Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023: Not Quite Post Pandemic

Throughout 2023,I kept being sarcastic about being post-pandemic, knowing that COVID was still a major problem, even as we stopped acting as if it was.  And then, of course, I got it the last week of the year.  The year started with COVID--my wife and her family got it when she went down to help her mother when she was hospitalized--as well, so it was a strange year of acting like it was not a thing while it was very much a thing.  Since I am not going to be productive today due to my current bout, I thought I would post about the year so that I could remember now and down the road the non-covid-y parts to the year.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Thinking about the G Word

Maybe not genocide, almost
certainly a war crime.
 I have been reluctant to call what Israel is doing in Gaza genocide.  I am not an international lawyer so my hesitance is less about the fine points of international law and more about how fraught the word is--that it is a very inflammatory accusation, that it turns people's minds off, that it ends conversations.  It is pretty much the worst thing you can accuse someone of doing, especially an Israeli given the history of the Jews.  It also raises in some people's minds a false equivalency between this event or that event and the Holocaust.  For the legal beagles, the question is of intent--is the aim to kill in part (the in part thing is important) or entirely a group of people because of their race, religion, language, or some other ethnic marker.*  For an excellent discussion of much of this, see Page Fortna's op-ed.

And then I got into a conversation with a family member about ethnic cleansing versus genocide.  I am far more confident that what is happening in Gaza is ethnic cleansing.  We have had a variety of statements from Israeli officials referring to this as a/the nabka--a repeat of something that had long been denied--that the new Israelis expelled the Palestinians from contested territories in 1948.  Reports that Netanyahu has been looking for other places to settle the Palestinians are very disturbing. The level of violence and its targeting, as this WP analysis illustrates only too clearly, is suggestive.  Israel has more done more damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure in a couple of months than other contemporary campaigns and it is not close. Remember, the 21k civilian casualties in Gaza is almost certainly an undercount that will get worse as the destruction of the health care system and the shortages of food and water kick in.

Israel and its fans will claim that they need to eradicate Hamas because it has genocidal intent.  I sympathize with that, but genocide is partly about power.  One cannot engage in mass killing unless one has the powers of a state or something close to it.  So, in the genocide conversation, one can argue that one side might have intent, but it is the other side that has the ability to engage in large scale destruction and is doing so.  Hamas may present a threat to engage in genocide, but it is Israel that is actually killing large numbers of people, mostly civilians including many, many children.

I need to mention one dynamic here: conflating all Palestinians with Hamas and arguing Hamas needs to be eradicated leads to the conclusion, intentionally or not, implicit or explicit, that to destroy Hamas, one needs to eliminate the Palestinians.  Which leads to the biq question:

Is the intent of Israeli leaders to eliminate all Palestinians?  Just those living in Gaza? Not so clear, so one could argue it is not genocide.  But that is really a quibble.  Israel is forcing Gazans to move south, and so-called safe zones are not so safe (which reminds me of Bosnia).  Israels and its supporters can argue about genocide/not genocide, and maybe that is a conversation that could be more comfortable than addressing the contemporary situation--Israel is killing large numbers of innocents out of revenge, rage, and/or a misconception that hitting much, much harder will ultimately lead to deterrence.  I included the bluesky post because it illustrates something very, very powerful--that Israel is engaged in a variety of horrific tactics and no strategy (if Israel had one) could justify it.  Attacking hospitals and refugee camps is simply wrong--it is immoral and it is also bad strategy.  Netanyahu recently said he was seeking to destroy Hamas,** demilitarize Gaza, and deradicalize the Palestinians.  This campaign may be temporarily successful at the second, but it will not destroy Hamas, and it will do the opposite of deradicalizing the Palestinians.  

I remarked that when Israel had hit the 20,000 casualty figure, was that disproportionate enough, given that something less than 2,000 Israelis died on or after October 7th? It is quite clear that Israel has violated international humanitarian law repeatedly and intentionally.  I get that Israelis think international relations is gamed against them--all the UN votes by countries that have deplorable human rights records, etc.  That international law is less important than survival, but some of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy--that Israel burned whatever goodwill it received in the aftermath of October 7th by engaging in a campaign of revenge and collective punishment.

One of thing that has been so disturbing is the realization that there are two meanings to Never Again--never again will Jews be victims or never again will we let mass killings take place.  It is clear now that Israeli leaders and their supporters believe that Never Again means that Jews will never be victims again, even if it means victimizing others.  The lesson I thought I had learned growing up was that Never Again meant fighting against oppression, persecution, victimization, regardless of the targeted group.  I can't help but think that all of this is a betrayal of what we were supposed to learn from the Holocaust.

All of this is awful.  Hamas is awful, Netanyahu is awful, terrorism is awful, collective punishment is awful.  Whether one wants to call it genocide or not, what Israel is doing is awful--it is counterproductive and it is immoral.  So, from a strategic perspective, Israel's campaign is bad.  From a moral perspective, it is wrong.  Hamas's gross violations of human rights do not justify violating international humanitarian law, even if it were producing a successful outcome, and it is certainly not doing that.

Thus, I avoid using genocide as a label for all of this because it is largely superfluous--one can condemn what Israel has been doing without it.


* The term politicide was invented to cover the attempt to kill many/all people of the same party or movement that is ethnically heterogeneous.

** None of this justifies Hamas or legitimates what Hamas has done.  The recent story about the systemic gender violence committed by Hamas makes abundantly clear that Hamas is an awful, awful organization.  That they deliberately use their own people as shield not to protect the organization but to raise the hypocrisy costs for Israel--that is, they are deliberately getting Palestinians killed--makes them utterly deplorable.  They should be defeated and destroyed.  But Israel is actually empowering Hamas by walking into the traps it has set.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

White Nationalist Outbidding, 2024

 Nikki Haley's "what about slavery?" statement reminds us that the 2024 campaign is one of ethnic outbidding--specifically, white nationalist outbidding.  I have been writing about ethnic outbidding for quite some time, in my own academic work, and then applied to the US especially in the age of Trump.  To be clear, the concept is not mine.  It was most clearly articulated by Donald Horowitz--that when multiple politicians or parties compete for support from an homogenous group in a heterogeneous society, they will be tempted/pressured to outbid each other in their promises to be the best defender of that group.* 

In 2016, Trump was best positioned to win this auction, this competition for ever more extreme voters, as he was willing to say anything, including banning Muslims, and, yes, his personality feeds into it as he always wants to top other folks.  After the 2020 election, Fox News felt pressure from its right, as it initially recognized Trump's defeat, but started to lose market share to OAN and other far right outlets.

In the 2024 race, the competition to be the best white nationalist (I tend to prefer white supremacist but YMMV) is so evident with non-white candidates like Nikki Haley and Tim Scott appealing to the white vote.  Many have noted the irony or hypocrisy of those running to lead the Party of Lincoln getting all soft on slavery.**  Haley once was on the right side of history, lowering the confederate flag from government buildings when she was governor of South Carolina.  But that was before Trump changed the permission structure of Republican politics.  Now, to compete at the national level, one must establish one's white nationalist bona fides by being pro-confederacy.  [Save me the BS about state's rights, as SC's secession and pretty much every other one was based on the selective state's right to support the institution of slavery and oppose the rights of non-slave-holding states to regulate their own borders].  

To be clear, ethnic outbidding refers to pressures and temptations--the fear of losing white voters to other candidates or the temptation to pander to extremist voters to get a leg up on more moderate candidates.  Candidates and parties still have agency. They have a choice to make, often a tough one, but they can choose to go another way at some cost.  Fox could have been willing to risk losing some market share to far right outlets.  Nikki Haley could have risked losing some share of the electorate to others, with the hope that she could corner the market of reasonable Republicans (if such a beast still exists).  The challenge is that we know that the most enthused voters show up at primaries, and those tend to be those on the extremes.  But in this time of increased threat of autocracy, there is an opportunity for a Republican to take a stand.  This is not just wishful thinking or idealism--the white nationalist vote is going to Trump.  Whatever is left will go to DeSantis and others who fit the bill--white "Christian" men.  Nikki Haley could be the candidate that grabs other voters.  Again, she has agency, she has a choice to make, and, until this week, she had somewhat of an advantage with her background--not just being a person of color (perhaps in denial about that) and a woman, but someone who had pulled down the confederate flag in a previous job.  She had the credentials to try to be the savior of the GOP.  

And Haley tossed it away.  Out of weakness. Due to cowardice.  She simply is not going to win an outbidding race against Trump or against the other dudes in the race.  

So, we can blame the structure of the American politics--the winner take all process where small numbers of voters in primaries set the agenda--but we cannot let these politicians off.  They have responsibility for their stances.  We got here because of GOP weakness and temptation.  In 2016, GOP candidates didn't attack Trump directly because they wanted his voters--the deplorables that Hillary Clinton so aptly called them.  In 2024, the cowardice has a physical element to it--that Trump supporters have threatened violence.  But cowardice it still is--to run for Presidency and sell out whatever values one has and ultimately endanger oneself and one's family.  Again, Haley may think of herself as white, but she isn't to to white nationalists to whom she is pandering.  Indian-Americans may not be at the top of their hate list, but I am pretty sure Great Replacement Theorists worry about South Asians replacing white folks, just as they worry about Jews, Black Americans, Muslims, etc.  

Structure and agency are in play here--we need to hold accountable the politicians who pander to the worst instincts in people and we need to remember that Trump and Haley wouldn't be doing this stuff if it did not work, if there was not an audience for it.

* This is not just an American thing, of course, as Horowitz was inspired by the Sinhalese case in Sri Lanka.  These days, Canada is having a bit of the outbidding dynamic as the Conservative Party of Canada feels pressured by a small far right party run by, well, an idiot.  That case illustrates it is not just pressure but temptation.  The temptation to split off voters from the heterogeneous party.

** You don't have to be an historian to know that the two parties switched their positions/places on the rights of African-Americans to be free and to vote, but it doesn't hurt.  Follow Kevin Kruse on social media to get the basics as he has responded extensively to the whole "hey, the Dems were the party of racism" stuff.  It is called partisan realignment for a reason--the parties and voters realigned in response to the response to the civil rights movement.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Spew in Review, 2023!

 There is never a boring year for a scholar of international relations, but, wow, this year was something.  The invasion of Ukraine was eclipsed by the Hamas attack and Israel's response.  The former created much consensus and unity except for the random tankie.  The latter has been incredibly divisive.  It was a year of expectations unmet and exceeded.  And it was an incredibly angering year as so much could have been avoided, and so much awful has been amplified.  

I am lucky and privileged, so Musk turning twitter into a far right hellscape was annoying to me but only hurt my hit rate here at the spew.  For others, it was quite destructive with death threats and actual violence.  Seeing folks start to flee Substack due to tech billionaire greed -- hey, the Nazis pay! -- makes think I was right never to move, and then I have to remember that blogger is owned by google, and google has done a fair amount of evil via gaming its algorithms to get more hits via anger--youtube sending folks to the extremes.

Anyhow, that is part of the context for this review.  The rest of the context: I blog far less than I once did, averaging a bit more than 2 posts a month, when I used post several times a day.  I theoretically have more time to blog as I have been on sabbatical since July, but I haven't.  Why not?  Partly I write on other social media--bluesky now instead of twitter.  Partly because my first reaction is to write something ... that I have written before.  I don't need to write a "GOP is the Party of Bad Faith" post since I have already written it. 

Unto the year in review, which has at least one enthusiastic reader ;)

Academic Careerism: What Is Misunderstood

Academia has long been misunderstood in so many ways.  That folks don't understand the academic job market has long been a theme here.  Lately, folks have been wondering about our motives, with some of this questioning the integrity of the average academic.  So, let me take the lenses we apply to politicians and focus them on the average North American academic.  To be clear, there are exceptions, such as the recent scandal about a climate change scholar taking big bucks from polluters to shill for them.  But when I focus on the basics, these tend to apply to most folks, at least in the research university landscape.

I raise this today because folks think that we academics may sell our souls for grant money.  I have been asked whether I filter what I say in order to get ahead in this business.  Folks who know me giggle at the idea that I filter myself much.  So, what does it take to get ahead in academia, and does the desire for/pressure to get government money lead folks to be less critical?

Since we assume that politicians are careerists, that they are motivated by the desire for election and then re-election, it is only fair that folks assume about academics that they are motivated by the desire to be employed and then promoted.  What does it take to get a job and then promoted?  A shit ton of luck these days.  But mostly academic publications.  We don't get academic jobs in the US or Canada (I can't speak about Mexico or elsewhere) because we do television or radio or say nice things about the government.  We get jobs and we get promoted almost entirely based on how many articles/books we publish, where they are published, whether other academics cite our stuff.  

Where does the money come in?  It matters--and how much it matters varies by discipline--but grant money (not consulting money, more on that later) pays for the research, which then gets us the publications.  Some folks need less grant money than others.  If you need to travel to do fieldwork or to access archives, that costs money. If you need research assistants to code data, they don't work for free (ok, sometimes they work for academic credits or for co-authorship, but mostly they work for pay).  As I have said elsewhere, grant money rarely goes into our pockets.* 

Getting back to publishing, does sucking up to the powers that be get you more pubs?  Well, if you mean government, no.  If you mean the bigger names in the field, that depends on the journal/editor/reviewers.  But mostly what sells a paper are a combination of whether it asks an interesting question (interesting to the editor, to the reviewers), whether it poses an interesting answer (ditto), whether the methods are rigorous and perhaps funky (innovative methods can help... and maybe hurt), whether it has important ramifications.  None of this is aimed at the government--while funding trends can drive research to a certain area, like counterterrorism after 9/11 and counterinsurgency after the US poured gasoline all over Iraq and Afghanistan, the reviewers and editors are the key audiences.  

So, what drives our research agendas?  This cartoon illustrates it nicely:

 That is, profs study the stuff that interests them.  We are driven by curiosity.  I always say we can't control where we do our work, but we can control what our work is.  Scholars vary widely in what they choose to study and why they choose to study whatever it is they study, but it is largely up to them, especially after tenure.  Sure, a department hires a prof to do something, like teach and research International Relations, and maybe something more specific like International Trade, but the questions they ask, the methods they use, the answers they get are not stuff that anyone but the scholar controls.  Some profs may aim their research at hot topics thinking that will get them better publications, but we suck at evaluating what is going to be hot in two to seven years--it takes a while to do the research and then more time to publish.  So, yes, folks can try to game things, but mostly profs study what they want and how they want because that is why they became profs.  So, in all of Marvel-dom, this particular scientist just wants to turn people into dinosaurs, and that might be the most realistic villain--a PhD with a specific interest due to their own preferences. 

Other stuff matters in career progression--networking so that the right people end up writing your letters and inviting to you to various reindeer games--edited volume projects, special issues, etc.  But pandering to donors?  Not really a thing.

There is, of course, one potential exception to all of this--consulting.  As profs are experts in their area, folks in the public and private sectors may want to hire some to provide their insights.  And then, yeah, the prof may aim at telling the funder what they want to hear.  Profs should list who they consult for--I have seem some economists with very fulsome conflict of interest statements.  Poli sci doesn't have quite the same norms, at least not yet. 

In my mind, I do think there is a world of difference between grants and consulting contracts, but I don't have much experience in the latter so I can't speak to it as well.   

Is there careerism in academia?  Certainly.  But it does not operate the way some may suggest--ego, ambition, and even greed matter, but who we pander to is not so obvious nor does the pandering lead to betraying most of our ideals and findings.  As always, if you wonder what is driving us, read our stuff.

*In the US, there is this strange thing called summer money--that since one is often technically employed for 9 months, a grant can include some money for summer wages.  That does not exist in Canada since we are on 12 month contracts.  And, yes, fellowships can cover food/rent/etc, unlike grants.  I recently received a fellowship that will help cover my income since my sabbatical income is 85% of my normal income.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Cookiefest 2023: I Think I Have A Problem

 I have spent the past several weeks making something like 20 batches of cookies which I have shared with some friends and will share with more friends around Ottawa and have some left over to bring to the winterfest celebration down south.

This is madness! I even bought a chest freezer so that I could make heaps of cookies in advance.  One lesson I may have overlearned from last year--one can freeze cookies without hurting them.  Before I go through all of the different cookies/recipes, why have I done this?

Mostly two reasons: I am indecisive and I like giving out cookies.  First, this all started in December of 2020 when I saw a NYT article about cookie boxes that had something like 7-10 recipes.  I liked the look of most of them, and rather than picking one or two, I decided to make most of them.  But wait, there is just Mrs. Spew and I at home (and we were not traveling that year due to the pandemic), so what to do with the extras?  I asked folks if they wanted some, which has now led to a yearly ritual--driving around Ottawa a few days before we leave town, giving boxes of cookies to friends.  This is real joy--as I chit chat with each receiver for a bit.  Remember in December 2020, this was my first interaction in real life with many people after quarantining for the most part since March.  So, yes, I get to exercise my sweet tooth, and I get to embrace my extroversion at the same time.  Win-win as they say.  That and the pandemic cause me to embrace a holy trinity--stress-baking--> stress-eating --> stress exercising.  


Monday, December 11, 2023

Doctoring for Three Decades

 Today marks the anniversary of my doctorate--in the days of yore, before social media, I completed my dissertation, defended it, and then didn't go to graduation as I was already professing as a visitor.  With this much time past since those callow days of talking IR theory and job market stuff  on the second floor pathway (balcony/terrace/veranda?) outsider our (Motel 6-esque) offices, I wonder about some stuff, am bemused by other aspects, and am mostly quite grateful.

Before I get into it, what did I dissertate about?  The international relations of secession.  I first wondered whether sovereignty was about borders or governments and wanted to contrast the IR of secession vs the IR of revolution.  Once I realized the conventional wisdom of the former was wrong, yes, there has been plenty of support for secessionists, I sought to understand why some states support specific secessionists and why other support the government--why countries take sides in other people's ethnic conflicts.  Nice to have a question that has enduring relevance.  I argued vociferously that the countries are not deterred by their own vulnerability to separatism, and I focused on several secessionist crises--Congo Crisis, Biafra, Bangladesh--and one country that supported multiple separatist movements--Somalia.  I argued that the ethnic politics of the potential supporter interacted with the perceived identities of those in conflict--that ethnic ties drove much of this. Which led to the title of the subsequent book, The Ties That Divide, which dropped the Bangladesh case, as it was really about India's intervention, and the Somalia case, as it was really about irredentism (and became the starting point for the next book), and added Yugoslavia's demise, which was largely done by the time I turned to revising the book, and some basic statistics (thanks to the editors of International Organizaiton where I placed a key piece summarizing the dissertation/book).

What do I wonder about?

  • Mostly, am I now out of touch with the experience of being a grad student?  I know the job market has bounced up and down over time, but it was awful when I finished and much more awful now.  So, I have much sympathy for the students finishing today.  But I am not sure how much of the process and stresses have remained the same or have gotten worse.
    • On the bright side, the old fashioned job placement at the conference thing is dead--so much stress, so little promise of anything developing.  Now it is all electronic and pre-arranged.  No more waiting in the job placement room for someone to put a slip of paper into one's box.
    • On the down side, the competition is so much more fierce, and the expectations are so much higher. 
  • I do wonder how grad school is these days--has the pressure to publish meant that there is less some for the silly stuff.  In my day (I say with an old man's voice), we played soccer every friday, some of the folks would play basketball regularly and get their knees fixed semi-regularly, the last few years we had a regular softball/bbq on Sundays, and more than a few parties.  Is there any fun in grad school these days?  No idea.
  • I wonder where my career might have gone had I stuck to the IR of ethnic conflict stuff.  I have no regrets about moving on to NATO and thus to comparative civil-military relations, but staying in the same spot of research would have led to some different opportunities and perhaps less new lit to review.

What am I bemused by?

  • That my dissertation is now as old as I was when we had our daughter.  It means that both it and I are, well, much older.  I am prouder of the latter than the former, but the former has been pretty good to me, too.  
  • That despite my best efforts, the big lessons of the book--that countries are not deterred by their own vulnerability, that precedents don't really matter that much in restraining support for secession--folks still trot out those arguments.  Turns out my book didn't re-shape how policy-makers think about this stuff.  Given the cynical heart of my dissertation, the assumptions it makes about politicians, I should not be very surprised.  Plus as I learned over the years, confirmation bias is a thing.
  • How accidental it all was. I didn't go to grad school to study the international politics of ethnic conflict.  I just fell into it.
  • Likewise, I didn't try to do something that was super timely--that I defended my dissertation proposal the same month Yugoslavia flew apart was an accident.
  • I am bemused that the book that is the basis of the first half of my career keeps competing with an article I wrote that is perhaps the most outside my lane for citation: how institutions amerliorate or exacerbate ethnic conflict. 

What am I grateful for?

  • Damn near everything.  This project established my career, made my reputation in the field (whatever that is), gave me not only two books, but a heap of articles and book chapters, and indirectly that next project that led to the life-changing experience in the Pentagon that ultimately led to my second career as a civil-military relations scholar and to the next two jobs.
    Tis the handiest picture from those days
    as my time in grad school preceded
    smart phones by a couple of decades.
    Oh, and I was most grateful for this
    amazing little guy, the Fonz of dogs.
  • I am grateful for having such a terrific supervisor, Miles Kahler, who would let me meander from my initial topic to what I studied, giving me heaps of constructive and often painful feedback along the way, to make sure the project was feasible and then reasonably well-executed.  I am also grateful for an amazing committee that gave me much to think about, but didn't force me in any particular direction--Peter Cowhey, Lisa Martin, Arend Lijphart, and Edward Reynolds.  
  • I will be eternally thankful that I lucked into a department so chock full of terrific smart silly graduate students, who not only taught me so much about their work which shaped mine, but helped me survive and, yes, thrive, through the difficult process of starting my first act of academic creation (destruction/criticism is far easier than coming up with one's own idea and pursuing it).  We all followed the examples set by Debbi Avant and Hendrik Spruyt.  The folks in and near my cohort were so very sharp and sweet, tolerating my forays onto the soccer field (basketball? not so much), teasing me about all things Steve, welcoming my wife and later my dog into our various shennanigans.  I will always be grateful to Dave, John Carey, both Lisas, Frank, the more dangerous Steve, Neil who left us way too soon, Keith, Judy, Mike, Bart, both Erics, Mona, Chris, Kathy (not my wife, the other one), and all the rest.
  • I am also grateful that this place kept attracting terrific people long after I left, so that I am part of a larger community, which gave me some terrific friends in this business: Wendy, Idean, Cullen, Kathleen and Steve, and so many others.

I am definitely not where I expected to be thirty years ago--not in terms of location (Canada?) or research or teaching.  It has been from the very start a journey of accidents and surprises, from the grad school I ended up at, to the topic I studied, to the various jobs along the way, to the focus of the second part of my career, to my role these days as pundit and as a leader of a network, and all the stuff that came with it.  I used to regret a lot some initial decisions, and I had a lot of frustration on the various job markets.  But it all took me here, a perfect spot for me thirty years later.  So, no, I don't regret where I went to grad school, nor what I did there, or where I went from there.  




Saturday, December 9, 2023

Fearing Which Extremes? The Right, FFS

 I keep seeing folks say something like, sure, right wing extremism is bad, but we also have to worry about the far left, and I am generally left confused, aghast, and outraged.  Why?  Because it is very, very obvious which side of the spectrum is the greatest threat to the greatest number of people, and, yes, in this time of rising anti-semitism, it is the right, not the left, that should be of greatest concern.

Here's a clue in 
Blue's Clues
I wrote on blue sky about this a few days ago, but that is still the realm mostly of academics outraged by Musk/X's anti-semitism, racism, transphobia, and the like.  Oh, by the way, that might be a clue. 

Let's consider the assets/capabilities/behavior of the far left lately (yes, decades ago, the far left was blowing up places and a greater concern)

  1. Does the far left control major media enterprises like a TV network?
  2. Does the far left run large tech companies that are grabbing information and weaponizing it?
  3. Does the far left dominate a major party in the US?  One might argue it dominates the NDP in Canada, but have you looked at its platform lately?  If that is the far left people fear, then they are easy to trigger.
  4. Has the far left denied and sought to manipulate major political outcomes?  And, no, being annoyed by Bush v. Gore is not quite the same as what Trump and company did in 2020, on January 6th, and ever since.
  5. How many seats can the far left claim on the Supreme Court?
  6. How much violence/terrorism has the far left engaged in over the past 20 years?  Hint: most of the extremist violence is from the far right.
  7. I could go on and on.
When I was in Israel four years ago, I kept asking how Netanyahu could buddy up with far right anti-semites such as Orban and, yes, Putin, and people basically said: the left is anti-semitic, too, so he might as well engage those anti-semites who are ideologically similar.  I get the explanation, but damn it is stupid and counter-productive.  Yes, left wing folks who are pro-Palestinian may be anti-Israel and some may be anti-semitic, but they are threatening what?  To boycott Israel.  What is the right wing doing?  Engaging in heaps of violence and inciting more.  Which side has both power and the inclination to kill Jews?  Again, it is not close.  

At this moment in time, far right folks are taking advantage of the Gaza conflict to amp up anti-semitism and Islamophobia and to engage in violence.  While Jews and Muslims have much in conflict, they face a far greater threat from the far right than from each other in the US and Canada.  A Trump government, that would empower Christian nationalism and autocracy, would be bad for all kinds of smaller groups that don't fit into white supremacist/Christian nationalist identities.  And, yes, Pierre Poilievre is borrowing from the same script. The difference is that PP is unlikely to get a majority, so his time in power is likely to be short and ineffective unless he can build some bridges with the Quebec nationalists since they share a common xenophobia.  

Anyhow, the point here is this: at this moment in history, the far right has more power and far worse intent.  There is no equivalence or yes but or yes and about it.  

Friday, December 8, 2023

The Year Ahead: China, Elections Encouraging Extremism, Evacuations, and Back to the Balkans

 The past two days were heaps of CDSN goodness.  We supported the book launch of Phil Lagassé and Thomas Juneau's second Canadian Defence Policy volume, and we held our Year Ahead event.







The book launch had triple the number of people we planned for--150 or so.  We ran out of drink tickets before the speakers event started.  I got a chance to say a few words, mostly to tease Phil and Thomas, partly to promote the Year Ahead event.  It might have been the free booze or it might have been the appearance of the CDS that drew the crowd.  General Wayne Eyre stuck around after his talk for a good 1.5 hours to have pictures taken and to chat with the group.  In my intro, I mentioned that most folks think that no one in Canada cares about Defence, so I guess everyone who does was at the event. 

I really enjoyed the event--glad to see Thomas and Phil and their contributors get the spotlight, great to chat with former students, officers and officials who have interacted with me online but not in person, and various other folks.  I spent many of my conversations promoting our big event the next day.

The Year Ahead started before the CDSN, with Rob McRae as the director of our research center--CSIDS--building a conference aimed at considering the potential challenges facing us in the near future--the year ahead.  We took this over, and it has gone through various changes over the years due to pandemics and such.  This year, we moved to a different space, the former Shopify offices, which meant we could go down a slide and play with giant versions of Connect 4 and Jenga.  

We consulted our various partners in and out of government and came up with four topics.

In our first session (no pics since I was the moderator), we had Scott Kastner zoom in and Meia Nouwens and Pascale Massot in person discuss the challenge of addressing an aggressive China whilst avoiding war.  The good news is that China is not ready for a Taiwan invasion, so the much feared war is not as likely to happen very soon. On the other hand, various policies to deal with China are problematic--like "derisking" by trying to avoid China in various supply chains is simply not going to work well.  

In the second session, we had very different talks as Nisrin Elamin presented her experience as she was in Sudan when the coup attempt/civil war started, and had a hard time getting herself, her kid, and her parents out of the country.  Stephanie Carvin presented her comparative project (with the aforementioned Thomas Juneau) about how democracies take care of their people in conflict situations, Duty of Care, to help us understand the government side.  It was an excellent conversation to see the personal dynamics interact with the policy challenge.

We broke for lunch and made much use of this great space especially the students from Carleton and the NATO Field School:





The third session considered whether and how the 2024 election would generate extremism and violence not just in the US but in Canada. They made it pretty clear that, yes, there will be more extremist violence generated by the next current election campaign, that Americans and increasingly Canadians are living in two different realities, and that things are going to get worse before they might get better.  Ryan Scrivens showed the trends over time, Amy Scooter talked about the rise of militancy in the US (buy her new book!), J.M. Berger talked about the social constructions that are driving these dynamics.  Amar Amarasingam presented more on the Canadian side of things.

As a political scientist, I ordinarily would not support this appeal that Amar made:

Our last panel was certainly not least as Srdjan
Vučetić, Jasmin Mujanović, and Sidita Kushi passionately and insightfully presented the latest dynamics in the Balkans.  I used to study the international relations of some of this so I was surprised to learn how badly the US is screwing this up by supporting directly or indirectly Serb nationalists who are preventing Kosovo from moving forward.  That five European
countries don't recognize Kosovo doesn't surprise me as these folks haven't read my earlier work--that secession is not as contagious as thought, that recognition in place does not really matter elsewhere, etc.  It was a great panel to end the day, since the speakers were very dynamic in their criticism of US and European policy in the region.  To put a Hungarian in charge of the NATO forces in the region is just dumb from so many dimensions--Hungary is a spoiler, its military was one of the worst performers in Afghanistan (the nearby New Zealanders would patrol in the Hungarian sector since the Hungarians didn't patrol)., and so on.

Oh and it turns out the metaphor I used to describe this panel was a bit ... dated and unoriginal and problematic:

 We concluded and moved on to a delightful dinner.  So glad I had a chance to meet these folks.  And I am very proud of the CDSN HQ folks--Melissa, Sherry, Racheal, and Mourad--for doing all of the heavy lifting (sometimes quite literally as our swag was in big boxes).  Much thanks to the MINDS and SSHRC folks who fund us and to the NATO Field School and the new Carleton Society on Conflict and Security (I am surely getting their name wrong)--a new student group on campus for those interested in defence and security stuff--for providing much of our audience.


Oh, and one last thing:

While others did go down the slide, I didn't manage to squeeze it in.