Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When You Hear Military-Industrial Complex, Duck!

This piece complains about the incorporation of the universities of Canada into the military-industrial complex.  Yes, industry tries to manipulate politics so that it can get more money to build more stuff.  The F-35 is part of that process.  Yes, academics take money from the government and study military stuff.  Does that mean that we are agents of the government in persuading the Canadian public of the righteousness of its military efforts?  Um, no.  Given reactions to the op-eds I have written about Afghanistan, I would say that we academics are not swaying the public all that well.

And to be clear, using academics as your stalking horses is a bad idea.  When I went to Afghanistan with seven or so other academics in 2007 to learn more about the conflict and what Canada and NATO were doing, we were aware that we were part of an "information operation" aimed at the Canadian public.  So, we were not dupes.  And the folks I was with carried with them their skepticism about the mission.  Herding cats not only describes department chairs trying to run a department but any effort to get scholars to say what you want them to say.

This author should actually look at the SDF research and see if it is biased and cheerleading the military. Some of it does, but much of it does not.  I do not have a dataset on what has been funded, but I can tell you that my research, funded by SDF, raises questions about the quality of oversight and ponders whether the absence of any real parliamentary oversight over the military is such a good thing.  Is that what the military wants to hear?  Another SDF-funded project of mine considers the politics of early departures, comparing the Dutch to Canada.  This is probably not what the military wants folks to focus on, as there is less glory in taking off than in other parts of the mission.  My third SDF funded project ponders whether the efforts to un-fail states by creating strong militaries (as we are doing in Afghanistan) may be causing problems down the road in the form of coups and repression.  Most of the rest of the McGill/Montreal research funded by SDF is far more focused on broader security issues than on Canadian defence issues. 

The only roadblock I had in my research was not SDF, which did help me meet with military officers to interview them along the way, but other parts of the military that opposed a survey I wanted to conduct.  SDF is about outreach--the idea is that ignorance is not bliss.   I have had no instructions on how to do the research, what to say or what to publish.  The military, in Canada and the US, mostly just wants to learn any way they can since bad information, poor strategy and the like will get people killed.

The funny thing is that military officers, because of the heavy responsibilities, are actually far more open-minded than the folks who write pieces about the military without doing the research to actually figure out whether there are any infringements of academic freedom.

PS  See Stephanie Carvin's blog for some piling-on.  And h/t to Phillipe Lagasse's tweet that started this ruckus.

1 comment:

Syd Walker said...

War is Peace
Slavery is Freedom
Military Sponsorship is Academic Integrity