Monday, November 2, 2009

A Boondoggle Too Far?

I could be way far up north right now.  The Security and Defence Forum, a branch of the Canada's Department of National Defence responsible for outreach to the academic community, has arranged a trip to Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut (this is the same organization that sent me to Afghanistan a couple of years ago).  The purpose, I think, is to show to scholars what Canada is doing as part of its Arctic Sovereignty program--defending the arctic from the new threats in a global warming world. 

I could have gone, but I would have missed a couple of classes and some research time.  And since I am an arctic sovereignty skeptic, I am not a terribly receptive audience.  My research in the Canadian military begins and ends with the missions in Afghanistan.  Once Canada leaves Afghanistan in 2011, as it has promised, my interest in its military will drop, and its interest in me and my work will also decline. 

Instead, Canada will focus on protecting its northern regions from various threats--the Danes (an island or two in dispute), the Russians (who claim much of the territory under the formerly ice covered ocean), and the Americans (who will insist on free and unregulated passage through the various newly ice-less straits).  But therein lies the problem.  While Canada already has the capability to limit Danish poaching, it will never have the capability to deter or thwart Russian or American transgressions.  The real answer, as always, is for Canada to align with one side who can deter and/or thwart the other.  And you can guess which is which.

So, instead, our local post-doc who does all of the administrative work of our research group (soon to be a research centre) has gone north, and appropriately so since she has a sincere interest in both the Canadian Forces and Arctic Sovereignty. 

Anyhow, so we have proof that I can say no to a freebie.

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