Saturday, May 29, 2021

Quarantine, Week 63: Revisiting the Past

I was not expecting nostalgia week to be this week, but it happens.

First, today is the anniversary of War Machine coming out four years ago, the first time I helped the script writing of a movie!  Well, sort of.

Second, speaking of Afghanistan, I gave a lecture to the NATO Field School, a program led by Alex Moens, a CDSN co-director, on ISAF's performance in Afghanistan.  So, that forced me to think about my two most recent books which not so recent anymore.  The students asked really good questions and made me think a bit about whether the stuff I believed then applies now and what I thought about Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan.  And ye olde ambivalence returned--I know that leaving will not help Afghanistan, but I also know that staying a year would make a huge difference.  So, a tricky thing to end one's participation in a forever war, which, yes, will continue.

Third, less nostalgia and much more dark history.  Despite studying the 67 page citizenship test guide, I really don't know much about Canadian history.  That was driven home yesterday, when news broke that someone had found 215 bodies of indigenous kids who had been taken from their families and forces into residential schools.  CNN calls it unthinkable, but it has been known for a long time (although not by me) that kids died at these "schools" at a rate similar to POWs in German camps during WWII.  That the lack of medical facilities and, to be blunt, the complete and total apathy about the condition of the kids meant that TB and other diseases ravaged them.  Just awful.  I knew it was bad, but not this bad.  And the residential schools didn't close until ... 1996.  25 years ago?!  That is appalling!  

But not everything was old or awful this week.  We had a student defend her dissertation proposal in record time, making my proposal class look good. Of course, it was entirely her focus and work that made it happen, but I can still do a happy dance.

My niece graduated from law school (keeping the streak alive, as she is the only lawyer in this next generation of Saidemans [my cousins' kids are too young, so they could be lawyers too].  The rest of the children of my siblings have neatly avoided that whole law school thing.  Anyway, back to the new lawyer who will be doing much good, as she is very much a social justice warrior.  We are super proud and know that:

On the vaccine front, Ontario is now moving towards second doses as we have reached 60% of folks getting their first ones.  That appears to be the magic number for when the pace of first doses slows and there "needs" to be more arms for the vaccines that are piling up.  The new schedule suggests June or early July, which are upon us, for me and Mrs. Spew.  So, maybe the date on my first vax document of
mid-July will actually be realized.  But still so much uncertainty and little faith that they will get their shit together.  

It has been six months or so since my last haircut, and my hair is now longer and thicker than any time since my teens, I think.  So much hair over/around my ears that masks and glasses slide off a bit.  Not long enough for a manbun.... but I can see it from here.

Good weather and clarity about the relative safety of the outdoors has meant more conversations with neighbors.  We don't wear masks outdoors while still keeping a distance.  I hope that other lessons will be applied--less pandemic theater of wiping down surfaces and perhaps more thought about ventilation--would be nice.  I wish Ontario would relax the outdoor rules--folks can gather in groups of 10 but no sports leagues.  Which means no ultimate.  I am much more confident that we can play ultimate and not transmit the disease, but governments lag.  

Similarly, a report came out saying that Canada should do away with much of the travel quarantine bs for those who are vaccinated and for those who are partially so.  Which means, yes, they need to start deciding how to implement vaccine passports of some kind... despite leaving the collection of data to the provinces.  Sometimes, Canada does federalism in the dumbest possible ways.  

The highlight of next week will be the 50th episode of BattleRhythm--the podcast has been much work but very much worth it.  We still don't really know who the audience is, but it does seem to have one.  I am very grateful to Stef vH for agreeing to do it, as she puts a lot more work into it than I do.  And our producer, Melissa Jennings, does such a great job with it.  I will write more about the two years of podcasting next week.  I will note hear that when someone tells me they follow me on twitter, I get embarassed and apologize (I am not alone as there was a thread this past week where that was the modal response).  But when folks say they listen to the podcast, I do feel pride.  Perhaps because my social media stuff ranges from least thoughtful and edited (twitter) to half-baked (Semi-Spew) to most considered and edited and with smart, careful hands on the wheel (the aforementioned SvH and MJ).  

My American friends have a three day weekend to kick off summer.  Enjoy!  We had ours last weekend.  Get vaxxed and again!



Monday, May 24, 2021

CDSN, Year 2: More Zoom, Still Woot!

 Two years ago was the Canadian Defence and Security Network's official launch, and I marked here last year the progress in the first year, so why not do it again?  We had to re-arrange stuff and cancel some activities because of the pandemic, but, as I keep saying, COVID reveals the weaknesses and the strengths of organizations just like it reveals pre-existing conditions in people.  Overall, the CDSN responded well to the shocks, as our forthcoming annual report will make clear.  Using the framework I started with last year, I will note the highlights and the lowlights and the next steps.  I am very proud of our team and how we made our way through the quarantine and made some contributions along the way.

So, what have been the highlights?

  • Continuing to build an excellent team.  Melissa Jennings, our Director of Communications, now is responsible for two podcasts as we added Conseils de Sécurité (more on that below) to BattleRhythm.  She has built a respository for all of our publications, she has managed the Youtube account that holds the videos of our events, she mostly runs the team of research assistants She is the glue that holds the CDSN together.  Stephanie Plante serves as our Project Coordinator for the year before moving on next month.  Her energy was most welcome during our many zoom meetings, and she helped out on a number of fronts including budgeting and event planning.  We had a new team of research assistants.  Paxton Mayer helped keep the podcast updated with news reports, produced the Year Ahead report, and did much research along the way.  Our team of MA students--Vincent Belanger, Evelyne Goulet, and Graeme Hopkins--were super helpful, including translating some of our activities into French, supporting the podcast, helping us run our various events, and engaging in random bits of research as we went along.  I'd include a picture of all us working together, but I have not met any of them in person except Paxton.  Given the stresses of the year and the challenges of working through zoom, these students exceeded all expectations, and I am very grateful for everything they did.  Again, the folks at Carleton, especially Sherry LaPlante in the research accounting office, did tremendous work for us.
  • We have doubled our podcasts! Conseils de Sécurité hosted by Sarah-Myriam Martin-Brûlé and Thomas Juneau is a joint venture with RSA-NSA, producing podcasts in French.  They kicked off by interviewing the Minister of Foreign Affairs and have kept up the pace quite well. Stef vH and I had a very good year, improving the rhythm of BattleRhythm, making it less of a grind on Melissa and Stef.  The highest highlight was the recent joint interview of Deputy Minister of Defence Jody Thomas and Acting Chief of Defence Staff LGen Wayne Eyre.  The crisis of misconduct and abuse of power has been a steady drumbeat (yeah, I know what I am doing) for the past several months on the podcast, so this joint interview was the culmination of that.  We have gotten much positive feedback, although I still don't really know who listens besides my sister.  
  • Our five research themes held workshops this year online and produced a quite a bit of research.  I am so grateful to the co-directors of the CDSN for leading these efforts despite the tough times.  The CDSN survey, with the Nanos firm, one of our partners, will be a public good for scholars of Canadian defence and security.  It produced interesting results, and the rollout, led by JC Boucher, gave it much visibility in government and beyond.  We will be doing another one in year 6 of the grant. 
  • Our annual events went very well.  We held online versions of the Year Ahead and of the Capstone.  The Year Ahead included panels on China, comparing pandemic responses, greyzone warfare, a great diversity fireside chat, and the keynote conversation with Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security Jacqueline O'Neil.  It didn't have the same networking punch as there were no lines for coffee or lunch for folks to meet and chat, but we had sharp people provide insightful perspectives about the stuff on the near horizon.  The Capstone event, which aims to give a platform to the best presentations from our partners and contributors across Canada, highlighted a variety of interesting work.  Again, I regret that the networking component suffered, but two Capstones in the books means it is now an institution!  
  • More new partners! We added two new organizations to our roster of partners: the aforementioned Network for Strategic Analysis and L’Institut militaire de Québec.  It was not planned but was not entirely a coincidence that our two new partners are Francophone entities.  The CDSN is also the RCDS, and although I am linguistically lame, our network is not.  Having partners focused on activities and entities in Quebec [IMQ] and building bridges between the Francophone and English communities [NSA] helps the CDSN be a truly national, coast to coast community.  
  • Our first post-doc and our first book workshop!  Linna Tam-Seto is/was our first post-doc.  She fit in very well with the Personnel Theme, as she worked on mentoring, gender, and the Canadian Armed Forces.  Her work was quite timely, making her a natural interview target for the Canadian media as the CAF leadership crisis reverberated.  Stephanie Martel was our first Book Workshop victim/winner, as we had a team of folks scrub her book so that it would find a good press.  Her work on Asian security communities was most interesting, and I look forward to seeing it in print soon.
  • We had our first Undergraduate Excellence Scholars: Ozan Ayata and Stella-Luna Ha.  The aim of this effort is to get undergraduates, especially those from traditionally underrepresented communities, interested in defence and security and involved in our efforts.  Stella and Ozan played a role in our Capstone, and we will be seeking other means by which to engage in undergraduates in our efforts. 
  • We held a second COVID response conference where we asked more government agencies for questions, and we produced recently a memo that gave our responses in a short format.
  • We worked with Organizations in Solidarity in the aftermath of last year's police violence to learn how we can do better to elevate the voices of racialized communities in Canada.  This has led to us consulting people from a variety of perspectives and getting proposals from different EDI consulting groups.  We are still figuring out our approach.  The conversations have been productive. 

Lowlights? Yes, alas.

  • The pandemic caused us to cancel the first Summer Institute.  We will hold this summer's institute online.  I am looking forward to it, but all of our meetings that got moved online just aren't the same--a key part of the CDSN is to build networks bridging various divides.  Much harder to do so when people don't meet in person.  I have vowed to have a social event once we can to bring together many of the people who we have met online so that we can meet in person.
  • We didn't have a Paterson Chair talk since we want that to be an in-person event.
  • We have had some churn, as my military friends would say, in our team.  We are hiring to replace Stephanie P, which means time spent on hiring and training, which means more work for Melissa.  The new project coordinator will be our third in three years.  I am hoping this position does not become the Spinal Tap drummer spot.  This is normal for our kind of enterprise, but it does, well, disturb our rhythm.  
  • Our grant efforts did not pan out this year.  We have enough funds to do what we need to do, but not enough to do what we want to do.  We came close, but did not finish in the money.  The good news is that our efforts were quite good and we should be competitive next year.

We've been lucky that our kind of stuff can be moved online, and we have been determined to make things work despite the complexities.   Our online events have worked out well, and we will have more tricks up our sleeves after the pandemic.   I am so very grateful for the patience, enthusiasm, and insights that the various folks working in the CDSN and those working with the CDSN have provided over the past year.  Hard to believe we are into year 3.  Rock on, Canadian defence and security community.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Quarantine, Week 62: Making News and Making Plans

It was a week chock full of Canadian civ-mil stuff, mostly inspired by our podcast where Stef vH and I interviewed Deputy Minister Jody Thomas and Acting Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre.  That interview inspired posts about the parliament looking in the wrong place and the realization that Canada's civilians lost control of the armed forces a while ago.  It was strange to see past and on-going work on legislatures and the armed forces start to transition into future work--departments/ministries of defense--in a single week, but that is where my head is at these days. 

That and making all kinds of plans--CDSN, teaching, and personal.  We are putting together the pieces for three sets of CDSN and CSIDS events--our Summer Institute in August, 9/11 20th anniversary, and the Year Ahead.  The first is an effort to provide some professional develop and networking for the next generation of military officers, policy officers, academics, journalists, and others in our defence and security community.  We have participants and, thanks to this week's work, we now have most of the presenter spots filled.  Now, I just need to figure out the daily small group exercises.  

We are working on a couple of ways to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.  We hope to put a video of many folks across the various communities who will speak to what we can learn from our reaction on that day and since that day.  We are also working on a couple of panels with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute--one focused on protecting North America and one figuring out what we can learn from how the government and society reacted to 9/11 and the impact of the ensuing policies.  

The third event is our annual event that previews the next year.  We have consulted our partners, especially those in government, to figure out what are the things in the near horizon that we need to think about.  We hope to have an in-person event.  We should have a good mix of panels on a variety of topics.  

Teaching plans firmed up as we got our schedules for 2021-22.  My courses will be online in the fall and in-person in the winter.  That is what I preferred as I am uncertain how many students will be vaccinated by August, given how the rollout here has been messy.  I am not worried about myself, as I should get my second shot by mid-summer (see below), but students from wherever.  I am teaching US Foreign and Security Policy this fall for the first time in a couple of years, and I have to figure out the balance of "the old systems work again" vs "Trump broke the system, so how much of foreign policy making has changed".  I have Civ-Mil at 8:30am face to face in the winter, so that will be a rude re-introduction of winter commuting, but it will be good to see folks in person.  For both semesters, I will be teaching again the Dissertation Proposal class.  We made sufficient progress this winter that the fall Diss Prop class will be smaller as several students will defend their proposal this summer.

The big thing to plan now is the summer trip.  Really?  Maybe.  Depending on when I get the second shot, I hope to join my family for our annual summer reunion.  We are converging on my mom's place for heaps of steak sandwiches and pretzels.  The trick is not getting into the US but getting home.  Maybe things will changed for those who have been vaxxed, but I doubt that the Canadian government will move that fast.  So, it will likely require a covid test in Philly before I return, uploading info to an app, getting tested at the border, pledging to live by myself in the non-Mrs. Spew-occupied parts of the house and having her do all of the shopping for two weeks, and heaps of monitoring.  Oh my.  And, yeah, it will just be me as Bob is too old to be left in a kennel and catsitting in a pandemic is difficult.  

The plan until then is to just bike and treadmill and bake (perhaps less) and be alert to the ever-changing policies in Ontario.  The incompetent murder clowns here still seem to think that outside stuff can be bad, and they are confused about how to get people their second doses.  We will probably get AZ next month, but if the tests show that mixing works, then I will get whatever I can.  I am tempted to get a third short while in Philly since access in the US now is easy.  While the Canadians can be smug about reaching the US level of first shots, we still live in a far more uncertain world as the shots are not widely available or easily accessible.  The provincial rollout has been a mess and has produced very inequitable results.  The aggregate numbers look pretty good, but underneath that is a mess.  

Q time is strange--2020 seemed to take forever, but it is already May 2021.  We are pretty close in North America to getting to a new normal.  I know that the events of the fall will be strange, but I am hoping the winter (full of ski trips with friends and relatives) will be full of relief and even, dare I say it, joy.  

Be well!



Friday, May 21, 2021

The Failure of Civilian Control: Canadian Edition

 As a scholar of civil-military relations, I have been watching the Canadian scene closely for a few years.  I was not closely following the Deschamps report and its implementation, but as I learn more about it and listen to experts on gender and the Canadian Armed Forces, I realize that civilian control of the military in Canada is really lacking.  No, this is not about the possibility of a coup, it is about whether the CAF will do what the civilians want.  Whenever I talked about civilian control in Canada and how lame the Parliament is in this process, pointing out that the only two civilians that matter are the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence, folks would point to the Department of National Defence and the Deputy Minister.  I would respond that those civilians are not elected, limiting democratic control of the armed forces. But now, I have to go a bit further.

I have been thinking about this since Stéfanie von Hlatky and I interviewed Deputy Minister Jody Thomas and Acting Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre for the BattleRhythm podcast.  For me, the most striking part of the podcast was at the 43:20 mark (or thereabouts) when Thomas says that her views on the Deschamps report were not welcome and that nothing structural was done to implement Deschamps's recommendations.  This is most striking because the DM and the CDS have overlapping responsibilities but are supposed to work as a team.  This interview suggests that Vance and his team left the civilians entirely out of it.  

This does not absolve the civilians of blame or responsibility, but points again to the most relevant civilians--the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence.  I have been harping away for a few months that Harjit Sajjan does not understand the job of the Minister of National Defence, mostly because of how he responded to questions from the Defence Committee about how to deal with allegations about the Chief of Defence Staff.  But the sexual misconduct/abuse of power scandal is deeper than that.  For me, the big question is: why weren't some of the Deschamps recommendations implemented and why was Operation Honour so focused on an element, Duty to Report, that was the exact opposite of what Deschamp recommended?

So, before I get back to civilian control, let me remind myself and whoever reads this what Deschamps recommended and what was implemented (blue) or not (red) or maybe/sort of (purple):

  1. Acknowledge that inappropriate sexual conduct is a serious problem that exists in the CAF and undertake to address it.
  2. Establish a strategy to effect cultural change to eliminate the sexualized environment and to better integrate women, including by conducting a gender-based analysis of CAF policies. [Op Honour really did not aim to change the culture of the CAF, and, as I will discuss further below, the way GBA+ was applied, it really didn't hit lots of core of the sexualized environment.]
  3. Create an independent center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment outside of the CAF with the responsibility for receiving reports of inappropriate sexual conduct, as well as prevention, coordination and monitoring of training, victim support, monitoring of accountability, and research, and to act as a central authority for the collection of data. [Not sure how independent the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre is, but Thomas says in the interview that the data collection remains a problem.]
  4. Allow members to report incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault to the center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment, or simply to request support services without the obligation to trigger a formal complaint process. [Duty to report contradicted this directly, requiring anyone who experienced, witnessed, or heard about sexual misconduct to report.  The experts argue that "Duty to Respond" is a better way to go--to require agencies and personnel to respond to a situation as the survivor wants, as some want treatment/help but not prosecution of the perpetrator.  In the US, one can do a restricted report which focuses on care of the survivor and then later change to unrestricted which brings in the legal process (h/t to Megan Mackenzie for pointing this out to me)].  
  5. With the participation of the center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment: Develop a simple, broad definition of sexual harassment that effectively captures all dimensions of the member's relationship with the CAF.  [Not sure about all of this but the stories of the past three months indicate that the consent issue is hardly clear or well worked out within the CAF--this is something that Stef vH has focused on in her testimony before the Defence Committee and in our podcasts]
  6.  With the participation of the center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment, develop a unified policy approach to address inappropriate sexual conduct and include as many aspects as possible of inappropriate sexual conduct in a single policy using plain language. [Given that there seemed to be different rules for the CDS and other double standards, nope.]
There were more recommendations, but you get the idea.  The point here is that Vance's Operation Honour really didn't follow through on what Deschamps recommended.  Of course, there is no obligation by the government to implement fully an independent report, even if they asked for it.  But this government said they were putting personnel first and put the personnel section of the Defence Review in the front of the Strong, Secure, Engaged document to demonstrate that commitment.  So, one might have reasonably expected that the one person above the Chief of Defence Staff would check in from time to time and see how things were going.  By 2018, there were folks raising questions about Operation Honour and the Duty to Report.  Shouldn't Sajjan have looked at what Vance and his team had done and raised questions?  
A more specific question: the CDS is the one who promotes people within the CAF, such as the Chief of Military Personnel, but if personnel is such an important issue, shouldn't the MND give advice and lean hard on the CDS to pick an individual who might not have had a record of sexual misconduct?  Vice Admiral Edmundson had earned the nickname "Mulligan man" for getting second chances.  That was Vance's decision, but the Minister's job was to oversee the CDS, especially on priority issues.  And not to exaggerate things too much, but Personnel Chief may not be seen as an important job--it is not as attractive as Chief of the Navy or head of CJOC--but Lenin and Trostsky gave personnel stuff to Stalin because they found it boring and look what happened to them.  For the priority issue?  So, again, Sajjan didn't do his job and does not seem to understand his job.

Which gets us back to civilian control of the CAF.  Which civilians are making sure the CAF does what the civilians want?  Not the Minister of National Defence.  Not the Prime Minister who keeps an incompetent MND in place because Sajjan matters a lot for votes and campaign contributions.  Not the House of Commons.  Yes, the Defence Committee did do some work on this the past few months, but tended to stray into mindless point-scoring rather than asking why the CAF did not implement the Deschamps report.  The Status of Women Committee is doing a better job, but the problem, of course, is that neither of these committees nor the Parliament itself have much power to shift money or affect promotions.  They can legislate, sort of.  And they must in order to have not just independent reporting but prosecution of perpetrators.  
The only civilians who have really played the role they are supposed to in Canada's civil-military dynamics are: the media and the outsiders.  Mercedes Stephenson, Amanda Connolly, and those elsewhere who followed up on the story of abuse of power and sexual misconduct have pulled the fire alarm, by providing survivors with a chance to tell their stories and by putting the collective feet of the government, DND, and the CAF to the fire [two fire metaphors, Steve?].  Similarly, those who have been working on this for years--Megan Mackenzie of Simon Fraser; Linna Tam-Seto who is the CDSN's first post-doc; Maya Eichler of Mount Saint Vincent; Stéfanie von Hlatky of Queens, the CDSN, and RSA; Alan Okros of Canadian Forces College; Charlotte Duval-Lantoine of CGAI; Allan English of Queens'; and many others.  They have talked to the media, appeared before the various committees, and been on social media.  But all they can do is speak and write.  
The responsibility for the Canadian Armed Forces falls squarely on just two civilians.  One has delegated the job to the other, and the other does not know what the job is.  Which suggests that the former does not really care that much about this issue.  Justin Trudeau may be a feminist in some areas, but certainly not here.  He has been PM long enough that he owns all of this even if Vance was appointed by his predecessor.  Trudeau kept Vance around even though Vance shirked in the classic principal-agent language--that he did not do what the civilians wanted when it came to the Deschamps report.  And it is on those civilians who failed to oversee, to incentivize, and, if necessary (and it was necessary), find a better agent to do the job.
So, yeah, I am not sure there has been civilian control of the CAF under Trudeau.  And, yes, with that level of commitment, I don't know if the Arbour recommendations, whatever they are, will have more of an impact than those of the previous retired female supreme court justice.


Monday, May 17, 2021

Where the House of Commons Should Focus And Where It Does, Civ-Mil Scandal Edition

 Damn those incentive structures, damn them to hell!  I know why Canada's defence committee is so lame, but it is still most frustrating.  I was talking to a reporter this morning who wanted to discuss the Defence Committee's focus on the partisan games--now focusing on what the Harper people did or did not do in 2015.  It does seem like the Conservatives in 2015 took these issues about as seriously as the Liberals did in 2018: hey, there are rumors Jon Vance has engaged in bad behavior, can do we do the minimum possible?  Ok.  

I tend to think that those in the highest offices should be held to a higher standard.  So, a Supreme Court nominee facing credible accusations of misconduct should be ditched.  A Chief of Defence Staff nominee who has multiple (two is multiple) allegations/rumors should either be dropped or should be micro-managed when it comes to issues relating to those rumors.  A Chief facing rumors again around the time a normal term ends should be moved from, easily.  

The fun part of the media and for the parties is that they can focus on the who knew what when in 2015 and 2018 rather than addressing the more important issues going forward: 

a) why wasn't the Deschamps report implemented?
b) why was the Duty to Report a centerpiece of Operation Honour despite it directly conflicting with Deschamps's recommendations?

These are the retrospective questions, among others, that can help us understand what happens next--will the military resist the next retired Supreme Court justice's recommendations?  Will the civilians at the top let that happen?  

In the interview Stéfanie von Hlatky and I had last week to be in our next #BattleRhythm podcast this Wednesday, we asked about this, and the answer was pretty striking. I am not going to step on our podcast, but I will say Sam Huntington might have been pleased but not so much anyone else.  We did not have time to push further, but I do think future study by the media, by relevant parliamentary committees, and by academics should examine why Vance and his team resisted the report, how they were able to resist it, and whether those dynamics are still in play.

In the US  and in other allies, resistance to moving prosecution of sexual misconduct outside the chain of command is crumbling, mostly because everyone has realized that militaries can't handle it adequately.  

And this gets us back to the politicians.  We have two committees working on this--the Defence Committee and the Status of Women committee.  The latter is consulting a wide variety of experts, trying to figure out how to make this stuff work better.  The former is mostly now engaged in point-scoring.  I am trying to figure out if there is a division of labour between the two or the two committees having different incentives.   

For me, it goes back to the paper I wrote with Phil Lagassé that was originally called "Ignorant Critic or Informed Overseer" which the editors insisted in changing.  Parties here reward politicians for scoring points, not for improving policies.  Party discipline is intense here, so politicians can't buck their masters to ask tough questions of their own party or go off message when asking questions of the opposing parties' officials.  So, in this matter, the focus turned to the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff rather than either remaining on the wounded Defence Minister or on real policy reforms.  

And, yes, the media plays along with it because a good, bloody fight between parties is a hell of a lot more fun than a policy fight.  I should disaggregate the media, as the reporters who have talked to the people who have survived the misconduct and abuse of power have revealed so much that needed to be exposed.  But so much of the conversation quickly then turns to the parties.  Both of the major parties messed up this file.  So, maybe there is some systemic stuff going on--not just within the CAF but within the political system as well.

Of course, the only folks who have incentives to study the stuff that is systemically broken are the academics.  Because that is what grants are made of?  Or just outraged outsiders venting their spleens?  The good news is that there are academics out there, including the Personnel Theme of the CDSN, looking into this stuff, who are not only appearing in the media but in front of these committees.  I need to chat with them to see if they get better questions from the Status of Women committee than from the Defence Committee, but I have a guess. 

Anyhow, listen to our podcast in two days (available at all of the usual podcast outlets including here) and let me know what you think.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Quarantine, Week 61: The Hits Keep Coming

 Grading is done, the weather is warming, we keep on zooming with much anticipation for a better summer and fall and yet oy.

Today's oy is in reference to yet another senior officer in the Canadian Armed Forces being investigated for sexual misconduct.  MG Dany Fortin, who was the face of the CAF's involvement in Canada's vaccination rollout, was suspended yesterday.  We have now had the previous Chief of Defence Staff, the current (alas) Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Personnel (until yesterday), and the former commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command all facing investigations, suspensions, and more for sexual misconduct and/or abuse of power.  Fortin was the great hope for the CAF to help its image as he was seen as being very competent in both the doing and messaging of the vax rollout.  We don't know what the accusation is, and it is possible that his brilliant career may be salvageable.  Unlike, say, the Chief of Personnel.  I wrote this week that the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister should move on from Admiral McDonald as the Chief of Defence Staff, as there is no real coming back.  The latest news just strengthens my argument.

On the bright side, Acting CDS Eyre did fire the Chief of Personnel yesterday, moving on from him.  Maybe Eyre will have set an example for those above him?  Stef vH and I had a great interview that we will be posting on the next Battle Rhythm on Wednesday, which energized us for the week.  More details to come probably on Monday.  I also had the chance to speak to a reservist unit in Toronto via zoom.  I talked about Canadian civ-mil in comparative perspective.  They asked lots of good questions.  I did get pushed on one of my comments about how we need to move beyond "warrior" as the key identity for the CAF, as one of the participants noted that it is an organization that trains to kill people.  My point is that while we have plenty of examples of women as warriors, the current social construction of that term has heaps of baggage, and we can call that baggage toxic masculinity.  That the way warrior is defined and expressed not only legitimates various behavior (hazing, for instance) but tends to exclude those who don't fit the image of a warrior--short people, immigrants, women, LGBTQ2S, etc.  

 Another bright spot was the forum my colleague Yanling Wang organized on Anti-Asian Racism.  I hate that she felt compelled by the rise of this racism to organize such an event, but it was moving and illuminating.  

In plague news, we have heaps of confusion as health authorities message poorly.  This week, it was the CDC's turn, saying that the fully vaxxed can go without masks ... but we don't know who is fully vaxxed, so what to do about mask mandates?  It seems like requiring vaccination in order work or go to school would be the thing to do, that vaccine passports would be provided by government so that stadia, theaters, restaurants, and others could sort.  But the Biden administration is opposed to vaccine passports.  Why?  Something, something, equity.  If there are equity concerns about the vaccines, get the vaccines to those who are on the margins and then give them a damn vax passport.  I got a yellow fever vax certificate for a trip I took a couple of years ago--the idea of vax passports are nothing new at all.  Making them work domestically is a bit of a move, but schools have long required measles and other vaccinations.  Perhaps the clever move is to empower private actors to be able to sort clients so that the imperative to get vaccinated seems less like it is coming from a government that the vax hesitant distrust and more from private firms.  All I know is that CDC's sudden announcement was not that well thought out.  

Meanwhile, in Canada, AstraZeneca, despite its amazing record of crushing the plague in the UK, is now no longer available for first shots due to fears about clotting.  I get it--that there is a potentially dangerous side effect, but the way this has been handled only creates more uncertainty and more vax hesitancy.  The good news is that the other vaccines are now arriving in big numbers here.  So, the question is, given how the rollout played out, will gen x get AZ for its second shots (please, give me) or will they wait to figure out the mixing of vaccines findings.  And of course, this means 100,000's of AZ vaccines sitting around while India burns.

Speaking of burning, the past week of violence in Israel and Palestine has reminded me of the despair I felt, along with most of the rest of academics that were with me, when I toured Israel and Palestine two summers ago.  It was clear then that the incentives were all wrong--that the Israeli politicians had no interest in really negotiating, that the Palestinians between Hamas and the folks in the West Bank had no interest in negotiating, that both sides were mostly satisfied with recurrent bouts of violence with no resolution in sight.  The peace camp in Israel was broken by the 2nd intifada so that Israelis could vote for different flavors of right wing politicians with varying levels of, well, irredentist claims.  We realized that the two state solution was dead, killed by the aggressive settling efforts on the one side and the threat of Hamas to to gain power in the WestBank on the other.  

What does one state where Israel incorporates much, if not all, of the West Bank look like?  And the answer is: Democratic or Jewish.  The demographics are pretty clear--if you give the people living in these territories voting rights, it is going to be hard to maintain an ethnocentric state.  But if you deny such a large group voting rights (and if you level buildings where journalists are based), are you really a democracy?  I tend not to write much about this conflict.  All I can say is that I was really struck by a discussion I had with one of the folks we met two summers ago.  An Israeli retired general exclaimed frustration and contempt with the Obama Administration for failing to escalate each time the US was attacked.  That this is the way Israel handles things--when they get hit, they hit back much harder.  And my point was--how has that worked out thus far, besides fostering a cycle of ever increasing violence?  His response was: what is the alternative?

And that is where we are now.  In another round of violence with no prospect of an alternative approach.  Hence my despair.

Be well and perhaps focus on the positive--that we are past the peak of the third wave and the average adult is at least vaxxed a bit. 


Friday, May 14, 2021

Anti-Asian Racism

 Last night, my school, the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs organized an anti-Asian racism event:  We Rise Together: Stopping Anti-Asian Racism. Professor Yanling Wang, my colleague, organized and hosted the event.  She had the Assistant Vice President and director of Carleton's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion office, Michael Charles, introduce the panel, and then four Asian-Canadians spoke: Daniel Quan-Watson, Deputy Minister at Government of Canada Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs; Xiabei Chen, Professor of Sociology at Carleton; Senator Yuen Pau Woo; and Falice Chin, Executive Producer at CBC Ottawa.  The discussion was moving, disturbing, and enlightening.  The audience, of course, knew of the burst of anti-Asian racism that has accelerated as the pandemic hit Canada, but that is just part of other dynamics and processes that are making life in Canada increasingly difficult for Asian-Canadians. 

It, of course, goes back to when Asians first immigrated to Canada and were treated awfully.  I hadn't realized that Asian Canadians are roughly 18% of the country, so I hadn't really processed how underrepresented they are in the media and in politics--I had basically been extending the American proportion of 5-6% to Canada.  I also hadn't realized that Asian Canadians get unfairly blamed in Canada for skyrocketing housing prices. 

For me, the discussion that really resonated was how the rise of China and the development of bad relations with China has caused Asian-Canadians to face more hostility.  Because, well, I have been part of that process.  A friend of mine called me out after I tweeted a couple of months ago about meeting with our financial adviser who was recommending investing in Chinese companies and my scoffing at the idea.  My thought at the time is that I am not going to invest in a country at a time where that country's leadership has taken Canadians hostage.  Other awful policies were also in my head--the genocide against Uighurs and other Muslims in Xiajiang at the top of the list.  At a time of increasing violence against Asian-Canadians, my words were thoughtless and irresponsible.  

We can and should be critical of the government of China, but we need to do so in ways that make the criticisms distinct from Chinese people, whether they are here in Canada or there in China.  I have written and talked about China's increased belligerence in reference to the two Michaels, to the way the Chinese armed forces are behaving in the South China Sea, and more.  I need to do better so that I don't feed hate.

We certainly should not treat Chinese Canadians and others of Asian descent as if they are not Canadian.  There is a tendency to refer to diasporas as having two homes and divided loyalties.  Jews get this all the time (right now, with regards to the latest round of violence).  The reality is that Chinese Canadians are Canadians.  Canada is their home.  They are loyal to Canada.  What the Chinese government does is distinct from what Chinese Canadians are doing and supporting.  And as my own work on diasporas reminds me, no diaspora is just of one mind anyway.  Chinese Canadians vary in how they view China, so to generalize about all of them is very problematic.  

Anti-Asian racism is not just about China and Chinese Canadians, but because racists are ignorant, they will direct their anti-Chinese hate towards anyone who looks Asian, just as Sikhs get beaten by those looking to beat Muslims.  To be sure, there are other dynamics in play.  In this post, I just wanted to reflect a bit about the event and some stuff I have been thinking about lately.

 Last night reminded me that we can do much better.  I will try to do so. 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Quarantine, Week 60: Mother's Day Edition

Can we really say that we are getting closer to the end of this thing when India and other countries are overwhelmed, just because the Canadian curves are starting to bend and we are now about two weeks behind the US in vax numbers

It was a week of much frustration, which has been a recurring theme.  In Canadian defence politics, the defence committee focused on the wrong stuff, trying to score points against the government, rather than figuring out what should be done to address the sexual misconduct/abuse of power crisis.  In Ontario politics, last night, the provincial government completely revised the vaccination rules (hey, anyone over 18!) without discussing it.  It also did not prioritize those most at risk--those workers in the warehouses and elsewhere--not sure what is being done for them.  It was a week of grading. 
We finally got word from the firm that is taking care of the bankruptcy of the folks who arranged our canceled safari last summer, and they just provided us with contact info for the places our deposit got distributed.  Should it be any surprise that the least accessible is the airline--South African Airline?  The hotels/parks are going to return our money, but the airline?  Not so much.  Not very responsive.  But we had written off that money, so if we get any of it back, we will be happy.  We do plan on making that trip happen when we can, but who knows when that will be given that the distribution of the vaccines has been very uneven internationally.

On the bright side, Stéfanie von Hlatky and Irina Goldenberg, the leaders of the CDSN's Personnel Theme, held one of their annual workshops in conjunction with the Swedish Centre for Studies of Armed Forces and Society and the European Research Group on Military and Society.  The latter is a relatively new partner of the CDSN.  The focus was on the Total Defence Force--how the militaries of the world work with reserves, with private military companies, and with defence civilians.  I learned a lot and live tweeted it.  They aim to produce an edited volume (or two?) and other publications.  It was very much what we had in mind when we started to build the CDSN--an interdisciplinary, multinational focused research effort aimed to provide policy-relevant findings to the Canadian government and others.  

Grading is nearly complete--just a few more Phd proposals to read.  The focus of next week will then turn to finishing off my part in a co-authored project and planning the next wave of CDSN/CSIDS events--the Summer Institute in August, 9/11 anniversary events in September, and the Year Ahead in December.  On the last will be in person.  While the September events could be in person, I'd rather not put a lot of effort into planning an in-person event and then have to change or figure out a hybrid.  The online events are less expensive and require less of our participants--they don't have to spend a day to travel here and a day to travel home--so we may be mixing those in long after we are no longer in quarantine.  

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  My mother turned 89 recently and had a health scare.  I am lucky in that I have two sisters who have been willing and able to travel to be with her on a regular basis.  My mother was pretty much locked away until we got her second shot, and now we can return to going to restaurants and maybe soon to theaters.  I haven't been able to visit since January of 2019, and I have no idea when I will be able to do so--the problem is not so much getting into the US but getting home.  We have zoomed twice a week with her with the next generation joining us in varied numbers on the Sunday zooms.  Pretty sure the zooming will continue post-pandemic.  I owe my mother so much, including inspiring my interest in international relations.  She was always super supportive of me and my family even when/especially when my father was not.  She has been a terrific mother-in-law. 
Speaking of mother-in-laws, my wife's mother has not had an easy year either.  While she is much more of an introvert, this year was a bit much for her.  And her luddite tendencies have meant no zooms for her.  

And yes, Mrs. Spew is a hell of mother as well.  She has worried a lot about our amazing daughter, who has navigated the quarantine better than I could have imagined.  But mothers worry.  My daughter's ability to handle the multitasking heavy workload comes from her mother's training during the early years of private school in Montreal.  We are, of course, lucky in that we have not had to parent a kid at home through this crisis.  I feel for all of the moms out there who have had to home school their kids, worry about their kids going to poorly prepared schools with confusing, conflicting, and confounding covid policies, and all the rest.  This year has reminded us that taking care of the young and the old (notice I mentioned sisters above) is very much gendered.  Women have paid a higher price the past year, just as people of color have.  Inequalities always bite but bite harder in hard times.  

The least I can do this weekend is bake and cook my wife's favorite dishes.  The former will involve heaps of chocolate.  I haven't figured out the latter yet.  

Which is more of a recurring theme than anything else.  Be well, get vaccinated, and get ready for ... this?

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Quarantine, Week 59: Exhaustion of All Kinds

 One of the reasons I have been blogging less is that I have said stuff before so why repeat it?  Talking about pandemic exhaustion probably fits into that category, but I am too exhausted to look through my past Q posts to see if I have already written about exhaustion.  

Why exhausted?  Tis grading season.  I have graded all of the work from my MA class, I only read a few of the PhD proposals from my PhD proposal class (having read pieces of all of these several times, well, that is exhausting in a different way), I have read the two MA Research Projects that I was supervising (students can opt to take a couple of fewer classes by writing an article length paper), and I am behind on reading the chapter of one of my PhD students.  

Grading season coincides in Canada with conference season.  In non-pandemic years, we tend to have more events in April and May since we feel it is unkind to invite folks to Canada in January/February/March.  For the time being, with zoomed events, we don't have to worry about subjecting visitors to our winter, but the old battle rhythms remain.  I don't have any events to organize for the next month, but I have been and will be attending a variety of workshops and conferences organized by others over the next two months.  And I am organizing the Summer Institute that will take place at the end of August.  

Classes are over, so that means more time.  And I spent part of it by going to class.  Julia Lalonde is organizing bystander classes (funded in part by L'Oreal) so that folks don't freeze when they see street harassment.  I loved that she started with the 5 D's--Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, and Direct--because I am such a big fan of the 5 D's of Dodgeball: dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge. 

  • Distract: you don't have to confront the harasser.  One can simply distract that person by dropping some coins, bumping them on a subway train, etc.
  • Delegate: asking the bus driver or some other authority to intervene, although asking the police to get involved is a bad idea these days.  Or if you are a man and you don't feel comfortable asking the targeted woman if she needs help, you can ask another woman to intervene instead.
  • Document: we all have cell phones, so record if others are doing the other four d's.  But don't post on social media.  The idea is to document in case the person who is being harassed needs evidence.
  • Delay: stay behind so that you can accompany the person so they are not alone to face the harasser and to check in with them to see if they are ok.
  • Direct: this is the last resort if the other stuff does not work.  Tell the harasser to shove off, essentially.   

 It is much easier to react in the moment if you know what you can do.  So, I highly recommend taking participate in one of the free training sessions.   

Speaking of harassment, political scientists are organizing a pledge and an open letter to fight bullying.  This is in reaction to events I have discussed here.  I signed, but I am ambivalent about this.  Yes, it is great to state what the norms should be--that helps to define the norms and raise the social costs for norm breakers.  It may be changing the permission structure that I talk about in the aforementioned post.  But it is also problematic when the bullies sign the pledge.  Does this reflect real attitudinal and behavioral change or is it an effort by these bullies to launder their reputations?  You can probably guess where I am leaning.  I really don't know how to change an orgaization's or a profession's culture, but I am going to be learning over the next year as the CDSN hosts events on this.

 And why would we do that?  Because the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence are in deep need of some cultural change.  The sexual misconduct and abuse of power crisis will not be "fixed" anytime soon as it will require more than just the creation of a new office to monitor and influence the culture (sorry, Lt.General Carignan, you have been given a lousy job).  Most of the observers of the latest announcements about what the Trudeau government will do about this crisis were most frustrated/annoyed/angry about the proposed solution: a new study by yet another former woman who had served as Supreme Court Justice.  This reeked of kicking the can down the road.  I know that there are folks within DND who have been looking at models elsewhere.  So, the DND folks had info about what could be done, but Minister of Defence Sajjan didn't do his job (again), choosing not to decide.  I guess we will have to wait until after the next election before we can get someone who will actually make decisions rather than avoid them.  

I am pretty sure all those folks who have been following this story for months now are exhausted by the pathetic responses by Trudeau and Sajjan.  I can't imagine what it is like for those who have survived the abuses of power within the ranks.  All I know is that justice delayed is justice denied, and that not holding the man at the top accountable sends a signal that all of the men at the top will not be held accountable.  

Oh, and the reappearance of winter with snow yesterday was pretty exhausting as well.  

On the bright side, my daughter got her second shot this week, and most Saidemans have had two doses (the one-shot J vax has not been available to most of my family and friends).  They can start to follow the new CDC advice about returning to semi-normalcy.  Up here, in Canada, it looks like May will be a much better month for vaccines as they arrive in bigger numbers, but the distribution will be hamstrung by crappy provincial leadership.  The incompetent murder clowns are still clowning around. And we are mighty exhausted by their act. 

It could be worse, of course, watching what is going on in India.  The enduring lessons of all of this should be: populists get people killed, that governance matters, and that one should not elect people who are hostile to government.  Public policy matters, as places have handled this pandemic differently, leading to different outcomes.  Little did I know how prophetic World War Z was when I read it the first three or five times.  

So, get your shots, get some rest, and as my Marine friends remind me, hydrate and change your socks.