Monday, March 21, 2016

Fieldwork is Like Comedy

Researching the NATO book (and consequently Adapting) involved many moments of good timing and only a few badly timed efforts. 

When I visited Germany in June 2009, the Bundestag was going through the process of approving NATO's deployment of Airborne Warning and Control Systems [AWACS] planes to Afghanistan.  While it meant I had less time with the Lt. Colonel I wanted to talk to, I got to see the process play out before me that week.

When I visited the Netherlands in February of 2011, the Dutch were considering a police training mission to send to Kunduz after having the regular forces leave Uruzguan the previous year.  The fun part of Dutch decision making is that there always seem to be heaps of uncertainty until the votes are actually cast.  I learned a lot of their Article 100 procedure by seeing it applied while I happened to be in The Hague. 

I happened to bump into a crowd of Parisians seeking a view of
the Obamas while they shopped.
Neither trip was planned to occur simultaneously with a major decision process, but both worked out far better because of it.  Until now, the only really negative timing was my trip to Paris in 2011 (part of the trip to Germany).  My friend from the Joint Staff had moved on to be the defense attache for the US to France, so I thought he could hook me up with contacts.  Nope, he was busy running around preparing for Obama's visit which happened at the same time.  So, the trip went fine (his assistants recommended a very lousy hotel) as I got much of what I needed from people I had contacted.  But it could have been smoother, easier, more fun.  The timing was also bad in the trip was during the last few days of my friend's tour in Paris.

Anyhow, overall, I have been lucky until now.  I was supposed to go to Brazil in April as part of the next big project.  No, it is not Zika that is causing me to cancel the trip but severe political problems that will mean few opportunities to talk to Brazilian politicians.  A constitutional crisis will do that.... alas.

The good news is that this grant lasts five years, and I will have time to do this trip down the road.  Tis disappointing, but my luck ran out, and I have been mighty lucky until now. 

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