Saturday, June 29, 2024

New CDS and then what?

 As I travel from one conference (Humboldt) to another (ERGOMAS), I have some time to think about the belated decision to name Lt. General Jennie Carignan as the next Chief of the Defence Staff, the CHOD as they say (chief of defence) in Canada.  The CDS in Canada has far, far more power relative to their military than the Chairman does in the US for a number of reasons, including many that will eventually be sketched out in our edited volume on Canadian civil-military relations:

  • unlike the US Chairman, the CDS has command of the entire military, so Carignan will be able to order all of her subordinates to do what she wants.  Getting them to follow through?  That is a bit more complicated.
  • the Minister of Defence traditionally has a light hand except in a crisis.  Indeed, a recent MinDef didn't think it was his job to oversee the CDS.  The current one is a former cop, so I assumed he would largely stay out of things and I haven't heard much to dissuade me.
  • there is no parliamentary oversight over the CDS since the parliamentarians don't think that is their job.
  • The Department of National Defence thinks its job is to support the military, not oversee it.  

There have been reforms that have reduced some of the CDS's power as promotion of generals and admirals is now much more vetted than in the past by the Minister and by DND.  Still, the CDS has far more influence than a deputy minister at another agency (yes, the military is a government agency, just one with a bigger budget, unlimited liability, and guns), and can and does speak out more. 

To be honest, I was rooting for Carignan to get the job because, well, she was the only candidate that I had interacted with.  Carignan had been on our second podcast although it was Stéfanie von Hlatky who did the interviewing. I did meet her at that time as she had just returned from commanding Canadian ops in Iraq and was speaking at the Kingston Consortium on International Security.  I then bumped into her at various events in Ottawa.  Once she became Chief of Professional Conduct and Culture (more on that below), I had the chance to have a long conversation with her as her former staffer was our Visiting Defence Fellow.  So, I respect her and wish her well.  Of course, I used to respect Jon Vance as I had met him several times and was impressed until... I wasn't.  

Carignan was reportedly headed to be Chief of the Army before the GOFO crisis of 2021 (where generals and admirals were disgraced due to past abuses of power) and then she was charged with setting up a new command with the responsibility for addressing the culture crisis that facilitated so much abuse of power over the years.  It was and is an incredibly tough job, where there is much resistance, no obvious path forward, and no simple metrics for success.  And while she set up this command, she had to cooperate with a competing effort--the review by retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour--AND she had to deal with a new Minister of Defence who had her own ideas for this stuff.  Throughout, Carignan consulted widely (including my sharp friends), built a very good team quickly, and had to contend with stepping on the turf of pretty much every other general and admiral in the CAF.  The jury is still out on whether CPCC has been successful--again, metrics are hard in this area.  But that it didn't fail despite all the pressure is something.  Anyhow, there are at least three things here that matter most about that experience

  • Carignan has experience setting up an organization from scratch.
  • Carignan is deeply wedded to culture change and knows the file very, very well.  Given all that I have written and what we (a team of scholars) have found about the impact of discrimination scandals on trust in the military, support for defence spending, and support for recruitment, I am glad to see the next CDS committed to such stuff. 
  • Because CPCC reaches into every part of the military, I think she has a better background than someone who had served as the head of one service--that a chief of the army might not know as much about the strengths and weaknesses and ways of the Air Force or the Navy.  

Of course, a big question is whether this is a matter of "add woman and stir" approach to fixing the military or looking like one is doing something.  Is she being set up to fail?  Well, I wondered about the same stuff when Anita Anand was appointed Minister of Defence.  In retrospect, she didn't have enough support from the government--neither in budget or in experienced staff for her office--but she was allowed to lead and make a difference.  I wish she had served longer in that spot.  Will Carignan be the same?  Be given the authority to make the decisions?  Probably.  Will she have the budget to do so?  Maybe not.  Will the Minister both support her and oversee her?  Yes and no.  

I am sure her gender mattered in this decision as did her background as a Francophone.  This is a good look for the Liberal government.  That does not mean she isn't qualified.  Carignan is quite qualified--she had operational command, she served very well in a challenging three star position, and she has a well-rounded background.  

Sure, I am rooting for Carignan to be successful.  The Canadian military is in a hard place--underbudgeted, overcommitted, deep in a personnel crisis (something like 15% short of targets), emerging from a series of scandals that involved a multitude of senior officers, a backlash to culture change that is being fed by retired generals who benefited from the permissive environment of the past and by the Conservative Party that seeks to politicize the military with accusations that it is too woke, and more.  Carignan may not be set up to fail, but she will have an incredibly tough job.

As July 1st is near, I am reminded of how new immigrants can be very patriotic, so, yes, I root for Canada to succeed.  As a civil-military relations scholar, I root for better oversight.  I think Carignan will have a better attitude towards civilian control of the CAF, compared those that got the CAF into the mess that required the setting up of the culture and conduct command.  Maybe we can have both a better military and a better controlled military?  I don't think these things are contradictions, but there are those out there who do.  So, let's keep an eye on Carignan, what she tries to do, and who resists. 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

DND Extravaganza: Simulations and Unfortunate Realities

 Twas a funky week in Ottawa.  It ended with kids dancing around a maypole in the backyard of the Swedish Ambassador's residence.  But that's not what this post is about.  My Thursday and Friday led me to two different Department of National Defence HQ's for very different albeit CDSN-related purposes.

On Thursday, I met a couple of folks from Valens, an American-based simulation firm, David and Matt, at the entrance to the downtown DND HQ, as they had a grant to do an environmental/climate change simulation.  My role was perhaps translator from American to Canadian and back and forth (disclosure: a rare example of my getting paid as a consultant).   The simulation was of three towns in northern Ontario vying for a new investment by a firm while facing big decisions about the future of the local nuclear power plant and then threat of forest fires.  The Department of National Defence was involved in a couple of ways--whether/how to build a new base while also facing demands for domestic emergency ops.  The four teams really got into it, and the Valens people did a terrific job of handling the moves while making the game engaging and educational.  The light was pretty bright so my pics aren't great, but here's an example of how they reported the various moves:

I bumped into a couple of former NPSIA students including one who took my zoom class during the height of the pandemic.  Glad to see these folks employed and pretty happy with where they are.  

I followed up that session with the CDSN HQ's annual lunch where I gush about how wonderful the team is.  And I mean it.  The team here in Ottawa is small but mighty.  Melissa, who joined me at the start of this adventure, has done such a great job of not just doing the comms stuff (her original role), but managing the rest of the team and engaging our partners and contributors.  Sherry, who handles our accounting/reimbursing stuff as well as our event planning, joined us about a year and a half ago, and my stress level has plummeted.  These two communicate so well together that I really don't put much time into managing the team--a big change from the first few years of CDSN-ing.  Racheal has been our RA for several years now, and will be moving to fieldwork next winter.  She has done a great job of preparing us for the podcasts and for putting together most of our reports.  Morad couldn't make it, but he has been helpful in our reports. Ayshia was been a terrific RA for us and is now moving onto medical school.  Jakob couldn't make it, but his RA work was also great.  A key part of CDSN-ing is working with students, channeling their enthusiasm (some might accuse us of vampirism), connecting them to our network, and maybe providing a bit of professionalization along the way.

On Friday, Melissa and I headed over to the other DND headquarters out in Carling.  It feels like a combo of airport (wide hallways) and university campus (with geese as the primary threat).  We first met our new Visiting Defence Fellow Colonel Nick Roby.  We didn't get a chance to fete our outgoing VDF Brigadier General Marie-Christine Harvey, who did such a great job of co-hosting our French podcast: Conseils de Sécurité

We scheduled this meeting because we were already going to be at this HQ for a presentation of research that JC Boucher, Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, Lynne Gouliquer, and I have done on whether scandals about discrimination in the Canadian military affect public trust in the CAF, support for defence spending, and support for friends and family to join the military.  We find, not surprisingly, that, yes, bad news about the military weakens trust, undermines support for defence spending, and discourages recruitment.  This was our second of three presentations to the military: first to the command responsible for culture change, second this week to the military personnel analysis group, and next month to the public affairs folks.  As these folks at DGMPRA are mostly social scientists, they had very good questions to ask about our methods and findings and possible extensions.  We are nearly finished with revising the paper and hope to submit it soon to a civ-mil journal near you.

And to finish off the week, I went to the Nordic Midsommer event at the Swedish Ambassador's residence.  It was the most kid-friendly event at any embassy that I can recall with games, dancing around the maypole to silly songs, and, yes, ice cream and cake.  I bumped into some folks (including one of the former NPSIA students I had met the day before) that I knew and met some new folks (I still suck at big events like these where I am surrounded by strangers).  The sad news is that the Norwegian ambassador died last week.  The Swedish ambassador invoked her spirit and encouraged us to enjoy the festivities as that is what she would have wanted.  So:

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Workshopping Canadian Civil-Military Relations

We were able to use the
patio on roof of the Richcraft
building for our lunches.
Here we have Maya Eichler,
Lynne Gouliquer, Vincent Rigby,
Michael Fejes,* and Peter Kasurak

This week, in a joint CDSN-CDAI effort, we held an edited volume workshop on Canadian Civil-Military Relations.  Our aim is to provide a better understanding of the mess that is Canadian civil-military relations.  There really has not been that much work done on the topic although there are plenty of academics studying Canadian defence.  Given that the Canadian military is the largest consumer of discretionary money in the Canadian federal budget, that it is a huge employer, that it consistently makes the news for operations at home (domestic emergencies) and abroad (mostly NATO these days), that the 2% stuff dominates discussions of Canada's foreign policy, and given, yes, that the military has largely been autonomous, perhaps the closest to the model defined by Huntington (yuck) more than 60 years ago, there should be more work in this area.  

Why not?  There is the Canadian penalty: academic work that has Canada as its primary case won't get cited that much.  One could argue that Canadian civil-military relations is not that interesting because Canada's military is at no risk of overthrowing the government and is essentially a strategy consumer when it is sent abroad, always as part of a larger effort run by someone else.  Yet, it is really interesting because of something that came up during our conversations: can we title the volume "Crisis in Canadian Civil-Military Relations" when the crisis is enduring, unending, permanent? 

Melissa Jennings, the CDSN COO,
and Charlotte Duval-Lantoine

One of the classic problems in this field of civ-mil relations is: what counts as a crisis?  Since we are talking stable democracies, it is not whether a coup is possible or imminent.  It is more about the severity of the civilians not doing their job of overseeing the military and/or the military not doing what the civilians want.  In the Canadian case, as our volume will eventually argue (it takes a while for academic publishing...), both sides of the civilian-military relationship in Canada are falling short.  

Some evidence of that:

The volume will show that none of this is really that new.  One of my pet peeves in the conversations was the references to civilian control as "interventions" suggesting that they were episodic at best, rather than a continuous management of the armed forces.  In between "interventions" the military was left to its own devices, which often thwarted civilian intent.  So, yeah, I am comfy with the notion of permanent crisis.  

The idea of the workshop was to have a group of sharp folks present their draft chapters and then get a heap of feedback from the group.  The aim was both to improve each paper and draw connections among them.  It was a great group including both senior and junior academics, former and active military officers, former government officials from DND and other government agencies, historians and political scientists.  Our goal is to complete the volume this summer and submit it to a press so that it gets out hopefully in 2025.

 Some of the things I learned or are starting to think about:

  • How much of the expertise outside of the military is still ... military? That is, how many defence historians, for instance, had significant military careers?  One of the few consistent scholars of Canadian civil-military relations, Doug Bland, served for many years inside the CAF.  His work tends to take more seriously the challenges of civilian control of the armed forces, so I wouldn't put him into the protector category. 
  • That I had wildly overestimated the accountability that the Somalia Affair had produced.  My stance had been that Canada had far more accountability as multiple senior folks (Ministers, CDS's) did not last long during the crisis and the relevant unit was disbanded, while Abu Ghraib didn't make much of a difference to the top of the chain of command in the US. That the officer who had led been in charge of the unit that ultimately got disbanded was promoted on his last day in service to brigadier general, which meant not just a higher pension but a lot of back pay.  Quite a signal of impunity that sent.  Quite a middle finger aimed at the civilians.  I suddenly realized the "Decade of Darkness" was not really the shame that the Somalia affair brought on the CAF, but the brief effort by civilians to actually oversee the CAF. 
  • That there is a Foreign Affairs and Defence Adviser in addition to a National Security and Intelligence Adviser. I knew about the latter but not the former.  Says a bit about my ignorance but it also says something about how there is a person in the privy council office whose job it is to coordinate defence stuff and that position has not made much of a dent in any coverage of Canadian defence stuff over the past dozen years or so.  
  • That my least favorite retired general is apparently spending much time cozying up to the leader of the Conservative Party.  While I have been critical of Trudeau and his replacement of Anita Anand with a former police chief, I am guessing that a new government would be far worse for civilian control of the military. 

Anyhow, two days of "I love my job" as I really enjoyed learning from these folks even when or especially when they tell me I am wrong.  I love learning and that often means learning that my previous assumptions or understandings or inferences are off target.  The hard part is ahead of us: giving comments to each contributor, revising our own chapters, getting the revisions back, writing a proposal for the press, and hopefully getting this thing done.  I do think this volume will make an important contribution, as Canadian civil-military relations is, indeed, in crisis, and we need to think more about what has gone wrong for so many decades.  Whether the politicians will follow through on our recommendations is a big question and is very much a part of the problem.



* Mike completed his dissertation under my supervision, so in a few days, I get to hood him.  Hopefully, I will not mess it up, as last year, my student was far, far taller than me, and that presented a wee bit of a challenge.

Friday, June 7, 2024

How to Break the International Rules-Based Order?

 A few days ago, at a RAS-NSA conference on the Strategic Implications of the 2024 US election, one of the questions was whether Russia defeating Ukraine would break the international rules-based order, or what I used to know as the liberal international order.  My answer focused not on Russia but Gaza.  Let me explain:

Aggression by revisionist great powers, such as Russia, has a lesser impact than the responses to it.  The League of Nations was not killed by Japan's aggression in the early 1930s, but by the lack of a response by the organization and its members.  Iraq's invasion of Kuwait actually strengthened the international rules-based order because most of the planet with a few key exceptions joined the effort to reverse this aggression.  These days, those who were most responsible for designing the post-World War II set of rules are responding pretty well to Russia's aggression.  Not perfectly, not consistently, but the sanctions have required extensive efforts and sacrifices to work around.  Rather than selling Ukraine out as UK/France did for Czechoslovakia in 1938, these countries and others are arming and assisting Ukraine.  Again, not as much as they should but far more.  So, the verdict here is either mixed or in favor of the rules--that the aggressor is paying a significant price.  

The point here is that rules get violated whenever they exist--the question is whether there are consequences.

It is also the cases where countries that were never really part of the rules violate them, it matters less. It matters far more when the countries that are supposed to be espousing and defending the rules don't.

And this is where Gaza comes in.  Just as the US invasion of Iraq (but not Afghanistan) challenged the international rules-based order, the US (and Western) support for Israel's continued war crimes in Gaza do more damage to the rules.  The continued arming of the more powerful actor in a very disproportionate, indiscriminate (unless the attacks on kids, aid workers, professors, medical personnel, etc are deliberate) war and the reaction to the various international humanitarian tribunals undermines the rules-based order.

Sure, the US has long violated some of the rules while promoting them, such as Nixon-Kissinger support for genocide when the Bengals seceded from Pakistan, but the juxtaposition of Ukraine and Gaza has been quite galling to those who see the US, the UK, and others as hypocrites.  The US did not sign onto the International Criminal Court because it did not want its troops under its jurisdiction [one of my last tasks in the Pentagon in 2002 was on memos and cables trying to get exceptions to ICC written into agreements with countries hosting US troops, like Bosnia at the time].  But the US did sign onto most of the post-World War II law-making against genocide and against war crimes.

Similarly, US steps to treat international laws on asylum as a loophole needing to be closed will ultimately hurt not just those seeking asylum but American efforts to buttress the rules based international order  [What unifies some of this, of course, is racism and Islamophobia].

So, it may suck that American hypocrisy has greater consequences than revisionist states violating norms, but this is not new.  The autocrats understand this and seek to impose hypocrisy costs on the liberal states as Kelly Greenhill persuasively argued.  It does behoove American leaders and their allies to think about the larger games.  I argued from my desk in the Pentagon that writing exceptions to ICC in the summer of 2002 would be harmful to any effort to get allies to help the US with the forthcoming invasion of Iraq, and I wasn't wrong about that.