Saturday, February 6, 2021

Quarantine Report, Week 47: Planning Amid Uncertainty

 Trying to move ahead right now is a challenge as we do not know when the vaccinations will have proceeded far enough for some sense of normalcy to return.  Will an event scheduled in August (the CDSN Summer Institute) be in person?  No.  Will the fall classes be in person?  Probably not, at least at the start.  Will APSA, which takes place at the end of September, be in person?  Damned, I hope so--it would be great to see folks again and to hang with my sister.  But, if I go to the US for APSA for any other reason, will I have to pay $2k to stay in a Canadian quarantine hotel when I return?  I have no idea when that policy will actually start and stop.  

There is good news.  The curves are mostly bending back down.  The vaccination is increasing in most places.  We probably got a bit impatient given the scale of the problem, but it is easy to see where states and provinces are screwing things up.  Other good news--Biden and the Dems are not playing along with Mitch's efforts to block everything.  So, there will be a huge COVID relief effort, and the Republicans will have to tell their constituents why they wanted to spend about a third as much.  The teams of super competent and reasonable people are now filling the executive offices, so good policies are being rolled in and craptastic ones are being tossed out.  Trump will not be getting intel briefings anymore, not that he ever paid much attention.  

In Canada, the blame game is dizzying.  Two things can be true at the same time--that it is in some ways too soon to be too critical of the vax rollout as it is really early and that all of the major political actors have also underperformed.  The worst of them are undoing the quarantine restrictions just as the curves start to bend down, which means they will bend back up.  

The best news is that my friends are reporting that their parents and grandparents are getting the shots and that my mother is now finally going to get one in the next week.  We just have to persist in our good habits a while longer.  It is made harder by the selfish people.  I saw a tweet citing a nurse that said that times like these mean that givers give more and takers take more, and it is spot on.  So, we should probably be good Mr. Rogers followers and focus on the helpers.

On the work front, it was a busy week, as the CDSN is announcing a series of events and initiatives for teh spring and summer.  We have a post-doc competition this month so that a sharp young scholar can join one of our research themes for next year, probably virtually for the first half of the fellowship.  The deadline is the end of February.  We got a great person the first year--Linna Tam-Seto.  We will aim to do as well again.  We also announced our Summer Institute for 2021 that will be online.  The aim is two-fold--to offer a professional development opportunity to advance the participant's understanding of the Canadian defence and security challenges and institutions while building bridges among different parts of the community.  We hope to get relatively junior military officers, government officials, journalists, and academics together.  Doing it online will require a lot of adaptation, but we have some practice now at doing such stuff.  Our fiscal year ends at the end of March so we are also working on how to get our subunits to inform us of what they have done while planning Year 3.  Amazing that we are already that deep into this effort.  

I also managed to do that classic "flip it to the co-author" twice on Monday.  I had enough free time and focus to finish my portion of two projects on Monday to be able to ship the projects off to others.  Tis a great feeling until... the projects come back.  I did find it a struggle to be as productive the next few days, but it was good to move some of the things along.  My MA civ-mil class continues to go well--we have good engagement, with nearly everyone participating and fewer glitches.  Our timing was either great or bad as we did the coup stuff a week before Myanmar's latest coup and we are doing both Canadian civ-mil and gender stuff in the weeks after the revelations about the retiring Chief of the Defence Staff's inappropriate behavior.  

On that, on the Jon Vance story, I have not said much.  I have been trying to figure out what to say, and I will say much of it in the next Battle Rhythm podcast that drops on Wednesday, Feb 10th.  The shorthand of the story is: the highest official in the Canadian military came into that position with sexual harassment and sexual assault as one of the most visible problems, launched a campaign called Operation Honor to address it, the campaign faced mixed results although it built up much capacity for survivors to get help and it also built up much data and efforts to study the problem, and then a week or two after he retires, news breaks of stuff that people had clearly known about but were reluctant to raise while he was CDS.  Ok, not so short of a shorthand.  

Oh, and a complication for me is that I know Vance.  I met him before he was CDS as I interviewed him for my NATO and Afghanistan projects.  I kept bumping into him and chatting with him at events in Ottawa ever since.  I am profoundly disappointed although not entirely shocked as I had heard whispers, as folks wondered how Operation Honor can work if led by a guy with some history.  I had been wondering whether the events of the past five years indicate that organizational culture is very hard to change despite the efforts made by those at the top, but maybe that is the wrong question given what we know now.  It was most striking that the response of the new CDS, Admiral Art McDonald, was to cite in his statement the need to deal with the fears and realities of retaliation when dealing with sexual harassment and assault issues.  Maybe he was struck by the timing of the news--so shortly after Vance stepped down. 

So, that is the Canadian military story of the week, and it will be with us, deservedly so, for quite some time.  On the bright side, these dynamics are being studied by members of the CDSN as part of our Personnel theme, and there are super-sharp people in and outside of government who have been working in this area over the past half-dozen years.  

On the personal side of things, it is time for me to figure out if it is a cross country day or a snowshoe day as it is beautiful today in Ottawa with blue skies and a fresh layer of white snow to cover the gray snow.

Be well, be patient, and be distanced. 

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