Friday, October 25, 2013

Presenting Research in Halifax

I spent yesterday yakking and yakking about my work to very friendly audiences in Halifax.  The Canadian International Council-Halifax branch and the folks at Dalhousie's Center for Foreign Policy Studies brought me out.  It was my first time in Halifax in about ten years (my very first Canadian Political Science Association meeting was in Halifax). 

There were two events and then some.  The first one was a very large roundtable where I suggested a variety of patterns that might be called "Multilateral Mistakes" because I like alliteration and it was a good way to get people to attend. The talk was really not just the bad things that NATO did but putting the Afghanistan mission into perspective.  Little did I do know that Canada's most recent Ambassador to Afghanistan was going to be in the room.  He actually did not disagree too much with what I said although he did raise a good point--saying success or failure at this point is just a wee bit problematic.  Anyhow, I am going to write up a summary of what I said and post at Political Violence at a Glance and will link here when I do.

After that talk, I had a couple of hours to do some tourism, so I took many pics of the Citadel--a British fort built to keep out the Americans and everyone else.  Never actually faced a significant
attack. It was a good break and a beautiful if breezy day.

I then had a ten minute radio hit on a Halifax station to discuss NATO, Canad and Afghanistan. 

After dinner with some Dal grad students, I participated in the Politics in the Pub in Halifax, again organized by CIC-Halifax.  I got a heap of interesting questions about Canada/Afghanistan and other stuff after suggesting a few themes about Refusing to Learn.

Refusing to learn?  Yes, that Canada (and others) may choose not to learn any lessons from Afghanistan.  Why not?  First, the mantra right now is: we are never doing "this" again, and thus far, we have not--no boots on the ground in Libya, no Syrian op.  But the reality is that at some point some politician is going to ask some military to do some intervention.  Perhaps not full out COIN in a place as challenging as Afghanistan, but some kind of military effort that will probably require coordination with civilians.  Maybe it will be another Haiti mission, perhaps response a tsunami like disaster, or something else, but it will happen again. 

If only the government did a lessons learned exercise after leaving Kandahar.... Oh, wait, it did!  But after getting heaps of feedback across the government, the report got buried.  It is probably next to this: 

I filed an Access of Information request but instead of just getting a heavily redacted government (DND/CF are far more generous in what they give--mildly redacted docs), I got stoned.  Nope, could not get it.  So, I have started an appeal process that is likely to take a couple of years.  The problem here is not my inconvenience (my book wins either way) but that a lessons learned process requires at least three steps: Learn, Disseminate, Adapt.  But if you refuse to disseminate, you are not going change how you operate because you cannot adapt/adopt lessons that you do not know. 

I finished the day with a poker game with a friend and his students.  I didn't win.... perhaps I have learned the wrong lessons.

Anyhow, a great day in a friendly and interesting place.

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