Wiki Contributions


Glad you enjoyed! 

Let me send a PM regarding a dialogue... 

But point 3 was already a counterfactual by your own formulation of it. 

Well, no, it's not. Because I am speaking about future events (ie: should we give aid or not), not past events. 

I suppose that if you are convinced that Ukraine is going to win, then a marginal increase in aid is expected to shorten the war, but there is no reason to suspect that proponents of point 3 mean are referring to marginal adjustments in the amount of help

I'm not. Current battlefield conditions suggest that the war will be a protracted stalemate favoring Russia absent strategically meaningful aid. And by strategically meaningful I mean either providing capabilities that allow retaking of territory or negating a long term weakness (say, shell or manpower shortages). But I digress. In any case, I'm arguing from the perspective of military capability, not as an expert, but as someone who is familiar with expert arguments (I could cite, for instance, oryx, the Insititute for the study of war, Perun, etc). Basic understanding of battlefield dynamics and conditions at a strategic level.

From the standpoint of someone like Vivek — or for that matter from the standpoint of someone who understands how present resources can be converted into revenue streams and vice versa — additional donations to the war effort do constitute an intensification of aid, even if the rate of resource transfers remain the same.

And here again... this doesn't really address my point, mainly that statements 2 and 3 are essentially statements about relative strategic capability between two state actors, and this is neither domain level expert knowledge nor exceedingly complicated. You cannot argue, for instance, that the US does not have transatlantic power projection (aircraft carriers say hello). In the same way, you cannot argue Russia has a capability to win a quick and decisive war over Ukraine without western aid, because we saw them fail. Empirically speaking they lack a capability, and everyone who follows the conflict is aware of this.  

Supposing for the sake of argument that his analysis is conventionally unqualified, it does not imply that he has insufficient evidence to hold the position he does.

I feel like we're going in circles now. It could be that I failed to make my points clearly, or you failed to understand them. But in any case my position is that matters of historical military capability (note historical: as in past tense, already occurred) is not up for debate. 2) and 3) fly in the face of it. 

In any case I think this is a good place to discontinue, I don't think we're getting any benefit from further discussion. 

I understand how you use the terms, but my point is that Vivek does not in fact demonstrate the information gap you impute to him. I am confident he would be easily able to address your objections.

Ok. Let me address this then. 

The fact that the war has persisted for so long seems sufficient proof that, in the absence of the aid, Ukraine would have quickly surrendered or at worst suffered a quick defeat. In either case, the war would have been shorter. Point 3 is unambiguously correct, and even most people on your side of the issue would agree with that (ie. they believe that a large part of the reason Ukraine has been able to fight so long has been the aid)

I'll contend this is either part of an information gap or a very strange interpretation of events. 

Consider the following series of statements: As the Russian army has more mass and equipment than the Baltic states, the Russians can take the Baltics whenever they please. Therefore, it's inevitable that Russia will emerge victorious, and defending the Baltics is pointless.

On paper, this would seem to be roughly accurate, except of course it completely ignores the NATO intervention which will likely happen, NATO troops forward positioned in the Baltics, as well as Russia's existing commitments in Ukraine. 

In much the same way, saying that 'Ukraine would have quickly surrendered or suffered a quick defeat' is only correct in counterfactual realities. You could of course argue that if the West did not help Ukraine structure it's military prior to the invasion, no help of any kind was delivered (even from Eastern Europe) during the invasion, and magically granted Putin infinite domestic popularity, the war would've ended quickly. But at that point we are living in a different reality. A reality where Russia actually had the capability for a Desert Storm esque operation. 

This is, to the best of my knowledge, not even something the realists argued after the initial invasion failed. While prior to the invasion this was the narrative, afterwards this was clearly shown to be false. 

Western aid did not intensify to a meaningfully significant degree prior to the battle of Kyiv, which was Russia's only hope of a 'quick victory'. While stingers, NLAWs, and other anti tank equipment was useful, the West primarily aimed to supply Ukraine for the purposes of a protracted insurgency, not a conventional war. We did not see deliveries of heavy equipment, and even now we're still waiting on F-16s. 

The results of Western aid have also been mixed. While humanitarian and financial support has allowed the Ukranian state and economy to continue on life support, we see that much of NATO's doctrine does not apply in Ukraine, as Ukraine doesn't have the air superiority necessary for combined arms operations. Some systems, like air defense, HIGHMARS, and long range strike missiles (Storm Shadow, ATACAMS) have played a key role, but they neither provided a decisive strategic advantage nor negated one on the part of the Russians. (partly because they were delivered in insufficient quantities) You can argue that Ukraine would suffer greatly if they lacked these options, but arguing they would've suffered quick, decisive defeat runs completely contradictory to reality, as they lacked these capabilities prior to the push on Kyiv and survived anyhow. (if you want to argue Russia 'wins' a quick and decisive victory without taking Kyiv or holding most of Ukraine's territory, be my guest, but I think we can both agree that would be ridiculous)

Overall, if Russia had shown a capability to win (the VKS secures air dominance, Russian logistics could secure a sustained push deep into the Ukranian heartland, Russian deployments significantly exceeded Ukraine's mobilization pool) you may have a case Ukraine would've lost quickly. But anybody who has observed the retreat from Kyiv can understand that Russia simply doesn't have that capability. They are not the U.S military, and the VKS is not the USAF. They do not have the air superiority necessary for blitzkrieg. This war is primarily an attritional battle, and if Ukraine's effort did not collapse prior to delivery of NATO aid it's rather contradictory to argue they would collapse immediately after. (indeed, they performed well on the Kharkiv counteroffensive while aid was still ramping up) 

I believe this to be a part of an information gap. Not understanding Russia and Ukraine's true military capabilities. (understanding them is, of course, a key part of any geopolitical judgement, since otherwise you cannot tell whether a side is on the brink of defeat or victory). If Vivek was not aware of this gap, then he made an unqualified analysis, and if he was then his analysis is clearly wrong. 

The realists argue that regardless of Ukraine's military potential Ukranian statehood is not a relevant concern, and should be handed over to Russia (likely along with Eastern Europe to broker an alliance against China). Even this aside, they do not believe Russia has a decisive capability advantage. Only an attritional advantage. Thus they can believe 2) and 3), but only assuming the absence of aid. I thus don't believe Vivek is actually arguing for the realist position, but if you believe he is feel free to find sources. I have not seen any indication of this being the case. 

Yes. This analysis primarily applies to low information environments (like the lay circuits I participated in). I would not use this on for example, the national circuit. 

Sort of, but you're missing my main point, which is simply that what Vivek did is not actually dark arts, and that what you are doing is. His arguments, as you summarised them into bullet points, are topical and in good faith. They are at worst erroneous and not an example of bullshitting.

Ah, ok. Allow me a clarification then. 

In typical terms, ultra-BS is lying. (as in, you know you are wrong and speak as if you're right anyways). In my view, however, there's also an extension to that. If you are aware that you don't have knowledge on a topic and make wild assertions anyhow to support a narrative (say, if I declared that Kremlin whisperers are considering a coup against Putin) I would also be 'BS-ing'. I'm not lying in the traditional sense, as it's certainly possible I'm correct (however unlikely). But if I clearly don't have information then I can't act as if I do. Thus I'd consider some 'erroneous' arguments by Vivek to be bullshit, because it displays an information gap I have trouble believing he wasn't aware of. 

So, in the interest of clarity. Consider again the points Vivek made: 

  1. Aid doesn't serve American interests
  2. The war effort is doomed
  3. Aid prolongs the war (a peace deal is better)

My assessment of 1) is still the same, although you're right. It's possible Vivek has different politics. So I'm comfortable believing this is merely erroneous rather than bullshit. The same cannot be said for 2) and 3), however. 

To say that aid doesn't serve American interests legitimately is a qualified assessment. You must have an understanding of American interests, and the specific geopolitical situation at hand. That by proxy means an understanding of Ukraine, it's geopolitical significance, it's battlefield dynamics and how an outcome of the war may effect the U.S. If you do not understand geopolitics, and simply cherrypick arguments, I'd contend that you're still using ultra-BS, because even though yourover all point is legitimate the process you used to defend it is not. 

With knowledge about the specific situation in Ukraine, you cannot reasonably believe 2) and 3). In effect, it ignores defense economics, long run battlefield outcomes, historical precedent, and a variety of other things which is a prerequisite for making a proper geopolitical argument. 

Imagine for example of an anti war protestor arguing that the U.S should withdraw from Vietnam because 

  1. It doesn't serve American interests
  2. The U.S, in pure military terms, is losing the war
  3. Ho Chi Minh was legitimately democratic

I would believe this argument is 'BS', as said protestor clearly doesn't understand the Vietnam war, regardless of whether his geopolitics are correct. He is applying (or more likely, borrowing) analysis he didn't critically think about to a situation he doesn't understand. The U.S was clearly not losing the war in military terms, as we can observe with casualty figures. Ho Chi Minh's multiple antidemocratic practices (intimidating voters, purging opposition) are likewise also ignored. 

Much the same with Vivek. Either he had the necessary information to make a qualified analysis, or he did not. I find it implausible he studied the issue and still had an information gap. On the contrary, if he analyzed the situation without first studying it (which I find more likely) it would also be 'BS'.

Is my position more clear now?  

Have you given even a moment's thought to what Vivek might say in response to your objections? I get the impression that you haven't, and that you know essentially nothing about the views of the opposing side on this issue.

Well... yes. It's essentially covered by what I went over. In my view at least, me and Vivek have a narrative disagreement, as opposed to a dispute over a single set or series of facts. In any case, I imagine the points of contest would be

  1. The benefit of Ukraine aid for US foreign policy
  2. The costs imposed on the US 
  3. Moral concerns with more vague ideas like 'supporting democracy'

There's many rebuttals I could foresee him giving, such as poor battlefield outcomes in Ukraine, relatively more pressing domestic concerns at home, or some variation of realist foreign policy values. In any case I find those arguments unconvincing, which I've tried to articulate. 

I could respond to your arguments, but then I doubt it's much use to explain my position on books I haven't read and thinkers I'm not familiar with. I'm still not entirely sure what exactly you're arguing for, only that you believe my argument is wrong. Can you present a coherent narrative independently rather than simply citing people? 

In the interests of moving forward the discussion, let me try to summarize what I feel you've attempted to communicate. 

  1. Continued efforts by the Ukranian military and state are likely doomed to fail
  2. Aiding Ukraine does not meaningfully diminish the threat to eastern europe or europe in general
  3. Finland's Accession to NATO was not a meaningful security dilemma for Russia, but Ukraine is 
  4. Historically speaking, it would have been better for Great Britain to make peace with Hitler. Appeasement is a viable strategy. 

Is this correct? I am comfortable having a longer discussion if you like, but then it's not a focus of this post, only a subpoint. If you'd like to have a debate in private messages I'm open, but otherwise I think I've answered your main question. Yes, I did consider counterarguments and competing narratives. I commonly do so in regular debate. I did not find them convincing. 

Mhm, yes! Of course. 

So, this may seem surprising, but I'd consider Dark Arts to be a negligible part of me being undefeated. At least, in the sense that I could've easily used legitimate arguments and rebuttals instead to the same effect. 

As you might already know, lay judges tend to judge far more based off speaking skill, confidence, body language, and factors other than the actual content of the argument. In that sense being the better debater usually gets you a win, regardless of the content of your argument, since the judge can't follow anything except for the most apparent 'wins' and 'losses' on either side. All else being equal (and in debate, it usually is, since debaters usually steal good arguments until everyone is running similar cases) we should expect the better debater to win. 

So why use the Dark Arts? Well... it may sound a little disappointing, but really, it's just laziness. Neither me nor my partner wanted to go through the trouble of researching a good case. I had college apps, among other things, and he had his own commitments. The ability to BS my way out of an impossible situation thus allows me to skimp out on prep time in favor of arguing on the fly. Did this make me a 'better' debater? Kind've, in the sense that I can do far more with far less strong of a case, but then at the same time I'd much rather run a bulletproof case (only, of course, if I didn't have to research it myself). The Dark arts saved my ass in this situation, since my case was garbage, but if I knew ahead of time I couldn't use them I'd have just made a good case instead. 

I still think the concept is helpful, which is why I've posted it, but if your goal is to maximize your debate victories rather than time spent prepping, I'd recommend you just do more prep and speaking drills. It tends to pay off. The Dark Arts is not your first choice for consistent, high level victories. 

Hm? Is it? Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but in my experience flow judges (who tend to be debaters) tend to grade more on the quality of the arguments as opposed to the quality of the evidence. If you raise a sound rebuttal to a good argument it doesn't score, but if you fail to rebut a bad argument it's still points in your favor. 

Is it different in college? 

Mhm, yes

I think society has a long way to go before we reach workable consensus on important issues again. 

That said, while I don't have an eye on solutions, I do believe I can elaborate a bit on what caused the problem, in ways I don't usually see discussed in public discourse. But that's a separate topic for a separate post, in my view. I'm completely open to continuing this conversation within private messages if you like though. 

Thanks for reading!

After reading this and your dialogue with Isusr, it seems that Dark Arts arguments are logically consistent and that the most effective way to rebut them is not to challenge them directly in the issue.

Not quite. As I point out with my example of 'ultra-BS', much of the Dark Arts as we see in politics is easily rebuttable by specific evidence. It's just simply not time efficient in most formats. 

jimmy and madasario in the comments asked for a way to detect stupid arguments. My current answer to that is “take the argument to its logical conclusion, check whether the argument’s conclusion accurately predicts reality, and if it doesn’t, it’s probably wrong”

Mhm, yes. I think this is a helpful heuristic. I thought of it, but neglected to mention. Thank you for the addition! I think people will find it helpful. 

(though, I must caution, many people have rather misinformed models of how the world works, so this may or may not be helpful depending on who specifically is using this heuristic) 

Load More