Friday, April 22, 2022

Calling For New CDSN Undergrad Excellence Scholars

We launched the Undergraduate Excellence Scholarship two years ago to try to encourage more students from historically excluded communities involved not just in the Canadian Defence and Security Network but in the larger defence and security community.  It is one part of our effort to foster a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable defence and security community.

We are still figuring out how best to involve the students in our efforts.  In year two of this effort, our two scholars, Safia Hafid and Alexander Rizkallah, have

  • applied for and gained Young MINDS Grants from the Department of National Defence;
  • planned and are executing the events that they proposed in their grants--a conference on the changing power dynamics in the Indo-Pacific with a declining US, rising China, and uncertain Canada and a hackathon to generate ideas of how to address unconventional threats;
  • joined us at our Capstone Seminar where they not only asked sharp questions but got to meet and then dined with the Capstone Laureates;
  • used the CDSN to find internships with the Dallaire Centre of Excellence for Peace and Security and Project Ploughshares;
  • participated in some of the CDSN's planning meetings to give us ideas about how we can do more and do better.

We are now seeking our next cohort (is two large enough to call it a cohort?) of Undergraduate Excellence Scholars.  If you qualify (you will be a third or fourth year student next fall at a Canadian university), please apply.  If you aren't, please share news of this opportunity.  

Send applications and questions to

Thursday, April 14, 2022

CDSN Capstone 2022: In Person and Loving It

 Yesterday, we held the third annual CDSN Capstone Seminar.  The idea is to bring together some of the best presentations from last year and from across Canada to one place to give these folks a chance to strut their stuff again, to give our partners a chance for their events to live again, and share with a different audience the insights these sharp folks have developed.  We solicit nominations from CDSN Partners as well as the MINDS Collaborative Networks.  Our first one was at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto just before the pandemic closed things in North America.  Our second one was online.  This time, we did a mix--one presenter was online, our audience was primarily online, but most of the presenters were in person.  

We had two panels.  The first featured Danielle Cherpako discussing the use of sanctions, Zohra Bahrami focusing on what has been doing on in Afghanistan since the collapse last summer, and Devan Prithipaul discussing the discourse of climate change.  






Our second featured Shannon Nash presenting on how terrorism is labeled in Canada mostly in ways that target Muslims and not white supremacists, Johanna Masse talked about gender and women in the ground combat occupations of the CAF, and Caroline Batka discussed how private military contracts do and not integrate with the rest of the defence team.

Widely varying topics but we had some of the presentations speak to each other. We had good Q&A sessions with combinations of those in the audience in person and those online asking the questions.  We had our two Undergraduate Excellence Scholars, Safia Hafid and Alexander Rizkhallah, attend the event so we could finally meet them in person and feed them a nice meal with the Capstone Laureates, and they asked some sharp questions as well.

Speaking of feeding them, it was great to have an in-person event so that we could chat beyond the presentations and have the Laureates get to know each other and our staff.  We didn't build the CDSN so that we could eat well and hangout, but ...

For the video of the event:

Sunday, April 10, 2022

CDSN Book Workshop 2022: Shannon Nash and Agents of Terrorism

 One of the things I have stolen from other organizations is the book workshop.  The idea is to bring together both outside scholars and members of a person's academic community to give feedback, hopefully constructive, to an emerging scholar so that their book can be improved and then published at a good press.  I had been an outsider for a few book workshops along the way, and I also found resources and receptive audiences once or twice along the way (especially at William and Mary for the NATO book thanks to Mike Tierney, who went to grad school with me and my co-author).  

Getting published is not easy.  Turning a usually turgid dissertation into an interesting book that publishers will want is not easy either.  I thought the book workshop would be helpful so I built the book workshop into the CDSN's activities.  Last year, Stephanie Martel was our first CDSN book workshop survivor, and her book is now coming out of Stanford University Press.  Last year, it was entirely online.



This year, we worked to have the workshop be in person, and we almost got there.  Shannon Nash is based in Waterloo as the Director of Operation of one of the MINDS-funded Collaborative Networks: North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network.   Her book is this year's book workshop subject.  We had Tim Naftali and Karen Greenberg as the outside readers, Veronica Kitchen and Lorne Dawson were the "locals."  The former zoomed in, and the latter joined Shannon and myself in a conference room at the Basillie School of International Affairs.  It was great to see the three of them in person.  I didn't have much to say as I am not a terrorism expert, but I did have some suggestions about writing and organization.  Shannon got a lot of very constructive suggestions from the group, and I am sure her book will rock.  

I had not been to Waterloo since an edited volume conference about eight years ago.  I found a place that serves edible cookie dough, so that was an additional highlight of the weekend. 

It was great to see an original CDSN initiative come to fruition for a second time.  We still are looking for applications for the third one, so if you know of a Canadian scholar working on defence or security, broadly defined, let us know!

Oh, and look for Shannon and other sharp folks at the 2022 CDSN Capstone Seminar on Wednesday, April 13th! Tis online and in person!


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Civilian In Control of Military Teaches Civ-Mil Class

 Today was a pretty remarkable moment for me, as I don't think I ever had the subject of my course's content in the classroom.  Minister of National Defence Anita Anand had committed in our podcast interview a few weeks ago to join my Civil-Military Relations class, and today she followed through.  It was arranged at the last minute as her schedule is pretty crazy, what with a war going on and a budget dropping.

Minister Anand started by talking a bit about how she got here--that her academic law prof work on corporate governance caused her to enter the policy space via op-eds and other engagement.  This led to invitations for her to run for office.  She ultimately won a contested nomination and then ran in a not so safe riding, and did not expect to either be in cabinet or that the post she got (Minister of Procurement) would be so central.  But her background in contracting helped out when she was able to get vaccines for Canada quicker than most non-producing countries.*

* I tried to take the best notes I can, but having lawyers as colleagues, I have been informed that they are very precise about their words.  So, I need to be clear that I may not have gotten everything you see below word for word.

After her intro, I asked the first question.  I had noted that the coverage of the budget yesterday had indicated that we would be having a defence review which I had thought was in contradiction to an answer she gave at the CDAI Ottawa Conference on Defence and Security.  Today, she said that she very much favors having regular defence reviews as they serve to form the "backbone of defence policy."  She did note that we need to accept that some decisions must be made given the events of our time before a review will be complete. So, we will have a review, but that will not stop her from making decisions as they arise.  She said it was good to have a good, multiyear plan.

I pointed out that most IR types recommend that defence reviews best take place within a foreign policy review and that, well, we can't really expect a timely foreign policy review.  She indicated that she works closely with the Foreign Minister, but there are plenty of issues, such as procurement decisions that can essentially stand alone. 

Then the students asked questions.  The first was on continental security and NORAD.  She said that the government was already spending some $250 million to do the research to figure out what is needed--sensors, communications.  When pushed on priorities, she said that climate change was a greater concern than Russian encroachment--that is deterred in part by membership in NATO.

The second question was more civ-mil-ish (most questions were not): does one need to be an expert to be a Minister?  She said that her law degree was the key--that she could not function without understanding legislation, policy-making, processes to be accountable and to ensure others are accountable (sounds like an MA in International Affairs or Public Policy would be handy).  She notes that she has plenty of experts giving her advice and so the key is to know her authorities and to make the best rational decisions.  Her job is to "stay engaged with what Canadians need."  She "doesn't need to be an expert in military strategy, but does need to understand the National Defence Act."

A student asked if Canada might serve as a guarantor of any Russia-Ukraine agreement.  She indicated that was more of a Foreign Minister question.  She then noted all that Canada has been doing for Ukraine, including talking twice this week with their Minister of Defence.

The next question focused on China, and Minister Anand indicated she is a supporter of the sail throughs, where our ships go through international waters.  In response to a cyber question, where she noted that the Communications Security Establishment is her area of responsibility, she noted that part of Canada's assistance to Ukraine was helping Ukraine in the realm of cyber surveillance and that continues even as the training mission has been withdrawn.  That bit was the most surprising/newsy thing she said.

I wish I had primed the students to ask more civ-mil questions given the focus of the course and my desire for them to ask questions that I want to ask... but it was a fascinating 30 minutes.  We got a lot in and were most grateful she made time for us on this very busy budget day.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The All Bad Faith Teams

 At the end of the NBA season, folks start to wonder who will make the first, second, and third All NBA teams.  Things get difficult as each team is supposed to have essentially one center, two forwards, and two guards, and sometimes the league has more terrific guards than forwards.  I raise this as I have been thinking about the All Bad Faith Teams.  That each team would have two Senators, one media person, a member of the House, and then one governor.  This makes it hard since there are so many strong competitors in most categories.

What do I mean by bad faith?  Individuals taking whatever argument they want to try to accumulate power and then hopping on the other side if it becomes more convenient.  The handy example du jour is of Tom Cotton talking about child abuse in the current confirmation hearings after spending much time codding child abusers who happen to be his pals.  The classic case, of course, that puts Mitch McConnell on the first team now and until he retires or dies, is of Mitch flipping on appointing people to the Supreme Court during an election year.  Against it, when a Democratic was doing the nominating, for it when a Republican was.  

So, who are on the 2021-22 All Bad Faith Teams?

1st Team:

Senate:  Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz.  Neither one of them has met a principle that they would not flip on if it was convenient.  For Mitch, this is as much about past as present performance.  For Cruz, well, his performance in the hearings this week just remind us how skilled he is about being entirely without principle.  

House: Kevin McCarthy.  His turnaround on January 6th makes him an easy decision here.  

Media: Tucker Carlson.  To be fair, he is a fairly consistent white supremacists so he does have principles.  Still, he flips on all kinds of issues as soon as it is convenient.  

2nd Team:

Senate:  Ben Sasse, Susan Collins.  Sure, there are other Senators of bad faith, but these two get this honor for appearing to be moderate while actually betraying whatever commitments they appeared to make and supporting the most awful of stances.  

House:  Jim Jordan Matt Gaetz.  For the House, the 2nd team is reserved for those who engage in crime against the young or facilitate it and then claim that the Dems are the threat to the youth.

Media: Glenn Greenwald

3rd team

Senators: Josh Hawley as illustrated thusly,  Ron Johnson for being the sack of merde that he is.

House: Gosar, Gohmert   (MTGreene does not count--she is just evil, not of bad faith).

Media:  Ben Shapiro

Dishonorable Mentions: Mike Lee, John Kennedy, Marsha Blackburn, Joe Manchin.

I didn't address Governors as that would be too damned depressing, but it would be DeSantis, Abbott, and then Kenney.