Friday, May 30, 2014

Women and Security

Last night, today and tomorrow, I will be the outlier for a change.  Women in International Security-Canada is holding a conference in Ottawa, and I am serving as a discussant.  Which means that there are a whole bunch of women doing interesting work in various areas of international security and a few random males. 

It was kind of funky to look around last night at the reception at the US Embassy (my first time in the Ottawa embassy), which is co-sponsoring the event, and notice how much of a minority I was.  Even more so then when I taught classes at McGill.

Given the sexism that had been rampant in the Security studies community and that some still long for the days of the old boys network, I do think that facilitating networking among the women in this area makes sense.  I have also been a huge fan of the work women have been doing in this area.

Anyhow, I look forward to today's and tomorrow's conversations.  I will try to report in my blog tomorrow what I have learned.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Missing the Target

Lots of smart people worked on a report at McGill on the Future of the Humanities PhD.  I don't have the time to read the whole thing, but I find it incredibly frustrating that they rule out what seems to be most obvious:
we do not recommend cutting numbers of PhD students or cutting programs.
Of course not.  That would mean making hard decisions, setting priorities, and figuring out how to teach classes with fewer teaching assistants.*
* Some might point to the thirst for research assistants, but one can do what people at Liberal Arts Colleges do--hire undergrads. May or may not be quite the same, but substitution is possible.
The job market for humanities Phd's has been far bleaker than that for social science.  So, cutting supply when demand has dropped would seem to make sense.  Nope.  Not here.

The recommendations in the rest of the document make sense but could have tradeoffs.  Replacing book-like dissertations with an assemblage of related scholarly effort is not that different from what economists do and what political scientists are increasingly doing--writing three related papers.  Of course, that works if we change tenure standards from books to articles.  Otherwise, we are setting people up for failure down the road.  Still, this is not a bad idea. Nor is more reporting, better mentoring and the rest.

But as I said at the top, this is dodging the big question and the hard choices.  If departments and universities to do not adjust their production of PhDs, someone else will, whether that is states/provinces cutting funding for PhD programs (kind of happening already) or students will learn that the PhD is a bad bet (see what has happened to law school applications).  Better to reform via decisions over which one can have some influence than imposed by outside, right?

Comparing Apples and Oranges Figures

Given what I used to do in Intro to IR, biting into an unpeeled orange, I have to love this set of figures that is circulating on twitter:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How War Is Like Parenthood

As discussion of Afghanistan heats up today as Obama makes his West Point speech, I realized something.  One of my frustrations with the Canadian "this war was longer than World War I and II combined) and the American "fourteen years of war" thing is that the effort in Afghanistan was hardly a steady, consistent one. 

Canada came and went in 2002, did some peacekeeping around Kabul in late 2003-2004, and was only really in the war business from 2005-2011 in Kandahar.  Yes, casualties occurred before that time frame.  But Canada was not "at war" in the same way for the entire period. 

The US had "boots on the ground" from 2001 until ... 2016 apparently.  But it is critical to remember that the US did not engage in counter-insurgency until 2009 or so, and that NATO did not expand its coverage beyond Kabul until 2005-2006. 

So, I had an epiphany.  I learned about 18 years ago that that interrupted sleep is vastly inferior to uninterrupted sleep, and I kept re-learning that lesson for about five years.  Interrupted war is perhaps similar.  That we almost certainly would have better outcomes if we did not give the Taliban a chance to recover after its big defeat in 2001-2002.  It is if-history, a counter-factual, but I cannot help but think that the original sin in Afghanistan for the US (other than perhaps empowering Pakistan in the 1980s) was the Iraq distraction.  We would still have had difficult challenges in Afghanistan including Karzai, Pakistan and poppies, so it is hard to say how much better things would be.

But whenever we speak of this long war, we should remember that for much of it, it was on the backburner of US foreign and defense policy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Tourney That Was Meant to To Be

Thanks to @PestiEsti, I finally found something I saw long ago. With the US war in Afghanistan, we did not really get the final we were expecting.

Who Won the Afghanistan War of 2001-2016?

Obviously, too soon to tell.  But with the new Obama announcement setting an enddate-ish, my nominee might just be:

Mad Man Game

I am hosting another round of tv finale dead pool.  With Mad Men's second part of its final season in play.  I kind of regret not starting it before the first part, as we would have a had a winner from this week.  Oh well.

I will be posting rules eventually, but do email/tweet/facebook me if you want to play.

The Internet Is Big

The events of the weekend informed me about communities that I did not know existed: those who claim to be pickup artists and those who resent the "successes" of pickup artists.  I was going to say that if you treat women like an object to win or to get via tricks and hustles, then you must be 14 years old. 

Instead, I am simply re-posting this excellent xkcd:

Monday, May 26, 2014


I am glad that I got a chance to see Days of Future Past unspoiled.  If you have not seen it, do not read below until you have as spoilers dwell beyond the break

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Terrorist or Not?

I have been engaging in a discussion on twitter about whether the Santa Barbara killer was a terrorist or not.  My basic starting point is: is the violence aimed to produce a political effect?  Or it just aimed to kill people?  Perhaps all violence is political, but I tend to see terrorism as an effort to alter a political context--to cause a government to overreact and over-reach (9/11), to compel a government to bargain (terrorist kidnapping, for instance), to spark/inspire a political movement, and so on. 

There is apparently much twisted stuff in the misogynist's manifesto, including reference to ideology.  He apparently did associate with those who shared his sense of grievance, focusing strangely enough on those tricksters that promise to offer tips to pick up ladies. 

At this early juncture, I don't think this guy is the Timothy McVeigh of the misogyny movement.  But it is early.

Why does this matter?  As a non-expert on terrorism, I would still think this has practical implications and not just an academic exercise.  If it is terrorism, then that affects how one thinks of prevention and of response.  If it is just a crazed individual trying to go out in the most spectacular way possible (was Columbine terrorism? I don't know), then one does not have to trace who supported the effort, who benefited from the effort, how to diminish the "spark", and so on.  If it is terrorism, then governments would want to do serious work to reduce the impact, deal with any networks of support, and perhaps even engage in information operations (propaganda) to offset the messaging. 

Of course, I am just spitballing since I am not very well read on this stuff, and I only teach a week or so of terrorism in my Contemporary International Security course. 

Your take?

Not Retribution

Yesterday was an awful day in many places.  In Santa Barbara, it was especially awful.  I am both too lazy and not brave enough to read the killer's manifesto.  Thankfully, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross did so, and I storified what I could (I am not a genius at storify) of his analysis of the Misogynist's Manifesto.

There are lots of reactions to have, and confirmation bias will shape many.  We can blame our gun culture, we can blame our rape culture, we can blame the poor mental health care system, and we would be right....

I just one to pick on one thing.  We should immediately and clearly reject the label the killer* gave to his video.  This is not about retribution.  Why?  Because retribution tends to be defined as a just, moral, proportional response to an injustice or crime:

2:  the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment especially in the hereafter
3:  something given or exacted in recompense; especially :  punishment
From Merriam-Webster

Forget about the just/moral/proportional part.  Focus on the injustice or crime.  The killer seemed to think that girls and women owed him attraction, affection, love, sex, whatever.  His rage was aimed at females because he felt that they had wronged him by not giving him that to which he was entitled.  But since no individual female nor the available pool of females in the killer's life has a responsibility, a debt to service this killer's needs (or anyone's), there can be no retribution.  There is no crime or injustice that one must punish.

Sure, it can be frustrating to see those that you are attracted to choose someone else.  I was incredibly frustrated in my teen years due to my failure to attract the opposite sex.  It was crushing to my self-esteem.  But that is what happens one when reeks of desperation.  It was not a musk I wore well or that anyone does.  That this guy had no success with females clearly shows that the females in his life demonstrated excellent judgment.  I am sure they could sense the desperation, the neediness, the narcissism (as a narcissist, I resent him making the rest of us look so bad).

I am glad to see that today's CNN story got scrubbed a bit last night, as it used his preferred word, retribution to describe his actions.  No, it is the label of his video, and he surely imagined he was engaged in restribution.  But this was not retribution.  It was madness, it was rage, it was awful, but it was not punishment, it was not compensation.  I don't know to react to this except to deny the killer what he wanted. I am deliberately not naming the killer since I want to deny him fame and agency and his preferred label for his crimes.  Which is what he wanted as the extreme narcissist the demonstrated in the manifest that I did not read myself.*

*Yes, the old "something I read but not read myself"). 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Blogging Pause

I spent today at the Ottawa Forum organized by Roland Paris and Taylor Owen.  I live-tweeted up a storm, but did not have the chance to blog.  Lots of inspiration, no time or energy. 

Remind me, if I forget, to discuss "slow growth" countries.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tenure Wins The Day?

Yesterday, the U of Saskatchewan Provost quit.  Today, its president, Ilene Busch-Vishniac, was fired by the Board of Governors.  And Robert Buckingham can return to his tenured job.  Does this mean that tenure wins the day, that academic freedom is treasured not just by professors but even by the Premier (equivlent of a governor of a state) of the province?

Maybe.  Or maybe it is just that the board and the Premier realized that bad press is bad press, that there is such a thing as bad publicity.  Or maybe just that they understood that the President lost the ability to do her job because she no longer has credibility in the aftermath of this fiasco. Or perhaps these folks simply realized that having amateurs at the university's wheel is a bad idea.

Lots of lessons to be learned here, and the protection of academic freedom may be one of them.  I am not sure, but the response is suggestive and people will infer that the board, the Premier, the press and the public all seem to share the view that professors should not lose tenure because they criticize the administration.  If only Kansas equivalents had similar views....

These Kids Today

There is yet another piece out there complaining about the new generation of young adults and how they were coddled (no link because I am not going to read it nor should you).  Oh no, the millennials will rule some day!

Give me a break.  What is the difference between generalizations and generations?  Some generalizations are better than others.  Generations are not better--they just face different circumstances and some react better than others.

The Greatest Generation?  What did they do before World War II that was so special?  Surviving the great depression?  Well, other folks have done that.  More importantly, there were those in that generation that reacted well to events and others that sucked.  Remember those who were isolationists and who admired Hitler?  Yeah, those folks, like Lindbergh.  Great in some says, lousy in others.  We forget that the WWII folks were a mix. 

I hate generalizing about generations because it almost always becomes comparisons where the older folks dismiss the younger folks.  What makes a generation is exposure to the same experiences like WWII, Vietnam, the Sexual Revolution, the AIDS epidemic, 9/11.  But a generation is not a generation because people respond to the these experiences in the same way because they do not.

Any boomer who wants to complain about the millennials might just want to think about their comparative contexts as the boomers enjoyed some of the best economic times in US history as they grew up and went out into the world.  Millennials?  Not so much.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Resistance is Futile

If I had to list my greatest weaknesses, they would be: chocolate chip cookies (fresh), cinnamon buns, apple pie and troll bait.  I have a hard time resisting any of these.  Why mention this?  Because Stephen Walt posted something today that was tasty bait--a  five minute B.A. in IR.  His premise is cute, relying on an old Saturday Night Live bit to inspire the post, which is fine.

One can criticize the post for omitting all kinds of stuff that we might teach someone in a four year BA, and many will or have already done so.  My problem is that his effort is simply ill-conceived.  He says that students may remember five things from four years of undergraduate work on IR:
  • Anarchy
  • Balance of Power/Threat
  • Comparative Advantage
  • Misperception/Miscalculation
  • Social Construction.
One reason why I say this is ill conceived is that I would expect my students from Intro to IR to remember this much and more: collective action, tit for tat, prisoners' dilemma, and logics of comparison (apples/oranges/frisbees), and maybe something about nuclear weapons (entirely omitted by Walt) such as mutual assured destruction.

Remember, Walt promised a four year B.A. in five minutes, but Walt's post seem to be focused on just the first class.  So, I might not mind his selective post if it were his take on the five minutes to cover Intro to IR but not an entire four years.  Indeed, he has argued frequently of late about the need for policy-makers to have some history background.  So, wouldn't a five minute BA on IR also have some history nuggets as well as some big IR concepts to remember, like Napoleon was short, that Bismarck (and other faves of realists) was really smart, that bipolarity was really sweet, and so on. 

I also find this post to be problematic because I find it a bit of a betrayal.  How so?  Well, it betrays the students who might actually remember more than five things after four years of classes and heaps of debt.  It betrays the faculty who work really hard not just to get the concepts of Intro to IR across but lots more than that (see below).  Given the attacks universities are facing these days, why give ammunition to the folks who think we can just MOOC it up?  To those who think the political science we do is not worthy of federal funding?

The biggest reason why this post is problematic is that it completely undersells what the four years are supposed to be about.  The four years is not just about dropping concepts into students' heads but encouraging their ability to think analytically so that they know which concept they should apply and how to apply it critically.  When I introduced my Intro to IR class, I told the students that my hope was to confuse them with a variety of ways to look at the world.  That no one approach (theory/paradigm/model/perspective) will always be correct and that it is up to them to figure it out.  That by the end of the course they would have multiple frameworks that they could apply as the world around them changes.

When I taught the students in the senior classes, in seminars and lectures, the focus was on getting them to apply what they learned over four years.  And damn, they knocked my socks off.  They would integrate their IR, their Comparative, their Political Theory, their econ, their Sociology, their History, their Psych courses and work into analyses of important, interesting stuff.  I learned a lot especially from the senior seminars.  Why?  Because these folks could think.  I would like to believe that the four years of courses from the profs and learning from each other had something to do with it. 

To be fair, Walt was trying to be snarky and glib (sins I commit on a regular basis).  But it was also troll bait, and, as always, I fell for it.

This Is What Progress Looks Like

Nice vox gif:

Remembering or Politicizing

The NYT has a pretty moving piece that explains why Eisenhower did not go to Normandy in 1954.  He was not big on celebrating war's big events, as he was responsible for sending thousands of men to their deaths.  So, I understand this stance quite well.  However, I also understand why politicians, including President Obama, will go to Normandy next month to participate in the events relating to the 70th anniversary of that Day of Days. 

Is it just grandstanding that Ike was too good for?  Maybe.  But besides the blood on Ike's hands, a key difference is that no one really needed a big event in 1954 to remember the big day ten years earlier.  Now?  Most of those who fought that day and lived to see the end of the war are now gone.  As documented in previous posts, I am a big fan of Band of Brothers for many reasons.  One key reason is that it gave us a group of men who we could admire and tie the big story to a series of smaller stories.  Those men that we met via that TV series are mostly gone now too.  Dick Winters and Bill Guarnere were the two most memorable characters in the series, and, as it turns out, two of the most influential and visible members of Easy Company ever since the war.  And both are gone along with most of Easy Company. 

So, perhaps it might appear like politics to grandstand at an event like this, but with these politicians come their spotlights.  And a 70th anniversary is not a bad time to bring these spotlights to such a key moment in history paid for with the blood of Americans, Canadians, Brits, Poles, French, and others, not to mention the Russians who bore most of the heavy lifting of defeating Nazi Germany. 

Easy Company memorial near Bastogne/Foy (I have no Normandy pics)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Viral in the Internet is Not Viral in Reality

This has been a week of stories about academia going viral: privilege checking (which I covered earlier in the week), trigger warnings, and protests against commencement speakers epitomize this trend.  What is the trend?  That there are a few places maybe over-reaching when it comes to being sensitive about something and then the story gets played up and sped up and disseminated widely via the internet.

In these stories, the reality is that these things are happening in a few places and mostly leading to debates within these places about how much self-awareness/other-awareness/sensitivity is too much.  The twitter-spin makes it sound like academia is collapsing under the weight of pc-ness.  Not every un-PC commencement speaker is facing an uproar.  Protests against controversial speakers is an old game.  At Oberlin, some folks even protested the site of commencement as an arch dedicated to Oberlin alumn who died in the Boxer Rebellion in China was (is?) viewed as supportive of imperialism.  If you are an interesting speaker, you probably pissed some folks off and there will be protests.  However, free speech cuts both ways--you are free to speak and others are free to protest your speech.  Both sides should be and generally are acceptant of this reality.  That some folks refuse to show up when they are likely to be protested says something about them, unless there is a real security threat. 

Maybe it is a slow news week?  These stories play up small problems at a few places and largely ignore  the bigger issues facing higher education--the decline of state/provincial funding and what that means for tuition, the adjunctification of teaching, and so on.  The only thing that went viral like this is the figure:
This went along with a story that said that the higher the university President's salary, the more debt the students have and the more adjuncts are doing the teaching.

So, we tend to focus our attention on the possibly of political correctness destroying our universities, which is nice distraction sauce for the real problems--distorted priorities, 1%-ishness, and all that. 

So, when you see some story going viral about how free speech is being squelched due to liberal sensitivities, think twice before tasting the distraction sauce.  Maybe there are other problems that are more fundamental and more threatening.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Random Radioactive Reactions

I finally got to see the latest Spider-man movie last night.  Spoilers with reactions below:

Friday, May 16, 2014

How About Some Humility?

In today's CIC post, I argue that we have tried pretty much everything in the Mideast from nothing (Syria) to bombing (Libya) to massive intervention (Afghanistan, Iraq), and have not been very successful.  Perhaps we have learned some humility about what outsiders can do?  Well, many of us, not John McCain.

One can argue that each effort was imperfectly deployed, raising all kinds of counterfactuals that suggest we could have done better: we could have surged in Afghanistan in 2002 and not 2010; we could have had a plan for Iraq after the regime fell in 2003; we could have done more in Libya besides drop bombs; we could do more in Syria right now, and so on.

Indeed, if, if, if.  Reminds of the partition debate, which would be swell if done correctly.  In that case, the imperfections were largely baked in--that it was inherent in the enterprise to do it badly.  Maybe not so much for Mideast interventions these days, but I cannot gain much confidence that we, the outsiders, have gotten any better or could get any better in the political/governance side of things.  That is:
  • picking the right guy or being brave enough not to pick the right guy but let the domestic processes shake out without our thumb heavily on the scale (although that might not be much better); 
  • figuring out how to dump some money into a country for development without distorting everything and accelerating corruption;
  • having the various outsiders work by the same or similar rules (we suggest this is unlikely);
  • making sure the various government agencies within each country play well together (not likely, given what I learned for the next book).
  • and on and on.
I am not saying that we (US/Canada, NATO, whomever) should never intervene, but that force has limited utility.  It is good for breaking stuff, not putting governments together.  This seems basic but John McCain and some other folks keep forgetting.

Anyhow, with great power comes great responsibility but not necessarily great effectiveness/efficacy.  And that is something we should keep in mind.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Embarrassing Pop Culture Confessions

I cannot believe I did not see this whole video before now:

I did belatedly become a Weezer fan, as I tended to lose to old music in the early 90's and only discovered much of the 1990s stuff right around the time I got an iPod and got onto iTunes.  My realization that a heap of songs that I liked were by Weezer was kind of like my realization in the late 80s that much of what I had liked was either Steve Miller or the Eagles.

So, finding this video, thanks to the Grantland story on the 20th anniversary of Weezer's debut album, was quite delightful.  I, of course, grew up with Happy Days, so I enjoyed watching the splicing of various HP episodes with this song, even if it violated the time line (Al and Arnold?).

Anyhow, I am embarrassed to admit that I had not seen this video until now. 

Amateur Administration

Fire a tenured prof because he criticized the administration.  I was thinking along the same lines as Jacob Levy who expressed it well in a tweet:
It seems pretty clear that the administration at the U of Saskatchewan had a bad idea and then got super-defensive when they faced some criticism.  Indeed, this Dean had been warned not to speak up.

I doubt that this will stand as the contract of U of S is pretty specific apparently about freedom of expression including the ability to criticize the administration.  So, Prof. Buckingham is likely to get part of his job back, if I had to guess.

Professors are always going to criticize administration--it is what we do and who we are.  If you want to fire anyone who does that, it might be a good strategy for getting rid of all tenured profs.  But it is a lousy strategy if you want to keep and attract talent.  Who is going to accept a job offer at U of S besides entry level folks who have no choice?  Perhaps they do not want any "rock stars" or "rainmakers" or any other kind of academic that might be trouble despite the grants they bring in, the students they attract, the reputation they help to promote.

In most grant reviews, there is a portion that asks: is the institution sufficiently supportive for this project?  I would be tempted to say that U of S is going to lose out on many grants if outsiders take seriously the environment that now exists there--a hostile one for free inquiry and expression.

Amateur administration is both alliterative and accurate.   If you cannot handle the slings and arrows of outraged professors, you do not belong in the business of administrating an university.

Alt Game of Thrones Joy

Having just written a pretty depressing piece, I was glad to see this (spoilers):

Privilege Checking

Harvard's JFK School of Government apparently has a new course for Checking Privilege, raising questions about whether this is politically correctness going too far.  I am basically in agreement with the sentiment raised in the piece--that this is not too far but near. 

I do think that it makes sense that folks who aspire to be leaders in various political systems have a greater awareness that their "specialness" derives not just from their innate intelligence and hard work but often from the advantages accrued by being of the "right" race, gender, religion, class, whatever.  Why?  Because we often make bigtime assumptions about the nature of success, ignoring that some people face far more severe obstacles than others.  It would be handy if we had leaders who are aware of this reality. 

Indeed, it would be nice if our leaders had some empathy and compassion.  Perhaps being aware of one's smoother pathway might help in making decisions down the road about those who face more discrimination and less opportunity. 

To be clear, I do worry about that privilege analysis can lead to paralysis--that we have to spend every moment checking privilege.  But having one class in grad school that puts a spotlight on this does not seem to be problematic.  It might inform other classes and force profs to consider as they teach other classes that they need to be more aware of the biases in their syllabi. Which is not a bad thing.  Too much would be spending most/all discussions about privilege rather than about whatever is the focus of the particular class.  This requires a bit of a balancing act for some classes where the imperatives of the main topic and the importance of privilege interact more.

Then again, I am privileged ....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

21st Century Rocks Sometimes

Sure, the waters may be rising as various ice caps melt, but hey, we have snark on the internet.

This is a great take on the Michael Sam non-controversy:

h/t to @texasinafrica for her tweet of this.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Phase IV Operations in Game of Thrones

Just a few thoughts on recent Game of Thrones episodes, with tv-show based spoilers below (I have read the books but the discussion below follows from the TV show):

Sham-Wow, part два

It is both tragic and funny that the new referendum in Ukraine can make the Crimea Referendum almost seem legit.  Of course, both sets of referendum were shams, just that one was orchestrated and one was improvised.

So, which one is more legitimate then?  Um, neither.  Both referenda had gamed questions, with these weekend's question about self-determination providing no clue about independent, autonomy or union with Russia.  Both referenda were held in the presence of armed folks, where opponents feared turning out and feared voting against the separatists.  During both "campaigns" reporters were harassed and kidnapped.

The improv nature of this weekend's referenda indicates that Russia might not have been complicit.  Make that "as complicit."  Obviously, none of this would be happening this weekend if not for Russia's efforts in both Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  It is not clear why Putin created a smidge of distance, but so far no real pullback of Russian forces and no real increased legitimacy of this more "indigenous" separatist movement. 

What is clear is that Russia is getting wee bit cocky.  Now Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin is threatening Moldova if it signs an EU Association Agreement.  Oy.  To do anything there would require sending troops through Ukraine to Transnistria.  I have long been skeptical of claims that Russia would annex Transnistria.  Why?  Because Russia has done fine with frozen conflicts and ambiguous states. Annexing this hunk would be especially costly in the long run, and I am not sure there is much demand in Russia for this. [Um, not looking good here, Steve]

Still, Putin has already engaged in much effort that is costly, kissing goodbye to whatever benefits he wanted from the $50billion Sochi games, the capital flight, and the forthcoming recession.  The question, of course, is whether these costs will hurt anyone who matters.

All I know for sure is that few outside of Russia buy these referenda as being anything other that performance art.  They are not a measure of public support for irredentism or for Russia.  

The other thing I know for sure is that with the various sides accusing each other of being fascists, that term is becoming devoid of all meaning. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Optimally Obnoxious: Hungary and Some Old Tricks

I got mildly peeved today when someone tweeted that Hungary's Viktor Orban's statement about the Hungarians abroad was following from Putin's example.  Why? Because Orban and Hungary have done stuff like this long before Putin started messing around with Crimea or even South Ossetia.

Since the fall of the wall, Hungary has dedicated a fair amount of attention and even money to the issue of the Hungarians abroad.  Indeed, I conducted interviews with folks who worked in the Office of Hungarians Abroad (which I tended to refer to the Office of Irredentism).  So, this issue is hardly new, complete with referenda and all that.

To be sure, Hungary's passion has been inconsistent, which I note because I have long argued that irredentism is not a consistent effort but responds to the vagaries of domestic politics.  When right wing folks are in power, this stuff gets more attention.  When they are out of power, this stuff gets put mostly on the back burner.  That the current right wing government faces some competition from its right flank makes bold claims (and little action) hardly surprising.

So, this is not about Putin opening up Pandora's Box of European border revision.  It is still problematic, but more as a symptom of Hungary's larger problems of growing authoritarianism and deepening dysfunction.  Yes, Putin has done much to erase the guarantees and promises of the Helsinki Accords and the norms of refraining from violently revising boundaries.  But what Hungary is doing right now is clearly emanating from the domestic politics that have produced similar statements and policies.  That is, ones that are obnoxious enough to annoy the neighbors but mild enough to just get support from key domestic groups without alienating anyone too much.

During the interviews for the book, I was tempted to ask: why are you obnoxious enough to annoy the neighbors but not much more than that?  Instead, I asked less obnoxious questions that produced some interesting answers.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bruce or Bust

Today was day two of the Ottawa Comic Convention.  I only partook of today's events while my wife and daughter got three day passes.  Why today?  Bruce!  Not Springsteen but Campbell, of Brisco Country Jr, Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Burn Notice and heaps of B movies.  His question and answer session was actually mostly of him asking questions of folks in the crowd and then snarking at their answers.  Delightful. 

I tweeted early before we all lost internet that just waiting on line to get in was quite revealing in how much stuff there is out there in the geek/nerd/pop culture universe, as there were so many costumes that I did not recognize.  Also reveals perhaps how narrow my tastes are since I do not play many games, that I never collected too many non-Marvel comics, and never got into anime and other stuff.  Still, I had fun noticing the many Captain America's (definitely the most popular costume), the many Harley Quinns, the various denizens of the Star Wars universe, and many, many others.  Lots of creative people with money and time to invest in this stuff. 

The most amusing one had to be this stormtrooper:

Overall, a silly, fun day.  Now I desperately need to catch up on certain summer movies.  Excelsior!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Hard to Say No

Oy. Is that I am an attention seeking hound or is that I know that the interest in what I have been working on for the past six or so years is about to fall off a cliff? 

I got asked to do some TV this afternoon, and all I could think is:
  • (a) the traffic--Ottawa's traffic is not bad, but the media always time this stuff for maximum time stuck in my car
  • (b) the media plan about as well as the Harper government.  Just as today's day of honoring the Canadian effort in Afghanistan is very poorly planed, the media too is acting as if today's events are a pop quiz.  If I had gotten a call even yesterday, I could have arranged this as I was briefly downtown this morning (fascinating talk on Mideast Civil-Military relations).  But, nope, I get the call after I return home.
  • (c) that I am weak.
So, of course, I said yes.  I figure that the media's interest in my books (the one that is and the one that will be) is going to dissipate sometime later this evening.  If I charted my media appearances over the years, it would demonstrate how episodic the interest in Afghanistan and NATO is.  I expect Afghanistan to disappear again mighty soon, while NATO will stick around (thanks, Putin!).  My next book, now under review, should be coming out next year and should have some lasting interesting because the aim is to provide lessons about how Canada does foreign/defence stuff.  But I think I am realistic about how much play it will get when Afghanistan is solidly in the rear view mirror.

Anyhow, I say all of this to whine about my #firstworldprofproblems.  I have been very lucky over the past decade in all kinds of ways, so I do media stuff in part to pay back those who supported me (SSHRC, Canada Chairs program, the folks who endowed my current chair).  Plus I am vain as hell and love attention.  A little self-knowledge is probably not a good thing.

See you at 5:50ish on CBC-Ottawa.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Scandal Retrospective

Monica Lewinsky is in the news again with an essay in Vanity Fair.  I don't have a subscription, so I just read the non-subscribed parts of it.  But these excerpts and other quotes are pretty powerful stuff.  She comes off not as a loony but as a pretty serious person who went through some pretty serious attacks. 

Among the more trenchant things Lewinsky says is that Hillary Clinton's response, understandable as it might have been, missed the target.  It was not her fault or that much of Lewinsky's but almost entirely Bill's.  He is the serial philanderer that everyone put up with.  Good on feminist issues, sort of, but bad on treating women well. 

And it reminds me of how frustrated I was by Clinton.  After living through 12 years of Republicans, the Democrats finally won.  With a flawed candidate, we accepted.  But then he pissed much of his presidency away.  Maybe triangulating with Dick Morris made some sense but selling out the folks on welfare?  I was always bothered by that.  And the Lewinsky stuff?  Talk about an unforced error.  So much damage to the Presidency and the country, giving the GOP the fodder they so desperately desired to distract from more important stuff. 

As a professor, I have become more and more offended by men abusing their power in this way.  I found what Clinton did back then to be awful, and more awful still in retrospect.

Where was Hillary in all of this?  Well, I seem to remember that she helped to deny, deny, deny the minor misdeeds of Whitewater and everything else, making smaller problems become bigger ones.  She has done a great job of improving her reputation as a Senator and as a Secretary of State.  Yet I didn't want her to win in 2008 not just because I thought Obama might be a good President (a mixed record) but because I remembered the mistakes she made as First Lady.  She reacted poorly to Travelgate and other stuff that could have been addressed with some transparency. 

Has HRC learned?  Probably.  Would she be a better President in 2017 than 2009?  Maybe. 

I would really like for the US to get beyond the Bushes and the Clintons as there is more talent out there than those two families.  Democracy should be more than just name recognition. 

Anyhow, I have to say I am pretty impressed with Lewinsky.  She made some poor choices and paid a mighty high price for them.  But her perspective, whether smoothed out by publicists or her own genuine take, is actually quite insightful. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Grad School? Woot!

I saw this tweet and it got me thinking:
On the one hand, grad school is about diving deeply to learn a lot about one thing (PhD) or to develop a set of skills beyond what I learned in college (MA).  So, it should not be much fun.

On the other hand, for Phds especially, grad school is about pursuing one's curiosity and that can be tremendously fun.  Engaging one's brain in the direction of one's interests should make one happy.

On the third hand, being introduced to academia means drinking deeply and repeatedly from the cup of rejection, and that is not so very happy.

On the fourth hand (invoking General Grevious here), it greatly depends on where you go.  I know people who went to PhD programs that were snakepits, where they had to compete with each other for funding.  I went to a place where I was quite happy to spend five years: San Diego.  Not only was the weather great and the introduction to Mexican food quite delightful, but we had a great deal of fun playing soccer, basketball and softball, more than a couple of bachelor parties and many other festivities, and heaps of friendly teasing. 
Once I beat Dave into submission, he agreed to co-author our book about twenty years later.

So, as a prof, I see the advantages of making grad students unhappy--so that they work hard and then leave.  But the reality is that it can be a great time.  It depends on who you are with and what you make of it.  I was quite lucky, but given how many folks I meet who remain friends with their former classmates, I cannot help but think that they had some happy times in grad school, too.

Snowden Accusations

I have been called out on twitter for my referring to Edward Snowden as "essentially a Russian spy."

Do I have evidence?  No.  But I am not a prosecutor or a cop.  So, when I say such stuff, I am offering my opinions.  Based on what?  On inference.  How so?

Well, a guy seeks to penetrate American intelligence agencies and their computer systems to download secret stuff.  Then he flees to countries that are adversaries of the United States.  He is welcomed and seems to be employed these days by Russia.  The decisions to allow Snowden into Russia and hang out must have been made at the very highest levels--by Putin.  Either Putin is a huge fan of complete transparency and the freedom to engage in dissent or he has other reasons for supporting Snowden.  Is Pultin altruistic?  Um, no.  Is he a fan of transparency?  Not in his country. 

In the good old days of the Cold War, there would be very few questions about what is going on.  Here, because Snowden blew the whistle on the National Security Agency's domestic spying, he is seen as a whistleblower.  And I would agree if that is all he did.  But he went further than that, releasing a bunch of information about American intelligence and cyber operations that really did not need to be released. 

It kind of parallels one of my rules of writing--just because you learn something does not mean you should include it in your article/chapter/dissertation.  If you want to point out that the NSA has been doing illegal stuff in the US, that does not mean you need to release information that might just be helpful to other countries and undermine the US position in the world.

For some reason the phrase "aid and comfort" comes to mind.  Yes, treason is what comes to mind.

This, of course, leads to the following response:
But the enemy I have in mind is not the American people but Russia.  Russia is not at war with the US, so it probably does not quite count as aid and comfort to the enemy.  But Putin has made it abundantly clear that he is not a friend/partner. 

Again, I draw a very thick line between Snowden's two sets of activities--revealing that the NSA was doing questionable things in the US and revealing America's secret activities in the world.  Naive folks may think that gentlebeings do not read each other's mail, but in international relations, you don't have to be a Realist to understand that spying and counter-spying is endemic to the enterprise.

A caveat--I have not written much on this before because I am very ambivalent about much of this.  I have long been frustrated with Obama's policies on surveillance, secrecy and all that. Still, I cannot help but consider Snowden a defector.  Maybe it is that I grew up during the Cold War, but anytime an American flees to Moscow, I have to question their motives.  And when they do so while carrying heaps of American secrets on flash drives, I develop some assessments.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What I Learned At A Press Conference Plus Some Old NATO Lessons.

No, I didn't go to a press conference.  Never been to one, and rarely pay attention to those that President/Prime Minister endure.  No, I was asked to do a tv interview this evening after the Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson and Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Phil Breedlove [SACEUR] held a joint press conference on SACEUR's way out of town.

The two issued statements that really did not say much of consequence--Canada loves NATO, NATO loves Canada, woot! and all that.  The Q&A with the reporters was somewhat more informative.  The Canadian planes (F-18s) are not armed, although they could be if necessary.  NATO had planned to have military exercises with Ukraine, but those seem to be on hold now that the crisis is crisis-ing (thanks, Murray B).  The CDS kind of laughed at the idea of having discretionary money when a reported asked him if he would want Canada to re-join the NATO AWACS program.  SACEUR said again (he said it yesterday, too) that Canada left the program responsibly.... so much so that I was surprised to hear that Canadians still serve on these planes.

Perhaps Canada will get increased readiness out of this, with the six pilots being able to practice against Romanian MiG's (some of which the Russians still fly).  But I can only imagine that the increased spending on this will mean less money elsewhere in the CF budget for readiness in Canada. 

Some good clarifications: the North Atlantic Council (NATO's decision-making body) gave him the authority to do the reassurance package in the North, Central, Southern fronts via air, land and sea until the end of the year.  So, this is short term with no plan for long term basing in East Europe.  However, the nicely timed NATO summit in Wales will be an opportunity to figure out the medium to long term.

Indeed, SACEUR indicated that there would be a series of meetings to set up the Wales Summit: the CHOD meeting (all of NATO's chief of defenses), the NAC/D ministerial (meeting of all of the defence ministers), and the NAC/FM ministerial (meeting of all the foreign ministers).  Reminded me of the work we had to do in the Pentagon every six months to prepare for these meetings.

Of course, the truly important thing is that when I did my brief TV spot for CTV's Power Play, the anchor/host (Don Martin) called me Sam.  That is a first--plenty of mistakes about the last name but not the first. 

Anyhow, it was an interesting afternoon as we live in interesting times.

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Afternoon With SACEUR

I spent the latter part of the afternoon today at an event at the Canadian War Museum where the Supreme Allied Commander Europe [SACEUR], the military head of NATO, Gen. Phillip Breedlove gave a talk.  It was mostly Q&A as his talk was quite short.  He was quite willing to say stuff that was mildly controversial but stayed away from any topics that would get anybody's domestic politics in a twist (nothing on Canada's mil budget being waaaaay short of the 2% GDP NATO guideline, for instance).  He did suggest that the events of late indicate that countries need to change their budgeting assumptions.

The most significant points:
  • He said Russian special operations forces, unequivocally, are operating in Eastern Ukraine, just as they did in Crimea.  He did not say that the missiles that brought down Ukrainian helos were fired by these folks, but said instead that the weapons might have been taken from Ukrainian arsenals.
  • He very clearly called it all Russian aggression.  No mincing words on this.
  •  NATO's theme is strategic adaptation, just as NATO adapted in Afghanistan, it will have to adapt to a hostile Russia (no longer a partner) that uses unconventional strategies.
  • NATO must be responsive--meaning moving troops and planes quickly.  The problem, he admitted, is that responsiveness is expensive.  I was tempted to ask about the hollowing out of the Canadian Forces (that money is not being spent on readiness). 
  • Need to be transparent in our moves so that Russia is not provoked but still provide reassurance to our allies.
  • He did suffer from acronym disease--not everyone knows what the NRF is.  Same with various names for NATO operations.
  • Ukraine did benefit from partnership (even if no security guarantee) via training, working together in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
  • In response to question from Liberal Defence Critic Joyce Murray, Breedlove said that the lesson of World War One is tha tconflict does not go away, that folks will try to change borders.
  • Putin may not need to engage in conventional invasion, as subversion and proxies doing the job just fine.  Danger is for some NATO countries to return to status quo ante--treat relations with Russia as business as usual.
  • EU rep asked a question, and Breedlove was kind enough not to scoff at EU security and defense efforts (I can do so because I have tenure).
I got to hand Breedlove a copy of NATO in Afghanistan before he left.  Mission accomplished.

Otherwise, some networking, chatting, and a free beer.  I could have asked either really arcane questions about wearing double hats or pesky ones about intra-NATO spats.  Instead, I let others ask questions.  I kind of wish he did what General Craddock did about six years ago--have a meeting with the Canadian command staff and a few random academics (as long as it included me), as I learned a great deal from that experience.  Still, Breedlove was fairly blunt within certain limits.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


I was going to write a post last week marking the 5th year of the Spew (my very first post is here), but I ended up focusing on my testimony to the Canadian Parliament instead.  So, here's my belated take on five years of blogging.

I am in a much different place now than five years ago--not just Ottawa versus Montreal, but all that came with transition and then some.  I am now at a policy school were public engagement and policy relevance are more directly part of the mission.  When I started, I was looking to move, and now that I have moved, and I am not thinking about moving again.  I was pretty frustrated when I started blogging, and am pretty damn happy these days. 

Anyhow, blogging has been very, very good to me (cannot find the classic SNL video to insert here, sorry).  How so?
  • Writing many posts about the Canadian experience in Afghanistan proved to be most useful practice for when I started writing my next book.  I essentially had most of the rough draft already drafted in small hunks.
  • Blogging has certainly helped me gain twitter followers.  I joined twitter a few months after blogging, and the two social media platforms have fed off each other.  Twitter conversations inspire blog posts, and I refer to and certainly promote my blog via twitter. 
  • It gave the experience and the visibility that led to a couple of cool clubs: The Duck of Minerva, Political Violence at a Glance, and the Canadian International Council.  As I always felt more like Rudolph, that blogging has given me membership in these places means a lot to me.  The founder of the Duck of Minerva always seemed amused when I asked him of a Spew post was Duck-worthy.  I always felt that with a greater audience comes greater responsibility (yes, invoking Ben Parker is an easy and old habit here).  I still have to figure out which piece goes where, but that is a good problem to have.  Multiple outlets does mean that I post here a bit less than when I started.  I am more comfortable now having a post-less day or two, mostly when I travel but sometimes when I am simply fried.
  • Between the blog itself and the resulting fora mentioned above, I do have far more visibility than I used to have.  Most of my posts are read by less than a hundred people, but I have had a few posts go viral, mostly those on the profession but also some that deploy my research/understandings of ethnic conflict and one that had applied pop culture to current events.  My NATO posts thus far have not gotten so much attention although they probably have helped increase sales of the book.  The CIC posts have sometimes led to op-eds at the Globe and Mail, which means a vaster readership than any Spew receives.  
  • This, in turn, almost certainly led to last week's appearance before the Standing Committee on National Defence.  
I still kind of blush and stammer when people say nice things about my blogging, but I tend to respond poorly to compliments in general (despite fishing for them constantly).  But I am proud of many of my posts and am embarrassed by only a few.  I do think I have made a contribution to getting this social science stuff out beyond the ivory tower.  I promote not just myself but also the best work that I have read.  I have provided heaps of advice, mostly unsolicited, about the profession, including tips on CV writing.

I did not expect to become such a fan and even blog-evangelist when I started.  But it has worked out so well for me in a variety of ways that I cannot help but promote it.  Not everyone should blog, but I do think that every institution should have one, which has led to NPSIA's blog

I wonder what the next five years of blogging will bring, but if it is half as positive than the last five, then I will be most thrilled.

May the Fourth, Academic Style

I wonder what life in universities would be like in the Expanded Star Wars Universe.  Insert flashback transition video here:

Of course, the life of a prof would be very different in three key eras: Old Republic, Empire, New Republic (I am ignoring the ancient time era and the post-post-post Return of the Jedi era).

The Imperial University would, of course, involve sticking close to the approved syllabus with little tolerance or study of dissent.  Repression and its role in promoting order would be a favored topic, as long as the results all demonstrated the merits of a forceful approach to governing.  There would be no need for comparative politics, at least officially, since a very centralized rule would minimize cross-planetary variation (plus it might suggest that there are other/better ways to govern).  The political science job market would actually be really good because there would be so much turnover.  Which, of course, would be very, very bad

The New and Old Republic would be similar but not identical.  The profs in the New Republic focus a whole lot more on trendy topics such as insurgency, state-building, dissent, and the like.  The profs in the Old Republic focused more on voting rules in the Senate, how monarchs (like Naboo's Queen) can be elected,and the principal-agent problems of having empowered individuals (the Jedi Council) working with/under/next to the government.  The job market in the Old Republic would be, of course, awful as the declining capabilities of the government would mean cuts at the universities.  The New Republic's job market would initially be quite good as the Imperial Political Science Professors would get early retirement packages, but eventually things would return to the status quo ante--politicians under-funding universities as they focus spending on stuff that seems more attractive to voters: super-weapons such as Sunkillers and Planet Destroyers. 

Anyhow, May the Fourth Be With You.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Why Should We Care: Ukraine Edition

What follows may seem obvious but I have gotten some pushback on twitter about why the US is involved in the crisis in Ukraine and have seen similar stuff mentioned in Canada.  So what is at stake here for those on the other side of the Atlantic?

To be clear, there is a bright, shiny line between Ukraine on one side and the Baltics/Poland/Romania on the other, so we care about stuff on one side of the line for one reason and stuff on the other side of the line for another.

What is that line?  Who is and who is not in NATO.  The deployments of American, Canadian, and other planes, ships, and soldiers are being sent not to Ukraine but to those NATO countries nearest this brewing crisis.  Why?  Because the heart of NATO is Article V--an attack upon one is equal to an attack upon all.  Why Dave and I have written a book that shows that this guarantee is not quite so determining, it is still quite important.  Enlargement of NATO meant that this comment was extended to the new countries with Russia very much in mind. 

So, countries are sending forces to these members to reassure them and to send President Putin a message--that we react differently to the plight of a member than to a non-member, so whatever he has mind should stop at the border between Ukraine and the NATO members.  And this is message sending--none of the forces could actually do much to stop a real Russian attack. 

I have mentioned that the Canadians have done the very least they can do--six planes (the smallest basic package), one ship (to somewhere near the region), and now one platoon to an exercise.  Doing much less would mean doing nothing.  The US has sent essentially the very least it could--one battalion from a unit already based in Europe, divided into four smaller hunks to be placed in the three Baltic countries and Poland. 

But why should we care about what happens on the other side of that bright, shiny line?  Russia's moves have undermined a basic and important principle that has helped to keep much of the peace since the mid-1970s: the use of force to change boundaries is unacceptable.  The Helsinki Agreements helped to manage the Cold War by recognizing the existing boundaries of Europe.  Yes, some fudging then ensued with the peaceful unification of Germany.  One reason why countries recognized Croatia and Bosnia in 1992 was to give them the same kind of normative protection.  The norm did not directly reverse Serbian gains at the time, but did help to buttress the eventual NATO effort. 

For most of the world, the end of conquest is a pretty good deal.  It helps to explain why so many countries exist today when so many of them could easily be conquered.  So, it is not just Canada and the US and a few allies, but much of the world that is horrified by Russia's aggression.  One can argue as much as one wants that the US is hypocritical given the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Yet as ill-conceived as that war was, it was not a war of conquest and annexation.  Regime change is not quite the same thing as conquest. 

Plus two wrongs do not make a right.  Russia is clearly in the wrong here.  If Russia was genuinely concerned about the plight of its kin, there were other measures they could have taken besides subversion and annexation.  No, this is irredentism--an effort to claim "lost" territory. 

There is often much joking about the Spider-man principle of International Relations--that with great power comes great responsibility, but the reality is that if the US does not respond, who will?  The world always looks to the US to act when there is some action needed, even as the world is concerned about what the US does when it acts.  It is a difficult problem, but, in this case, the US has a pretty clear role both due to its alliance obligations and due to its position in the world.  Canada, as a member of NATO and as a country that deeply buys into multilateralism and into keeping the peace, has a role as well.

Friday, May 2, 2014

May The Forth: Early and Musical

So much goodness here with my fave, fellow Obie, Liz Phair, plus Rick Springfield and others auditioning for the Mos Eisley Cantina:

Prof Receives Homework Request

In the course of testifying about Canadian defence, I received some homework from the Chair of the Committee:
"We're talking about large purchases, such as ships and aircraft, if we purchase an aircraft other than the F-35 to which we belong to a consortium of nations and we can benefit by building parts for it, with the realization that we have arguably the world's fourth- or fifth-largest aerospace industry, and we have no shipbuilding capability, and we used to have and so we want to build that up. So from the standpoint of building jobs, building the economy, maximum benefits to Canadians in the long term, could you submit in writing the pros and cons of both of those issues that I did, because I don't want to take up much more time"
I am not a fan of defence spending as industrial policy.  Then again, I am against protectionism in general.  So, I am making a crowsourcing request: if you can give me your pro's and/or con's, I can use them as I do my homework.


A Dutch Take on The World

I spent this morning at a breakfast talk where the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans gave a talk on his view of recent events and the Transatlantic relationship.*  He was pretty open and quite interesting.  He did a nice job of tying Canada and Netherlands together, given their history, although I doubt that Canada is closer to the Netherlands and to the U.S..  However, more friction in the latter relationship precisely because of the proximity.
*  I am pretty sure I can post a summary and my reactions since (a) no one mentioned Chatham House rules; and (b) there were media folks there.

Timmermans argued that we need to focus on and behave according to our values, which would strengthen our claims, reduce the hypocrisy accusations that Russia and its friends raise.  This suggests that Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and Iraq still undercut the US and its efforts, along with Snowden, which he mentioned indirectly.

Timmermans tied the left and the far right together in their anti-Americanism, which then leads to support for Russia.  Indeed, much of the talk addressed this rise of the far right and its anti-EU, anti-US stances.  A key difference, he asserted, between Canada and Europe is not just tolerance of immigrants and minorities but integration of difference.  He must not have watched Quebec very closely.

Timmermans referred to the age-old tendency to look to others to blame and then dehumanize: Jews then, Muslims now.  Indeed.  Anyhow, he was explaining something that had been puzzling--support in Europe for Putin.

He focused on need to fight Russia's propaganda--that the elites of Europe (and elsewhere) need to do a better job of explaining to their peoples what is at stake.  

A fun point: that Germany took a step in the EU that Russia would never do its faux economic bloc: be willing to be outvoted and expect losing on important issues.  

We may have seen the end of defence cuts but probably not the start of increased defence spending.

Timmermans raised smart defence obliquely, saying that countries need to overcome their concerns about sovereingty and cooperate more efficiently on defence.  I chose not to poo-poo this.

His stance on Ukraine in NATO?  Not good for Ukraine, as it would be divisive and not good for NATO.  He sees Ukraine as bridge between EU and Russia.  

Finally, Timmermans made a good point--that the lesson of Ukraine for Iran is: give up your nukes and bad things will happen.  Um, second time given lesson of Libya is the same.  

Anyhow, it was an interesting morning that got me thinking about a bunch of different things.  Tis fun living in a national capital.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Figuring out the Rules

When I suggested that Rule  #4 was: Don't Read Robert Kaplan, Max Fisher asked the natural question of what are rules #1-3.  Damn good question, because I have multiple rules #1 and no 2 or 3.  Indeed, that is why I chose #4 for Kaplan since I knew I had #1 down.

Ok, let's enumerate:
  1. Just because you learned something does not mean it belongs in the work (article/chapter/dissertation/book).  So important for those who supervise/grade/edit.
  2. Be kind to staff.  Really
  3. Read good stuff for style as well as content to improve one's writing.  Of course, this logically then implies the next rule.
  4. Don't Read Robert Kaplan (the collorary is try to avoid citing Sam Huntington's work written after 1990).
  5. Don't pad your CV.  This actually fits into the larger category of: don't do crap that you think makes yourself look good that doesn't.  Like playing with the margins, font sizes, etc.
I probably have other rules (always talk about twitterfightclub), but them's my top five.

Less With Less

Today, I had the chance to testify before the Standing Committee on National Defence.  This was my first time ever (the title of this post steals inadvertantly from Dave Perry's work on this).  I first presented a short statement, which I have posted at CIC.  After Alexander Moens of Simon Fraser U gave his statement, we got peppered with questions asked by the Canadian parliamentarians.  We proved to be quite a contrast since my Less with Less message was that Canada was facing difficult tradeoffs and needs to accept doing less in the world with less capability since it was spending about the same despite inflation.  Moens, a self-identified Christian Realist, invoked original sin (surprised me just a bit), said the world was more threatening than I depicted and that Canada should increase its defense spending.  I am a small r realist as I know that more money is not happening, so we might as well figure out what we can do with what we got. 

The formal agenda was supposed to be North American defence, which I have not really researched, but it ranged just a bit (and was shorter as we started late due to parliamentary vote on something).

What did they ask and what did I answer?
Q: How important is interoperability for the next plane (F-35 or whatever)?
Me: Very, Canada always operates with NATO partners--Kosovo, Libya.

Q:  How should Canada handle northwest passage dispute with US?
Me: Trade it.  That is, Canada buys into the international rules about straits everywhere else, and is pretty close to alone in the world in thinking that the NWP is internal waterways.  So, face reality, get more from the US in the disputed waters off of Alaska.

Q: What is the geographic imperative regarding the next plane?
Me: It may not be so much the ranger of the aircraft but its sensors and weapons.

Q: How severe is the threat to the Arctic?
Me: Not much.  One thing is that it is not only incredibly costly for us to build heaps of stuff up there, but it is very costly for the Russians.  So, let them!  (I think it was the only laugh I got).  Missed the opportunity to quote Napoleon: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

Q: A Quebec parliamentarian was upset that a Quebec shipbuilding company was not participating in the shipbuilding program.
Me: Better if built abroad anyway, as it should be about best ship, not most Canadian jobs.  I think this is where I said that Canada should be wary about following American model of making procurement decisions based on jobs--citing a system being built in more than 400 districts and 50 states.  Got some nodding heads--hey, let's not be American....  (I should couch more of my stuff this way--how to avoid being American--it plays well).

Q: How are US-Canada defence relations
A: Quite distinct from Keystone XL and such.  Good experiences between US/Canada in Afghanistan/Libya.

Q: Extending NORAD?
A: Yes, easier to build on existing institutions than create new ones.  So, it makes sense to fold in maritime stuff into NORAD.

Q: Environmental security?
A:  Mostly not a military thing, other than improving military's impact on the planet, but frigates useful for over-fishing, eh?

Q: Defense of Arctic?
A: Remember, focusing on increased rate of Russian spending ignores baseline, that US can afford to cut a Germany-sized hunk of military spending (that the US really did reduce defense spending by approximately the amount Germany spends!) and still have robust force.

Q: Homework assignment: write a paper explaining the pro's and con's of using defence procurement as jobs program.
A: Really?  Ok.

Q:  If you say less with less, what would you do less of?
A: Subs.  Subs are great, but one or two working subs is not going to cut it  and is only a bridge to the time where Canada has to face decision of making serious investment (6-10 real subs) or cutting entirely.

Overall, it was an interesting experience.  Given that my next project, if I can get funding, is on legislatures doing oversight over the military, kind of useful to testify.

Of course, the only music that can go here is: