TIME YOU RUN THIS CP YOU MUST nail down the 2AC to the texts and the interpretations of their permutations – you would not believe how much some debaters will distort their permutations when you’re waxing them on a PIC. The ‘do both’ perm is especially important because it can mean either plan plus consult with veto or plan plus consult without veto, which are markedly different arguments.

This is quite possibly the easiest argument of all to beat. The permutation evidence for this CP is phenomenal – particularly on this question. You should read at least four or five perm cards in every debate and use the best ones – because they tend to answer essentially every permutation. The NATO allies are extremely sensitive about the procedural mechanism of consultation. If we don’t go in with an open mind, prior to the adoption of the policy and then negotiate and give and take with the Europeans, they get really mad. This specific permutation is the definition of a fait accompli and the French really hate that. The evidence that talks about the distinction between informing the allies and consulting them that quotes DeGaulle is particularly potent here. You should always use specific examples of your links to the case on permutation debates. I.E. Wouldn’t the NATO allies notice when every time they mention nuclear first use, we just shut them up – or when the law passes the US congress? In the case of NFU, you should point out that the plan quite literally invalidates the NATO Charter. If our allies get attacked by Russian nukes, we are legally obligated to respond in kind. To make this decision and then ask them about it would be spitting in their eye after slapping them in the face – to add insult to injury if you will.

This is also an intrinsic ness permutation. The plan isn’t consultation of any kind (established in the CX – which is BINDING) and the counterplan is binding (i.e. we give them veto power) the permutation is neither of these things – it is consultation without veto. Intrinsicness permutations are generally no good for debate and they allow the Aff to add random and unpredictable planks to their plan to dodge Net Benefit links.


Permute: Do our plan and consult and let NATO change it/veto

Bad News: This permutation will be spun by the 1AR and 2AR as ‘this does your CP in all but name.’ Good News: That’s why it’s totally theoretically bunk:

1. Severs the implementation of the plan and EVERYTHING the Aff said in the CX about how their plan would get implemented despite the objections of allied nations – look, you spent probably 2 minutes trying to get this stuff out of them so DON’T LET IT GO TO WASTE by not mentioning the way you set this up after the 1AC.

2. It’s not topical – doesn’t establish a policy (policy = definite course of action, I think the definition is Webster’s) since there’s always the possibility that the plan could be changed – or vetoed in its entirety. Permutations can be extra topical, but cannot be wholly and entirely non-topical. This forces the Affirmative to justify resolutional action, which is critical to negative CP and DA ground.

3. Timeframe questions – ask the 2AC if this means that you consult after passing the plan, before the plan, etc. – Those answers could potentially wield additional severance warrants and arguments about intrinsicness and solvency deficits (i.e. if we did it and then talked to them, they would still think it was a fait accompli.)

Finally, this isn’t the same as the CP. Read evidence that says that consultation is inadequate if it isn’t undertaken prior to the adoption of policy. This proves that if the permutation doesn’t sever out of immediate action or delays consultation until post implementation (which is intrinsic, see below) it doesn’t solve. Hint: you can set this up in the CX by asking if they act immediately – like: “If your harm is so systemic and bad and we have to reject racism at every turn/annihilation is imminent, why doesn’t your plan act immediately?

As an aside, some people spin this into the ‘Lie Permutation.’ This argument essentially means that the Aff argues that if the counterplan solves the case (i.e. the allies agree) then they wouldn’t ever know that we were faking consultation. The theory arguments above still answer this argument and there are three other answers you should make:

1. Lying is immoral – good cards about this in Kant/ethics books and in law reviews about perjury and morality.

2. They would find out – make logical arguments about how the plan is done immediately but consultation is ongoing, so the allies would notice our actions and assume we were messing with them. Also evidence that says that going in with an open mind and ‘secrets always leak’ proves the allies would eventually notice our inflexibility.

3. Minor modifications – make arguments about how NATO might change the plan – since we would refuse, they would notice the lie. (Make sure the modifications don’t hurt your case solvency)

Permute: Our plan says then-existing means in it so this CP is the plan (this is also the same as consultation is ‘normal means’ or whatever other ridiculous name people design for it).

1. Talk about this in cross-ex. Normal means is fine in most debates, but when it becomes nothing but a code word for ‘we get to change our plan to dodge clever negative strategies’ it’s totally ridiculous. It shreds all procedural CPs and probably hurts your ability to run any agent based argument including spending DAs, politics scenarios and solvency takeouts. You need to win PICs (plan inclusive CPs) good anyway to win theory debates with consultation so you might as well point out that PICs good is offense against this argument.

2. If they make this argument, (i.e. they say that the counterplan is the plan) and then make solvency arguments or read DAs to the CP – concede both. It is a double turn, plain and simple.

3. This argument is CLEARLY WRONG given your successful manipulation of the 1AC cross-examination. If consultation is ‘normal means’ then the plan is ABNORMAL because it is implemented immediately and without asking permission.

4. Preempt the ludicrous claim that ‘you change the world of normal means.’ You do not, you should never ever have normal means in your CP text and the CP doesn’t make consultation ‘normal’ it just makes it a part of implementing this particular policy. Besides, this ‘change the world’ argument allows the Aff to permute ever decent PIC and Kritik in existence.

5. Make all you arguments about how this severs the cross-ex, etc. from the perm with veto power block.

Permute: Consult on other issues

Classic intrinsicness permutation. If you really feel gutsy, counterpermute to consult on all other issues and the plan, solves the NB that much better than the perm and proves how stupid these kinds of arguments are.

Permute: Do then plan, then consult

First, this is an intrinsicness response. The plan is enforced immediately as is. The counterplan initiates consultation immediately and implements the results of that process at some later date. To start consultation after the plan is passed is a timeframe change that is neither in the plan or the CP – this a particularly egregious example of permutation abuse because you can imagine a world in which the Aff permutes a CP that bans the plan by doing it after their plan ‘passes.’

Second, to answer this permutation, use CX or prep time to establish whether it gives veto power to the allies, then cross-apply (or read) arguments you would use to answer the first two permutations listed above.

Permute: Consult then do our plan

Most of your answers from the “Plan plus CP with veto power” block apply. But you should also cross apply your permutation evidence that says consultation must occur prior to adoption of policy.

Consultation is normal means

Sometimes people make this argument in the 2AC but don’t really explain what it means or if it is a permutation. If they do that, consider doing the following: “Concede that consultation is normal means this means that the plan is ABNORMAL and that every other policy we will ever pass will do consultation which means that our consultation good net benefit is a UNIQUE DISAD TO THE PLAN.”

You don’t solve – delay

The Hill (1976) book answers this on point – there is good evidence that says that consultation is relatively quick. Second, allied backlash probably complicates solvency for the case which means that at best this is not offensive – you should use your impact cards to the Net Benefits or think up clever ways of explaining how this might be true to win this argument. For example, you could say “It doesn’t matter if we cause a minor delay because in the absence of consultation, our nuclear armed allies like France and Britain will go on war-footing and initiate their own policies of First Use which means that the risk of the case harm would be magnified. Better to wait and calm them down then have them sabotage the plan later.” You should also be logical about this – it’s not like the plan solves immediately either – it takes time for things to get done in Washington.

NATO Likes our plan

If someone says this, you JUMP FOR JOY and make them pay for it:

A.        It proves the CP solves 100% of the case.

B.         There is still a link to the NB – whether or not NATO supports or opposes the plan isn’t very relevant, what IS relevant is that NATO wants to have INPUT on policy decisions that are relevant to the alliance. So the fact that NATO likes the plan doesn’t prove that they won’t be infuriated by failure to consult.

NATO Opposes our plan

This can hurt you, but not that much.

1. Proves that no permutation can solve because if NATO opposes the plan they will either veto or make changes to it so any permutation that doesn’t sever can’t capture the process of consultation and all its attendant advantages.

2. They REALLY have to win total and unrelenting opposition to win that this means you solve NONE of the case. At worst, the allies would just alter the plan to make it more palatable – for example, they would replace no first use to only-first-use-if-Russia-nukes-Europe, or trade no-first-use for other security guarantees like more US troops in Europe.

3. This vastly increases your net benefit link. So read more impact cards (not too many more) but read impacts that implicate the case so that even if they win a solvency deficit, the weight of your net benefit impact sucks it up.

4. There is one very good card by Kennedy in 1984 that says that the US always gets its way in consultation. There is more recent evidence that makes this argument – if we’re willing to deal; we almost always get what we want (i.e. the plan). YOU SHOULD READ THIS ARGUMENT IN EVERY NEGATIVE BLOCK WHEN YOU GO FOR NATO CONSULTATION.

The Impact Debate

This NATO consultation impact turn as Aff strategy has gotten more popular since the Glenbrooks during the Russia topic when Jake Foster failed to recognize that East Lansing was impact turning his counterplan until the 2AR skillfully pointed out that “NATO Expansion Bad” is a reason why NATO cohesion/alliance solidarity is a bad thing. Moral of the story: you need to do extensive impact work for this counterplan. You should be able to defend the NATO alliance as an institution and all the potential strategies it might adopt. This means that you need to think of clever arguments to answer the following:

NATO Expansion is Bad – If the alliance perseveres, it will expand to include the Baltic States – the result is (according to Charlie Reese) the annihilation of all life on Earth due to a Russian nuclear strike. This is a massive debate in and of itself; check previous editions of Stefan’s handbooks.

NATO is aggressive/kritiks of NATO – typical hippie leftist claptrap if you ask me.

US influence in NATO causes out of area operations (i.e. we send NATO troops outside of Europe), which hurts alliance cohesion in the long run and risks conflict escalation.

US forward deployment in Europe Bad a la Christopher Layne. Having US soldiers in Europe isn’t an effective deterrent since Russia doesn’t really think we’d ever send thousands of our kids to die for Brussels, but it does cause them to be more aggressive and increases the risk of conflict escalation.

Net Benefit is Non-Unique – US-EU disputes on NMD, trade issues, lack of consultation in things that are more important than the plan (like the Iraq bombings) empirically denies the impact to the NB.

I will not go into the specifics of each of these debates, but I will give the following general advice: be prepared. You need get deep in the literature on anything that is being debated that implicates the NATO alliance and assume that it will somehow become relevant to the CP you run, i.e. be prepared to go both ways on any foreseeable impact turn strategy. I also think that it is more strategically sound to prepare to link turn these arguments than to engage the Aff in an impact turn throw-down. You link turn offense by being able to argue that either alliance cohesion solves the impact or that the US opposes a particular policy (like out of area operations) so increasing our leverage in the organization would help solve it. A lot of these turns are particularly solid if you make your net benefit trickier; instead of saying that the CP saves the NATO alliance you should say that you strengthen it. This means that the “NATO Existence Bad” arguments don’t apply – and you can find evidence to make the argument that a weak alliance is worse for all the things that their turns are talking about. Similarly, you should also be able to defend that a lot of these arguments are non-unique and/or empirically denied. The uniqueness question is something that you need to be prepared for no matter what. After all, this is a DA and counterplan strategy like any other, so it should not be too difficult to do updates and answer arguments like ‘trade disputes hurt the alliance now.’


In conclusion, the NATO consultation CP is a valuable weapon: a potent new case killer, a sweet generic and a generally good way to eliminate the case when you aren’t totally blocked out yet or want to conserve your ‘A Strat.’ As such you should not overuse it and dull its edge – if people know you are going to come swinging with the NATO CP in every 2NR, you will not be an effective debater because a smart 2AC/1AR will bury you. As you debate the CP more and more you will become more adept at the tricks of the trade: sneaky CX strategies, finding un-underlined portions of 1AC cards that make solvency or link arguments for you, making up well-explained analytical arguments to prove that NATO would care about the plan, etc. Good luck and good hunting.

We offer the following counterplan:

Prior to adoption of the plan, the United States will initiate a process of binding consultation with NATO and will propose that:

(insert plan)

During consultation, the U.S. will advocate the adoption of this proposal, but will allow NATO to propose modifications and alternate solutions.  The U.S. will adopt and implement per the results of consultation.  Funding and enforcement are provided.  We reserve the right to clarify.

Observation One: Theory

  1. Consultation is legitimate.  Consultation counterplans are necessary to focus debate and make the affirmative justify the entirety of the plan.  Specific literature, grounding in the real world of diplomatic policy options, and the clear net benefit warrant the legitimacy of the counterplan.
  1. Affirmative conditionality is illegitimate.  The Affirmative is bound to the immediacy, permanence, and unalterability of the plan established in the 1AC and the cross examination.  If the plan is a conditional moving target it distorts competitive equity in the aff’s favor by making it impossible to win disad links and counterplan competition.  All severance and intrinsicness permutations should be rejected.