Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Judgment Day: Crowley v. Robbins

The debate between The New Republic's Michael Crowley and The National Review's James Robbins has finally come to a close. The topic was "Has the Bush administration fumbled homeland security?"

First of all, let me say that I've obviously weakened some of the conventions from a traditional debate round. Obviously, there isn't a "standard" to be impacted to, no one is extending anything, and there isn't a clear line by line. I tried to put the analysis side to side so I could see where points were being refuted.

In a close decision, I vote for Mr. Crowley.
1) The first thing that needs to be cleared up is "what constitutes fumbling." Mr. Robbins says that its giving the initiative over to the other side, as in a football fumble. Mr. Crowley gives the counter response of "have we done all we can to make ourselves safer?" I'm inclined to go with Mr. Crowley's interpretation, as it leaves more ground for debate. However, this is limited by the point Mr. Robbins brings up, that we have to be REASONABLE, and at some point you need to make balanced risk assessments.
2) At this point, we simply look to the areas of offense given by Mr. Crowley and see if they stand up. He gives three main areas of attack: Port Security, Chemical Plant Security, and Nuclear Security. Robbins does a good job with the former, but doesn't really knock out the latter two. His own evidence contradicts his point about Chemical Sec. cost, as Mr. Crowley points out. And Mr. Crowley aptly points out that Nunn/Lugar still needs more money because most of Russia's loose nuclear assets are still loose. All the experts agree on this, and the Chait article Crowley cites talks about this too. Mr. Robbins asserted positive actions by the Bush administration (outside of Mr. Crowley's framework)might be enough to outweigh, but they are only listed in the last post, where obviously they can't be contested by Mr. Crowley, so I can't look to them.
3) I think 2 is reason enough to pull the trigger, but the politics point Mr. Crowley makes is apt as well. Mr. Robbins admitted that the original opposition to DHS by President Bush was politically motivated. Thus, Mr. Crowley's claims that Bush cares more about what's politically convienant rather than pragmatically necessary gain alot of weight. The Chait evidence shows off a myriad of ways Bush has harmed HS in favor of tax cuts. Considering that Mr. Robbins claims "scarce resources" are the major barrier to remedying the harms outlined by Mr. Crowley, and the Chait analysis traces that action back to Bush's political decisions, that's a serious turn by Mr. Crowley.

For the above reasons, I vote for Mr. Crowley

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