Dumb Politics

by Stephen M. Saideman

I am quoted today by one of my very favorite Canadian journalists, Murray Brewster, as saying that the discussion of the Iraq mission is going to “lead to dumb politics.”  I am not sure my meaning came across, so let me explain.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Crisis in Civ-Mil? Sajjan and Canada’s Misplaced Attention

I spent much of November and December arguing that naming a very recently retired former general as Secretary of Defense is problematic–that there is much confusion to be had, by the former officer, the person who picked him, and the public.  Well, we see in recent days that this argument may have applied to the country to the north as well.

Harjit Sajjan has gotten into hot water for stating that he was the architect for a major effort, Operation Medusa,* in Afghanistan in 2006.  Whether he was or was not (probably not), this is problematic to those soldiers who serves because he is seen as taking credit for what was a multi-person effort.  So, either bragging or lying violates the sense of honor that Canadian soldiers have.  Today, Sajjan will be answering questions about it in Parliament.

So, what is my take?  Is this just a tempest in a teapot? No.  Is this a fireable offense? Probably not. Is this mostly distraction sauce?  Probably.  Let me explain my still confused take.

Continue reading

Academics in the Media Landscape

by Stephen M. Saideman

Carleton is having an event that, among other things, ponders the future of public affairs stuff 25 years from now.  I was on a panel on:Academics in the Media Landscape: The Role of Scholar-Columnist-Bloggers with Stephanie Carvin, my colleague and frequent twitter banterer, Mira Sucharov,Hayden King,Dwayne Winseck and Frances Woolley (who is frequently wrong about bags of milk).

What did I say about the future of blogging?  I started with humility as I am not sure what 2042 will look like.  I put up pics of computing 25 years ago, now and the future (but blogger didn’t like them so you can’t see them here).

To suggest that 25 years ago, we had no idea what computers/the internet would look like in 2017 and thus we can’t predict 2042 too well.

My second point is that we can’t be too humble–we need to put ourselves out there even if we might be wrong, and so I displayed my post predicting a reasonably big Hillary Clinton victory.  Ooops.

I then suggested what will remain the same and what may change. In short, more academics will do some kind of social media to communicate their work, but not all as we are a varied group of folks, that how we do it will change quite a bit (who knows what the successor to twitter may be), that politicians will still be upset when academics say things about them, but that universities will eventually learn that trying to sit on bloggers is counter productive.  I also made a clear statement that tenure in the future, if it still exists, will still be focused on reserach and not engagement.  Oh, and that the media will rely on us even more since we provide heaps of content, including for those reporters who just want to cut and past a few tweets.

I concluded by saying our (academics) role is and will be:

  • Translate academic knowledge into digestible bits for broader audiences (the public cares not for lit reviews or methodology discussions).
  • Provide media with content/expertise
  • Engage–it can be a two way street, not just lecturing but interacting
  • Embrace academic freedom–who else can speak with few consequences?

The other panelists said smart stuff that I storify here.

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.

Continue reading

Interim Planes? Not Great

by Steve Saideman

One of the biggest sources of confusion about the Liberal decision to buy 18 Super Hornets is that it is an interim buy.  What does that mean?

It means that the planes are only being bought to cover a specific period of time–whenever they arrive to whenever the next batch of planes is ready to go.  And then the government of Canada is obligated to, yes, get rid of the planes.

Continue reading

Nuclear weapons and the ‘Letter of last resort’: what my students think

By Jez Littlewood

NPSIA’s disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation course began last week (INAF 5201). Once the administrative side of the first class was completed I began the class with the 2015 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan? However, to inject some additional reality into the subject each was tasked with deciding on how the UK would respond to a nuclear attack.

The scenario was simple: each was to assume they had been elected (or appointed) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and each had to decide the nuclear response in the event of a surprise attack. Pre-reading included Richard Norton-Taylor’s story in The Guardian from July 2016 – Theresa May’s first job: decide on UK’s nuclear response. Thus, sixty minutes after arriving in class task one for my 21 students was the drafting of what is generally known as “the letter of last resort”.

Continue reading

Pan Canadian Defence Review

by Steve Saideman

Today, the Centre for Security, Intelligence and Defence Studies at NPSIA along with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the Centre for International Policy Studies (Queens) held a workshop that involved much of the Canadian defence academic community.  The idea was to feed into the Defence Review Canada is running this summer.

Andrea Charron, our Centre’s director, did a great job of organizing so that the day was very engaging.  We were split into four groups: threat environment, the forces, readiness, and missions/allies.  Each group was tasked to come up with five ideas/priorities.  Then each group would Red Team (criticize, respond/react) to two of the other groups.  My group was Missions/Allies led by Andrea C and Jim Fergusson.   This group included Sjrdjan Vucetic and Thomas Juneau of U of Ottawa, Justin Massie of UQAM, Theo McLauchlin of U of Montreal, and Kim Richard Nossal of Queens.  

I really didn’t know what I was going to say going into the event, as I had never done something like this before (of course, anyone who knows me would have predicted that I would talk alot).  Also, the missions for Canada are pretty established–that we will not be changing what Canada is likely to think its role is in the world: defending Canada, jointly via NORAD with US, NATO, UN, and occasional coalitions of the willing ops.  We did come up with a bunch of questions that one should always ask when considering a mission–what are the rules of engagement, who is involved, what are the desired goals, etc.  Kind of akin to the Dutch’s Article 101 letter procedure (see the Dave and Steve book).  

The big point I pushed was that the classic Canadian question of whether to provide small units in many operations or concentrate in one place for extended period of time should be resolved thusly: do the latter.  If you want to make a difference, concentrate the effort and be patient.  

The challenge for any review is that there is not much room to move Canada. That is, the budget is mostly set, 47% is dedicated to personnel, the big procurement decisions are decided/have a process of their own, AND Canada faces few threats and has limited capabilities.  So, neither our review nor the big government one can really alter the path of the CAF and DND much.  Still, it was a very useful exercise for thinking about this stuff and giving input to government.

Personally, it was mighty good for me both because I could connect with the many folks I know who attended and help set the stage for one of my major sabbatical priorities: applying for a partnership grant to create a Canadian Defence Research Network so that we can meet more often, develop shared research agendas, communicate our results and train the next generation of defence scholars.  

In short, woot!