Friday, May 1, 2015

What Would You Ask A DASD?

Today, I had the chance, along with some other Canadian defence scholars, to participate in a small roundtable with a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense: Mara Karlin.*  It was covered by Chatham House Rule so I cannot say what she said nor what anyone else said. However, I can tell you what I asked her and it would be of little surprise to those who read my stuff here: the Eastern Front and the war cap.  I would have asked about other stuff, but time was finite and there were other folks who had important questions to ask and views to articulate.
* The last time I had the chance to be in the room with a DASD was, of course, during my fellowship at the Pentagon in 2001-2002 

So, question number one which was also request number one: can we do more to reassure the Baltics and deter the Russians?  Moving 24 Apache helos away from Europe at this time to save money seems to be a bad idea.  I referred to my recent trip to Europe, and how much of Europe may be eager to get back to business as usual with the Russians.  I suggested that the recent steps by France (increasing its defence budget, not selling the Mistral) were positive ones, but given what I learned in the Dave and Steve book, I doubt we shall see such movement from coalition governments (Germany).  I didn't mind the re-balancing, but really would like to see a tripwire in the Baltics staffed by permanent basing of American soldiers and pilots.

The second question was whether the DASD for Force Structure and Strategy was concerned about the US exceeding the war cap: has the US been fighting too many wars over the past 15 years at what cost for the present and future?

The ensuing discussion was very interesting and I learned a great deal.  I have now had two Chatham House roundtables with senior defence/defense officials from Canada and the US in the past couple of months.  The contrast was startling.  I cannot say what Dr. Karlin said, but she was open, engaging, was pretty willing to go off of the script.  I cannot say the same about a roundtable with a very senior Canadian military leader--which was entirely scripted and revealed very little.  It might be an organizational cultural thing, it might be just the current climate in Canada (one of fear induced by Harper message management), it might be civilians versus military.  I don't know what it is, but both sides got a lot more out of today's conversation than out of one that happened two months ago. 

No comments: