Saturday, June 13, 2020

Quarantine, Week 13: The Civ-Mil-iest?

This whole thing started for us and mostly for the US and Canada the second week of March--closing things down, realizing the virus was here in a big way.  That is three months ago.  At the time, I guess I thought the shut down would last a couple of months so that we could flatten the curve.  Did I expect to still be mostly staying at home in June?  I don't think so.  Then again, I didn't expect Black Lives Matter to take off the way it has this past few weeks.  I had grown cynical about protests.  Did I expect the worst civ-mil crisis of my lifetime?  Nope.  I guess the one thing I had expected was that governments would use this time to develop good, reliable, fast testing and tracing.  So, there lies my greatest frustration--not with the impatience of the people to go out and gather, but with the failure of the US and Canada to do what was necessary to manage the re-openings.  Although to be clear, I am also annoyed that people are so impatient about getting back together and refusing to wear masks.

That's a lot of stuff to think about this week.  Yet we still keep keeping on.  I ran the first of the CDSN Summer Doctoral Seminars.  The idea is to give those students who have been deprived of chances to present work and to network--due to the cancelled conferences and workshops--an opportunity to do so.  It went really well.  We had a good discussion of how to do research in a time of pandemic, we got to know each other a bit.  The students come from across Canada and a few beyond.  It is strange that I volunteered essentially to teach an extra class, but it felt mighty good to do so.

The second CDSN activity of the week was coming up with a statement and a plan addressing Black Lives Matter.  We will roll those out on Monday.  We didn't just want to say something and do nothing more than that.  Looking at our team and our efforts over the past year, we did pretty well on some dimensions of diversity and inclusion and less well on others, and the Black Lives Matter protests remind us that we can and should do more.

The third CDSN effort was, of course, Battle Rhythm.  I taped an interview with Lindsay Cohn, an expert on the use of regular troops on US soil, on Sunday, and then taped the usual Stef and Steve part of the podcast on Tuesday.  One of the benefits of podcasting every two weeks is I get to hang out with a pal on a regular basis.  It was fun to see that Stef's idea of good military satire, War Machine, was much different than mine, M*A*S*H, as we discussed Space Force.

The fourth CDSN effort (jeez, a busy week!) was to meet with the team of research assistants to work on the COVID Response project.  Funded by Carleton, these students will try to develop the answers we gave after our conference in late April.

The highlight of the week was probably the Civ-Mil hangout.  I invited the folks on twitter who do civil-military relations to join a zoom to connect with each other.  It became more popular than I had expected with some non-twitter people, including one of the most senior civ-mil folks, folks from three of the US war colleges, and a bunch of graduate students  I had to organize subgroups for breakout rooms.  Luckily, I could rely on some folks to moderate those rooms.  Overall, it went really well, and there is definitely interest for future iterations.

And it was well timed, given the upheaval in US civil-military relations.  Not only were people reflecting on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley being in Trump's photo op (after peaceful protesters were forcefully ejected) and Milley's apology for it (or the perceptions he created), but also the statements by the service chiefs regarding Black Lives Matter and the effort by Elizabeth Warren to require the various military bases to drop their names honoring Confederate generals and other traitors.  Lots of really good stuff online including a re-launch of the Thank You For Your Service podcast now with Alice Hunt Friend and Jim Golby.

Matt York/AP
Getting back to Black Lives Matter, I have seen a lot of debate about what Abolish and Defund mean.  Thanks to the efforts by police departments around North America (including the RCMP) abusing their power, I have been sufficiently radicalized that I support both Abolish and Defund after discussing more modest reforms last week.  The good news is that we are now having debates about how to roll back the over-policing, rather than how to expand the police.  This past week has not only seen NASCAR ban the confederate flag but also the banning of chokeholds in some places, decisions to re-allocate spending from police to mental health folks and others, the giving up of  ... yes, grenade launchers by the LA School District police, and more. So, yes, protests work.  Public attitudes have shifted.  While I am hoping this lasts, I am also hoping that everyone who can seizes this moment and gets as much change now since the momentum will not last.

So, yes, it has been three months of mostly staying at home, and we see the curves bending in the wrong direction in many places.  But this week has provided much hope--that saner heads can prevail (Milley won the argument vs Trump over the use of regulars), that change can happen.  On the other hand, we need to be clear eyed, as lynchings still take place and as police continue to abuse their authority and the public's trust.  I prefer to focus on the progress that has been made and that is in front of us, because doing otherwise will just force me to bake more sweets which only leads to stress eating and then stress exercising.

Be well and remember: with great masks comes great responsible behavior
And, no, I am not cutting my hair.  This is
my last great chance to see how long I can
get it.

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