top of page

Security K Explained

from Reddit user ImaginaryDisplay3

edited for the blog by Joel

a Policy blog pot

At the top - one big caveat.

There are a lot of different flavors of the Security K. A lot of these versions have arguments and authors in common, but you'll find a lot of diversity as well.

There are also a number of other Ks, which are really their own thing, but often get included as a link or impact on Security K. For instance, there are Ks about the rhetoric of nuclear war or terrorism which stand on their own, but are also sometimes incorporated into the Security K.

Here's some quick foundation to help you understand the K and the terminology.


First, let's talk about realism, which is what the Security K is critiquing .

Realism, or realpolitik (if you wanna be fancy and use the original German) is a theory of international relations. It basically says that countries seek to maximize their security and prosperity based on their strategic situation, rather than factors like religion or ideology.

So, in other words, realism can tell us fundamental truths about how countries will act, by looking at their geography, natural resources, technology and so on, and then working backwards to predict their behavior.

For instance, realism tells us that throughout history, Russia has always been vulnerable to attack, unless it can possess enough land to its west (think of countries like Ukraine) to bog down any attackers before they can reach Moscow. This was true when Napoleon invaded in 1812, it was true when Hitler invaded in 1941, and, to the chagrin of many of the people in Ukraine, it's still true today.

So, realism tells us that Russia will ALWAYS try to invade its neighbors to the west, control as much of that land as possible, and use it as a buffer to protect mother Russia.

Here's another example:the UK is an island nation, and has been and always will be dependent on importing goods by sea. In addition, the only path to attack the UK is by sea.

Because of those two factors, realists can accurately predict that the UK will always prioritize building the most powerful navy it possibly can, both to secure trade routes by sea and fight off any invasion attempt.

Realists can still disagree about the details, but they agree on the basic method, which is to structure foreign policy predictions and decisions based on the strategic situation of the various players involved.

Some realists see foreign policy as more like chess, and others see it as more like poker, but they all see it as a grand game played between countries, and like all games, it has winners and losers.

You can begin to see how this applies to a case that has war, and especially nuclear war, impacts. The affirmative's advantages are realist predictions about what different countries will do, and what we might do (the plan) to prevent war.


Second, let's talk about hegemony.

Probably the most important insight that comes out of realism is the following axiom:

"The world is safer, more peaceful, and more prosperous when one country has all, or at least most, of the power."

Most realists aren't super concerned with which country has all the power. What's important is that you don't have multiple countries or groups of countries, with similar amounts of power. That situation has always, and will always, the realists say, end in a war. In the modern era, that means a world war.

But if one country has all the power, other countries are scared to challenge it, and that prevents big wars from happening.

The K

Ok, now let's talk about the security K itself.

The security K is a critique of realism and hegemony and/or an argument that the affirmative is misusing realism, and usually has a couple key arguments. Not all of these arguments are going to be in every security K, but most security Ks will have some of them.

1. Realism is not an accurate way of predicting what countries will do. For instance, realism presumes a Eurocentric view of international relations which doesn't necessarily apply to, say, China, or religious extremists in Afghanistan.

2. The aff is mis-applying realism to create awful threats that don't actually exist, just to justify other unrelated policies.

For instance, realists argued that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was a massive threat to peace in the region. But, as it turns out, those weapons didn't exist, and the Bush administration mislead the country into war for other reasons, like Iraq's oil (or so people running the security K would say). A core part of this argument (or link) will focus on the aff's sources. The people writing the aff's internal link and impact cards are pretty much the same class of people who used their decades of foreign policy expertise to rush the country into war with Iraq. Thus, one of the impacts is serial policy failure.

3. Self-fulfilling prophecies - security K teams will argue that maybe those crazy impact scenarios in the 1AC don't really exist, but if we act as if they do, we'll accidentally create them! For instance, maybe Iran really isn't much of a threat in reality, but if we station a bunch of troops on the border, and throw sanctions at Iran, we'll inadvertently trigger exactly the war we were trying to prevent.

4. All of this ultimately comes back to hegemony. Folks running the security K will say that the aff is ultimately just propping up a system of American and European imperialism that crushes billions of people around the world and commits ongoing systemic violence against them. Arguments in defense of "American leadership" or hegemony (we need one strong country, or there will be a giant war!) are ultimately just backward-looking justifications of racism and colonialism to keep the first world rich and powerful, and the rest of the world poor, hungry, and desperate.

There is a lot more to it, but those are some of the main arguments you'll run into.

Many aff cases make a bunch of realist predictions about awful things other countries will do that will trigger a nuclear war, and then say "but we can prevent the war by doing the plan!"

The K argues that your nuclear war scenarios in your aff aren't actually going to happen, but that if we make policies based on that sort of "what if / worst case scenario" thinking, we're likely to create some actual problems, and reinforce American imperialism/colonialism.

So, how do you answer this K?

Part 2: The Answer

This depends a bit on your aff.

If your aff explicitly defends American hegemony, you kind of have to stick with that, and orient a lot of your answers around that.

But, the best answers are case-specific.

I've seen some teams make very smart, case-specific internal link turns against this K that basically say something like "yes, we've found some threats, and we've got a solution to those. But the scenarios we are reading aren't about reinforcing imperialism, but rather fighting it."

That said, a typical 2AC with more generic responses looks something like this:

1. Realism is inevitable - there is no alternative way of looking at foreign policy. If the other team has an argument for why our predictions are wrong, make that argument on the case debate. If they can't do that, their arg is non-falsifiable and nonsensical.

2. Realism is good / planning for threats is good - its a scientifically proven and effective way of preventing war and saving lives.

3. Our threats are real. Our authors are qualified, and those qualifications matter. Iraq was a mistake, and there were plenty of foreign policy practitioners who said so before the war started. Again, if they want to read other foreign policy experts who say our aff scenarios aren't real, they are free to do that.

4. Hegemony is good - the alternative would collapse it, and that would cause a giant nuclear war. That’s bad. An important part of this debate is that the negative team will say that heg is not sustainable, so a good 2AC will have cards saying that it is sustainable.

5. Utilitarianism comes first - even if they prove imperialism is bad, nothing matters if we're all dead. We have to prioritize preventing extinction over whatever risk they might win that the aff reinforces ongoing imperial violence.

6. The alt is bad and fails - there is no alternative way to view international relations besides realism; rejecting it means we're just flying blind ,which guarantees policy failure and war.

7. American hegemony is good for the world outside of just stopping a big war. American leadership rebuilt Japan and Germany after WW2, provides fast relief when there is a big natural disaster, establishes free markets and secures the oceans so that goods can move freely, which ultimately lifts billions out of poverty. American crops feed the world, etc.

8. America might not be the best hegemon, but a hegemon of some kind is inevitable, and we'd be FAR worse off if that hegemon was China (dictatorship, mass oppression of the people) or Russia (racism and hatred for LGBT that puts even us Americans to shame).

9. Theory: utopian fiat is bad, vague alternatives are bad, and floating PIKs are bad.

A good 2AC will make lots of other arguments as well, but those are the common ones you'll see over and over again.

You asked about the alternative. I've debated and/or judged this K at least 50 (honestly its probably more) times in my life and I've never seen an alternative that makes any sense.

I think that winning affirmative teams typically do a good job of pointing out that the alt is utopian nonsense that essentially boils down to "we should just like, stop enforcing borders, and like, have world peace!"


Thanks to ImaginaryDisplay3 for permission to publish.

166 views0 comments


bottom of page