The reception was super loud, which was a problem for aging Steve, but I greatly enjoyed it anyway. I got to meet with a number of former students who are now professors, civil servants, students elsewhere, and more. I bumped into some diplomats who had been at an event we had held the previous day at Carleton--a talk by the Norwegian State Secretary for External Affairs. They discussed how important it is for academics to be able to speak freely when so many others, such as themselves, can't.
Which leads to the rest of this post--I feel like a crappy guest to criticize the speaker at this event, but speaking plainly about stuff that happens in the Canadian defence community is part of my job and my identity. Lt. General (retired) Michel Maisonneuve was honored for a lifetime in service as he was given the Vimy Award. Vimy, of course, is the site of a key battle in World War I that has become a key part of not just the Canadian military's identity but a key aspect in Canadian nationalism. When I think of World War I, I think of a key lesson learned along the way that the French President of the time, Georges Clemenceau said--that war was too important to be left the generals--eventually leading to higher expectations for the role of civilians in controlling the armed forces. Alas, this speech did not meet my expectations for good civil-military relations.
His speech reminded me of debates that American civil-military analysts often have about the role of retired senior military officers--that their words matter since they are freer to speak than those still serving, and they are often seen as speaking for the active military folks. Canada tends not to have the same debate as there are far fewer analysts of civil-military relations up here, and they are focused on other things, and so I am not sure what the norms here are of retired senior officers and their speeches.discovery of mass graves at the residential schools where the Indigenous kids
were taken away from their families), and on and on.
Maisonneuve is allowed to speak, despite his frustration at cancel culture, but I am also allowed to criticize his opinions. After nearly two years of scandals involving members of the Canadian armed forces at the very highest levels--two chiefs of defence staff, two chiefs of personnel, several other 2-3 star officers, and so on, one might think that the retired senior officers who helped foster a culture of entitlement and abuse of power might develop a bit of humility. I guess this is why the CAF has a culture crisis--that there was not much of a learning curve after repeated scandals and reports about sexual misconduct and abuse of power.
|Hanging with the intrepid |
Leah and Steph
As I left the building, an older person shared with me her concerns about the next generation of Canadians based on what Maissoneuve had to say. I tried to assure that the next generation is pretty terrific and that we will be in good hands.