Friday, December 31, 2021

Year 2 of Pandemic in Review: the Dizziest Rollercoaster

The first year of the pandemic started well with several cool trips (researching in Germany, chaperoning in Japan, skiing out west) and some great CDSN events (the first Capstone) and then the pandemic hit and everything went south.  The second year of the pandemic was much ... wavier.  The rollout of the vaccines created much anxiety as the eligibility kept changing, and the most widely available one in Canada got pulled ... after I got it.  Things looked bright until Delta came along, but then we reached high levels of vaccinations and things started opening up and then Omicron came along.  On this last day of the year, I look back, mostly so that in later years I can distinguish between years one, two, and three of the this pandemic.

On the bright side, year two had much less death among my immediate friends and family even as the US had far more death in 2021 (Delta was/is so very nasty).  I lost friends the previous year due to heart attacks that were not apparently covid-related.  This year, we lost Bob, our very old cat.  He spent his last year being far more cuddly with me than this previous seventeen or eighteen.  He was an important part of our pandemic routine, especially for Mrs. Spew who got to see the veterinarians on an increasingly regular basis until it was very much time to say goodbye.  We also lost my father's best friend, who became known to us as Uncle Stanley.  He was very influential in my early life, and I am pretty sure I owe much of my sense of humor to him.  I wish I had talked with him more before he declined.  Alas, there was much death among those who taught at UCSD during my time there--John Ruggie, Frances McCall Rosenbluth, Mat McCubbins all passed away in 2021.  I only took one class from John, but interacted with both France and Mat on many occasions.  Of the three, McCubbins has had the greatest impact on my work as I succumbed to principal-agency theory half-way through my career.  Their losses were felt hard by not just their students but by the profession.  Robert Jervis also passed away.  He didn't teach at UCSD, but he helped me get there by sucking me into IR via some of the first stuff I read. 

Professionally, it was a mixed kind of year.  The CDSN did quite well--we had our long-awaited Summer Institute, entirely online, and it went wellThe Year Ahead was a hybrid event that happened in that window in between waves, and it was great to see people and have a great day of insights and varied perspectives.  The Capstone was online but remained a very special event. The podcasts continued to be a biweekly boon to my spirits, and it was fun to get a call from the Chief of the Defence Staff (the highest ranking officer in the Canadian military) who wanted to talk about something I said in the podcast.  This was a few months after we had him and the Deputy Minister on our podcast.  In the last months of the year, I got to consult with the new Minister of National Defence as well as a former Supreme Court justice who is reviewing the Canadian Armed Forces as part of the effort to address the sexual misconduct/abuse of power crisis.  That crisis also led to a couple of op-eds where I called for the firing of the previous Minister of National Defence (not much of an influencer if it happens eight or so months later) and previous Chief of Defence Staff (ditto).  Between stuff in the US and in Canada, it was a busy year for those who do civil-military relations. So, a peak year for engagement with the policy world.  

While the engagement was great, the publications ... were not so great.  I had a record year, I think, in contributions to edited volumes.  But as anyone in my biz will tell you, those don't count as much as refereed articles in top journals, and, well, it was mostly a year of rejection on that front.  My various co-authors and I reached for the top and found the top to be a pretty competitive place.  That and our work needed much reviews.  A good number of the reviews we received were most helpful in telling us how to improve our work.  I expect those pieces to do better in 2022.  Dave, Phil, and I didn't make as much progress on the big book project--the end is in sight, but it didn't get much closer.  I expect us to finish in the first half of the new year.  Frustrating not to get it done, but I hope to get a burst of new energy to do what it takes to push it over the goal line.  On the bright side, 2021 demonstrated both the importance of civilian control of the military, and the variation that exists among the world's democracies in the roles played by legislatures.  Canada proved yet again why it belongs on the weak end of the spectrum.

Teaching was entirely online.  Students continued to adapt, so that the seminars via zoom went pretty well.  I supervised a variety of projects from MA papers to more dissertations.  The dissertation proposal class continued to expose me to a great variety of topics, mostly way outside my expertise, and the course worked--students made progress and many got through their proposal defenses.  My PhD students are making progress through their projects despite the challenges of doing research during a pandemic.

US politics occupied much of my mind.  The insurrection n January 6th was a dismal way to start the year.  Fending off those who thought I didn't think it was serious because I argued it was not a coup attempt was not so much fun.  Biden's inauguration created some joy, which Manchin and Sinema destroyed through their obstinacy.  The anti-vaxxers did their best to undermine the miracles of the vaccines, causing much unnecessary misery.  They started threatening doctors and scientists, which would have been awful even if those folks were not at their limits due tot he pandemic itself.  And, yes, those folks infected Canada, as my friend JC Boucher found in his scraping of social media--that the vectors of anti-vax stuff in Canada originate not in Russia or China but in the US.  It didn't take long for outbidding to develop in the US among GOP and their media--that they had to double and triple down on the big lie about the election.

In Canada, three political processes dominated the year.  The hashtag for the pandemic became #IncompetentMurderClowns as the premiers of the provinces (governors) tended to be slow to close, fast to open up, and opted for the less effective policies.  I will always be struck by a pre-delta press conference where a journalist asked the health officers of Ontario "Am I missing something here, or is this presentation predicting a disaster?" and the doctors, who were discussing the opening up of stuff just as Delta was on its way, said "I don't think you are missing anything."  The year ended with not enough tests, a confusing rollout of the boosters after all of the health authorities had delayed on that, and with no clarity about how the new school year would go.  I have always felt bad for the parents during this crisis, and the past week took that to new heights/depths.  Ontario is pushing back the start of schools by two days.  What will that do?  Damned if I know.

The second process was an election that the Liberals called because they thought they could win a majority even as Delta was spiking and as vax hestitancy in the Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta) was going to kill any victory parade.  Oh, and Afghanistan's collapse also got the Liberals off message.  So, we have more or less the same government (finally some much needed cabinet shuffling) and more media for anti-vax folks ... and much frustration. 

The third focused on something that gets only episodic attention--the past and continuing plight of Canada's Indigenous peoples.  The finding of 215 graves at a residential school in Kamloops reminded everyone that Canada's government engaged in truly awful policies that have been determined to be genocidal.  The government talked a good game of reconciliation, but a bunch of policies and problems continue that make these seem like pie crust promises--easily made, easily broken.

The big IR event of the year was the collapse of the government the US and NATO had been fighting for in Afghanistan.  I was never an expert on Afghanistan itself, having focused entirely on the dynamics of the countries intervening there.  It was and is a great tragedy for the Afghans who have always been in the middle of this conflict, and it was, of course, also traumatic for those who expended so much there.  I did reflect on my work and how to think about it now that not just the NATO mission ended but so did the target of that mission

The personal highlights for me were the breaks in the quarantine.  Going to Philly for the summer family vacation was more than just a bit restorative--it was so very necessary.  We didn't do that much tourism, but we spent a heap of time with family and even some old friends over steak sandwiches.  I got to go to Copenhagen for a civil-military relations conference where I got to hang with some of my friends in the business and watch civ-mil tensions up close (the Danish military types didn't like to be told that militaries are sometimes unreliable agents that need close oversight).  A conference by our partner networ--RAS--meant a heap of fun people in town for the only in-person poker game of the year--it was a blast!  The online poker games were fun, too, but not the same.  I gave two talks in the last few months--"at" the U of Chicago where I got great feedback on the Steve/Dave/Phil project and actually at Calgary, which then was followed by skiiing with JC.  I survived the skiing with 1.5 knees intact.  The last trip of the year, to see my in-laws, was much needed as I missed them all very much, and they needed to see Mrs. Spew in person.  Also, I got to make the big meal including several pies.

The baking of year one continued into year two of the pandemic with lots of cookies made for distribution before we fled south for the holidays.  The second year was more of a balance of new and old recipes. Will I bake that much in year three of the pandemic? Probably despite a resolution to eat a bit healthier.  I hope I keep up the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing that I did last year, but that depends as much on the weather as it does on my will power.  And, yes, I will continue to enjoy heaps of tv.  I only made it to the movie theaters three times in 2021--for three Marvel movies (Black Widow, Shang-Chi, and  ... Spidey in less than two hours).  

As I kept saying and posting, to get through this, we have to do whatever it takes.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

More Than Bad Faith: A Party of Autocracy, Hate, and Death

 I have taken to calling the Republicans the Party of Bad Faith because so much of what their leaders and members say they don't believe and will flip on a dime if the identities of the relevant actors are switched.  The party of family values elected and supported a serial philanderer who lusted after his daughter while being caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.  The party that says that you can't select a supreme court justice months before an election did so days before one.  Anyhow, a friend said this:

And this is quite fair.  The GOP is not just a party of bad faith.  It is a party of autocracy, hate, and death.  Just a quick bit on each:

  • Democracy requires the acceptance of losing, not gaming the rules to prevent losing.  Long before January 6th of 2021, the GOP had been engaged in a sustained effort not just to suppress the vote but change the powers of governors when they lost those positions.  The entire big lie about Biden's victory may be motivated by cowardice--fear of their most rabid supporters and fear of Trump and fear of Fox and other far right media--but whatever the motivation, their support of the big lie is poison to American democracy.  The tragedy here is that the GOP has proven it can win Latino votes, so there is not really a need to suppress the vote--they can try to win elections the democratic way--by getting more votes.  But that is not the path the party and its members and its media friends have chosen. They have chosen to burn down American democracy.
  • The GOP is also a party of hate.  They have long used racist appeals (the Southern strategy, Willie Horton, etc), but they are now openly the party of white supremacy.  Tucker Carlson spews it all the time.  The discussion of "Real America" and all that crap, the embrace of replacement theory, etc is a toxic brew of hate that has been killing people.  Wherever Trump rallied, hate crimes were sure to follow.  In this pandemic, the GOP were not too fussed when the casualties were urban people of color.  And all this has bred more violence.  Trump won by ethnic outbidding--being the best white supremacist in the GOP in 2016--and he fed that for years.  Remember that his least worst Attorney General was once considered to racist to be a Federal judge.  
  • And now the GOP is the party of death.  That Trump delayed on confronting the pandemic because he didn't want the stock market to tank.  That they gave Kushner the job of figuring out the tests, which was as sure a path to failure as one could possibly imagine.  That they politicized mask wearing and then the vaccines even though the vaccines were developed when Trump was president.  Most recently, Trump has faced much friction from his own party for talking up booster shots.  The policies of governors like Abbott and DeSantis have been so reckless with so little concern for the lives of their constituents.  And as I was typing this, the GOP House Judiciary account tweeted its support for covid.

I could go on, but this covers the essentials.  The GOP is more than the Party of Bad Faith--they are not just without values, not just hyprocrites, but they are allies of a deadly virus, not just friends to autocrats but wannabe dictators, and they are stoking hate.  The problem of our day is not polarization, which suggests that two parties are moving from the middle. The problem is that one of the two major parties does not believe in democracy and does not even care about the health of their own constituents.  

Even if the Democrats can hold the Presidency in two years and maybe a house or two, the erosion of American democracy will continue as democracy requires winners and losers to treat each other as fellow citizens in the non-violent competition for office and governing for all, not just the winners.  In short, the US is truly fucked.





Saturday, December 18, 2021

Defend the Review

One of the notable absences in the Mandate Letter that the Prime Minister gave to Minister of National Defence Anand is any mention of a new defence review.  Instead, her mandate is to keep implementing the Strong, Secure, Engaged document produced by the 2017 defence review.  The 2017 review was a lot of work, as the DND folks consulted widely--at least ten meetings across the country with four senior folks (former CDS, former Supreme Court justice, former MinDef, and former DepSec of Cabinet), lots of submissions, etc, etc.  It is understandable that at a time where there is already a review concerning the culture of the CAF and DND by the aforementioned retired Supreme Court justice that the focus would be on just getting that stuff straight.  

But after talking with a friend, I am more convinced that a new defence review is something that should happen sooner than later.  Why?

  • These reviews should be a regular event, perhaps every four years, like they do it in the US and elsewhere.  The world changes and priorities evolve.  It is good to do a lessons learned process and figure out what went well and wrong with the previous review.  Indeed, this would give the Minister a much needed oversight tool as one of the core challenges now but actually always is civilian control of the armed forces and of those who oversee the armed forces.  And DND would develop a skill set that would be sharpened as it gets used over and over.
  • There is more than just the DND/CAF culture to review.  Do the priorities set forth in the last review make sense now?  I will continue to harp on the idea that listing a bunch of priorities is not really prioritizing and that listing aid to civilian authorities (domestic emergency operations) as one of a few top priorities isn't sufficient. The pace of domestic operations is increasing and has increased much over the past four years thanks to climate change.  So, it is time to seriously think what that means for the other priorities (domestic emergencies shouldn't just be seen as something to get right so that it does not impact readiness), how the CAF might be realigned so that domestic operations are seen as the day job of the CAF as much as stuff abroad, and so on.  
  • There should be a review of the procurement stuff listed in the SSE.  Where are we at in terms of the stuff that was proposed to be procured?  What worked, what did not work?  How have we adapted to improve procurement?  
  • What is the threat picture?  I should have started with this (it definitely should not go last).  Is the CAF set up well for attacks short of war?  What progress has been made on reducing vulnerability to cyberattacks and developing cyberoffensive capabilities?  How can Canada prepare if either Trump returns or the US succumbs to greater civil strife?  How does climate change, now that it is here, threaten Canada and the CAF?
  • Maybe this time make some hard choices.  The 2017 review ended up being a list that gave lots of different constituencies pretty much everything they wanted.  Which is probably not sustainable.  So, maybe make some difficult decisions at a time where the military is not in a great position to fight back.  
  • The personnel file is, yes, a part of the Arbour review, but there is probably more to it than what she is looking at.  Plus after she does her review, the Minister and DND will have to figure out how to implement her recommendations, and, yes, which ones to implement (simply agreeing to do everything she says is an abdication of responsibility--Arbour may not be right about everything).

The SSE set the agenda for the past four years.  It served as a signpost for pretty much everything although, of course, the previous CDS (ok, one before the one before the current one) interpreted it as he saw fit as he didn't do stuff that he found inconvenient.  So, this review should not only serve as an exercise in civilian control of the military, but provide an opportunity to measure and improve that exercise.  Once the review is done, the question then becomes how much is implemented in the ways imagined by the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister.  We need a new marker, a new baseline, as the new minister definitely has a different idea of what her job is than her predecessor.  

In short, the new Minister needs to do a review so that she inflicts her will upon the CAF and on DND, and that we all can see what the priorities are.  With that, she and the rest can be held accountable for whatever progress is or is not made.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

New Defence Mandate Letters: Are All the Priorities Prioritized?

 Today, PMJT released his mandate letters that provide each minister with their marching orders.  I am most interested, of course, in the defence letter to the new Minister of National Defence.  

  • The first item I noticed is fealty to the existing and increasingly outdated Strong, Secure, Engaged [SSE] defence review document.  As I will write in the next day or two that we are in need of a new review and that those reviews should happen on a regular basis, this letter pretty much screams "no new review anytime soon."  I understand that the Minister and her policy staff are busy trying to improve the sexual misconduct/abuse of power crisis so that they might not want to be distracted by another review.  However, just as intelligence should drive policy, policy needs to drive everything else and we need to think about whether the policies developed four or so years ago need to be revised.
  • There is much discussion of transforming the culture of the CAF as it should be.  That the Arbour recommendations should be implemented, but since we don't know what they are, we can't really say what this will involve.  Related to this are both "eliminating all sources of ..." all kinds of bias including white supremacy.  I am glad to see that, as these biases are as much an "existential threat" to the CAF as the abuse of power/sexual misconduct crisis.  There is also appropriate attention paid to the military justice system and the Fish report.  
  • It is striking that the mandate mentions continued CAF support to Canada's COVID efforts but no real mention, as far as I can tell, of making domestic emergency operations of a higher priority.  Sure, it is always listed as one of the four main priorities, but it is also always seen as an inconvenience that gets in the way of the CAF's day job.  This needs to change, but this mandate letter does not provide a basis for making that change (maybe a defence review would?).  
  • "Undertake ambitious efforts to improve the diversity of the CAF...."  My favorite proposal for this one would be to have serving in the CAF as a pathway to citizenship.  But this is "too hard" so I doubt it will happen.  
  • Expanding Canada's long and short-range strategic airlift capability?  Hmmm, this would mean buying more planes, which are not, as far as I can recall, costed in the SSE.
  • Speaking of planes, no mention of the fighter replacement effort, which could mean that they don't plan to replace the fighters, that they already have decided what they are doing, or that they don't want to raise the salience of this controversial issue.  
  • Modernizing NORAD gets much play.  This was not in the SSE, but has been something discussed quite a bit in Ottawa including events semi-orchestrated by the government before the pandemic.  This stuff is super-expensive, but the defence challenges are getting very complicated and require new tech.  I am not surprised to see it here, given the conversations I have heard the last few years, but it stands out with the stuff that hasn't been mentioned (fighter replacement, domestic ops).
  • There is no clear mandate here to do heaps more peacekeeping.
  • The focus of Climate Security stuff here is on establishing a new NATO Centre of Excellence on Climate and Security, which is good for us as our current grant bid focuses on that element of climate change.  On the down side, maybe the CC priorities of DND should be on reducing CAF's carbon footprint and, oh yeah, more effort on the domestic operations front.
  • I didn't know Communications Security Establishment, Canada's NSA, is under the Minister of National Defence.  What is striking here is the focus on a "renewed Cyber Security Strategy" and "National Cyber Security Action Plan."
  • Shipbuilding, alas, gets mentioned not just for getting the ships but "advance the shipbuilding industry and create middle class jobs."  Notice the play to Quebec with the "add a third Canadian shipyard."
  • Supporting the Minister of Foreign Affairs in developing an Indo-Pacific Strategy is interesting given that, well, MFA does not do strategy or reviews, so good luck with that.

Minister of National Defence Anand has a very, very full agenda with both that which is mentioned here and that which is not.  Domestic operations, for instance, are going to play a greater role thanks to Climate Change as well as Pandemics.  There is not enough research, understanding, or policy on this stuff, which, yes, the CDSN hopes to examine over the next several years.   

The good news is that Anand's prior experience as Minister of Procurement will help her here.  That and she understands that civilian control of the military requires .... civilians exerting control.  I expect lots of complaints about micromanagement in the years ahead, but given that the CAF has not managed itself well, there will not be much support for these complaints.  Management is much needed.  I guess that is a recurring theme in this letter, and it probably could not be more explicit.  

Any thoughts from y'all?

Monday, December 13, 2021

DND/CAF/Govt Apology for Sexual Misconduct, Past and Present

 Today, the leadership of the Canadian Defence Team apologized for decades of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination.  This was required by the settlement of a class action suit that had around 19,000 individuals who filed claims.  It was also required by the realities of the past year.  While harassment and assault have been part of the military and defence experience for decades, the past year has seen senior leadership be revealed as abusers of their powers and violators of the trust given to them by the public and by their subordinates.  

I was glad to see Minister of National Defence Anita Anand include abuse of power in her statement, apologizing on behalf of the government.  Each government, not just this one, has failed its people.  She noted that the governments failed their duty to protect them, to provide justice and accountability.  This is not just an historical grievance as recently keeping around a Minister who so badly failed for far too long is part of this record of failure.  Anand has started making decisions that suggest a break with the previous Minister.  The mission she faces is a difficult one with many challenging tradeoffs and complicated situations, and she will face much resistance.  She will have to change the basic pattern of Canadian civil-military relations--she will have to reduce the autonomy the CAF has had for generations.  The military has proven that they can't handle this stuff on their own, and, indeed, its leaders have often demonstrated that they can't be trusted to be left to their own devices.

Chief of Defence Staff General Wayne Eyre went second.  The statement he read was quite a good one.  "We have betrayed that trust.... it breaks my heart."  "On behalf of an institution that failed you, I apologize." "“I am sorry. We sincerely apologize for the trauma that you have experienced. To those who suffered in silence, we are sorry. To those who shouted until you could shout no more at great personal risk only to have no one listen to you, we are sorry.”  "Do I have the moral authority to apologize?"  He addressed that the harm continued under his watch.  Once again, he referred to this crisis as existential. The question is whether the folks at lower levels see this the same way.  I am not so sure.  I did like that Eyre noted that the reforms will not always work, that they will make mistakes.  The path forward is not obvious.

 Deputy Jody Thomas went last.  It was important to recognize that the problem is not just within the CAF but also in DND.  It is also important to note that DND didn't do its job to protect those in the CAF.  I still don't understand how the DND/CAF relationship has worked over the years.  Thomas said on our podcast that Vance pushed DND out of implementing the Deschamp Report, but that contradicts what I had heard about how CAF and DND shared the personnel file. 

To address both the sexual misconduct crisis and the larger pattern of abuse of power, the Minister of National Defence is going to have to engage in multiple axes of effort:

  • fundamentally re-shape the pattern of civil-military relations so that civilian management of much stuff is normal;
  • civilian oversight is also normalized, engaged, and expected;
  • institutions governing recruitment, retention, and promotion are changed;
  • educational and training systems are revised to remove the sense of entitlement and impunity that certain pathways tend to produce;
  • focus more on domestic operations and less on special operations as the model for service;
  • military justice should be reformed at least as far as the Fish report recommends and probably further than that;
Well, that's a start.  There is obviously more to do.  This much is going to be very hard, but it needs to be a strong, consistent effort that is not just seen as a blip but a transformation of how the Minister, DND, and the CAF relate to other and how they do their jobs.  Anything short of that will make today's apologies somewhere between a bit and entirely hollow depending on how far the reforms go.  The apologies are important, but they require follow up--changes in how business is done.  


Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Year Ahead 2022: Hybrid Success

 Yesterday, the CDSN and CSIDS held the Year Ahead, which is an annual conference in Ottawa (and beyond).  The idea is to address some of the challenges likely to arise in the next year.  We consult our various partners in and out of government to get a sense of what those challenges are.*  We built a program focusing on:

  • Grey zone warfare--attacks from the usual suspects short of conventional war--cyber, disinformation, etc  Our two panels focused on the legal dynamics (do the various actors have authority or not) and what our allies are doing.  Leah West, my colleague at NPSIA, organized the first.  I corralled the second panel and had Rachel Babins of the new organization Emerging Leaders in Canadian Security moderate the second.  Key insights here:
    • international law is not as much of an obstacle to reacting to this stuff as some think.
    • that maybe the Russians and Chinese are worse off now as they have alienated much of the planet; 
  • Our fireside chat focused this year on Islamophobia and National Security, and was organized by a new group--Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security-Canada
    •  That Muslims are less likely to turn to the government if they fear that the government will destroy their sons.
    • That creating a crime focused on terrorism mostly put a target on the backs of Muslims even as far right white folks hurt more Canadians.  Indeed, Muslims have been victims of terrorism more so perhaps than any other group in Canada [except, I am guessing, women]
    • the government seems super fast when it imposes new policies and laws that are harmful to Muslims, but slow to introduce reforms, such as getting innocent kids off of no-fly lists.
  • Changing the culture of organizations.  Our directors of the CDSN Personnel Theme, Irina Goldenberg and Stéfanie von Hlatky, organized this panel, which consisted of experts in and out of government.
    • culture is a verb as well as a noun
  • Our final panel focused on nature-triggered emergency operations in Canada.
    • the trend in major emergencies is just astonishing--a very steady increase over time, including six this year.
    • greater clarity about why militaries seem to be the go-to: timeliness, competence, efficiency, and so on.

We will be issuing a report on the event in the new year--our research assistants took better notes than I did as I was focused on the event and the various complications.  We were not used to doing a hybrid event so we didn't have a way to tell the moderators that time was running out, for instance.   You can check it out for yourself:  here are the English and French videos of the entire event.

It was definitely worth it ** to hold the event as a hybrid.  We were able to get participants from other parts of the world via teleconference, and we had more people watching online than in person.  The in-person component was quite valuable as there were plenty of conversations in between the sessions, and we squeezed a lot into the day that we could not have if we were doing it online.  So, the best of both worlds, I think.

I am very, very grateful to our CDSN team for making this work so well.  Kaha, Melissa, Paxton, Racheal, Rose, and Gabriel were terrific.  And having others organize and moderate the panels worked out great.  

*  This post is being written on the road so I am not going to post pictures (they are on another device or the names of everyone) 

** Of course, if people end up catching COVID due to our event, then the costs/benefits calculation shifts....

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Giving Much Thanks In Hard Times

 I keep losing track of the pandemic--it really is year 2 with year 3 on the horizon.  I am thankful that no one in my immediate family has paid the highest price although we have one long hauler among us.  I am grateful that my family and friends have embraced the vaccines, with only us Canadians un-boosted.  I am so very thankful my friends can finally have their kids 5 and up vaxxed.  I am thankful that I have been able to travel to see my family twice now--in August and now for Thanksgiving.  I am very much looking forward to finally seeing the other side of my family over winterfest as it has been way too long--two years. I am very thankful that I can travel for work again, albeit at a lower pace.  

I am very thankful for my co-authors who have carried much of the work this year.  Although we got a series of rejections lately, I am grateful for the serious and constructive reviews we received.  Hopefully, 2022 will see the completion of several projects and the start of the next big one.

I am very, very grateful for the entire Canadian Defence and Security Network.  The staff at the HQ have done most of the heavy lifting in often challenging circumstances so thanks to Melissa, Kaha, Paxton, and Racheal. The co-directors have given much time and effort for the greater good.  The students involved in our efforts have been creative, constructive, and injected us with their energy.  Our partners have provided many great ideas and initiatives.  The grant gods were most generous this week, so much thanks to them.  And the semi-weekly chats with Stéfanie von Hlatky for the podcast are highlights of my, um, battle rhythm.  The Summer Institute was a great experience even if it had to be online. 

The basic idea of the CDSN was to build connections among the various subcommunities in our business, and we are getting there. I am thankful that the media has relied on so many of our experts in the CDSN as they have covered the various trials and tribulations facing the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.  These scholars and defence scientists have provided much clarity and keen analyses as the government has struggled with this crisis.

Carleton has managed the pandemic better than most, including providing me with two flu shots and one covid shot.  Our students have managed the online experience better than one could have expected.  It was great to see some of them in person last month.  I look forward to next year when my MA class will be in person.

My family has navigated the past year quite well, all things considered.  We had one case of breakthrough but it was short and the niece who had it recovered quickly.  While the next generation may not all have the jobs they want, they are all employed.  My daughter changed jobs moving from the talent management side of Hollywood to the creative side, working in a small production company tied to a pretty terrific actor.  Mrs. Spew has spent the year helping to keep the local gardening club alive and thriving.  And I am grateful for the stand mixer that has gotten far more use than I expected thanks to discovering easy pita recipes.  The next round of winterfest cookie baking is nearly upon us, and I plan to go even more overboard than last year.

Finally, I want to thank those that gave us much before they left us.  Three amazing professors who taught at UCSD during my time in grad school passed away this year.  I only took classes from one but benefited from what the other two taught.  John, Mat, and Frances will be missed.  I was lucky to cross paths with them at key point in my life.  They were very, very different people, but each was not just smart but passionate about the stuff and so supportive of their students.  

I hope you and yours have much to be thankful for in this challenging time.  Gobble, gobble!

Saturday, November 20, 2021

An Agenda For Canada’s New Defence Minister

I wrote the following for an outlet that is now going through some editorial turnover, so I decided to put it here instead.  

The Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence have always been a mostly thankless responsibility for ministers of national defence. While Anita Anand’s experiences as a law professor with expertise in corporate governance and as minister of procurement has prepared her better than perhaps any other potential candidate for the position, this doesn’t change the magnitude of her task. Anand is tackling the most challenging job in Justin Trudeau’s government. It is not just that a sexual misconduct problem has tainted more than a few senior officers. There is also an abuse of power crisis fed by the military’s belief that civilians should have little role in managing the Canadian Armed Forces.

General Jon Vance’s behavior, both personal and professional, revealed contempt for civilian control of the armed forces.  He engaged in a decades-long affair while hitting on even more junior subordinates.  Operation Honour, which was supposed to address the sexual misconduct crisis in the CAF, actually contradicted key recommendations of the Deschamps Report, which the civilian leadership had promised to implement.  Notably, Vance put into the Chief of Personnel position an office, Vice Admiral Hadyn Edmundson, who had been credibly accused of rape.  Deputy Minister Jody Thomas reported in a podcast last spring that Vance told her to stay out of the way when it came to dealing with the military’s sexual misconduct file.

Strengthening civilian control of the armed forces is job one for Anand.  While the crisis in the CAF can’t be solved by replacing a few people here and there, some important personnel decisions will not just set the tone but be an important first step in reinforcing civilian control of the military.  Admiral Art McDonald, on leave from his position as chief of the defence staff, needs to be gone yesterday. McDonald stepped aside in February when news of an investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct was made public. In August, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal said the investigation “did not reveal evidence to support the laying of charges under either the Code of Service Discipline or the Criminal Code of Canada.” McDonald’s subsequent letter to top military officials claiming exoneration and arguing for his immediate return to duty was insubordinate to the government whose job it is to make such decisions. By forcing McDonald to retire, Anand would be reminding the Canadian Armed Forces that no one is entitled to a senior post and that civilians are supreme in the chain of command. 

The next decision is whether to make General Wayne Eyre chief of the defence staff, removing the “acting” from his title, or moving on from him. That decision depends on the relationship Anand is developing with Eyre and whether there is a better candidate ready to serve in this position. Again, this decision is not just about one person but setting the tone for Canadian civil-military dynamics.

Harder decisions await Anand. The Deschamps and Fish reports [Explain what these were, and link if possible] argued there need to be more independent processes to adjudicate accusations of sexual misconduct. The former was in response to stories about sexual misconduct in the CAF; the latter is part of a regular review of the military justice system. The problem is that no organization can be completely independent, as it must report to someone.  Should these “independent” actors report to Parliament? Probably not, since parliamentarians do not think their job is to oversee the armed forces.[1] We might have more faith in the minister of the national defence to monitor such agencies if the last one, Harjit Sajjan, now minister of international development, hadn’t made such a hash of managing the sexual misconduct scandal these past few years. Perhaps the answer is to build  review agencies like those responsible for the intelligence community: the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency [NSIRA] and National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians [NSICOP].

Changing the culture of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces is going to be tougher than figuring out how to connect some independent agencies to accountability mechanisms. In most advanced democracies, military officials tend to believe they are the sole experts on the management of violence and should therefore enjoy significant autonomy. Civilian intervention is seen as micromanagement. This mindset must be challenged. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces cannot simply say they are the professionals who can get the job done after failing so badly to address their sexual misconduct/abuse of power crisis.

Changing this mindset will require changing military education at all of levels from cadets to the Royal Military College to the Canadian Forces College. Ultimately, the new Professional Conduct and Culture Command, set up by General Eyre to change the culture of the CAF, will need to reform what it means to be a professional military officer, reinforcing subordination to civilian control, increasing transparency, and reducing entitlement. 

On the bright side, the hardest component of the job for most ministers of national defence is usually procurement, and this is an area in which Anand is already quite experienced. Her previous job as minister of procurement puts her in a strong position to deal with this troublesome part of the portfolio. Her handling of the vaccinate procurement has gotten many raves with Canada leading most of its peers in first and second doses.  Because she has experience with high stakes, controversial procurement projects, she is in a better position than most ministers of national defence when it comes to making decisions like those about fighter jets.  The remaining part of the job — making big decisions about military deployments — will probably not be so difficult in the near future, as it is unlikely the armed forces will be asked to do another Kandahar. Instead, the focus will mostly be on maintaining the current set of missions — leading the NATO battlegroup in Latvia, training in Iraq and Ukraine, domestic emergency operations.

Minister of National Defence Anand has the most challenging portfolio of any minister today. That military leadership has thoroughly discredited itself should give her some room to maneuver but she will no doubt encounter tough headwinds all the same. She must push through them. The credibility of the Canadian military and the sanctity of civilian control over it depends on her success.


[1] I am finishing a research project where I have interviewed several members of parliament and senators, and they repeatedly say that their job is to hold the Minister of National Defence to account, not to oversee the CAF.

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Arbour Review: Consultations about CAF Reform

 Today, I had an opportunity to be part of a small group roundtable with retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour.  She has been charged with reviewing the Canadian Armed Forces to figure out how the CAF (and others) can be reformed to do less harm to those who join it.  It was held with Chatham House rule so I can't say who said what, but I can say that the only person who really needed the protection of said rule was me.  I think I was the only person to say something that was not well thought out--how about a truth and reconciliation process so that those in the CAF who grew up in a toxic environment can come clean about past mistakes?  The answers given  to my half-baked idea--that any kind of restorative justice should be led by the survivors and not the perpetrators, that drawing lines between minor and major misconduct very problematic, and so on--quickly made me realize I should stick to what I know.

Well, what do I know and what did I recommend?  When it comes to culture, others were more focused on toxic masculinity, and right so.  I am more focused on a different although related aspect of CAF culture--entitlement and a distorted view of professionalism.  That Sam Huntington not only gave us Clash of Civilizations, but also a view about civil-military relations which tends to teach military officers that civilians have little expertise and should not be interfering in the military's stuff.  Since moving to Canada and teaching civ-mil here, I was always struck by how Canada was far closer to Huntington's model than the US as the SecDef and his team have long been more involved in military stuff than most Ministers of National Defence.  A colleague on today's call mentioned three times where that wall was breached by the MND--after WWII when the idea of having enlisted folks getting pathways to officers (a party foul for those of the upper class), during unification in the 1960s, and after the Somalia affair in the 1990s.  Oh my, no wonder the military is concerned--the latter two are seen as awful times.  

Well, sucks to be them--the current crisis is on the military.  The civilians did not make them act in awful ways, abusing their personnel and their power.  The standard military answer--that they are the professionals with exclusive expertise on all things military--fails here as abusing one's personnel and abusing power would seemingly be unprofessional, but seems actually to be embedded in the definition/culture of professionalism in the CAF.  What is desperately needed is for outsiders, especially those up the chain but not exclusive those folks, to play a greater role in setting standards, reforming military justice and complaint procedures, and to engage in oversight.  That is: making sure that what the CAF says it will do actually gets done and also playing a more active role--vetting the officers who reach the highest levels.  Promotion was been way too much an insiders game.  

I recommended against making either Parliament or the Privy Council Office as the key superior bodies above any independent agencies.  Why?  Because parliamentarians don't think there job is to do oversight (they have told me that).  In the Steve/Dave/Phil project, Canada ranks at the bottom of the seriousness scale when it comes to legislative oversight.  Much better to engage in mindless point-scoring.  PCO?  It might make sense except I think to the public this would seem to be a blackhole--we really don't know what goes on in PCO.  I suggested imitating the review bodies that oversee the Canadian intel community.  Another suggested a minister monitoring committee.  I definitely think the Minister's office needs to be active, engaged, and empowered.

Some of the stuff the others discussed: 

  • that the senior leadership of the CAF is out of touch--that bad news does not travel up and when it does, the senior leaders don't want to hear it.
  • we need to be wary of culture change being a buzzword that does not really matter much--that we need to take seriously that other organizations have spent much effort and time on culture change and the military is not as unique as it thinks it is--there is much to learn form others.
  • that resistance to culture change will be intense when the culture change might require changing who has power.
  • Perhaps have some spots, like head of mil personnel be a civilian.  Which top jobs need to have military folks?  Apparently, at various points in time, the idea of a civilian CDS was broached, perhaps mostly as a threat to get the military to reform itself or else.
  • that there should be fully funded legal representation for survivors whether they end up pursuing justice through military or civilian channels (I found this idea extremely compelling and far easier/more likely to implement, although not necessarily easy)

I am glad that the former Supreme Court justice is reading out to these sharp people.  I am lucky that I was included, as I learned a lot in that short 1.5 hour session. I am better equipped at offering criticisms than prescriptions--this stuff is really hard.  The good news is that the military can't resist as strongly as it usually can--it is thoroughly discredited.  Senior military leaders can't say--we've got this, just keep giving us autonomy, and everything will be fine.  Eyre was right to call this an existential crisis--recruitment is already hard enough.  Which means that the military will have to listen to the civilians and implement some of the reforms ... as long as the civilians keep paying lots of attention.  And by civilians, I mean not just the Minister of National Defence but also the media and the experts outside the military. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Remembrance Day 2021

 It has been a very tough year for the Canadian military.  The abuse of power crisis has been waiting for new leadership.  Other militaries are going through similar struggles.  As we look back at past wars, and especially the one that ended at 11am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I keep thinking of civilian control of the military.  
This was at the Canadian base in Dubai, marking
those lost in Afghanistan.  It is now at an HQ
near where I live in Ottawa

Aussie War Museum









A key quote from that time: "War is too important a matter to be left to the military."

Why did Georges Clemenceau say this?  Because the military had failed the civilians?  Partly but also the civilians had failed the military.  War is politics by other means as Clausewitz argued long ago.  While generals like to do deny it (as I was reminded last week in Denmark), most decisions are political, and, yes, the civilians should have much say.  World War I saw the militaries of all sides wasting the lives of a generation in battles that were seen as successful if the attacking side gained a few yards.  

With the fall of Afghanistan, we are asking anew about leadership and the costs of war.  Was Afghanistan worth it?  What were they fighting for?  While there is much blame to be had, as civilians control democratic armed forces, much of the blame is on the civilians.  When I read military history and I see soldiers getting the highest medals for their valor, I think two things: what amazing people we have who serve and who put them in a position where they needed to be so heroic.  I am reading Wesley Morgan's book on the battles in Pech Valley, and both the heroism and the bad leadership are there on pretty much every page.  

On this Remembrance Day, I not only remember the costs paid by the soldiers, sailors, aviators, and marines, past and present, but of the civilians who could have led better and of the situation today where the civilians must exert control with greater creativity, greater accountability, and greater responsibility.