Monday, April 30, 2018

Day 2 of Seoul: Excellent Research, Mediocre Tourist Decision-Making and Random Observations

Well, if I have to have great interview and meh tourism or great tourism and meh interview, the former is obviously superior.  Today started with a meeting with one of my interpreters.  She is still in interpreter school, but is doing great.  Since she majored in strategic studies as an undergrad, she knows what I am looking for.  So, then we went to meet what I thought at the time would be the only legislator I would be interviewing.  My fixer found another one willing to talk to me--the challenge is that there are elections in June so folks are busy.

Anyhow, the interview subject du jour had only 30 minutes, but he filled that time with heaps of research goodness.  He had a copy of our questionnaire and was giving very complete answers while not filibustering us too much.  I just let him and the interpreter go back and forth rather than getting the interpretation and then asking follow ups since we had a strict time constraint.  I may end up asking more questions by email.   Anyhow, this interview was exactly what I needed, and South Korea may prove to be a very interesting case as it seems to be much closer to the US than to Brazil in terms of relevance of legislatures in civ-mil in Presidential systems.  Many more conversations this week and next to see if what I heard today is just one person's view or a good depiction.

This row after row of plaques naming all of the South Koreans
killed in the war provided a heavy dose of perspective

Because I had few notes to transcribe and my interpre er had to take the recording and turn them into English for me, I didn't have to spend the afternoon transcribing.  So, I decided to do some tourism (the last bit of grading and such is for rainy days ahead).  Turns out Monday is a lousy day for tourism as I decided to go to the War Memorial.... which is closed on Mondays.  Dumb Steve.  The good news is that there were many interesting statues and hunks of military equipment to look at, including a B-52 bomber, a Korean made tank, heaps of aircraft and a lifesize model of a ship the North Koreans attacked.  See below for some pics

Note that the attack on this patrol ship was during the 2002 World Cup
and after a 2000 NK/SK summit

After this, I went to Namsan--the mountain in the middle of Seoul where there is an observation tower.  This as a mistake--it was hazy.  Yesterday, the skies were super-clear.  I should have waited for a better day but wishful thinking too over.  So, pics like this:

Oh well.  There were heaps of South Koreans putting locks on fences and elsewhere, lots of sweets and strange marketing.  Which led to this:
Oh my.  Tomorrow, no tourism as I have two interviews than a dinner with an East Asian security expert and my original fixer (too connected, so conflicts of interest kicked in, alas). 

Anyhow, so far, so good.  I will make better tourism decisions when I have the chance... I hope.  Still have not figured out the restaurant scene here--Tokyo was much easier.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Funny Ha Ha or Funny Strange? The Reactionaries Who Cry Wolf

The annual "oh, noes, they said mean things" event was this weekend, and I was able to watch the video from my comfy seat in Seoul.  There is lots of commentary out there, so I am not sure what I can add, but that has never stopped me before.  Plus I am a fan of comedy and have gone regularly to a show at the Just for Laughs festival called "The Nasty Show" so this is not my first time hearing a comic use dirty words.  I'd comment on her inconsistent delivery and some jokes that deserved to bomb, but that is not what folks are talking about.

To be fair, one should know the room and have watched past performances, so Wolf could have used fewer curse words, but one word she absolutely had to use is pussy.  This is the funny (strange) thing: all of the focus is on Wolf's comments about Sarah Huckbee Sanders and not on her calling the President a pussy. 
Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed. He’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the President of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab 

Let me explain as this joke worked at multiple levels:
  1. The Access Hollywood tape has done more than anything else to bring pussy into the daylight media.  That Trump bragged about grabbing women by their pussy.  So, using Trump's words against him is fair game and funny.
  2. Trump blew off this event and last year's because he is a coward.  Yes, we can quibble that pussy is a poor synonym for weakness for all kinds of reasons, but, again, given the context, it made sense and was the perfect word to turn against Trump.  Trump is a coward--he tries to get people to quit because he does not like confronting people to fire them, the Apprentice was so B.S.  Oops, I cursed.  Trump attacks those who have less power, such as at the rally that was happening at the same time as the Dinner where he incited hate against Hispanics.  So, calling Trump a pussy for not showing up?  For dishing it out and not being able to take it?  Fair and perfect and funny.
  3. A woman calling a man a pussy should be attention getting.  It is usually the toxically masculine who use that term as an insult, so turning it around should be news.  Instead, we get the focus on Sanders, who Wolf insulted via references to her lying, not her appearance.  Yes, people often misunderstand the target of the joke. 
  4. Oh, and the media may be upset in part because Wolf called them out by reminding everyone that the President has admitted to serial sexual assault yet they keep trying to forget about it and move on.  Funny how they didn't feel the same way about Bill Cosby.
So, yeah, Wolf's material was harsh, but mean?  Not really.  Punching up is not nearly as mean as punching down.  And she didn't attack people for who they are not--she attacked them for who they are.  It was not a perfect set of comedy, but it is a hard room and it is hard to say original stuff about Trump.  The man is a living parody of himself.  Still, Wolf hit the target often enough, so much so that the media is upset for being called out for enabling Trump.

Some folks worry that this will distract us from Trump's awfulness.  Nope, he will surely tweet something that is awful.  He will surely say something in a speech that is awful.  Trump's not normal and folks like Wolf are making sure he is not normalized.   There is no equivalence between Wolf calling out people for doing horrible things but using vulgar language and the many, many awful things that Trump and his crew say and do that do more than hurt feelings--they actually hurt people, people who can't defend themselves.  So, yeah, the only thing that is really unfunny about this is the cranking up of the false equivalence machines.

One Day of Peace in South Korea

Now that we have peace in our time,* South Korea is safe for me to do research.  Actually, I am here to understand South Korea's civil-military relations as part of the Dave/Phil/Steve project, and I am only here this year because of the impeachment fairy's efforts last year.

Because jet lag is a thing, I tend to fly in a day or two early to get some rest so that I don't fall asleep on the couch of someone I am meeting (I learned that the hard way way back in my Joint Staff days).  So, I spent today walking around the part of Seoul closest to me.  As it turns out, this is where a massive palace complex is: Gyeonbokgung Palace. 

Even before I got there, I had seen signs about past Japanese perfidy, so, no, I don't have much hope for South Korea and Japan to move beyond their pasts. 
Pretty much most of the signs next to various buildings indicated that the Japanese destroyed them at some point.  Maybe it is my confirmation bias, but I didn't see quite this much this kind of signage in Tokyo.  Also, Tokyo had more fires and earthquakes whereas Seoul has far more occupation.

I also could not help but notice the ubituity of shelter signs.  While most were subway entrances, this one is of a small museum.

Wearing costumes while touring is a thing not just in Japan but here as well.  I saw both many people wearing traditional garb while walking around this palace complex and later many stores that rent them out.   I don't think I have seen many people in North America or Europe do anything like this. 

 Here's something I don't remember seeing in Japan: food that comes delivered in mini-toilets.  No thanks.
The trip over was uneventful except for passing through Shanghai airport--I had to go through customs twice--as an arrival and as a departure.  With security lines in between, it was most annoying.  I had plenty of time between planes, but not fun.  I did binge Brockmire on the flight over--Hank Azaria plays a wildly inappropriate baseball announcer on his last chance--announcing a minor minor league team called the Frackers.  I probably woke some people up with my laughter, as it was a very good time.  

Speaking of pop culture, Mrs. Spew and I saw Infinity War the night before I left.  I probably won't blog about it until I see it a second time--just too much stuff happened and much need to process.

Anyhow, I am tired and sleepy, after a very long flight and after much walking around, so here's some of the better shots from today

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Tyranny of the Big Three In Political Science

In recent days, there has been much discussion about the so-called Big3 journals in Political Science: the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Politics.  Each is the standard-bearer journal for their respective associations--the American Political Science Association, the Midwest Political Science Association and the Southern Political Science Association.

Over the years, these three journals have become seen as the most prominent journals in the discipline.  For some American universities, for the purposes of hiring, tenure and promotion, getting published at least once in one of these may be viewed as a necessary condition or a sufficient condition (along with enough other pubs) and in some places, publications only really count if they are in the big 3.

This has long been seen as problematic.  There is only so many spaces in three journals per year, so the likelihood of landing in these journals is low and especially low if one is supposed to land in them regularly.  Because these journals have traditionally been dominated by those who study American politics, the kind of stuff that gets in and the kind of stuff that does not can be quite skewed.  It is very difficult for IR or Comparative or Political Theory scholars to get published at all since there are not that many of these in any issue.  There is rarely any qualitative work, which is a problem as half of IR is still not quant (see my new piece on the basics of contemporary IR work in the major journals).  I would argue that IR scholars don't pay as much attention to these journals despite their flagship-ness, but citation patterns suggest otherwise (a quick comparison of average citations in Big 3 versus not Big3 is not close--43 vs 25)*

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Most Puzzling Insult

There are plenty of ways to insult people, so why do folks sometimes refer to the preferred oxygen pathway?

Why would a mouthbreather be someone who is not as bright, who is an ape or caveman or whatever?  I just don't get the association.  And, of course, I take it personally since a lifetime of allergies (modest--I can breathe, just not well--to anything that grows: grass, trees, weeds, plants, etc) means I breathe through my mouth.  The only person who should object, and object she does from time to time, is my wife since I don't sleep quietly. 

The key is that the oxygen gets there, one way, or another, so me and my fellow mouthbreathers do not want associations with those who deserve heaps of insults.  Indeed, I discussed with Mrs. Spew the proper way to insult MRAssholes as calling them pussies, for example, is reinforcing their notion that women are lesser (Slack friends also pushed in that direction).  So, calling the guy who killed ten Torontians yesterday a quitter works since he and his ilk (if the info on him is correct) are chock full of failure and toxic masculinity and thus sensitive to being called LOSERS and QUITTERS in ways that don't insult others.

Calling them mouthbreathers?  They probably don't mind, and it confuses me.  So, pick the right insults for these guys who have the attitudes of seven year old boys who don't understand girls.  Most boys grow out of it--these guys don't. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

What Do I Think Before Going to Seoul

At the end of this week, I head off to South Korea to do the next case study in the Dave and Phil and Steve project.  The project is not about North Korea or nuclear weapons, but about how democracies oversee their militaries.  I am not an expert on nuclear proliferation or on North Korea, but as a scholar of international security, I am sure I will be talking about and thinking about the current crisis as I wander along. So, I thought I would write now about my views on the upcoming summit and the various declarations before I go since it might be fun to compare with my views after I come back--I might learn something or change my mind (or not).

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Can Colonels Complain? Canadian Civil-Military Relations at Night

Last night, a kerfuffle broke out in Canadian civil-military relations.  I would not call it a crisis, but I saw a military officer post something and then two members of the opposition parties hit back at him for daring to tweet about how the military is covered.  I may be biased because the essence of the message is something that I have argued much here.  Let's go to the videotape series of tweets:

Friday, April 20, 2018

Canada is Underrated

Maybe that old saw about immigrants being more nationalistic than the native born is true.  I read Scott Gilmore's complains that "Canada is not a country" and strongly recoiled.  As someone who has lived here for 16 years and came with a belief that Canada was simply a colder version of the US, I have learned that Canada is a people, it is a nation, and it is a country.  Partly this is due to lived experience and observation and partly because I happen to have spent much time studying nationalism.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Confused About Syria

NPSIA just started a program where we have an CAF officer as a Defence Fellow.  This means we mentor him (in the current case) on his research, he learns how we think, and we get to learn how such folks think.  There is more to it than that, but his weekly presence is fostering a weekly brown bat that pushed me on how to think about the Syria bombing last week (the annual bombing?).

I have been reluctant to blog about it because I have been confused.  Why?  Because I see some merits on punishing those who cross a very important line, but I also have problems with who is doing the acting and how it is being done and the reality that Assad can just go along and keep killing people.  Let me explain as I think through this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Impeachment: Should Or Should Not

I have long been arguing that impeachment is not going to happen:

But the question of should or should not is something different.  I am not speaking here of whether Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors (whatever the jargon is), but whether it would be a good or bad thing to impeach Trump or just wait to vote him out.  The question is not Trump versus Pence (as Pence would be awful, too), but whether it would be better to have the American voters decide or be denied that opportunity by Congress.  To preview, impeachment > 2020.

I have been hearing the argument that the American people should decide.  That it would be best for the future of American politics that this choice is not taken out of the hands of voters.  By rendering a verdict against Trump, the US polity can move on.  This, of course, assumes that Trump loses, that the Russians don't break our electoral process, etc.  Putting those concerns aside, I see the merits of this argument.  Impeachment could create or foster a "stabbed in the back" narrative among those who voted for Trump in 2016--that the deep state got him.  That it might erode faith in American institutions because the "establishment" had it out for Trump.

I get that.  However, putting aside the benefits of not having Trump for President for the last two years of his term, the key is this: the singular message of the Trump Era might be, unless there are consequences, is that Trump and his crew are above the law.  They certainly have behaved that way--Pruitt's planes, Carson's table, nepotism, security clearances for those who can't fill out the forms, all of the emoulements stuff, and on and on.  Impeachment exists for a reason--to have consequences for a President when they do things that are illegal, immoral, and/or destructive to the interests of the U.S. (again, I am not a lawyer).  It is a political decision, of course, but, at the heart of it, it is the one way to make sure that the President is not above the law.  We expected norms to do that work, but they have failed.  Apparently, they mostly operate due to a sense of shame that the various players have, and, well, Trump and his team are utterly devoid of shame.

Which is worse for American institutions going forward?  That the people don't get a chance to throw the bums out OR that administrations are beyond the law?  I vote for the latter, once again dwelling in the tyranny of low expectations and standards.

UPDATE: this came out today:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Social Media is Bad for Your Academic Career?

Today, there was a twitter conversation about whether doing public engagement, especially blogging and twitter, are penalized or not.  The timing is good since my Ignite talk at the Duckies was very much on this stuff.  So, I thought I would share what I presented at the Online Media Caucus reception at the annual meeting of the ISA in San Francisco.

The basic theme was: there are things people tell you not to do, so let me know show how I did them.  I did start by acknowledging my privilege--that a white male straight tenured prof can get away with more stuff than other folks (thanks, Will).

I started with my theory about department politics--that every department has somewhere between 10-25% dysfunctional people, and the question is whether/how the community handles the insane, evil, criminally stupid and/or tragically lazy.  I did note that I managed to get another job after posting this one.  I forgot to mention that this did not produce even a ripple in my old place.  That I was already on the outs with the chair and most of the Fulls, well, that probably did not get in the way of posting this.

Should one avoid attacking the big names?  Well, the surest way to get lots of hits (figuring out what is viral [viral for me, not viral compared to the average meme] is pretty hard) is to go after the big names.  However, that is not why I wrote this post--I wrote it because I was triggered by a deeply flawed piece by two scholars that, well, tend to jerk my chain.  Lots of irony abound in this as I wrote an article that went through many spin cycles (two desk rejects and then R&R&R&R&R) that argued that the fears of the big names were misplaced--that grand theory is not dying out as it has always been a niche enterprise and that professionalization actually rewards grand theory via citation counts corrected with such stuff. That article is finally out via early view at ISR.  So, yelling at the gods can be good for one's publication record if such stuff inspires academic work.

Out a serial sexual harasser?  Indeed.  This post is almost certainly my most important one, as it has given a number of people some relief that they are not alone, and it serves as a signpost that will hopefully warn future generations of students away from this guy.

Should folks hide their political opinions?  My students used to ask me about my political views as they could not tell from my lectures--I would be critical of  Democratic presidents and Republican ones.  Not so much anymore.

Should one make bold predictions outside one's lane?  Um, given how it went, probably not....

Should one curse?  FFS, yes, in this age of Trump.

Should one criticize one's professional organization?  Well, when they screw up royally, hells yeah!  This made sense as a segue to the end of the presentation since the ISA blog mess led rather directly to the creation of the Online Media Caucus.

My big point at the end is that we notice those who get punished for their social media efforts, but the reality is that there are many, many folks out there doing stuff that is probably more controversial than what I do, and they don't get penalized.  Our confirmation bias focuses our attention on the few that are punished rather than the many who are not.  I posted a bunch of headlines and then a picture of my getting an award from Carleton for public engagement--that the place that hired me wants me to do stuff like this.  Maybe not exactly this stuff, but they seem to understand that having some personality and a particular perspective facilitates outreach.

With the recommendation that we develop herd immunity--the more, the merrier:

So, perhaps the best advice I could give is probably not do as I do, or do as I say, but do what you feel comfortable doing.  The world of social media has been very, very good to me, with some handy networking that has spilled over to help Aspiring Filmmaker Spew (aka College Senior Spew).  I know I am not alone in benefiting from social media, and, as I argued, there are more of us than there are those who have paid a price.  Join us.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Ally Rules Because Alliances Rule

In response to the US/UK/France attack on Syria and questions about Canada, I tweeted thusly:

Which inevitably produced this tweet from an old colleague and now Naval Reservist on his way to Afghanistan (Naval Comms).

I may not have ten, but here are my rules for ally management (if I had elaborated the rules before the tweet, rule number 3 would probably be a bit further down):
  1. Allies have similar but not identical interests--never forget this as nearly all follows from this rule.
  2. Allies have much fear--whether they might be abandoned or entrapped or both (h/t to Glenn Snyder and Patrica Weitsman as well as Jack Snyder and Thomas Christensen).  They will never be completely reassured.  And remember what Yoda said about fear.
  3. Don't ask allies to do things they can't do.  It just raises the cost of participating for the ally.  So, don't put the German navy on the inner ring of a blockade where the job is to fire on the violating ship--put them on the outer ring where they can alert and coordinate. 
  4. Allies do not always tell you what they can or can't do, what they will or won't do.  So, work more with those you know best when the stakes are high.  Tis why it is ok for Canada to be operating in Latvia with countries with whom they have never been deployed--their job is mostly to exercise and, if the balloon goes up, to die. Unstated caveats matter more when combat will be an on-going thing (Kandahar).
  5. Some allies will almost always be more reliable than other allies. If one is being positive, then this would be the British rule, if one is being negative, then this is the Greek rule.  Whether it is because of domestic institutions (see the Dave and Steve book) or very compatible positions in the world or shared histories or whatever, some countries simply get along better again and again. 
  6. Personalities/relationships matter in alliances. Despite the structure of agreements and the institutions that tie the countries together, how the intent and rules of engagement are interpreted and obeyed depends on the commanders on/near the ground and how they get along.  We can call this the Monty rule if we are being negative or the Ike rule if we are being positive.
  7. Burden-sharing is always uneven.  It may not always be very politicized, but countries will always vary both in what they can bring to the fight and what they actually bring to the fight.  Realize that haranguing one's allies has limited effectiveness.
  8. The intersection of international relations and domestic politics can make alliance management easier or harder.  Unpopular American presidents make it politically difficult for other members of NATO to commit more to joint efforts, and popular ones make it easier.  Was the Bush rule but now the Trump rule.
  9. Napoleon is still wrong--he said it is better to fight a coalition than be in one.  Churchill is still right--the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.
  10. Insisting on ten rules is a sign of silly devotion to even numbers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Teaching US Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump

I just finished my last class meeting of my MA seminar on US Foreign and Security Policy.  I had feared this class since January of 2017: how to teach this class now that Trump is President.  I decided that I would mix old and new--spend the first two hours discussing a particular institution or aspect as we always have (what are the powers/interests of State, of the Pentagon, etc) and then discuss how it applies under Trump.  Lots more reading about personality/leadership (thanks to Elizabeth Saunders) and more blog posts and short articles. 

As always, we had several sessions where groups of students would take on roles in and around the US government and address an issue.  The various groups picked: Iran deal, Yemen, China, and North Korea.  Speaks much about contemporary US foreign policy: no European stuff, no Africa or Latin America, no climate change.  Not surprised about the lack of international trade or finance--my blindspot is their blindspot?

Today's concluding seminar asked a couple of key questions:
  1. Is Trump really that different?  What policies are similar or different, compared to previous USFP?
  2. Will Trump have temporary or deep impact on USFP?
The list of similar foreign policies was not as short as I might have expected:
  • support Israel, 
  • investing in NATO deterrence mission [pretty sure Trump is entirely unaware]
  • stay in every forever war
  • etc.
The list of different foreign policies:
  • NK, war or no war
  • TPP
  • Climate change
  • etc.
  Obviously, how you answer one affects how you answer two.  And answer number two also focuses on how changed the US foreign policy process is--gutting of State, eroding norms of civ-mil--and on how the bad decisions now create path dependencies.   Obama was able to reverse some of the international diplomatic damage of the Iraq invasion/occupation BUT the Mideast remains destabilized and Iran ascendant. 

We just had a discussion rather than a debate--something I might do next year if we live that long.  Overall, it was an excellent although depressing way to end my first shot at teaching this class in the new Trumpian world.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Progress? Not Fast Enough, ISA 2018 edition

I have been in this business for more than 25 years, and have gone to about 25 or so annual meetings of the International Studies Association (and about the same number of APSA's).  Over the years, I have been struck by how much has changed since I started.

Besides the disappearance of polyester and leisure suits (yes, they still existed in the early 1990s), one of the big changes has been the gender balance.  It used to be the case that it seemed as if the only young women at these meetings were those representing the book publishers.  There are far more women (although not that many seniors) than there once was.

This time, I was struck by the increased ethnic diversity.  Sure, I know from the TRIP studies (including my own) that 21st century IR is mighty white.  But it is less so than it was.  So, I could be pleased by the improvements. Yet....

Oh my.   The only person I heard of getting badged--checked to see if they belong in the sea of ISA goers--was an African-American woman.  The same woman was also asked by multiple participants to get their drinks or clean up the lobby.  I will not go into the details, as it is her story to tell, but FFS!!!

So, I am reminded of many conversations with Teen and now College Senior Spew:
Me: sure, things aren't perfect, but we have made progress (on gender, race, LGBTQ, etc).

And, yeah, she persuaded me that she was right.  This ISA was mostly a super-positive experience for me, but it is easier since I am a white, straight, male with an endowed chair and heaps of tenure.  It is easy for me to look around and notice that there is more diversity.  What is less easy for me is to see how the women and the African-Americans and the Latinx and the Asian-Americans and all the rest of the folks are treated and how they experience the event.

Which reminds me of something that happened at the airport.  On my way out, I sat next to a white woman who left her bag behind and walked off.  See something, say something, right?  After waiting a few minutes, I did so.  And then moved far away from that bag.  Twenty minutes later, she returned--that bag had acted as a seat-saver, I guess.  Oh, and security didn't show up in that 20 minute interval.  Hmmm.

So, see something, say something and then some, right?

Monday, April 9, 2018

ISA 2018, Post-Conference Report

I had little time to provide daily updates, so I posted once and then reported the news from the Duckies.  Much happened on the last two days of the conference:
  1. Heaps more conversations with new and old friends.
  2. The Online Media Caucus business meeting.  The caucus is thriving--its membership is growing, it had eight panels (an allotment of three and then much co-sponsoring), and the new regime is ready to rock.  The incoming chair happens to be my first McGill phd student--Brent Sasley.
  3. The Duckies!!!
  4. The Poker Game!  We had to find an empty conference room as a very sensitive neighbor complained 5 minutes into our gathering.  The game ended when the power went out.  In between?  Many bad decisions, some good luck, and much mirth.
  5. Saturday involved more conversations, including with an Oxford grad student who sought to talk about the international relations of ethnic conflict.  
  6. The last panel for me was a roundtable on military deployments and parliamentary votes.  I kind of wore two hats--as the Canadian guy to talk about the Canadian experience (I mostly repeated what Phil Lagasse has told me/written over the years) and as the comparative civ-mil guy.
  7. Dinner with Cullen Hendrix, who used to be the young hotshot from my old grad school.... and now the next director of the Sie Center at U of Denver, so I admired the gray in his beard stubble.  
  8. A whiskey lesson from an expert:
Twas one of the best ISA's I can remember--lots of fruitful conversations, heaps of useful feedback, met many new people, saw most of my old friends.  Very much worth the trip.
  1. asdf

McGill Mess MeToo?

While I was at the ISA, I heard about an effort by the McGill undergrad student society to compel the university to do something about the problem of sexual harassment (Yes, the media are approaching me again since I have been blogging about this for two years).  I was pointed to these reports of the SSMU making public a letter that was sent to the head of the university: "The letter says complaints resurface “year after year” about professors in the departments of history, philosophy, political science, psychology and world Islamic and Middle East Studies."

The university insists that they take this stuff seriously, but they can't provide specifics about complaints or processes.  I think they could provide one stat that would be meaningful: how many professors have been fired for sexual harassment?  If the answer is not zero, then folks might be more willing to buy the assertion that they are doing something.  If the answer is zero, well, that is an answer.

I did tweet that McGill is stuck in a catch-22: that they can't punish without complaints, but why should anyone complain if no one is punished.  The problem that journalists have in covering this is that no survivor is willing to go on the record, and that makes complete sense.  The MeToo movement in Hollywood and now elsewhere broke through this when multiple survivors came out simultaneously.  The women who did come out against Weinstein, for instance, knew they were not alone and that they might be believed BUT they still faced much abuse online and elsewhere.

So, I am pretty thrilled that this student group is focused on this incredibly important issue and providing the collective action that is hard for individuals to organize.  SSMU is putting significant pressure on McGill.  This is a good thing--how does McGill respond to this pressure?  I don't know.  I have kept saying that whatever assertions McGill says about taking this stuff seriously will only believed if they do something very visible, rather than covering things with a cloak of confidentiality.  I have invoked Machiavelli by suggesting that McGill should figuratively take one of the harassers to a public square and, well, draw and quarter them.  In the modern day, firing a harasser would be the visible demonstration that something has changed.

My guess is that this will happen, but not to the guy I know of.  I have heard enough about the stuff at Islamic studies that I would bet one of the offenders there being the demonstration of McGill's seriousness.  But maybe not since the catch-22 might get in the way.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Duckies 2018!

Will and I welcome folks to the Duckies
Twas quite an eventful Duckies.  The Online Media Caucus threw a great party with the sponsorship of Sage!  I am proud that the organization that I founded is continuing to be a fun place for social media types to be social.  The three Ignite talks were great, and I say so since I did one of them.  The idea is to either comment on social media or to essentially live blog. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

ISA 2018: Mid Conference Quickie Update

I haven't blogged much while at the ISA because, well, this happened:

Actually, there are Alcatraz themed displays in a couple of the conference hotels.  I have no idea why.

Anyhow, so far, ISA2018 so very good.  Lots of stuff has happened in a short time, which probably explains the blogging outage, so let's just quickly listicle:
  1.  I got turned around trying to find the waterfront, but successfully saw a bridge.
  2. I met up with two of the funniest, sharpest, and outgoing senior women in IR--Laura Sjoberg and Sara "the Storm" Mitchell.  Always a good way to start a conference.  Sara found an amazing Thai restaurant for the two of us, which meant I started breaking the Pence rule from the very first evening I was in SF--a trend that has continued.
  3. I had coffee the next morning with two young women from the Naval War College, who have heaps of very helpful things to say about both my big project (the Dave/Phil/Steve book) and small (although getting larger--see below).  Jessica Blankshain was new to me, but  I had met Lindsay Cohn at the most recent APSA.  The future of the NWC is in good hands.
  4. I had my usual amazing lunch at a nearby Indonesian place with my former student and now co-author Ora Szeleky.  The amazing describes the food and the company.  I love Indonesian food, and, of all my research and teaching assistants, Ora was the best--I am bad at providing instructions to those I delegate stuff, and Ora always knew how to take my vague intent and do the right stuff with it.  The paper we have now (with Philip Jones of Carleton) and the spiffy presentation (more below) are much to her ability to figure out what I want and do it better than I could have.  
  5. I met with Tanisha Fazal over beer in the lobby--a recurring theme.  She is doing incredibly interesting stuff about military medicine that is so very relevant as we ramp up to war in Korea.  I am perhaps the most pessimistic about the war--I think it is very likely.  But Tanisha is very pessimistic about how it will play out--we have taken too much for granted and our medical system will not be able to save the wounded from dying at the recent  rates.
  6. I had a beer at a different spot with JC Boucher, a Canadian partner in crime.  Always a pleasure although he made me nervous about the big grant project.  
  7. A quick beer with Patrick Mello was great as we are working on a special issue on the realities of coalition warfare.  
  8. The evening ended with a dinner held by the Journal of Global Security Studies, run by Debbi Avant.  It served as editorial board meeting and a chance to catch up with a lot of old friends and meet the young folks who do the heavy lifting of running a journal.  
  9. Yesterday started with two panels.  First, the one where  I discussed papers on coalition warfare, with some/all perhaps ending up in the aforementioned special issue.  It was really fun to see people build on the Steve and Dave book and do that stuff with clearer concepts and different angles.
  10. The second panel was where  I chaired and Ora presented our paper.  I will blog more about the paper when I have more time, but it went over really well--a paper that was spurred by my experience in the Pentagon, started in 2008 and finally written due to the deadline of the ISA.  Our paper got lots more questions than the others--I felt guilty but enjoyed the attention and interest... because  I am a bit of narcissist and because I think we hit on something.
  11. I spent the afternoon meeting younger women who are doing super interesting work. Of course they are younger since (a) I am older than the median these days; (b) when I started, there were very few women in the biz, so there are few women who are older than me.  I didn't mean to violate the Pence rule all day long, but I learned a lot, and got heaps of help on my research. 
  12. The evening involved some survivors of twitterfightclub and associated folks drinking and eating.  A very good day.
I list all of this because I have heard much about profs wasting carbon, that they should just do things via virtual conferences.  And I say bullshit.  There is too much good stuff that can't be planned, that is unlikely to happen if it is all online.  We need the yearly or semi-yearly opportunity to meet new people  (which almost always occurs via happenstance), see old friends, hear about new work, get fresh perspectives on the work we have been doing in our solitary silos, and do some business (editorial board meetings, for example).  Schelling told us a long time ago that focal points matter, and conferences are focal points that allow all kinds of folks and stuff to converge.

So, woot!  Now off to meeting someone who is completely new to me.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Few Clues About the Primary Audience

We just saw Pacific Rim: Uprising, and I have only one reaction--strange to see a movie so clearly aimed at the Chinese marketplace from a North American franchise.  Some clues beyond the  spoiler break:

The SecDef and US Civil-Military Relations

One of the things that drove me crazy during the first part of the Obama Administration was the complaint that he mismanaged American civil-military relations--the relationship between the government and the US armed forces.  Why did it drive me crazy?  Because Robert Gates tended to get little blame even though the most important job a Secretary of Defense has is managing this relationship.  While the President is the commander-in-chief, the Secretary of Defense is the one whose day job involves civilian control of the military.

What does that mean?  It means conveying not just the commands but the intent and the preferences of the President to the military AND to be the principal adviser on defense matters, along with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the President. The Office of the Secretary of Defense is the primary overseer of the US military (Congress is a key overseer, but, again, not their focus), meeting with the military, especially the Joint Staff and those at the various combatant commands, every day to develop, implement and monitor policy. In doing so, OSD and its boss, the SecDef, deal with the friction that comes with having two distinct worlds collide every single day.

Why talk about this today?  Because this story seems to be more on Mattis than on Trump: that the Joint Chiefs were not briefed about the new transgender policy.  Sure, when Trump tweeted out last summer, that is on Trump.  But this policy stance?   The waffle or denial of responsibility in this article is that the Chiefs had reps on the panel advising Mattis, so they knew what might be in the memo.  Really?  No, not good enough.  No senior official likes to be surprised--providing situational awareness is something that one does to those immediately above you and, yes, to those below you who are key actors.

Mattis should have alerted the Chiefs, even if he was just giving advice and not giving Trump a clear policy to ratify (not sure which is the case) precisely because we have had a year of watching Trump, and Mattis should know by now.

I tended to overestimate Robert Gates since his predecessor was so very crappy (the tyranny of low expectations at work).  That changed when I realized he had failed to keep the military in line when they implemented Obama's surge--the Marines went to the wrong place if one wants to do population-centric warfare: Kandahar, not Helmand.  I read Gates's bio, and found it very frustrating as he blamed Obama much of the time and took responsibility for the state of civ-mil in only a page or two.

Well, I have been skeptical of Mattis since he was appointed because:
 (a) I don't think it is appropriate to have very recently retired generals serve as SecDef--they aren't civvie enough for me.  A lifetime in uniform creates a military mindset.  A few years out of uniform doesn't change that much.  So, Mattis still says things that are inappropriate for a SecDef "I am not kept awake at night by what others do, I keep others awake at night," he refused to engage the media the way past SecDefs have--which might be good at avoiding trouble with Trump but is bad for civilian control of the military.
(b) the whole cult of personality around this "warrior-monk" made me nervous.  It is either that or the aforementioned tyranny of low expectations that has allowed Mattis to go largely uncriticized.

So, yeah, Mattis is the only adult, he's the only restraint, he does seem opposed to a  new Korean war.  Woot! But he is also doing some damage to the norms governing civilian control of the military.  It may be worth it if he manages to steer Trump away from new wars BUT it is still a price we are paying now and will pay in the future.