Message Mismanagement

By Steve Saideman

I have long argued that two key priorities have shaped Stephen Harper’s defence policies over the past several years: a balanced budget in 2015 and message management. Anyone interacting with government officials can tell stories about the climate of fear that exists there. That fear isn’t so much about policy being screwed up as it is about saying something aloud that the media might report.

Military missions pose significant risks to message management for two reasons. One, the mission itself can go awry. Two, larger missions mean more interactions with the media. It’s this second issue that this government seems more concerned with. Embedding reporters with thousands of soldiers is a nightmare for anyone seeking to control the messaging.[1] This is one reason why Canada’s deployments since Kandahar have been very restricted in size and scope.

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The stakes in Brazil’s final election vote

By Jean Daudelin

Brazil’s election campaign, marked by a dramatic and unexpected turn, ended with one more surprise this past Sunday, as presidential candidate Aécio Neves finished with a solid 33.5 percent of the vote, 12 points ahead of Marina Silva — expected for much of the campaign to come in second — and only eight behind incumbent Dilma Rousseff. These results pave the way for what will likely be the most savagely disputed and hardest to predict election round since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985. The run-off vote takes place Oct. 26.

Vote distribution paints a divided country, with the poor North and Northeast coming out massively in support of Rousseff’s Worker’s Party (PT), while the West and Southeast, especially São Paulo, took a strong stand in favour of the opposition.

Two important anomalies are worth noting, especially as they happened in the richest and largest electoral colleges of the country. Rousseff prevailed in Minas Gerais (43.5 to 39.8 percent for Neves) and Fernando Pimentel, the PT candidate for governor, was elected in the first round, with 53 percent of the vote. Minas Gerais is an agricultural and industrial powerhouse but also the state where Neves was elected twice as governor, the state he represents in the Senate, and one where his overwhelming popularity was never in doubt before the campaign.

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Job Posting: Tenure Track Appointment

Second job posting for NPSIA. To view the first, click here.

Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (Intelligence and National and International Security) – Assistant Professor (Applications Closing Date: November 10, 2014 or until position is filled)

The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) invites applications from qualified candidates for a Tenure Track appointment in Intelligence and national and international security at the rank of Assistant Professor beginning July 1, 2015.

The successful candidate will be expected to research, teach and supervise undergraduate and graduate students in fields broadly related to intelligence, terrorism and counter-terrorism, and national and international security. The position is linked to the development of a new undergraduate specialization in intelligence and national security, and will also support our current graduate programming in this and related fields. We are particularly interested in applicants with expertise in intelligence and security operations and who are focused on applied and practical policy issues.

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The hawk’s dilemma

By Steve Saideman

In today’s Globe and Mail, Jack Granatstein, one of Canada’s foremost military historians and big fan of the Canadian Forces, wrote that the Conservative’s treatment of the military is causing him to vote for someone else next time.

Harper has lost a hawk despite his rhetoric about defense, his celebration of the Royal past of the CF, the focus on the glorious War of 1812. Why? Because Canada is spending less today, after adjusting for inflation than when Harper came into power. Perhaps not every procurement project is a disaster – but pretty much all of the big ones. Each year, the government announces that it has not spent all of the money budgeted for the military since the procurement programs are behind… and by coincidence ;) this makes it easier to reach a balanced budget.

My personal bugaboo has been the refusal to cut the size of the forces. If the dollars are going down, how about cutting personnel since they are a very big percentage of defence spending? No, Harper wants the numbers of personnel to stay the same so he can claim that he expanded the military. But if the personnel numbers do not go down, then cuts will have to come from elsewhere – operations (oops, mideast stuff is going to make this hard) and maintenance. Nobody here uses the American phrase “hollow force” but perhaps that is a matter of time.

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Nation-building in the Mideast? What is needed is a Sunni home in Mesopotamia

By Jean Daudelin

In an enthusiastic endorsement of Barrack Obama’s new offensive in Syria, Brookings’ Kenneth Pollack argues that the key to the stability of the region lies in effective nation-building.

In the face of innumerable failures and, over the last 20 years, of the progressive reconfiguration of Germany, Central Europe and the Balkans around newly created — or re-created — ethnic states, Pollack still argues that multi-ethnic or multi-communal nation-building is possible in the Middle-East, from the outside and without rearranging the absurd boundaries of the region.

And yet, if it were successful (a big if), the most likely outcome of the strategy he outlines — arming a “moderate” Syrian opposition and helping it take control of the country against both Assad and IS — would be the rise to power, in Syria, of a Sunni regime that would be a mirror image of Iraq’s Shia one, and under which you wouldn’t want to be a minority: Alawite, Kurdish or Christian, in this case, instead of Kurdish and Sunni in Iraq.

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Brazilian Elections Monitor (2): The Very Strange Turn of Brazil’s Electoral Contest

By Jean Daudelin

On October 5, Brazilians will head to the polls after one of the most unexpected and tightly contested electoral process their country has seen since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985.

The official campaign had barely begun when, on August 13, it was turned upside down by the tragic death of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos. Young but already experienced and a very clever, capable and ambitious politician, he was bound to become a fixture of the Brazilian political scene and, possibly, at some point, President of the country. To all observers, however, it was clear that, this time at least, he had no chance of winning: running third with about 10% of voting intentions, he could at best ensure that no candidate would gain an absolute majority, forcing a second round in which he could play the kingmaker.

His death, however, opened the way for his running mate, Marina Silva, to make the run that she had planned but could not pull off when the party she tried to set up was unable to get the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to register on time. Silva was already very well known in Brazil as a moralist firebrand and fierce environmentalist who had resigned from Lula’s cabinet and left his Workers Party (PT) in protest against the government’s decision to allow transgenic soya to be cultivated in the country. In 2010, she was the Presidential candidate for the Brazilian Green Party and received 20% of the votes in the first round, a spectacular performance given the limited resources she had at the time and the tiny following of her party. Born into an extremely poor family from Brazil’s Northeast and working her way up in the Workers’ Party and Chico Mendes’ environmentalist movement in the Amazon, her trajectory is every bit as bracing as Lula’s rise from a similarly poor upbringing to the presidency of the country.

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The Debate Over the Iraq Deployment: Confusion Reigns

By Steve Saideman

One refrain I heard during Canada’s time in Afghanistan was that Canadians were confused about Afghanistan. Well, after more than 12 years in Canada, I can say that I am still quite confused about Canada. How so? Last night, there was an emergency debate about Canada’s deployment of 69 troops (Special Operations Forces) to Iraq to do training. I think the point of the debate was to provide some clarity about this effort, but if so, it failed miserably.

The Liberals called for this debate and only had a handful of members show up. If this is something that is vital, which is kind of implied by the term “emergency debate,” one would expect a better turn out.

The New Democrats sent a significant number of members to show up and, mostly, demonstrated that it takes the Defence file more seriously than the other parties. Of course, they still provide more confusion than clarity about whether votes are required for deployments (they are not and have rarely taken place).

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