Saturday, September 30, 2023

What is this politicization thing?

 I saw this and quickly realized it was bad faith bullshit:

 How do you politicize something that is so incredibly political and partisan?  The GOP is choosing to shut down government and deny services and pay to millions of Americans.  Given that politics is usually defined like this:

the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power. [Oxford]

or this:

Politics is the way that people living in groups make decisions.

Refusing to pass a budget so that the government can operate is quite political--it is about group decision-making and it is about governance or denial thereof.

Of course, what we really mean is making something a partisan issue--not just that it affects the public, but that the issue at hand is partisan--that the competing parties are taking sides.  Of course, again, the shutdown is inherently partisan since one party is inflicting it on the rest of us. For the Dems to point this out does not politicize the shutdown because the shutdown is already a partisan thing.

I raise this because it serves as a useful illustration to correct misconceptions about some civ-mil stuff.  General Mark Milley, at his retirement ceremony, did what he has done before--speak too much.  Yes, he had a horrible job, being the Chairman at a time where the President (Trump) had no clue about nor any desire to learn the norms of civilian-military relations.  Trump did indeed try to politicize the military in the sense of making it a partisan actor.  Yes, the military is an inherently political actor and object as war is politics by other means (thanks, Claus), but it is not always an actor in American (or other) partisan competition.  

Over the past twenty or so years, the US military has increasingly become a partisan actor, mostly due to the actions of the politicians and not the military, but it gets complex where even standing still can be seen as moving, as Michael Robinson argues quite well in his book (which I have raised before).  Anyhow, Milley, in his speech, reminded the military folks of their oath to the constitution, which would be somewhat fine although it would be loaded with subtext given his experiences.  And then referred to wannabe dictators, which, of course, is a reference to Trump, and thus made the speech clearly partisan.

As others in this area, such as Kori Schake and Risa Brooks, have noted, this is not Milley's first time to speak too much.  He spent much of his last year or two as Chairman trying to improve his legacy by clarifying his Trump problems.  This was not doing the military or American civil-military relations, because it was putting the US military squarely in the partisan fight.  Which will lead to folks thinking that the US military is taking sides, that politicians choose senior officers based on party affiliation, and so on.  

With many of the promotions of senior military leaders already frozen by an effort by Tommy (those who can't, coach) Tuberville, the politicization of ordinary military stuff is accelerating.  No need for the Chairman on his way out the door to grease the skids of this.*

* To be clear, having a mil to mil conversation in the middle of a crisis with Chinese senior military officers to assure them that there is no attack coming is the proper thing to do.  To take credit for it?  Much less proper.  

Oh, and in the Canadian context, which seems to be months behind the US now rather than years, platforming a cranky retired general to blast the military as too woke is politicizing the Canadian military.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Cutting Canada's Defence Budget?

 The announcement that the Trudeau government is cutting the defence budget along with every other budget by a smidge is getting a heap of play.  On the one hand, $1b is not that dramatic of a cut to the largest discretionary part of the budget.  On the other hand, given what is going on the world and given where the commitments the government has made, this has a lot of people shaking their heads.  It does help us understand why there is no defence policy update: it would be very embarassing to indicate how much the world has gotten more threatening and then say "and we are cutting defence."  Now, one could argue that Canada spends enough as the threats are distant and we have some big oceans protecting us.  Yet.... here are the big commitments that need to be funded:

  1. NORAD Modernization: the government has repeatedly committed to spending many billions on improving the warning systems and other facilities as part of its commitment to defend Canada and to cooperate with the US on the defence of North America.  The technology is, the infrastructure needs much work in the face of climate change and age.  So, is this the commitment Trudeau is going to break?
  2. Sending a brigade to Latvia: the government has committed to sending 2200 to Latvia and remain the Framework (leading) nation for NATO in Latvia.  This is going to cost a lot of money to send troops, have them armed and supplied with ammunition, and also provide resources to the other countries in the Canadian-led brigade.  Is this the promise that Trudeau is going to break?
  3. Reversing the personnel crisis.  The CAF is currently at least 16,000 people short for a force of 100,000.  That means lots of jobs are either unfilled or people are working multiple jobs.  This can create a spiral as people leave because they are working too hard and/or are underserved AND it slows down recruitment and training.  Solving this requires culture change, sure, but it also requires $$$$.  We need to pay folks more, find ways to cover child care, provide better facilities, and, in all ways possible, make it more attractive to serve Canada.
  4. Keep on saving Canadian lives and property when natural disasters become emergencies. Climate change means more of these events, and crappy provincial politics means that the CAF will be called out again and again--more, not less.  So, will Trudeau cut back on these efforts, despite a basic commitment to have the CAF surge in when Canadians need help?
  5. Ships and planes.  Yeah, Trudeau promised to build 15 new warships to replace those rusting away, and something like 88 F-35s to replace fighter planes that are twice as old as those joining the RCAF.  As we start to actually buy the planes and build the ships, it will mean more money being spent.  Oh and new equipment costs more to maintain.  Is this the promise Trudeau is going to break?

Sure, I have a minor interest in all of this as the CDSN gets some money from DND via the MINDS program, which is an easy cut to make, just as the old Security and Defence Forum was under Harper.

But the larger point remains: the government has made a number of defence commitments that require more money to be spent, not less.  The Defence Policy Update was supposed to justify those additional expenditures and explain to the public how those funds would help Canada adjust to a more threatening world.   But now we see the budget going down.  It may be good politics since no one votes either way on defence spending, but the polls do indicate that the public supports more defence spending.  These cuts are not due to pressure to spend less on defence.  So, other than not caring about defence, it is not clear what is driving this.

The joy of not being a Conservative is that Liberals don't have to care as much about deficits [and, yes, the Conservatives will cut defence if they get into power as they care more about deficits than most things].  Why not lean into that joy, FFS?

Sunday, September 24, 2023

KCIS Report: Great Engagement, Much Insight

 I spent part of last week in Kingston, which has been my Canadian home away from home.  It was far from my first KCIS, but the first one in a while thanks to the pandemic.  The Kingston Consortium on International Security is a product of a partnership between Queen's Centre for International and Defence Policy, NATO Defence College, the US Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, and the Canadian Army. Thanks to Stéfanie von Hlatky, nearly all of these folks (not quite the Army) became CDSN partners with KCIS becoming part of the CDSN's efforts to build various bridges. These days, Stephanie Martel runs CIDP, and this was her first KCIS, and she got a heap of assistance from Howard Coombs and the one consistent actor in all of this-Maureen Bartram, who is CIDP's main staff person.

KCIS was at a new
location which had
bulk candy!
Each year, the partners pick a theme.  This year's was the unchanging nature of war with the Ukraine-Russia war hanging over most of the sessions, one way or another. Oh, and Clausewitz was cited a lot. The conference had a bunch of Canadian senior officers present, mostly army, and very few American officers, unlike the old days.  The panels focused on a variety of issues from human security to changes in hybrid warfare, to women, peace, and security in conflict zones, to a special panel of US AWC SSI folks zooming on to share their lessons from the Ukraine-Russia War, to technology and the new wars.



RAdm (ret) Patterson
There were also some speeches with Q&A: Retired Rear Admiral Rebecca Patterson, now a Senator and guest on the Battle Rhythm podcast; Charlotte McGlade of the Canadian Red Cross; BG John Errington, Strategic Joint Staff, and CDS Wayne Eyre.  I was the moderator for the last one, so that is what I will discuss below.

First, a caveat--people kept mentioning Chatham House Rule, so I am not sure what I can say.  The speeches are going to be streamed, but the Q&A was to be Chatham-ed.  Not sure how the moderated chat part of the talk is supposed to be discussed.  So, I will try to be vague, focusing mostly on my questions and less on Eyre's answers.  Not sure if that does the trick.  I will say that Eyre was engaging both before and after the talk, meeting with a variety of interested folks.  It is not my first chat with him as I first met him at a KCIS in 2019, that he was on the podcast in 2021, he contacted me about another BR podcast (he didn't recall that until I brought it up during our session), and we bumped into each other at a reception at the Korean Embassy in Ottawa. He knows me well enough that his Star Wars references in his talk (greatest teacher failure is) were aimed at me.

So, I asked him:

 The civ-mil question led to Eyre discussing Eliot Cohen's book Supreme Command, which focuses on teh unequal dialogue between civilian leaders and the military--that both sides should be open and honest with each other, but that at the end of the day, after a decision is made by the civilians, it is the job of the military to carry on with the civilians' intent.  I am pretty sure his two immediate predecessors didn't read or heed this book.

The recruitment/retention question led to some discussion of some of the successes, like allowing permanent citizens to join, and an acknowledgement that the traditional recruiting demo is getting smaller---white straight dudes like himself.  

I don't want to misremember what Eyre said on culture change progress, but if I remember correctly, the sense of it was on whether retention improves, whether the folks in the force report that things are getting better.

The successor question was most interesting as, well, Vance had reportedly tried to eliminate potential successors so that he could stay a long time, and that worked.  Eyre discussed how he is already training the cohort of possible replacements by giving them time with and exposure to folks like the Defence Minister, the Defence Committee, and the Prime Minister.  They will have far more experience with the key civilian actors (plus parliament) than Eyre had, as he famously had no handover--he just got a call to show up as Acting CDS and had to start doing the job immediately. 

And, yes, I had a good time while I was there.  The opening reception was a great chance to meet folks I had met at previous KCIS's and at other CDSN events as well as meet new folks. To the right are Aditi Malhotra, editor of Canadian Army Journal and a veteran of our Summer Institute, and Melissa Jennings, the CDSN Chief Operating Officer.  I got a chance to meet all kinds of interesting folks over the 2+ days.


So, if you can get to a future KCIS, do so.  You learn a lot, you meet sharp people, and Kingston is lovely in the fall.


Saturday, September 23, 2023

India and Canada: Friends No More

 To be fair, the friendship was always either nascent or tenuous at best.  That Canada is host to the largest Sikh population outside of India, and like many diasporas, more enthused for more extreme political ends than those back home would set the tension level on "not good" anyway.  Then you add in that India is  ruled by the Hindu Nationalist Party and by Modi, so any friction becomes much hotter and much more useful for domestic political purposes back home.

One can start on either side of the Indo-Pacific region on this.  Because my own start as a scholar of the international relations of ethnic politics, which included some study of South Asia, came long before my move to Canada, I will start with the India side. Modi and his party got into power by engaging in ethnic outbidding, by promising to be the best defenders of the Hindu majority, which meant, of course, targeting minorities of all kinds as threats that needed to be put in their place. So, Muslims have paid a significant price for this in India. It has meant in foreign policy that Canada is seen as a real problem, rather than Canada's self-image as the less imperial Commonwealth country that everyone loves more than the US (Canadians take great pride that Americans will put on a Canadian flag on their backpacks when the US is governed by a Bush or Trump).  

In Modi's eyes, Canada is a supporter of Sikh separatism. That Sikhs in Canada are politically powerful and use that power to support separatism in the homeland.  Yes, Sikhs are powerful--Trudeau at one point had four Sikhs in his cabinet, far out of proportion to their population, but their population is not small.  Trudeau kept an awful Minister of National Defence because he didn't want to offend a key constituency and source of campaign dollars.  And, yes, an Air India flight was blown up by Canadian-based Sikhs.  The intelligence services and the cops messed up before and afterwards.  So, Indian fans of Modi cite that event as Canada being a base of anti-India terrorism.  The more accurate charge is that Canada continues to be lousy at stopping the flow of money to extremists of all kinds, but, no, Canada is not a place where Sikhs have bases to train for future terrorist attacks. Canada is not Afghanistan of 2001.  

Turning to the Canadian side, some folks are accusing Trudeau of playing this up and publicizing this for political gain.  And that is, well, laughable.  There are two dynamics here that are intersecting.  The first is, yes, this government (and any other) would be pandering to Sikh voters, and, yes, significant numbers of folks in this community were asking for the government to take more seriously India's role in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.  The other dynamic is that the Trudeau government has faced much criticism for being slow to deal with China's election interference. So, there has been pressure for Trudeau to act faster.

Still, this government did not act precipitously in this case. They did not go public as soon as they got a hint of this.  Instead, they worked their allies, and they sent several folks over to India to get their support for an investigation, including Canada's National Security and Intelligence Advisor, Jody Thomas. They were rebuffed. It seems clear that the government would have liked to have continued to handle this quietly, but they got alerted that a reporter was going to release a story on this.  

With more stories coming out that the US was the country that had provided some signals intel to Canada that supported the India connection in Nijjar's death, I am pretty convinced that, yes, India through its intelligence services had this guy killed, directly or indirectly. I am biased in this, as I have long been suspicious of Modi and his Hindu National party.  But the pattern of events seems to make it clear that there is more than just a little something to this. 

While India can be upset that Sikhs in Canada protest against India and support Sikh separatism, and that politicians took the sides of protesters in India over changes in agriculture policy last year, none of that justifies killing a Canadian citizen on Canadian territory. This is not what friends do to each other.  Unless something happened that I am not aware of, at no point did the British whack any fundraiser in Boston seeking to support the Irish Republican Army.  Modi did this because he is arrogant, and he may be right that he can get away with it since the US needs India in its anti-China containment efforts. And, yes, he would not be the first autocratic-leaning leader to bully Canada. It has been open season for some time with China, Russia, and the Saudis taking turns, with the Iranians also engaged in election interference.

My pals in Ottawa who work in and near the intel scene are pretty outraged at how lamely this government and previous ones have dealt with such stuff. I am not sure better reactions would have mattered that much since the asymmetries in these situations are pretty stark, but, yes, Canada can do better on protecting its citizens, including those in the various diaspora communities, than it has.

I don't expect things to get better between India and Canada. Modi is scoring a lot of points on this at home. Trudeau is not, but he is stuck. I have often wondered why his government pandered so much to Sikhs when there are also other Indian-Canadians here, and that pandering to one side might be problematic for the other. In this case, where a Canadian was killed, taking this seriously is less about the pandering of the past and more of the challenge of defending Canadians from backsliding democracies. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Grading A Weak Op-Ed: Strawpeople Arguments Missing the Point

 I have been wondering whether I should write about Michel Maisonneuve's op-ed, which is entirely about ... me.  As I have long admitted to being a narcissist, I am, of course, flattered by the attention.  But as a professor, when I see bad reading comprehension, ad hominen attacks, and wild analogies, I have a hard time refraining from commenting. 

To set this up, last fall, Michel Maisonneuve used his Vimy Gala award speech to rant about a variety of things that upset him--including a woke media and a government that apologizes too much. I wrote about it, which got much attention.  This seemed to lead to Maisonneuve, who complained about cancel culture, getting a regular column or its equivalent at the National Post, and the attention of the Conservative Party of Canada.  They then chose him to have a big platform at their convention. I suggested this was a bad idea in an op-ed as it would be putting the military into partisan fire (and I am not alone) not unlike how platforming Michael Flynn and John Allen in 2016 did so in the US, and it is that op-ed to which Maisonneuve is responding.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Kitchen Renovation Odyessy

 It is funny how these things go: I thought ordering a specific oven would mean that the last piece of the renovation would be that.  Nope, the counters were delayed and delayed again. So, tomorrow, I can declare a completed renovation after our contractor, Ron, does the last bit of paint, caulk, and outlet covers.  We started in late April, the cabinets arrived in a timely fashion as our contractor was finishing the prep work (new ceiling was a surprise as we needed more space for the potlights), and so all but the counters were done in late May.  Ron did a great job of cutting one of the extra cabinet pieces into a temporary counter, installing the sink and faucet, so the kitchen has been operational all summer, even though the island had no top, some counters had cardboard covers, and the rest had handy cabinet pieces as counters.  I wish we did this four years ago, so I would have had a better pandemic baking environment, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  Mrs. Spew was out of town for most of the planning/ordering since she was taking care of her mother who was moving.  Some of the color scheme (blue/gray) and the idea of a farmhouse sink was hers, but I was able to design the structure with the handy person at HD, and make most of the decisions without too much bargaining ;).

So, before:


How do I love my new kitchen?  Let me count the ways:

  1. An island!  We never made good use of the big dance floor. The island gives us a heap of counter space so that I can work without blocking the entire kitchen.  It also has drawers for most of our appliances (hand mixer, rice cooker, food processor, etc) and for bowls and other stuff.
  2. The bookcase in the island!  I forget whose kitchen inspired this, but now I have all of my Nigella Lawson, Sally's Baking Addiction, Smitten Kitchen, Air Fryer cook books handy plus binders containing the NYT and other recipes I have amassed.
  3. A pantry!  So much handier to have roll out shelves, easy to organize, easy to get stuff.
  4. A double-oven.  Yep, for cooking pitas and the stuff that goes in them at the same time.  Also handy for cookie baking outbursts.
  5. The lighting!  Our previous kitchen was pretty dark.  Now, we have a better system of undercabinet lights plus a heap of potlights.
  6. Lots of storage space especially in the corners.  We have a lazy susan in one corner and really cool pullout shelves in the other.
  7. A huge sink. This was my wife's idea, but the color choice was mine (added a few bucks to the cost).  Now, if we had triplets, we could bathe them in there.  Instead, pretty much all of my cooking gear fits into their to be cleaned.  The faucet is pretty cool as well--can turn on/off with a wave of a hand, which is great for when my hands are covered in chicken juice.
  8. Microwave no longer sits on the counter, so we have a place to put our air fryer.  
  9. New fridge with filtered water/ice on the outside.  So much more convenient than having to make our own ice and have a water pitcher.  We opted for a bigger freezer/smaller frig, which we are getting used to.  It will come in super handy when I make a lot of cookies that need to be frozen before delivery day.

There is more to it, but those are highlights.  Last house, we also renovated the kitchen but only enjoyed it for a few years before moving here.  And it didn't have as much special stuff.  This time, we splurged as we plan to be here a while.


Friday, September 8, 2023

Researching the Canadian Military: How Many REB's Do We Need?

 Yesterday, I participated at a roundtable consultation with the Social Sciences Research Review Board* [SSRRB], which is DND/CAF's equivalent of a research ethics board.  The meeting was partly to brief us (some profs researching the military, some research ethics board folks) and partly to get our feedback on how things are going and about potential reforms.

*  The SSRB process is essentially run out of the Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis.  And that was cool to learn since DGMPRA is a partner of the CDSN, with one of its staff, Irina Goldenberg, serving as one of our Co-Directors. 

I would say that this institution, like research ethics boards, are necessary evils for researchers, but they are not evil.  They can be inconvenient, but as one REB participant said, they create necessary friction.  Social science has a history of doing harm to its research subjects--with the most infamous ones being the Milgram experiments and the Stanford Prison experiments.  What is it about psychologists that cause them to be the exemplars for this stuff?  I don't know, but I do know that Carleton has separate REBs for psych versus other social sciences since the former needs more vigilance than the latter.

Part of the challenge of REBs and especially SSRRB is that we hear the horror stories, but do not have a good sense of how much they slow researchers down, how much of that is due to the researchers and how much of that is due to the review process.  I can give you one example that is most trivial that slowed my latest one down: the Carleton REB required me to change my various documents (the consent form I give to my research subjects, for example) to update the new Carleton logo.  Which is, to be clear, utter bullshit since an old logo or a new one has no implications for whether I would be creating risk for the research subjects if they consented to be a research subject (to agree to be interviewed).  But the change did not take me long.  

Anyhow, SSRRB does not have a website!  So, their ability to convey info is not great, so we can borrow from a organization (and CDSN partner) that interacts with SSRRB quite often: CIMVHR! CIMVHR is the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, and while much of their work is on health stuff, which goes to a different board, their members do a lot of social science stuff (more on that below).  So, the CIMVHR website provides much more help for SSRRB than, well, SSRRB does right now:

We encourage all applicants to review the Social Science Research Review Board (SSRRB) requirements before applying; For SSRRB inquiries contact:

So, our first recommendation was for them to get a website!

Anyhow, they explained the process, and it was most relevant as I just had a student face serious challenges.  To get SSRRB approval, one needs an internal sponsor within the CAF or DND.  What is most confusing about this is that it needs to be an L1 organization--which means the Army or the Navy or the Air Force or a command like CANSOF or CJOC.  Does that mean that it needs to be approved by THE L1?  The commander of the Navy, the chief of the army and so forth?  Um, depends on what you are asking?  If you are asking to survey a specific unit, one can perhaps work with someone at the LCol level rather than having the big boss sign off.  The SSRRB folks said that they could help folks find a sponsor, which my student didn't experience.

Why a sponsor and then why are other approvals needed?  The SSRRB folks said this was mostly to prevent survey fatigue and researchers getting in the way of operations, etc.  I did ask about whether this could serve as a veto in the research process since there is language in the documents (from Treasury Board) about the research being in the interests of the organization.  The SSRRB folks insisted this didn't happen, but it is hard to tell if that is the case.  

The big thing in play is that the Arbour Report had a recommendation (#46) specifically focused on this stuff.  Specifically, why should academics have to go through their university REBs and then do it again with SSRB?  They are working on three three options:

  1. Allow for concurrent review with academics so that folks don't have to wait and if they get feedback from one system, they can then revise what is in the other.
  2. Have SSRRB accept or waive the ethics stuff in their process if a researcher can provide them with a REB certificate from their home institution, and just work on the stuff that is DND/CAF-centric--security/operational issues, whether the research has already been done (lots of internal research that we don't have easy access to), or whether it gets in the way of operations.
  3. Collaborative agreements whereby a university's REB and SSRRB agree perhaps to SSRRB essentially be one-stop shopping--that if one gets SSRRB approval, then the home university accepts that as a legit REB approval.  

The idea here for any reform is to make it easier/simpler/quicker for academics.  Grad students and junior faculty do not have a lot of time to go through multiple processes.  So, this is a work in progress, but it does look like things will get easier although perhaps not easy.  Getting a sponsor is not so easy and getting commanders to approve of research in their area of responsibility is tricky as well.  But eliminating duplicative REB processes would be a big improvement.

I mentioned social science above--one of the things that drives me crazy works in a positive way here: a narrow definition of what counts as social science.  In the minds of the SSRRB folks, as far as I can tell, there is a tendency to consider surveys as social science and may be focus group stuff, but not other stuff, which means that other stuff (which really is social science) does not fall into their domain.  So, one can do elite interviews (the stuff I do) since they are "consultations".  One can also do program eval, which don't count as research if worded correctly.  So, either one's REB or SSRRB can help frame a project so that going through SSRRB's approval process is not necessary.  On the other hand, having that stamp of approval is handy for getting commanders to allow pesky academics to have access to subordinates.

So, the big punchlines are: SSRRB may not be as much a gate keeper as folks think, and if they are gate keepers, they are willing to change due to the Arbour report to make things better.  Oh, and there are ways to dodge them.  I still worry about the parts of their procedures that give senior folks in the CAF the ability to veto research, but the practical reality is that one can't do a variety of research projects on the military if  the commander is hostile, whether or not there is a procedure that gives them a veto.

One last thing: DGMPRA have done a lot of studies on personnel issues, so if one is working on that, it is best to approach them and see if a related project may have produced data--they are willing to share data.  Tis what the collaborative agreements are for. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Reactions to the Reactions

 My piece in the Globe and Mail has gotten a bit of traction and, yes, feedback.  It is a much more political piece than usual in that I don't usually target a party and its strategy in my op-eds.  Looking at my recent op-eds, the theme is mostly "hey, there's something wrong with Canadian civil-military relations."  Which means, yes, I can be critical of the Liberals.  Indeed, an op-ed two years ago in the same paper was focused on calling for the firing of the Liberal Defence Minister because he didn't seem to understand his role at all.  Anyhow, I thought I would go through some of the stuff I have seen on twitter, the comments section of the paper (yes, I dared to go there), and emails.

Folks point at the Liberals politicizing the military.  This has happened (although not where/when/how they think), and two wrongs don't make a right.  So, making retired LTG Andrew Leslie a very visible part of their campaign in 2015 was not good.  Appointing a former military officer to be Minister of National Defence was not good--indeed, he was truly awful, and, to repeat, I called for him to be fired, but Trudeau waited until after the next election to shuffle Sajjan to a less relevant/influential position (one that does not really have a ministry!). 

What these critics of me and of the Liberals get wrong is that "inclusiveness/diversity = politicizing."  Yep, I saw plenty of pics of the military at Pride events.  Is that the Liberals politicizing the military?  Not really.  It is the military itself noting that the next generation is much less rigid about sexuality, and so if the military wants to recruit younger people, it will need to demonstrate to them that the military is an inclusive environment.  Making inclusion a partisan thing is, well, a tell that fans of the Conservatives are hostile to the stance of a majority of Canadians--that one's sexuality should not be a barrier in any way.  

Some of these folks argue that the personnel crisis is due to "wokeness" in the military--but that is not backed up by the data.  We have no evidence that young folks are avoiding the military or older folks are leaving because there is an effort to make it a more inclusive place.  What we do know is that the excellent job market, the pandemic (which greatly interrupted recruiting), archaic recruiting practices, and a severe misconduct and abuse of power crisis (by the least woke generals/admirals) have challenged recruiting/retention.  Plus there is a generational change going on--40 years ago, a guy would join the military, and his wife would go with him wherever he was deployed because the women were expected to sacrifice their career.  Now, we have men and women joining the military who have partners who have jobs that are hard to move.  We still have a military that expects people to move every 2-3 years, but the reality of today (including rising housing costs) make that kind of career unattractive.  

One more thing on the inclusiveness thing: if some men are uncomfortable joining an organization that treats women better and that treats LGBTQ2S+ better, then it is better off that these men don't join or don't stay.

Other responses to my piece were focused on Liberal defence policy--being too slow to procure equipment for the military.  Sure.  Cutting spending?  Not yet.  The Liberals have spent more money on defence, just not enough to catch up to the 2% metric.  But the Conservatives were the last ones to cut the defence budget in a big way as Harper sought to balance the budget.  And, yes, the Liberals cut defence before Harper.  Defence spending is not politicizing, whether it goes up or down.

Which means I could have done more to define what is politicizing, but op-eds are not really the place for lots of definitions.  In this piece and generally, I am referring to making the military a partisan actor--by making folks think that the military prefers one party by platforming a guy who represents the old guard. 

Some say that Maisonneueve is retired and can say what he likes.  Absolutely, but my piece was aimed at the Conservatives for giving him a platform.  No one is entitled to a platform, and Maisonneueve likes to complain about being cancelled usually in op-eds he writes for the National Post--hardly cancelled.  The thing is folks will confuse what a retired general says for what the military thinks.  Which means he should have some caution, if he were a responsible individual, but, again, I was aiming at the party.

One last thing--I could have written all of this into the piece, but then the piece wouldn't have been picked up.  Only so much one can say in 700 words.  And, yes, no matter how much data one might throw at this, folks are going to believe what they want, like DEI forcing white men out of the CAF simply for being white men.  With such a personnel shortage, there really aren't quotas of any real kind in the CAF.  But people can believe what they want to believe.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Cutting the Cord: Social Media edition

 I have been reluctant to quit twitter despite all of the Musk-ness.  I have built up a pretty cool network of followers and followees over the past 14 years, and I didn't want to lose that.  Path dependence/sunk costs are a thing--as are network effects.  But Musk has made twitter a Nazi house party--this weekend's attacks on the Anti-Defamation League, cheered on by real life Nazis.  That Musk embraced anti-semitic conspiracy bullshit is not surprising given that he has already proven to be transphobic (at the expense of his kid), racist, and more.  All those hatreds tend to travel together, but Musk didn't have to platform and amplify them.  That was his choice, and since he has made Twitter not just a social media company, but his play thing, it was time for me to pull the ripcord.  Yes, I know that twitter has long been a hostile place to many groups, but I found my pieces of community there.  Now?  Oy.

So, what did I get out of twitter?  How about the classic listicle to ponder what we are losing?

  • Friends.  Yep, real life friends from silly virtual interactions.  This is what has been most valuable and what I hope I can carry over to the alternatives.  Twitter fight club, for instance, did an amazing job of not only connecting me with tons of sharp national security folks--scholars, analysts, practitioners in DC and elsewhere--but helping to foster friendships, even with those that denied me a victory.  
  • Icebreaking.  I was able to use the tenuous, virtual connections to meet people I would never have met.  While I started out mostly focusing on those most directly related to my research and other interests, I began to use twitter to meet the next generations of scholars and policy-makers and especially those from different backgrounds.  My feed got increasingly diverse over the years.
  • Expertise.  All those connections gave me quick ways to catch up stuff around the world.  I am not only a deeply curious person, but I also need to know stuff that is going on for my classes and for engagement (more on that below).
  • Research.  For me the civ-mil community has been so great on twitter--learning of ongoing projects, getting perspectives on the stuff, building panels for conferences, etc.  
  • Engagement (that didn't take long).  I developed connections with and friendships with journalists in Canada, the US, and even occasionally elsewhere.  This made it easier to have productive conversations for stories they were working on, and I would occasionally get some handy info as well.
  • ENGAGEMENT.  Not just journalists but folks in the policy world and in the public and in the political world.  So strange to have members of parliament and admirals and other folks follow my stuff.  I know that the public affairs folks at the Canadian Department of National Defence were following what I have been spewing on twitter.  Twitter has helped me bridge all kinds of gaps.
  • CDSN.  The Canadian Defence and Security Network probably wouldn't exist without twitter.  It helped foster connections that led to partnerships and a credible "knowledge dissemination strategy" for sharing our work with the public and the policy world. We used twitter to try to get audiences for our events, to get folks to apply for our various opportunities, and so on.  Twitter's collapse is going to make a dent in our efforts, but we are lucky this is happening so deep into our run than if it had been year 1.
  • Promotion
    • Other: I have greatly enjoyed connecting folks to exciting work I have found.  I got more deliberate over time about promoting the work of junior folks.
    • Self: twitter was always handy for promoting my own stuff.  Indeed, the fact that I started twitter about two months after I started blogging is no coincidence. I have used twitter to promote my research projects as they have bumped along, the products (hey, you want to find a good cheap book on NATO....?), the events I have been organizing, and all that.  One of the strange realizations over the past few years is that I have some influence in Canada via my ramblings online--twitter, blogging, the podcasts.  I don't get additional pay to be an influencer, but I get more media attention and govt attention because I am loud on social media. 
  • Fun.  So much fun stuff. 
    • I have met virtually some folks who featured bigly in pop culture--Henry Winkler and Morgan Fairchild to name the most obvious cases.  I have had conversations with my cooking muse Nigella Lawson.  Mark Hamill even liked one of my tweets.  
    • I have found cool podcasts via twitter.  
    • I have enjoyed the snark and the memes about all things--political and otherwise
    • Twitter became a more hostile place over time, even before Musk, but there was always room for heaps of humor and silliness.
  • Fixes.  I have complained about some companies which led to their responding to me and getting my problem fixed. Other times, folks have provided solicited and unsolicted advice that has been most helpful.  

 What am I going to do next?  Bluesky.  Same  I have tried Mastodon and Post, but neither really took.  I am avoiding threads for now.  Bluesky seems to have much potential and feels kind of 2011 twitter.  Much snark, easy to use, not too much noise.  I hope to build networks there from those that I had developed over the years at twitter.  I will post announcements over at twitter since I had something like 19k followers over there.  But I am not going to visit that often, moving my app to off the front page of my phone.  I will check out mentions and such because ... FOMO and narcissism.  

I will also blog more--that instead of 12 threaded tweets, I just will jump over here and post something.  Like the olden days of June 2009.

What will you miss about twitter?

Thirty Years Fly By: Teaching IR

 This week is the 30th anniversary of my first day of teaching and of professing (although I think my first title did not include "professor" as a visiting ABD).  The first day of teaching was my best exemplar of being an absent-minded prof: I somehow forgot to bring the pile of syllabi to the first course of the day--Intro to IR... and then to my second course of the day, which was a different section of Intro to IR..... and then to my third course of the day---also Intro to IR.  This was long before folks had courseware, long before stuff was uploaded before classes started.  Profs brought paper versions of their syllabi (shorter then because of little required boilerplate) to the class. And I failed miserably in that basic task.  Have I said this before?  This is now a constant problem in my teaching (and in my blogging?)

I don't have any pics of my
early teaching so this will
have to do.

The good news is that I didn't fail as a teacher that first year.  As a last minute hire, I was lucky to get three sections of the same course, one that I had TA'ed for a few years earlier.  In my second year of grad school, at a school with a quarter system, I got to assist a terrific class, a bad class, and a class that was a bit of a mess as the prof was figuring out how to revise the class as the Cold War was ending.  So, I built that one course from the terrific class, borrowed a few tricks from the class that was a bit of a mix, and learned what to avoid by not doing what I saw in the bad class.

My aims my first year were modest: try to be clear and organized.  I had very extensive notes although I did not try to read off of them.  I spent much effort producing transparencies so that I could show the students the outlines of the lecture to keep both me and them on track.  I did not build in jokes or elaborate stunts to keep them away--the tricks developed later mostly to keep the 600 students awake and engaged at McGill.  At Vermont, I had roughly 30 students per class, did mostly lecture (much more my strength then and now, rather than leading discussion).  I am trying to remember if the classes had discussion sections... I remember not having TA's, and doing the grading myself.  Papers and exams although it has been forever since I have had in-class tests.  And it went well enough that they brought me back even after being ruled of that year's job search. 

I liked teaching quite a bit.  Sure, I am an attention hound, but talking about the stuff helped me understand it better, they asked good questions which made me think, they pushed my curiosity as I didn't always know the answers (I often did not the answers).  They were a lively, engaged bunch and I fed off of their energy.  It has been a long, long time since I taught three classes a day, but I was able to do it then by being an energy vampire.  It was really a terrific place to learn how to teach and how to manage my classes--I was a visitor whose career there was quickly to become finite, so I could focus on the teaching (no dept meetings for the visitors, no dept service either) and on the skiing.  It was also where I started to learn and theorize about department politics

It is kind of wild to think that particular batch of students of about 90 poli sci students are now around 50. I have not kept in touch with any of the students from that first year (although I did write a few recommendations for some of them shortly after their time with me) and only occasionally a few profs from that experience.  

Of course, I am celebrating my 30th anniversary of teaching my first classes by ... not teaching.  I am on sabbatical this year, so no teaching (except for the Summer Institute last month).  I hope to be refreshed next year, as I am entertaining the idea of teaching a new class (or an old class that I haven't taught in eight or nine years)

Looking back, I realize that I am very lucky to find something that works so well for my personality and for my excessive curiosity.  I don't enjoy grading, but hanging with the kids has kept me youngish, keep pushing me to think about stuff differently, and keep challenging me.  I have had to ditch my old cultural references, and I have to keep track of my stories better.  

I stayed in grad school in part because I could not imagine doing anything else, and, now?  My imagination still sucks, as I can't imagine anything that would have worked as well for me.