Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Place Your Bets, Canadian Edition

As I have noted before, I get emails from random betting ventures about the odds of various things.  The latest one is from Bodog with a strange starting point:  When will the next election be held?  The expected date is October 21st.  Canada passed legislation a while back that would make the elections more predictable--every four years--rather than being called when the Prime Minister feels like it--on the third Monday of October.  However, the PM can still call an election early anyway.But there is no reason to call it now.  If they had to do it all over again, they would have called one last summer, pre SNC-Lavalin scandal.

More recently, this date has become somewhat controversial because it is the same date as a Jewish holiday.  Rosh Hashanah?  Nope.  Yom Kippur?  Nope.  Shavout?  Nope. Shemini Atzeret.  Huh??  Sure, I am a lousy Jew (my education stopped at 13, and I don't believe), but I never heard of this holiday (its related holiday, Simchat Torah, I have heard of, but never considered to be a very important day).  Ok, so it is respected by Orthodox Jews, who, well, have a whole lot of dates they care about.  I tend not to care what they think because I think fundamentalists fundamentally suck, but putting that aside, it is not clear how large a sect has to be to upset the apple cart or be reasonably accommodated.  For Elections Canada, other dates are problematic for other reasons, and they figure these folks can vote in other ways ahead of time.  And I am fine with that very reasonable accommodation (some might say that I am ok with the ultra-religious being disenfranchised, and, well, um, maybe so). 

Back to the wagering, Bodog has the odds as:
Yes, the election takes place on October 21st, 2019:  -1200 (you have to bet 1200 to win 100), which makes this a big favorite.
No, it does not: +650.  Which means you bet $100 and win $650. 
The status quo is a big, big favorite.

How about the election itself?  This is the fun wager and what people really care about.  Note, people vote for individual candidates in their ridings (districts), not for a particular PM, but the results produce a PM nonetheless.

Justin Trudeau -120
Andrew Scheer -110
Jagmeet Singh +1200
Elizabeth May +10,000
Maxime Bernier +50,000
Yves-Francois Blanchet +90,000

I find this to be a weenie stance by Bodog: two co-favorites--the Liberal Trudeau and the Conservative Scheer.  Duh!  Of course, one of the two will win.  While the third place party surprised last time (that would be Justin Trudeau and the Liberals), given the variety of obstacles Singh and the NDP face (he is, um, a crappy candidate; the NDP's base is in xenophobic Quebec which just passed laws against visible religious symbols and Singh is a Sikh; etc), it really is a two party race with the polls having the Conservatives ahead (thanks to bone-headed Liberal handling of a corrupt company). 

How would I bet?  I would bet on Trudeau and the Liberals.  Is this wishful thinking?  I don't think so.  Is it the same bad judgement that I had in November 2016 that has my sister telling me to stop making predictions?  Of course.  But why would I bet on the Liberals?
  • Trudeau, for all of his faults, has charisma that Scheer simply does not have.
  • Scheer has not yet demonstrated that he has decent political instincts.
  • Scheer faces the temptation to pander to the right as Bernier's xenophobic, racist, Islamophobic party might attract some Trump fans among the Conservative Party.
  • Trudeau has been most generous with spending money across Canada, and budget deficits are not going to scare people into voting for the Conservatives.
  • Doug Ford may cause some folks to wonder about the Conservative brand--cutting programs for Francophones in Ontario, generally being a bully, etc.  While Canada has a deeper disconnect between provincial and national parties, Doug Ford has a larger presence than most Premiers (governors).  
The big questions:
  • Will those NDP voters who voted for Trudeau last time remain alienated due to the broken electoral reform promise?
  • How will pipeline politics affect the Liberals?
  • Will Trump do or say something that will make the Conservatives to appear to be likely allies/toadies of the US?
The only certainties:
  • all parties will pander to the shipbuilding industries on either coast, with the Liberals also making a play for Quebec shipbuilding.
  • the ads will mostly suck
  • I will be wrong.  This is not just my sister thinking that--I am not a student of Canadian politics.  Other folks are far more expert.  But this is my blog, and I can cry if I want to.
  • Folks will raise and dismiss the possibility of coalitions even though they are perfectly legal, and they happen in the Commonwealth countries on a regular basis (UK more common now, NZ always, Aussies often enough).  
  • There is much yet to come to shake things up

 How will you bet?

Monday, July 29, 2019

Letter-Writing Season and Why We Are a Bad Guild

A key part of the tenure process is for outside experts to evaluate the candidate's research (hard to evaluate their teaching and service from outside).  These letters can be quite handy for getting a less biased perspective that a department might have (in either direction).  It is especially useful for providing insights in cases where the candidate's subfield is under or unrepresented among the senior faculty evaluating tenure (a real life example:  no tenured political theorists and the candidate is a theorist).

The basic idea makes sense.  That in order to evaluate whether someone has made a contribution to knowledge and is likely to continue to do so (evaluating the likely trajectory is a key part of the process), it makes sense to rely on experts who know the body of research the candidate is addressing.

After that, things go awry pretty quickly.

Here's the starting problem: that many people who write these letters do not want to be the person responsible for denying someone tenure and/or promotion.  They are reluctant to write negative letters, which does mean that they may decline to write a letter to avoid doing so.  Those that are willing to write negative letters or ones that are mostly positive but with critical aspects are likely to get a reputation for doing so, which then means that if they are asked to do so, it may be used by individuals and departments that are seeking to sink a candidate.  Because, of course, tenure and promotion can be quite political and personal.

A second pathology is the on-going letters arms race.  How many letters are necessary?  In the olden days of yore, a handful seemed sufficient, like five or six.  Recently, a competitive dynamic has developed whereby schools with status have, for some reason, decided that they need more letters.  Like 15 or 20.  Why?  Do the additional letters provide more illumination or just duplication?  Mostly they provide Deans and Provosts with the sense that they are running important schools that require greater efforts made by the community of scholars.

This spiral is quite problematic for several reasons:
  1. There may not be that many people who are experts in the specific area of the candidate
  2. The experts may be asked by other places to write letters so that they have to spend their summers writing heaps of letters.
  3. They may end up asking people who are not experts in that area, which means either weaker, less helpful letters or rejections from those who were asked.
  4. Because of a desire for representation (a good idea), it often leads to the few women or people of color who have tenure to get hit with lots of requests (I have a friend who regularly gets seven or more requests per year).  This then presents a very unfair burden for those people.  
Addressing the last issue, which is really a primary issue: if a potential letter-writer says no, the university may interpret that as a negative vote on the tenure case. As mentioned above, there is a sense that if someone declines to write a letter, it is because they would otherwise write a negative one.  Again, with some people getting lots of requests, there ends up being either very overburdened people or universities misinterpreting rejects or both--I am guessing both.

Another status-oriented dynamic is that despite decades of bad job markets producing greater distribution of smart, sharp folks, provosts and deans insist on getting letters from peer institutions, and everybody thinks that their institution has relatively few peers, so again more requests made of fewer people.  One positive consequence from moving from a more prestigious institution to a less prestigious one is that I get fewer requests than I did before.  I am spewing about this mostly because my friends are hit hard by this, as I usually get between one and three requests a year.

One more status competition dynamic: that letters will often ask a letter-writer to evaluate a candidate compared to their cohort.  The more prestigious places tend to provide a specific list of people to whom the candidate should be compared.  This moves us pretty quickly away from evaluating whether a person is making a contribution to knowledge, but whether the person is the very best person in their field.  I understand that the most prestigious places may want to only promote and tenure those who are making an outstanding contribution to knowledge, but, again, that should be about the ideas, the impact they are making on the field, and not on whether person x is better than Ken Waltz.  

Oh, did I mention that except for one story I have heard, there is no compensation for this.  It is part of our service to our profession.

It is obvious that we have a collective action problem as most professors do not enjoy writing heaps of letters, which get in the way of doing research, writing grants, preparing classes, and taking a swim.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if the organization that seeks to represent us (that would be APSA in the US, CPSA in Canada and so on) come up with standards to ameliorate at least part of this?  Like, if all poli sci departments agreed to ask for only five or six letters (yes, including Harvard), then Deans and Provosts would have to suck it up or push departments to violate the discipline's standards.  This would not get rid of the other pathologies, but it would at least limit the arms race for folks trying to keep up with Harvard and Berkeley and their ilk.  This would not only reduce the workload for the Sara Mitchell's of the world, but it would also make it less likely that there are overburdened people saying no, which would then make the signals less noisy, right?

I am definitely not advocating for getting rid of letters in this process.  I have seen what happens in processes where there are no outside letters (my old employer used to have the letters enter the process at the level of the deans' committees), and it ain't good to not have outside expertise included in the process.  But we could and should make the process less painful for all involved.

One fundamental Saideman rule is this: why do more work than is necessary?

DNI: Do Not Intel!

Dan Coats being fired as Director of National Intelligence and being replaced by a Trump hack is pretty normal, eh?  I have a hard time getting exercised by this for a couple of reasons:
  1. Ye olde textbooks on US natsec policy say that DNI has limited budgetary power.  The position was created in the aftermath of 9/11 to bring together the US intelligence community.  However, because so many of the intel agencies were/are within the Department of Defense, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld resisted mightily to empowering this new position.  
  2. It is not as if Trump listened to Coats:
Which leads to a gif a friend used:

A former national security official pointed out that in theory the DNI manages the stuff where the intel community as a whole assesses things--the National Intel Estimate.  That this individual can also make policy changes that can affect the entire intel community. 

So, this position is not as important or influential as the SecDef or Attorney General, but is not trivial either.  That Trump is picking a guy who just this past week crapped on Mueller shows that we can expect no more discrepant reports from the top of the intel chain, that there will be more efforts to use the intel services against Trump's enemies, and that America's adversaries must be super-thrilled. 

Thus, this is awful, just like everything Trump does.  It is not quite as consequential as other stuff, but this is one of those normalization points: that damn near everything Trump does is bad, and we need to call out each one of these violations of precedents, norms, and laws (yeah, if the Acting DNI isn't the right person, Trump will be breaking the law). 

Another infrastructure week ends early.  FFS.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Another Cycle Around the Sun

The funny thing about getting older, at least for me, is that I start rounding up far sooner than I used to.  So, I have been thinking I am the age I am today for quite some time, which softens the blow, I guess.  I don't mind getting older--the alternative sucks mightily.  I am now clearly closer to the end than the beginning, but that does not bother me so much.  Especially as I am, with two key exceptions, happier than I have been.  One exception is that I realized that I have not seen my kid, Hollywood Entry-Level Executive Assistant Spew, since last winter break (see the other one below). Other than that, things are good, really good.

Getting funded means great
organizational meeting dinners!
I am looking at a very, very crushed August given what I have left to do before the students return. But that is largely due to two dynamics this summer--getting the big grant which has required much work to set up the Canadian Defence and Security Network (including the launch of #BattleRhythm, our podcast) and a heap of travel--Berlin in May for research, Lisbon and Paris in June for two conferences with Barcelona to mark time in between, and then the Israel trip

I have taken a retired Canadian general's words to heart--to declare success.  Easier to do, of course, when the big grant effort, years in the making, pays off, of course.  But I have tried to adopt this perspective for the past few years, and it has been working out for me.  I don't believe that "comparison is the thief of joy" because I do love to compare so much, but I have tried to tame envy and jealousy.  I have accepted that there are always bigger fish, and that I am just very, very comfortable in the pond in which I swim these days. 

I have accepted, for instance, that when I am one of the best players on my frisbee teams, then my team is probably not going to do that well.  I still have most of my throws (I cannot throw it as long as I used to be), but my defense, which was only average or adequate at its best is now not even that.  I can get open on offense only if the hyper-athletic young guy defending me is not vigilant.  The question right now is whether I have a frisbee future, as a nagging Achilles strain has ended my summer season.  I will work on it to try to come back next spring, taking the fall and winter seasons off with much regret, but this very important part of my life may be coming to an end.  That I haven't accepted quite yet. 

I look back on my strange, completely unplanned and unanticipated journey--from the East Coast to Oberlin to San Diego to Vermont to Lubbock to the Pentagon to Montreal to Ottawa--and have realized that while I was not always happy about the situation I was in, I got something valuable from each.  I don't regret being a deadman walking twice in my life--teaching a second year at UVM after losing out on their job search the previous year, teaching an entire year at McGill after taking the net job--although it produced some awkward moments.  While I insult Lubbock and TTU on a regular basis, it was where my daughter was born with the baby ER so conveniently close to where we lived, it is where I had some of my greatest research success (not too many distractions), and it is where I felt I really belonged as one of the many POWs seeking to escape Stalag 13 (and, yes, I am old enough to keep on making Hogan's Heroes references that the kids won't get).  While I say unkind things about Quebec, I loved Montreal and most of my time there, the students were phenomenal, and I miss the folks who were hired the same year as me and those hired after me (no, I don't miss the folks who were full profs when I was there).  I miss the ultimate community as I felt more integrated there despite my lack of French than I do in the Ottawa leagues. 

I am pretty sure that Ottawa is the last stop, as I am very happy, and I know that I am not going to get a better offer (not a great bargaining stance to get a raise from Carleton, but the Dean here is smart on such stuff anyway).  The big remaining career question is whether retire on time or later than that.  We shall see how much I enjoy, um, grading and meetings when the time comes.  I just know that my next seven years will be occupied and delightfully so with the CDSN's own battle rhythms of podcasting, event planning, fund-raising, partner engaging, and, yes, heaps of meetings.  Oh, and finishing the Dave and Phil and Steve book in the next couple of years before getting really started on the Steve and Ora project. 

Thanks to my virtual friends out there in twitterland, to the followers of this blog, and, of course, to all my friends I made along the way.  I keep on adding new ones and have not alienated too many old ones this year.  We shall see whether I can keep that up in the year ahead.


I learned it from Footloose:
"a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,"

and, yeah, from the song, which I probably have to thank the Wonder Years for.

So, when I see this:

My response is to say: fuck that!

While I curse quite a bit at home (our daughter was cursing like a sailor long before she hit her late teen years), I almost never curse when I am teaching.  When I started blogging and then tweeting ten years ago, I also avoided cursing.  But something changed that produced not just the repeated FFS (where the profanity is only slightly hidden) but a more frequent appearance of Fuck!  That would probably be the election of 2016.  A quick check of my blog shows that most, not all, of the times I have used profanity (defined as fuck or shit but not FFS) have been since Trump began campaigning.  Not all uses are related to Trump, but most. 

Why?  Because I am and have been fucking outraged!  So much unnecessary bullshit that has harmed real people.  These are not imagined casualties but an actual body count caused by Trump's incitement of violent, deliberate incompetence at the border and in Puerto Rico, and on and on.  I find it outrageous for people not to be outraged at what has been going on in both US domestic and foreign policy.

And how to express outrage?  By using profanity.  These are not normal times, and we should not behave as if they are.  While Emmett used it in reference to the Chateau Laurier expansion shit-show, his point was a larger one--that we are focused on this rather than the awful stuff going on not just in the US but in Canada with Quebec legislating against religious minorities and the Conservative Party being (dare I say it) infested with white nationalists (see Rebel media folks). 

So, yeah, there is a time to dance and there is a time to fucking curse!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Better Not To Be Invited

Canada has a built in FOMO syndrome with which I sympathize greatly.  Indeed, I have internalized this so when somebody says transatlantic and only refers to the US regarding this side of the Atlantic, I take umbrage.  In the latest alliance/coalition news, Canada is not being asked to join a new European effort to form a coalition fleet to protect shipping near Iran.  And I say: phew.

Why?  Because I don't want Canada to get stuck in any escalation of conflict with Iran.  This entire dispute is unnecessary.  Iran signed the JCPOA, a deal that stopped its quest for nuclear weapons (we can argue about whether the deal was perfect or not, but it went a long way towards the most important goals), and then Trump, upset that Obama's name was attached, pissed it away.  Which has led to increased tensions with a drone getting shot down, with tankers being seized.  A war with Iran wouldn't quite make the Iraq war appear smart by comparison, but, yes, a war with Iran would be dumber than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

Canada was smart and lucky to duck out of that particular conflict.  It would be smart and might require luck to duck out of another Mideast war.  I opposed the 2003 war in part because I thought the Rummy team would screw things up (and they did).  Can you imagine a Trump team running a major war?  Just thinking of that makes me queasy. 

Anyway, the entire point of coalitions of the willing is to include folks who are willing and leave out those who are not.  I said on twitter that if this were a NATO fleet, then, yes, Canada should join as the alliance brings both obligations that Canada should respect and restraints that might limit the US a bit.  A coalition of the willing imposes no obligations on Canada and restrains no one (see the works by Patricia Weitsman and Sarah Kreps for more on coalitions vs alliances). 

One of the questions we asked during the week in Israel was where Israel stood on this stuff and why.  We kept finding folks there arguing that American bombing of Iran was preferable to the deal.  That bombing would not do much but kick the can down the road a couple of years as it could not erase Iran's nuclear program.  That this was better than a ten year delay in Iran's program (which was giving them more credit since the JCPOA is more than a ten year delay).  Why?  Something about making the Iranians hurt, I guess, which might deter further nuclear ambitions?  I found these arguments utterly uncompelling.

Iran remains a challenging country because it is more than just a nuclear program, it is also a sponsor of very serious, very dangerous proxies.  One cause for turbulence in detente with the Soviet Union was the expectation that arms control would tie the USSR's hands on many other issues, when all it did was restrain the arms race.  Asking for a deal that staves off Iran's development of nuclear weapons to do more than that shows a lack of learning and unrealistic expectations. 

Canada is smart not to get sucked into this. This is one thing Canada should not fear of missing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Embargo my Eggo!

Today, I learned that I am out of touch. Ok, that is old news. I got into a twitter conversation about embargoed dissertations. A friend was trying to access and then cite a dissertation that has been out for a few years, and she could not because the dissertation was embargoed. I then raised this on twitter, and got a whole lot of push back. So, let’s take a look at this.

My basic take is that a dissertation is a contribution to knowledge, and our job is to not only create such knowledge but to share it. I also argued that it is counter-productive to one’s career as it makes it hard for folks to cite one’s work, to build on it, to address it, and so forth. I am firmly in the camp of if you write “do not cite,” you are hurting yourself. Fundamentally, for me it comes down to this: “Hey, I did all this work, but now I am going to hide it.” Not good.

I received a variety of responses:
  • That is the way we do it in the UK (or elsewhere), as we often do not have research ethics require us to limit how to identify respondents in our written work. So, to protect those we interviewed who might otherwise be identified, we embargo.
  • The scholar is from an authoritarian country or does research in one, so making accessible a critical dissertation would be either dangerous or bad for future research.
  • The scholar relied on classified info.
  • Publishers demand it since they don’t want to invest in publishing books if the stuff is already out there.
The first and last surprised me the most. Of course, if you live in an autocracy, well, oy, good luck and be careful. If you study one, then I have no idea how to do the work because eventually you will be writing stuff that the autocrat dislikes. I have many friends declared persona non grata in Rwanda. It seems like that is the price of doing business, and I don’t know a way around that.  And, yeah, if you are doing secret squirrel stuff, then that is a different beast.

That research ethics and dissertation defense processes are different elsewhere, I guess so. I would think that one would always write the dissertation (and everything else) in ways that protect respondents as much as possible, and that one warned respondents about the limits of confidentiality. Informed consent and all that, right? But maybe it works different in the UK. The case that got me tweeting is an American one.

Which gets to the fourth possibility. In the olden days, when one wrote a dissertation, a copy went to the University of Michigan (if I recall correctly), who then put it on microfiche. They would then list the dissertation, and others could get access if they paid a fee. I remember buying a few dissertations as I was writing my own. Now, stuff goes online, and so it is far easier to see someone else’s dissertation. Good news for dissertation writers (mostly) and for researchers, but perhaps bad news for publishers.

Seems like we have a collective action problem if publishers really want to restrict access to dissertations. Because our business really is about sharing ideas, and we have enough publishers making it hard to do that (Elsevier comes to mind).

I now have a homework assignment for myself and for those going to APSA–ask the editors about embargoed dissertations. Is this really an expectation

All I know is that if younger scholars are being told not to make their work accessible, then our profession is even more broken than I thought.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Thinking About Frisbee Theology

I saw this pic (thanks Jade):

and it got me thinking about how quickly one might find sects developing around different beliefs. So here are some questions that might lead to splitters and all that:
  • What kind of dog?  I would assume that the mainstream Frisbee-ite would image the Dog to be a border collie, but I could see groups taking different stances on what kind of dog will eventually receive the earth-frisbee--Muttites, Goldens, Labbers, etc.
  • What kind of throw?  Sure, the mainstream frisbee-ites will probably this that God make a casual backhand throw, but Flickers are those who believe God threw a forehand strike... which means, of course, we have less time as backhands are tend to be more float-y than a forehand.  Of course, this raises all kinds of theological questions as God could have thrown the earth inside out or outside in, producing different kinds of curves, which might make it harder for the Dog to catch the disk.  
  • Do some religions think much about whether the frisbee ends up on a roof or on the other side of a fence?
  • Is there, dare I ask, a defense seeking to block the throw?  This presents a completely different view of the God-Disk-Dog, um, dogma because one might worry about there being opposing forces that seek to prevent the successful completion of earth-frisbee's journey.  Those who root for the defenders might be akin to Satanists, rooting for the opposing team.
  • What kind of player is God after all?  Is he an old school pot-smoking hippie who never drilled, doesn't bother to stretch, and mostly hucks the disk long?  Or is she more like the 21st century handler, who is comfortable making short and long throws in all directions?
I do believe the disk has a spirit that unites those who value it.  Beyond that, the theology needs much work. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Israel and Anti-Semites--Unholy Bedfellows

When I was in Israel last week, one of the questions I asked several times was this: how could Israelis support a Prime Minister who pals around with anti-semites?  That Netanyahu has been buddying up with Viktor Orban, Hungary's anti-semitic prime minister/dictator wannabee, as well as other noted right-wing anti-semites.  And I wondered why Netanyahu was doing this and what price was he paying.

This piece speaks of an unholy alliance that gives some clues, but it was put a bit differently to me in Israel.  That the left wing in Europe is anti-semitic (some of it is, some of it is just critical of Israel--one can be critical of Israel without contempt for Jews, of course) and the right wing is anti-semitic so why not align with the ideologically similar?  Of course, this is extremely problematic for several reasons
  1. What does one get from aligning with Hungary in any case?  Orban might have some sway among the right wing authoritarians in Eastern Europe, but Hungary has little power or influence.  Selling out one's soul for what?  A few shekels?  Because Hungary can't deliver much.
  2. As Mrs. Spew reminded me last night, it is far, far more likely that the right-wing anti-semites would take the anti-semitic rhetoric and turn it into systematic violence than the left-wing anti-semites.  
  3. Looking away when anti-semites rise was something that falls into the category of "Never Again," right?  What is the point of having a Jewish state if the Jewish state allies with those doing harm to Jews?
The reality of Israeli politics is that the right-wing dominates (the left got crushed in the aftermath of the second intifada), and that Netanyahu dominates the right-wing.  So, there is little penalty for Netanyahu to hang out with anti-semites in Europe or the US.  His coalition-making challenges do not center on his pal-ing around with Orban and his ilk, but on the conflict between two right-wing voting blocks--the Ultra Orthodox and the Russian Jews who hate the Ultra Orthodox.  So, no, besides some upset columnists, there was no cost for Netanyahu politically.

A related question I didn't really ask as much is how do the Israelis feel about being the means to an end?  Evangelicals want Jews to run the biblical lands since that is the requirement for the rapture/Armageddon/end of times (excuse me if I get the religious terms wrong), as these folks think they will go to Heaven or whatever.  These folks see Israel's Jews is a tool for getting what they want.  The response to my question was basically that Israelis understand this, but don't mind since they are using the evangelicals.  That the GOP now is firmly committed to uncritical support for Israel as it panders to these end of times-seeking evangelicals.  Of course, there is a cost, as Israelis are realizing that Netanyahu's treatment of Obama has helped to alienate Democrats, and they fear the day when the Democrats gain the White House.

But it is all about the short term--sucking up to those who are anti-Jewish (and, yes, evangelicals are anti-Jewish) for a few more years of support while selling out what the Holocaust has taught the Jews.

While the basic state of Israel-Palestine peace talks was depressing enough, this other dynamic was just gutting.  Strangely enough, I feel my Jewish identity more when I see Israel selling out the Holocaust.  Seeing these t-shirts being sold at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust memorial), well, had a complicated effect on me.  I will eventually get to the post on how this trip affects how I see myself and my identity, but this one is a clue.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The CDSN Thanks SSHRC!

We got the word from SSHRC in late April that it would be funding the partnership grant the Canadian Defence and Security Network had sought, but we could not talk about it.  We could operate, but we could not give credit to the funder... until now.  The Minister announced the results, along with other competitions (hey, co-director Phil, congrats!), so now we can give thanks to SSHRC for the funds.

And not just the funds for which we are thankful.  The partnership grant process required us to do a great deal of networking and leveraging. That each partner has to not just specify what it wants out of the partnership, but what it wants to put into it.  Indeed, the process requires partners to give at least 35% in cash on in kind to match the SSHRC funding.  Our partners went way beyond that. 

While the Carleton publicity gave me heaps of credit, I need to make clear this was very, very much a team effort.  The folks who are now CDSN co-directors helped write heaps of draft documents (the application has more than 20 pieces), gave comments on drafts, met in August to discuss the Stage 2 application (it is a three stage process, with us making it past stage 1 the second time we tried), and helped bring along more than 30 partners.  Our partners had to grapple with the SSHRC website and with their own legal people to get a Memorandum of Understanding signed, so I will be forever grateful for them.  Our roughly 100 participants also had to do some SSHRC webwork, so I am thankful to them.  I had multiple RAs work on this project with us, doing much of the tracking and grunge work, so thanks!  The folks at Carleton, especially Kyla Reid, our grants facilitator, who knows this process and has brought several teams to success over the past few years, will be owed beers for a long time.  Our Dean, Andre Plourde, not only provided support and enthusiasm, but also served as a mock interviewer for the third stage of the process--a 20 minute interview.  Which reminds me that I owe Stéfanie von Hlatky and Caroline Leprince for kicking butt in the interview.  Twas a strange process, and they came through big-time.  Our VP for Research and his staff were also very helpful. 

Now what?  Well, since we got the notice in late April:
  1. We had a meeting in Ottawa to develop the rules and procedures so that we operate well; 
  2. I have started distributing some of the money to the leaders of the five research themes; 
  3. I hired two great staffers in Jeffrey Rice, our project coordinator, and Melissa Jennings, our knowledge mobilization coordinator or comms person, and kept on Alvine Nintai, our excellent research assistant.
  4. Melissa built a webpage and staffed the twitter account and email address, and we now have a banner and stickers for the podcast!
  5. Stef and I started a podcast, Battle Rhythm, with two episodes out and one to be taped and dropped next week.
  6. The Co-Directors have started planning their first workshops.  Each of the five theme teams will be holding annual workshops to build focused research agendas.
  7. We supported the Kingston Conference on International Security and the annual workshop of Women in International Security-Canada.
  8. We (and by we, I mean Jeff) applied for several DND project grants to fund some of our efforts.
  9. I went to Europe to network with the European Research Group on Military and Society and the European Initiative for Security Studies to see if they want to join our network.
  10. We have added one new partner and are working to bring along a few others who have indicated interest.
  11. We just transitioned to a new Defence Fellow--a Canadian Forces officer who becomes part of the CDSN HQ team.
So, yeah, it has been a busy three months.  Our next steps will be to develop the goals that SSHRC wants to measure us by in year 3.5, and to help various partners with their events this fall.  It is not exactly all downhill from here, as years 2-7 will have a variety of activties that we are not doing this year (annual conference, summer training institute, book workshop, post-doc competition, etc).

We believed very strongly in this endeavor, that it will provide many collective goods to help the Canadian Defence and Security community, so we are most pleased by what we have accomplished thus far, and, finally, we can thank SSHRC for funding this effort. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Israel, day 8: Hebrew U, Religion and Identity, Parting and Departing

The last day was not as intense as the previous one.  It involved a trip to Hebrew University, a pair of sessions with a super smart negotiator, and then we packed and had a great last .... dinner somewhere near where the last supper was. 

First, Hebrew University May have the best view of any university I have ever visited:

We learned both about how academic stuff works in Israel (articles >>>> books), that it is a bit challenging to insist on English curriculum when the school’s name refers to another language, and that their grad students are doing sharp and interesting stuff.

After lunch, we had two sessions with a super impressive Israeli negotiator.  He talked in part about culture differences—that there are no words in Hebrew or Arabic for win-win but there are for zero-sum.  That win win means winning and then winning some more, right.?  He then went on to. Argue that the two sides have very different narratives that are the key obstacles to settlement.  That Palestinian identity is critically defined by conflict with Israel.  That their identity is about dispossession, about inability to realize rights, that this is about decolonization process, not a peace process.  “Success is making Israel one-eyed while we go blind.” 

For Israelis, conflict is a way of life. Hard to imagine how to be a Jew without conflict.  Many Israelis believe the conflict has nothing to do with Israeli policies, but with refusal to acknowledge right of Jews to self determination.  That the Jews are a people, not a religious group.  If it was all about occupation, leaving Gaza should have settled that.  

So, two core ideas: 
  1. How much investing can we do in authentic but not self defeating narratives?  Two conflicting narratives here, so how to create alternative ones that allow for settlement?
  2. Justice is an obstacle to peace.  Both sides have heaps of grievances and have made big mistakes, but the key is not fixing the past but finding. A resolution for the future.
I asked whether they had tried to learn from the resolution of other conflicts how to create alternatives. He said he had looked at other agreements and learned little.  

I tend to think it is less about narratives and more about interests and institutions, but he was pretty compelling,

We took a break and then came back for an exercise: we split into a bunch of groups and had to consider how to rule as supreme court justices (the court here is quite activist and far more centrist or liberal than the rest of the political system) on a series of scenarios that pitted group and individual rights.  Stuff based in reality like can the ultra Orthodox Jews block roads on the sabbath since folks aren’t supposed to drive on the sabbath or can ultra orthodox in the military leave events where women would be singing, and whether the various symbols of the state should berevised to be more inclusive.  It was interesting to argue with my colleagues in the made me realize how hostile I am to the ultra orthodox.  Ok, I knew that already “I fundamentally believe that fundamentalists suck.”  The spear wanted us to justify our decisions based on principles, but, as it turns out, the Israeli supremes tend not to balance competing rights but rights with sensibilities.  This, of course, sneakily and smartly built on the previous discussion about narratives.

The last event was an excellent dinner.  I explained the concept of “dibs” to our shepherd so that I could eat with him since that was a much lauded experience and I had serious FOMO.  It was, indeed, special, but just as I asked the big civ-mil question, Charlie Kupchan, one of the two organizers, stood up and asked everyone for their final thoughts.  I talked about how this great experience was a lousy propaganda effort (see my next post later today), that I was forced to confront how I felt about my identity and Judaism (I was not alone in indicating that this was caught up in a complicated relationship with one’s father and a post for tomorrow) and how great of a group we had.  The last was a very common theme.

I am glad I went.  I learned a lot, had great food, completed my cross Mediterranean swim despite Medusas, got to fly over an ancient land, and hung out with the cool kids.  And now I have to write the next book, prepare for the fall, and spend some time with Mrs. Spew.  Oh, and one last flight as I wrote this post and the previous one from the lounge at Newark airport.

Israel, day 7: Palestinians and Palestine

The big day of the trip was the day we went to Ramallah, capital of the Palestinian Authority (for my previous posts regarding this trip, go to here, here,here, here, here, and here). ‘‘Twas the big day because it was least in the control of our hosts—the speakers were chosen by the Palestinians, so any effort by Academic Exchange to play us (see my wrap up post later) would be challenged here.
The day started with an Israeli retired colonel who works for a think tank that has been involved in the peace process. He did a nice job of explaining the series of events that followed the Oslo agreement.  A name that came up, General Keith Dayton, that struck me.  Dayton was head of the US effort to train and equip the Palestinian security forces.  He was also my boss in 2001-2002 as he was the boss of the European section of the J5. Anyhow, the idea was for the palestians to provide security in the parts of the West Bank where the Palestinians had authority (zone A) and then police zone B where the authority is a bit mixed (the Israelis run zone c which is 60% of the West Bank).  The speaker said something else that reminded me of the Balkans: the best cooperation is among the Israeli and Palestinian criminals.  I asked about Pal civ-mil, as there has not been an election in ten years (neither the incumbents nor the Israelis want Hamas to win, as they did in Gaza).  There was a coup attempt a few years ago, and Israel helped prevent it from succeeding.  Perhaps the most surprising news from my questions was that the amount of training Israel provides for occupation duty is very limited: three days! As most troops rotate among the three major missions—Gaza, the northern border, the West Bank—the IDF is putting poorly prepared troops into difficult spots.  That the conscripts are quite young and not that well trained leads to deviations from the rules of engagement and, thus, international law.  One lesson of the 2006 war in Lebanon was to increase the length of the command courses.  I am still unsure of how Israel’s civil-military relations work as I asked about that far too late in the trip (our shepherd is a retired general who was most generous but I didn’t get alone time until the ... last supper).

Then onto Ramallah, where the city was a mix of very modern, well kept buildings and cars and not so much.  We met with a series of Palestinian officials.  The first put together a case for,what Israel had done wrong with much exaggeration but also provided some of the narrative that helps to shape the discourse and dispute.  He did say something that echoed what we heard from Israelis near Gaza: Israel is afraid of nonviolent protest.  A common theme on this day was more criticism of Trump since anynthought of US has an honest broker is gone (more on multilateralism below).  He spoke about demanding equality rather than two state solution, which differed from the next guy.  He concluded by suggested that we should not be lulled by the current state of exhaustion since there was the same exhaustion before both intifadas.

The next guy, a negotiator, was very dynamic (slick some said).  He insisted that they had recognized Israel’s right to exist in the pre1967 boundaries.  He insisted, unlike the previous guy, that the only solution is the two state solution.  He argued that Pompeo among others is turning this into a religious conflict which helps ISIS.  There was not much discussion of ISIS re West Bank this week so this was pretty striking.  He said nice things about USAID, and a common theme of the day was how Trump’s policy changes are making things worse (so much for Trump tweets vs words). He had many negative things to say about the Arab countries and Iran “don’t try to be more Palestinian than us!”  Which led to a nice rant
  • Real threat to Iran is Iran 
  • Real threat to Arabs are other Arabs
  • Real threat to Israel is the occupation 
He told a fun story where he met with Christians united for Israel who said: “only peace of Jews, Muslims convert to Christianity” and his response was that if Netanyahu does it, he would think about it.  He had much to say about Kushner, Greenblatt, and Friedman—the US negotiating team.  He also asked Trump “did you develop a technique to kill ideas with bullets?” Which Trump didn’t understand.

On a one state solution with equal rights, he said that we (the Palestinians) would change everything and the Israelis know it.  

We then met with a higher ranking politician, who argued that the world was with the Palestinians except for Israel and the Trump Administration, which disagrees with the previous speaker’s take on Iran.  The two state solution is the shortest path to peace, he said.  Again, 67 borders, don’t need 1948, ok with some land swaps.  He said they wanted security, willing to have a third party provide security in demilitarized Wesr Bank, including US or NATO with Jerusalem as open city.   He did tend to give US way too much credit as he said US was behind Hamas and was using Iran threat to distract everyone.  A key theme was that current situation was apartheid... which our resident Africanist could poke holes in, but i did keep,seeing “separate but equal”

His take on the recent meeting in Bahrain over economic development: these amateurs (Kushner, etc) think all we want is money: “there was no money in the first place. If there was money, Jared would be thinking about how to take it.”

The last speaker was from the PA foreign ministry.  She asserted that Arab states could not betray Palestinians without upsetting the Srab street, which was the first mention of the Arab public this week.  She pointed out that Trump was unilaterally deciding final status issues like Jerusalem.  She asserted that the Palestinian diaspora is less pragmatic than PA, which reminded me of my long dead diaspora project.  She had a great point about folsmsayinf Palestine is not ready doe statehood in two words: South Sudan.

She then went on to sound like Trudeau: that the PA wants to uphold the multilateral order.  Sure.  It makes sense that the vastly weaker player would want a multilateral solution rather than just working with Israel and Trump. Also, two stare solution as “we need separation”

We then returned back to the hotel for one last briefing and I was too tired to pay much attention.  We did get re-energized with a late night tour of tunnels under the western wall. Our guide tried to remember a concept he had once read about that would explain why the first temple’s loss hit so hard, and damn near all of us in the group either said endowment effect or prospect theory.  He gave us a good review so the history of this spot.
  1. The middle of what is now the Temple Mount is supposed to be where God started when he built the planet
  2. This is where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac
  3. This is where they built the first temple
  4. And the second, which Herod (nasty dictator but good builder) reinforced.
  5. Where Jesus was killed, buried.
  6. Where Mohammed flew to seventh heaven
  7. Where the Golden Dome of the third holiest site in Islam was built.
Our tour of the tunnels, including three baths (one fed by a stream), was most interesting.  I can’t imagine being anyplace with a longer history.  The archeological effort here makes clear how far this stuff goes back.  

Lots and lots of path dependence on this day: that previous decisions shape the choices available to the next folks, whether that is how the British ruled, how the 67 war provided many opportunities, how the settlers are creating facts on the grounds, how leaving Gaza led to the rise of Hamas and shifted Israeli politics along with the second intifada.

In short: oh my.