Introducing the Canadian Defence and Security Network

by Stephen M. Saideman

The time has come to roll out the Canadian Defence and Security Network.   We have been working on funding the CDSN for several years, so we are elated and just a wee bit anxious. We have built an excellent team of scholars and defence scientists to lead the effort and already have a terrific staff to do much of the heavy lifting and day-to-day management. In addition to that, we have so many partners in a variety of sectors in Canada and beyond who strengthened our application through the commitments they have made.   I am so very grateful for the work done thus far and the work to be done by our leadership team (David Bercuson, JC Boucher, Andrea Charron, Irina Goldenberg, Phil Lagassé, Anessa Kimball, Alex Moens, Alan Okros, Stéphane Roussel, Stéfanie Von Hlatky, and Srdjan Vucetic),* the folks at CDSN HQ (Jeffrey Rice, Melissa Jennings, Alvine Nintai), the people at NPSIA, our dean (Andre Plourde), grants facilitator extraordinaire (Kyla Reid), other folks at Carleton including our VP for Research (Rafik Goubran), and our partners and participants.  I look forward to working with these terrific people along with others who join our efforts.

* Note we have plenty of Francophones on our leadership team that will help compensate for my being linguistically lame.  While my blog here is unilingual, we will try to make sure that much of our stuff will be accessible in both official languages.

Of course, as you are reading this, you are asking yourself: what is the Canadian Defence and Security Network and what is it supposed to do?

It is a partnership involving academics at both civilian and military universities, units within the Canadian Armed Forces, elements of the Department of National Defence, think tanks, advocacy organizations, a survey firm, and more.  We have a set of common objectives:

  • To create a coherent, world-class research network.
  • To advance our understanding of defence and security issues.
  • To tailor research initiatives to provided evidence-based knowledge to inform policy-making
  • To facilitate the transfer of knowledge and data across various divides.
  • To improve the defence and security literacy of Canadians (and beyond).
  • To build the next generation of experts with an emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion.

How will we reach those objectives?  The CDSN will focus on five themes to coordinate research efforts–military personnel, defence procurement, operations, civil-military relations, and security–while also providing resources via our headquarters to assist its members and its partners to collaborate and amplify their work.

To provide an example, one can imagine an event organized by scholars in Kingston or Calgary.  The CDSN Headquarters (based at CSIDS at NPSIA) will help provide contacts to reach out beyond the networks of the organizers, assist if grant-writing is required, will help publicize the event through the CDSN’s social media efforts (yes, we have some experience in that stuff) including a blog, twitter account, and podcast, and then after the event, provide a repository for the data generated, the papers and policy briefs that are produced and spread the findings via our website.

Please note, despite our years of prep work, we are very much a work in progress.  We are officially launching the CDSN on May 24th, and our first major event will be the Kingston Conference on International Security (KCIS) in early June.  While that event has been a great conference involving not just Queens’s Centre for International and Defence Policy but also the NATO Defence College and the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute and various CAF elements, we hope that the CDSN will help KCIS have a broader reach across Canada, and it will probably provide our first podcast content!  We will also be supporting the Women in International Security-Canada Annual Workshop later in June.

For our first year, we will be focusing mostly on developing our infrastructure and figuring out how to help the various members of the CDSN community.  In years 2-7, we will have thematic workshops on our five areas of research; book workshops for junior scholars; post-docs; surveys of the Canadian public; network analyses; summer training institutes for scholars, military officers and policy officers; an annual conference; defence fellowships for military officers; and capstone events that will bring the best young presenters from events across Canada together to present to defence policy-makers.

Our twitter account is: https://twitter.com/CdsnRcds.  The website will be populated as time goes on, and we will certainly have facebook, instragram and other social media accounts that we will be announcing over the next few months.  Our logos are a work in progress, but this is what we have thus far:

If you are interested in joining our efforts or have questions, shoot us an email at cdsn-rcds@outlook.com.

 

 

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Pardons of War Criminals and the Future of Allied Cooperation

by Stephen M. Saideman

The weekend’s news suggests that President Donald Trump’s pardon of a war criminal, former Army officer Michael Behenna, is not going to be a one-off thing but part of a broader trend of pardoning those accused or convicted of war crimes.  While this policy presents challenges to the American armed forces—endangering discipline and cohesion, my focus here is on the impact on present and future allies.  Simply put, this new stance will make it much harder for many countries to join the US in any future military campaign.  Here, I take a quick look at what the allies provide and then focus on how pardoning war criminals is likely to affect future military cooperation.

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Japanese Aircraft Carrier’s: Asking Questions

by Stephen M. Saideman

From the National Interest.

The news of the month, Asia-Pacific-wise, is that Japan has admitted that its escort destroyers (and other names for its helicopter carriers) are going to be converted into aircraft carriers via some modifications and with purchasing the version of the F-35 that can take off from a short deck.  Why?

That is, why is Japan doing this?  I raise that simple question.  Folks think the answers are obvious:

a) China is bad and spending heaps on a larger navy

b) Trump is unreliable so Japan needs carriers more now than before.

And my response to these answers is this: how do carriers solve these problems?  Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  But my study of Japanese civil-military relations suggests that damn few civilians are asking any questions at all.

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Bullies in International Relations

by Stephen M. Saideman

The past few years challenge much of the conventional understanding of international relations.  One of the big lessons from the IR scholarship of the 1970s is that the nature of international relations is that threats and bullying don’t work.  As Robert Jervis discussed it, the world can be either a constant chicken game or a repeated prisoner’s dilemma–aka deterrence vs. spiral model.  In short, is international relations an environment (a system!) where countries cave into threats or do they balance against them, that those who believe that pushing countries around are usually confronting with coalitions created by such bullying.  Kaiser Wilhelm, as IR scholars use as a example, threatened everyone, hoping that they would back down.  Instead, these countries solidified their alliances and showed up in Europe in August 1914.  Oops.

Over the past several years, we have seen a series of countries engage in bullying behavior–Russia, Saudi Arabia, Trump’s US and China.  Russia has wielded nuclear threats to encourage Europeans to not deploy troops to the Baltics and to dissuade them from supporting Ukraine.  How has that worked so far?  Saudi Arabia has seemingly become unhinged as of late, overreacting to Canadian discussions of Saudi human rights and all but warring upon Qatar.  Trump, well, is a bully, so we ought not be surprised by his threats nor by his ignorance of IR scholarship. Threatening the allies has led them to ponder hedging and alternatives.  He might think the North Koreans have submitted after last year’s threats, but I am pretty sure the North Koreans think they have the upper hand.

The big surprise, to me anyway, is China.  China has manged its rise so very well in large part because it has mostly wielded a velvet fist.  Yes, it has buzzed American planes and ships, had friction with Indonesia, and other stuff.  But generally, the China of the 2000s and early 2010s has been replaced by a more aggressive and obnoxious China.  The tiff with Canada is importance since Canada was the western democracy least likely to object to the Huawei company getting inside Canada’s 5G.  Well, not any more.  The current standoff is causing Canadian parties to rally against China–who is arguing now that Canada should submit?  Moreover, a conversation with a European diplomat today reminded me that Canada has more influence than folks think.  Not necessarily to push China back into the straight and narrow but to serve as bellwether.  If  a country has a problem with the US or EU, well, those are powerful entities that can antagonize.  But a country has a problem with Canada?  That suggests that the particular country is problematic… and, jeez, is China problematic these days.

I am not a China expert so I don’t really know what is driving China to behave this way.  I would guess domestic politics and nationalism (populism?  Not quite).  But everything I have learned in my career tells me that China’s choices now are self-destructive–that being aggressive does not pay in the long run.  That bullying is counter-productive.  Perhaps China is encouraged because the US led by Trump is so incompetent and unreliable, which means balancing will be late, inept and weak.  But it is still a dumb move–the Chinese have been gaining strength with little opposition because they were not overly aggressive.

The thing about IR theory stuff–it didn’t say that bullying didn’t happen. It just said it was not productive.  So, the question for future IR scholars, if we live so long, is whether China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Trump’s US are punished or not.  We shall see.

 

First Reactions to Syria Strike: Yet More Uncertainty

by Stephen Saideman

The missile strike against the airfield in Syria raises far more questions than it answers (for an excellent initial take, see here).  As I think about it, I have to be honest that my confirmation bias might be at work: that anything Trump does is wrong in my mind.  Would I have approved of Hillary Clinton doing the same thing?  Not so sure as I have become quite skeptical about the use of force, so let’s run through the situation itself before we get to the Trumpness of it all.

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NATO Spark Notes for President Trump

by Stephen Saideman

Dear President Trump,

I see that you are still confused about how NATO works.  While there is, indeed, some money that goes to keep the lights on at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Mons, and elsewhere, and there are a few key NATO military units (early warning planes, some drones, a few other bits and pieces), the burden-sharing problem is not about that.

In your meeting with Chancellor Merkel, you said:

I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense. Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe.

No, that is not how it works.  The burden-sharing problem that has been the subject of many NATO meetings, including the Wales Summit, is about each country paying enough (the 2% of GDP aspiration) for their own defense.  It is not about Germany or France or Estonia giving money to Brussels or to the US, but about Germany spending enough on new tanks, planes, ships and enough on a large enough armed forces and enough on fuel and all the rest.  The idea is not that the US is getting ripped off, that somehow countries owe the US money, but that the alliance would be better off if all the allies spent more on their armed forces.  The past shortfalls do not mean that countries are in debt to the US or to NATO–it just means that their militaries are not in as good shape as we would like.  It means that they don’t have as many tanks or planes or whatever or that their personnel are not as well trained.  The underspending over the years is problematic, but these countries do not owe any debts from the past to catch up in their accounts at NATO HQ.  Again, this is not how it works.

So, next time you complain about burden-sharing, don’t suggest that the US is owed money.  Because it is simply wrong.

Thanks,
Sincerely,
Steve

Wrong Camoflauge is Right Message: US Moves to East Europe Early

by Stephen Saideman

People gripe about twitter, and deservedly so (evergreen opening line), but it is mighty handy.  Latest examples:

 

I had a question, and it got answered quickly: that the US deployment of troops to Europe will close the window of opportunity presented by the gap in how long it will take for the allies to follow through on their Warsaw Summit commitments.  I have been worried since November and was reassured when I saw Obama sending the troops early.

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