Sunday, October 31, 2021

When The Hell Am I? Traveling in the Late Pandemic

 This title refers to two things--that Denmark went back to standard time from daylights saving while I slept (and I managed to sleep) and Denmark is considering itself to be post-pandemic.  I arrived yesterday morning to a country that had mask wearing at the airport .... and nowhere else.  It was a very abrupt shift from twenty months of pandemic life.  And, damn, it feels pretty good if still quite strange.

I am here for my first out of body Ottawa workshop--a twice or thrice delayed project on military politics.  The core idea here is that it has been long argued that in democracies, the militaries have no role in politics, but the reality is that whenever there are choices to be made, there are politics.  So, the military always has some kind of politics, whether that is battling for budgets or deciding how to cooperate with other actors in "whole of government" efforts.  My role here is to talk about military politics in multilateral efforts.  Building/borrowing from the NATO book, the basic idea is that whenever units are sent abroad, their commanders face multiple masters--the home chain of command and the bosses of the multilateral effort.  With two bosses come conflicting demands--adjudicating that requires politics--making decisions that have outcomes for the various collectives.  

Because I missed a recent civ-mil conference, I really wanted to participate in this workshop.  I get to see some of the sharp folks/friends who do civ-mil stuff and get to eat/drink with them.  Last night's dinner was so terrific as we exchanged stories of pandemic teaching and research, catching up on their various lives, and sharing older stories of the pre-pandemic.  It just felt so good.  And my FOMO got reduced by 27.5%.   Oh, and the food and drink were good, too.  

I walked around yesterday after I arrived--my room was not ready--with Chris Ankersen, a prof from NYU.  We walked north along the waterfront (ok, a waterfront, as there is a lot of water in Copenhagen), with both old and new ships, past the famous Little Mermaid statue, the citadel, some of the royal buildings, and the like.  It was good post-flight fresh air, sun (really!), exercise, and chatting.  






I actually managed to sleep with only one interruption.  I often can't sleep past 3:30 am in Europe on the first night or two, but managed to do so.  I slept so late I thought I missed the hotel breakfast, but it went long plus the change in daylight savings time meant I didn't sleep that late.  It was bustling, and, yes, hotel breakfast buffets are back.  Again, am I livingin the pre-pandemic, mid-pandemic, or post-pandemic?  Since Canada is still mid-pandemic, one of my afternoon activities will be finding a PCR test place for my flight back in 72ish hours.  After that, the gang goes to Tivoli--one of the very first amusement parks in the world--which will be Halloween-themed.  Since it is so old, the ghosts there may be real?

While eating breakfast,
I noticed I was being watched


I am off to bike in the mist to work off the stuff I ate last night. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A New Minister of National Defence: What's Next?

 Today, finally, the cabinet was shuffled, and we have a new Minister of National Defence: Anita Anand.  She was Minister of Public Services and Procurement, so she has ministerial experience and she has experience with procurement.  Indeed, since that spot shares responsibility with MND for big military procurement projects, that part of the MND job will be pretty familiar.  She was successful in getting Canada heaps of vaccines, which was not easy (see other countries that have failed at that task).  And, yes, she's a woman, which is symbolic given the sexual misconduct crisis that has been in the news the past eight months or so (and, of course, goes all the way back).  

To be clear, add woman and stir is not enough.  Adding super smart, experienced, competent woman is better but still not enough.  She will need much support from PMO and PCO and from the Prime Minister to address problems that are deep and wide.  The first responsibility is to understand the job--that the Minister of National Defence is the key person in Canada's civilian control of the military.  The previous officeholder didn't get that.  This means not just managing the Chief of Defence Staff but making sure that the Department of National Defence is not pushed out of matters that the CAF (or the CDS anyway) does not want it messing with.  Deputy Minister Jody Thomas said on the Battle Rhythm podcast that General Jon Vance, when he was CDS, was kept out of the sexual misconduct response.  That can't happen again.  

But getting back to managing the CDS, Anand must fix the confusion about that spot--either name Eyre as CDS rather than Acting CDS or find a new one AND tell Admiral Art McDonald to retire.  Or else?  Yes, or else he will be charged with insubordination (or whatever is the equivalent for his incredibly misconceived letter he sent around).  Anyhow, much clarity is required about the leadership at the top.  She will have to make clear to those at the top that they will be overseen more closely than they have been used to.  Folks in the CAF might complain about micromanagement, but (a) management involves the layer or two below you while micromanagement is managing very distant folks as if they are the layer below; and (b) the CAF has shown that left their own devices, they have an abuse of power and sexual misconduct problem.

What else?  Decisions have to be made on fighter replacement (F-35s or whatever), the design for the new frigates, the costs and design of modernization of the northern warning systems, etc.  So, heaps of procurement stuff.  Operations?  What role does Canada have in Iraq these days?  How can the CAF make sure it is not training wannabe Nazis in Ukraine?  Personnel?  Oy.  How can the CAF recruit and retain a more diverse force, how can it get rid of the white supremacists in its midst, etc.  The sexual misconduct crisis will require many axes of effort, including setting up more independent investigative/prosecution/judicial processes.  There have been many recommendations by previous reviews so those need to be implemented while we await Arbour's review.  Indeed, she should not wait for Arbour--that there is plenty of stuff to do that should be done without waiting for a retired Supreme Court justice to tell them to do it. 

This is a really tough job.  Unless Anand gets help, she will be set up to fail.  If she can handle this job well, she should be rewarded handsomely with not just glory but more influence in the Liberal party.  The good news for her?  There is much expertise that she can tap into as she works on this stuff. That crises provide political openings to make change.  It will be very hard for anyone in the CAF to argue that the old ways have been working just fine.  As I learned a long time ago from Peter Gourevitch's Politics in Hard Times, crises break previous coalitions allowing political entrepreneurs to build new ones to support reform.  

But there will be resistance and there will be old habits and cultures are hard to change.  It will require Anand to work really hard and to keep her eye on many different spinning plates.  I don't envy her.  I am glad that the long overdue change has been made, and I have a fair amount of confidence that the Prime Minister chose the best person for the job. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Getting Inside the Sausage-Making: A Chat with the Chief

[This post was written before the latest news about Lt.Gen Cadieu and Admiral McDonald]

I didn't expected to be doing this much writing/talking about the Canadian military when I moved to Canada twenty years ago.  My new title was Canada Research Chair in International Security and Ethnic Conflict, which was confusing since I was neither Canadian nor did I study Canada.  Over the course of time, and perhaps inevitably, both of those conditions changed.  I have been Canadian for six years as of this month, and my work on NATO and Canada's work in NATO led me to the study of Canadian defence politics.  My work moved from the IR of ethnic conflict to civil-military relations, with a very comparative focus.  Asking questions about Canada's role in Afghanistan ultimately led to a project on legislatures across the world's democracies and the role they play in civilian oversight over the armed forces.  

In that project on NATO in Afghanistan, I ended up interviewing many senior Canadian officers including the Chief of the Defence Staff at the time, Rick Hillier, the Vice Chief who would later become Chief, Walt Natynczyk, and Major General Jon Vance, who would later become chief.  I didn't interact with CDS Tom Lawson until deep into his tour when he gave an off-the-record chat at NPSIA.*  I never met Admiral Art McDonald who lasted four Scaramooches in that role [despite his desire to return, it will stay at forty or so days].  I  did meet then-LtGen  Chief Wayne Eyre at the Kingston International Security Conference when he was just returning from his tour in South Korea and was starting his role as Chief of the Army. We then had him and Deputy Minister Jody Thomas on our podcast this past spring.  In that podcast, both he and Thomas said that they listen to our podcast.  Which is pretty cool but really?

Apparently, really, as I got contacted a few days ago by his assistant to arrange a call to chat about stuff I had raised in the most recent episode (around the 14th minute mark).  So, we then chatted for about thirty minutes about the personnel issues that Stef and I discussed in the podcast and then some other stuff.  I basically suggested in the podcast that without civilian oversight, the CDS could just appoint whoever he wanted, and that it could produce an Old Boys Network, as has been rumored about Vance's decisions.  I keep pointing to the decision to give Vice Hadyn Admiral Edmundson the spot of heading the CAF's personnel command as emblematic because Edmundson had escaped any career-harming consequences from being accused of sexual assault years ago--his nickname of Mulligan Man came from that. I found that decision particularly problematic since navies are known for firing captains for running their ships into a rock--a one-time event, but assaulting one's staff is not a career destroyer?  Eyre could not speak to Edmundson's elevation to Chief of Personnel since Vance did that.

What Eyre could speak to are the changes in the process by which senior leaders are promoted and selected for specific jobs.  He and his staff put together a set of materials--past evaluations, psychometric testing that assess character, leadership, problem-solving skills, etc.  The evaluations of past performance are different now--the so-called 360 evaluations which involve not just superiors but peers and subordinates is no longer limited to ... those the candidate chooses.  That's right, if I understand General Eyre correctly, the old system was one where the candidate could choose whose evaluations would count in their promotion process.  Now, the very new process is anonymous, random, blind, and diverse, which should produce more accurate assessments.  A board, including civilians, take these reports and assessments to build a score that is compared with the scores of the others who are eligible, which then leads to pools of folks who are eligible for promotion and those who need more time in rank.  Is there a third pool of those who should be frozen or kicked out?  I should have asked that.  Anyhow, once the pool of promotable officers is determined, they figure out who is fit for which jobs, and then that package of information is given to the minister for approval.

And there is the question I really wanted to ask but knew the general could not answer: does the Minister actually read the packages or is it a rubber stamp?  "Is the Minister doing his job?" is not a question that the General would answer, so I didn't bother asking it.  

I then asked about the case of Major General Peter Dawe, who was given a new job once his suspension was over--one that was presented in the media as the person responsible for reading the reports from the various retired Supreme Court justices and vetting recommendations for how to reform the Canadian Armed Forces.  While averring that the media didn't quite get Dawe's new job right, Eyre admitted that he made mistakes in this process, that it should not have happened.  I compared this decision with that regarding Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, the chief of the navy who had played golf with disgraced former Chief of Defence Jon Vance.  That it was pretty clear that the Baines decision involved much consultation, and when it was made, Eyre explained it.  The Dawe decision was not transparent.  Part of this was that this all happened during the election period, where folks in government do not make big announcements.**  Both decisions attracted much fire, including from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.***  I think Eyre was on stronger ground with the first decision because he was able to explain it as it happened.  I do think that these cases are hard decisions as the CAF can't/won't/shouldn't fire every officer who has made a mistake.  Indeed, in our conversation, Eyre said that one of the issues he is giving to Lt.General Jennie Carignan, Chief of Professional Conduct (who was on the second episode of our podcast), is to figure out how to bring back some of the people who have done wrong.  There needs to be greater accountability.  Eyre taking the blame for this decision is a good step, but they need to do better--that Dawe could be given another leadership post but not one that involved sexual misconduct issues.

I hope that when Parliament returns that the Defence Committee holds a hearing where they can ask General Eyre about this decision.  I also hope that the Prime Minister selects a new person to be Defence Minister so that we can have more confidence in the civilians who should be overseeing Eyre.  I do think that Eyre got a mighty tough hand to play, given that his two immediate predecessors are, well, disgraced.  Eyre did not get a proper handover of this job, and he has been reacting to this crisis on the fly.  From our conversation, it is clear there are changes being made, but then, so are mistakes.  The changes that need to take place are multidimensional, have to take place at all levels, and involve a lot of different actors.  It involves legal reform (the Fish report), it involves changing the culture of the CAF (our Year Ahead conference will have a session dedicated to organizational change), it involves greater exercise of civilian control, and more.  

There is still a lot I don't know and don't understand.  One of the questions a new Defence Minister will have to face is whether to keep Eyre around as CDS.  I believed before this conversation that Eyre is trying hard to do the right things and should be given more time.  I also believed before this conversation that it was not clear that chucking Eyre would solve any problems and might deepen the ones they have--that there has been so much turmoil at the top of the CAF, that it is hard to make progress in any direction.  The Vice Chief position has changed about six times over the past five years or so--and the Vice Chief is the one who is supposed to administrate the CAF.  This chat has not changed my mind, but has probably increased my bias a bit.  I can't help but feel a bit favorably to a person who lets me see inside the tent.

Reaching out to the random loud academic may be part of an information operations campaign--to make the CAF look better.  But I am not sure I am a reliable messenger, as I can be pretty critical.  This does remind me of being part of a group of academics sent to Afghanistan in late 2007--was the effort to inform us or to shape the messaging?  And, the answer, of course, is both.  That if we understood the mission better, we might be more sympathetic and at least our criticisms would be better informed.  

Anyhow, I think I understand some of the processes better, but I am still very frustrated by the state of civilian control of the military in Canada.  It is not just on the military to think about this stuff or to be blamed when things go awry.

* Lawson didn't say anything of interest that day--for an off-the-record chat, it was pretty tightly scripted.

** I have always found this to be strange.  I once was invited to give a talk to replace the Canadian Consul General to Boston during an Afghanistan event in 2011 since it fell in during the election period.  Eyre made it clear that this year's election made communicating about the withdrawal from Afghanistan quite difficult.

*** My reaction each time Trudeau and Freeland criticize the military is to remind them that they have kept around a Defence Minister who does not see oversight of the CDS as being part of his job.  So, they have no one else to blame but themselves.

Monday, October 11, 2021

20th Early Turkey Day: Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians!

 Hard to believe but this is the 20th Canadian Thanskgiving for me and Mrs. Spew.  We still don't really know how to celebrate it--do we cook the big meal on Sunday or Monday?  I forget which day is the ones Canadians tend to use as their big family gathering.  Well, for us, this is mostly moot since we tend not to go anywhere and tend not to have anyone over as we have no family in Canada.  Heaps of friends, but no family, so it is not quite the same as the annual pilgrimage (pun intended) to my family every late November (we see my wife's family over winterfest when we are not constrained by a pandemic).  But the giving of thanks is a common thing, so what are my maple-flavored, beaver-tailed thanks for this year?

I am thankful for being part of GenX-AZ-Dolly--getting the cocktail of Astrazeneca and Moderna last spring/summer. The latest news suggests Canada, either by necessity, by strategy, or by luck, got the distribution of the vaccine right.  That having a long interval between first and second may produce better results than shorter intervals and that mixing works about as well as two doses of Pfizer or Moderna.  Sure, I complained a lot about the uncertainty and the mess that was the rollout, but being fully vaccinated has made things much better, if not normal.  For that, I give thanks to Canada for getting as many contracts with as many vax producers as possible--portfolio strategies work!

I am not thankful that Canadian federalism seems to be an obstacle to doing stuff smartly during a pandemic.  While federalism helped some states protect themselves a bit from Trump's decisions, in Canada, the Trumpists are mostly at the provincial level--Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, perhaps Manitoba and Saskatchewan.  These days, federalism is an obstacle to a national vaccine certificate/passport as the provinces own the vaccine data and don't share too easily.  Grrr.

I am thankful that the worst media crap in the US and resulting division of the country into reality-based and conspiracy-based communities does not have quite the same volume here.  Yes, Rand Paul, Naomi Wolf, and others have been the vectors for anti-vax bullshit, but it is muted.  Fox and its ilk don't have as much purchase here, so Canadians are highly vaxxed--86.6% of Canadians over 12 have received one dose and 81% of that group are fully vaccinated.  The anti-vaxxers got disproportionate media coverage during the election, but they are few.  They did cause the Conservatives to tie themselves into knots over how to promote vaccination without mandates, which probably hurt them quite a bit.  

I am thankful that the election was short, and, yes, that the Liberals won a minority.  Minority government is annoying--the government of the day has a ready excuse not to get stuff done and does have to do some compromising to get stff done.  The Liberals haven't governed spectacularly, so I am glad they were not rewarded for failing to deliver on several key files, including the one I obsess about--defence.  As of right now, we still have a Minister of National Defence who does not know how to do the job, so when things happen, the Prime Minister blames the generals rather than himself or his agent.  On the bright side, minority government means that the government of the day does not control the agendas of the parliamentary committees, so there is a bit more room for oversight.  Woot, eh?  

I am thankful to the vax for allowing me to start hanging out with my friends again.  We had our first dinners over at friends and our first poker game over the past couple of months.  They provided much solace and entertainment (thanks, Roland!).  We had our first family visit to Ottawa in years when my sister and her beau came up, forces us to go out to cool restaurants, and even dragged me on a hike.

I am grateful I got to go to the semi-final of the Canadian Cup--the tourney for the three professional ultimate teams in Canada who could not participate in the larger ultimate league due to covid.  Speaking of which, I am thankful for the great people at the physio place that I visit entirely too often these days.  I am hoping my next ultimate season is not cut short by an injury.

I am thankful to Nigella Lawson, Sally's Baking Addiction, and the NYT Cooking section for giving me much inspiration and clear roadmaps to sweet success.  The latest was apple crumb crostata for turkeyfest 2021:


It remains a brutal year--far too much death and disease, far too much hate sponsored/spread by nihilists (thanks, Tucker!), and all that.  But we are edging back to normalcy.  I hope when we get to our new normal that I remember to give thanks on a regular basis for all the folks who got us through this madness--the doctors, nurses, scientists, cooks and delivery people, clerks, and all the rest.

Oh, I am also thankful that this tenure review letter is not due until next month so it is not overdue yet.  But back to it.

 Happy Thanksgiving, Canada and Canadians!