Friday, October 31, 2014

Mission Creep! Booooo!!!!

For Halloween this year, I have dressed as Mission Creep:

Tis a villain that threatens any potential military effort!!

Actually, I think that "mission creep" has been a scare word used by those opposed to the mission in Iraq.  There are good reasons to oppose that mission, but "mission creep" is not one of them.  Canada did not creep into Kandahar, but made a very careful decision.  So, going to Kabul in 2003 or Kandahar in 2002 did not lead to an inevitable and deceptive slide into Kandahar in 2005-2006.  So, I pushed back when asked about Mission Creep during my TV appearances the last couple of months.

And here is the real message of my costume: I am not scary even dressed as Mission Creep--except to easily intimidated undergrads.  So, we should be concerned about the use of force, but only fear Mission Creep when he knocks on your door, demanding candy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Colbert on Canada

Stephen Colbert says it quite well in the aftermath of the shooting in Ottawa:

and unlike most Colbert stuff, it actually plays in Canada!*

*Yes, I know that one can watch episodes at the Comedy Network, but most linked clips don't play here.

Podcasting at CIGI

While I was in Waterloo, I was invited to be on David Welch's Inside the Issues Podcast:

Check it out.  How many more books could I have plugged?

Sexual Assault Is ....

The story of the week in Canada is Jian Ghomeshi--the CBC radio host who was fired for ... apparently having an extensive record of sexual assault.  This is one of those things that turned out to be an open secret, best explained at here.

Ghomeshi, being the media guy that he is, tried to get in front of the story by claiming CBC was upset about his kinky sex life and by arguing  on facebook that it was an ex-girlfriend and some of her friends trying to tarnish his name.*  He launched a huge lawsuit, probably mostly to make him immune for libel as he trashes his accusers.
*  He must not be checking his facebook page because it has stuff like this on it now

This story is raising all kinds of questions.  The most obvious and important is: how many women does it take for it not to be just he said, she said?  The answer seems to be eight, as last night was the turning point with eight women (all but one anonymously) coming forward to The Star.  That one of these happened to be an actress in a prominent Canadian TV show might have also swung public perception.  But this speaks to a broader issue--yes, Ghomeshi should be considered innocent by Canada's courts before being proven guilty, but we probably should not take that to mean we should presume that his accusers are lying until proven otherwise.  Indeed, the first few days of this demonstrated quite clearly why women tend not to report sexual assaults.

The bright side of this is events like this help to reveal who is truly stupid: Shelia Copps, who was once Deputy Prime Minister, tweeted:

I responded to her thusly:
The dark side is ... very, very dark.  This guy preyed upon young, vulnerable women.  I was sad to learn of this twitter account @bigearsteddy, as it was created months ago (April), by someone associated with Carleton's journalism program:
I have met several students in Carleton's journalism/media programs as they need to interview "experts" for their assignments, and we happen to be in the same building.  So now I am concerned that my school has one or more students (current or former) who probably need some help and probably needed it a while back.  Indeed, I am now thinking it would be nice for the programs that send students out to do for the students what the folks in the media did for their friends: do you know about Jian?

When predators engage in bad behavior, they often get away with it because the people that know something are reluctant to say aloud what they think they know.  If you don't have proof, you can fear being accused of libel.  You can fear professional consequences.  The same is true in academia as it is in the media.  One can hope that the students gossip amongst each other to say that a certain professor has a history of sexually harassing their students, but that telephone game can go awry and can certainly fade over time.  I am certainly less shy now than I was before about naming the predators that worked at my previous places of employment--but am not sure of the legal consequences of saying online who did what.... [if you apply to graduate programs where I have worked, I will tell you in person who to avoid but not online]  In my last job, I was part of an elite cabal aimed at diverting students away from the serial harasser.  Now that I am no longer there, I can only hope that the same system is in place.

Ultimately, this stuff is hard.  What we need are for institutions to do the right thing and flush the awful people out.  The CBC can be seen as weak or brave in all of this--that they got rid of Jian because they feared lawsuits or that once they had enough evidence (which we don't yet know what that might be), they got rid of an employee who was damaging pretty much any female in the neighborhood.  It is actually possible to do that in academia, but institutions tend to prefer to protect themselves rather than their students.  

 Update: I got this email from Carleton, which they sent to all faculty, staff, and students:

Dear Members of the Carleton University Community,
Carleton University is aware of allegations about former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi that may involve a Carleton journalism student or graduate.
The university is reviewing its records about field placements that our students have done at CBC Toronto and whether there were any at the Q program in particular. We have no information at this time that any of our students have been victims.
We encourage any member of our community who requires support to reach out to resources on campus or in the community. Resources on campus include Carleton's Sexual Assault Support Services and Health and Counselling Services.
Sexual Assault Support Services
Health and Counselling Services


 I am glad to see that Carleton is taking this seriously.  The @bigearsteddy tweets did indeed raise some alarm bells, so it is good that the school is responding.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

IR 101: Countries Are Different

Dan Drezner has a great post on the latest friction between the US and Israel.  I want to point to something basic that is part of his argument but often gets overlooked.... especially by politicians seeking to outbid each other as the best defenders of Israel:

The US and Israel are different countries with different national interests.  Shocking, I know.  But the US debate often forgets this very basic fact.  In Canada, too, there are those who thing that whatever Israel wants is what Canada should want.  But countries vary in their priorities, their values, the threats they face, their capabilities, and, yes, their domestic politics.

So, if Israeli politicians want to drive their country in a particular direction (like off of a cliff), the US does not have to follow.  Indeed, the US is unlikely to follow when Israel does stuff that endangers American interests in the region.

Of course, this is too complex for those pandering to evangelical voters, but tis true. And no, Jews these days are kind of divided on Israel so this may be more about the less traditional, newish Israel lobby than the old fashioned, AIPAC, lobby.

The bright side: the more that the US and Israel or Obama and Bibi yammer at each other, the more evidence that the theories that espouse the all-powerful Israel lobby look like the weak sauce that they were already.

Lessons Learned While Learning Lessons

I spent the past couple of days at a edited volume workshop in Waterloo, Ontario.  The basic theme is what can Canada learn from its various interventions over the past twenty years for the book series "Canada Among Nations." This is a different kind of edited volume than the first one I edited.  For the previous one, I had to get money from various agencies, ask a friend to serve as co-editor, plan the actual event (location, dinner, etc) and then hustle publishers to find one that would be willing to publish the product.  We ended up with a publisher that likes to charge a lot of money and make money from the libraries that buy the book but otherwise bury the book.  Alas.

This time, it is a book in a series with various arcane rules and practices that I have learned along the way.  Each year NPSIA, my school, selects someone to be the editor.  In the past few years, this effort has been in partnership with a think think--the Centre of International Governance Innovation or CIGI.  CIGI is attached to the Basillie School of International Affairs, which, in turn, is attached to U of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier U.  The partnership means that there was already money attached, a location (at CIGI hq in Waterloo), a publisher (CIGI) and a co-editor.  So, much less of the hard work that was involved in the process. 

What did I learn along the way?
  • The new CIGI building is pretty beautiful, and the chairs in the conference room were very comfy (rolled a wee bit too fast--we should have had races). 
  • The Delta hotel across the street is very new, has great food (slow service) and a strange option of free bad wifi or you can pay for good wifi. This is strange since Waterloo is supposed to be the Silicon Valley of Canada--CIGI and Basillie were funded by the guy who founded Research in Motion--the Blackberry company.
  • That we did a great job of finding contributors.  I chose most but not all of them.  They made for a very good group, as everyone offered very constructive suggestions for each other's papers--the point of the workshop.
    • Some noted that the group had a good gender balance--six of the twelve papers  presented were written by a woman or by a team with a man and a woman.  I did not have to do much hard work to make sure that women were will represented as there are plenty of smart women doing interesting work on the general topic.  To be clear, others who put together edited volumes seem to have a "thinner binder full of women" or a limited imagination or whatever and produce books that have only token representation. So, I guess the mix we got was notable even if it should not be.
    • Others noted that it was a mixed group in terms of age with both junior and senior scholars.  I was deliberate about that--it just worked out that way since I tend to network down and sideways more than up.   
  • That David Welch, who runs the CIGI podcast, is super-smooth.  He hosted me as we conversed about this project as well as my recent and future projects.  It should be going up soon and I will link to it here.
  • That it is time for to stop playing the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer bit about Canadian politics. Saying that I don't understand Canadian political practices and institutions because I am new to the country seems to get old after being here for twelve plus years.  I got called on that this week at the workshop.
  • I learned that my affection for sauces works better than other ways to talk about some concepts.  When I referred to the shorthand term for Responsibility to Protect via R2P and added -ness to it, well, it created more laughs and distraction than I was aiming for. 
  • That arranged marriages can be chock full of surprises.
Oh, and for the actual lessons learned about Canadian interventions?  Still trying to figure that out.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Blog Outage

I am at a book workshop in Waterloo, so blogging will be light for the next day or two.

Friday, October 24, 2014

AMA Deja Vu

Yesterday, I did a reddit Ask Me Anything for a second time.  This one was supposed to focus on Canada and Iraq, and mostly did so.  Too much so, perhaps as it was more on the Iraq end of things where my expertise is less and not so much on the stuff shaping Canada's positions (where I feel a bit more comfortable.

No horse-duck vs. duck horse question, but I was asked:
"Who would be a better Prime Minister: HAL9000 or Skynet?"  My answer was two-fold:
a) Whichever one could be unplugged (although Mrs. Spew said HAL was better as long as he was not threatened with unplugging).
b) I went with a third candidate: Joshua, from Wargames.  It had a learning curve--the only way to win is not to play either tic tac toe or Global Thermonuclear War.

Anyhow, check out the transcript.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meme Busting, Canada Edition

We all have many reactions to yesterday's event in Ottawa.  The one that is currently driving me crazy is that Canada lost its innocence this week.  As if Canada was a baby or a virgin.  It tweeted thusly:

To be innocent means one of two things: either Canada had never engaged in anything bad or violent or whatever OR it means that Canada had not been attacked before.  Both are wrong.

Canada has a history of going to war with its allies.  Indeed, yesterday's attack was at the National War Memorial dedicated to the memory of those soldiers who perished in World War I.  This moving cartoon illustrates the reality quite well:

Bruce MacKinnon, Chronicle Herald
World War I, World War II, Korea, multiple peacekeeping episodes that were more violent than advertised, and then Afghanistan, Libya and now Iraq.  Canada is not new to the experience of having its soldiers die, nor is it new that their soldiers have killed.  So, Canada lost its innocence under that definition a long, long time ago.

And Canada has experienced terrorism.  Indeed, the Air India bombing had far more casualties than any American brush with terrorism before 9/11 (pretty sure about that).  Parliament had been attacked before, Islamist groups had planned attacks like this, and there are other examples of political violence.

My hope is that because Canada has experienced such stuff before, that it will not overreact.  My colleague, Jeremy Littlewood, has a nice post on that

What is truly annoying is that this almost makes me sound like Glenn Greenwald who wrote an utter piece of crap that came out just before yesterday's attacks, almost celebrating the attack on Monday.  I agree that Canada was not "innocent" before these events.  But that is not the same thing as saying Canada "deserved" it or taking a perverse delight as Greenwald seems to do in his piece.  I attack that dreck in my CIC post.

Anyway, I would like to kill this meme, but know that is impossible.  And there are more important things that deserve our focus--figuring out how to deal with these lone disturbed people who become attached to extremists.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Tough Day in Ottawa

Today, Ottawa, my adopted hometown, faced a mighty difficult test and performed quite well.  There were much rumors about multiple attacks that didn't take place at a nearby hotel and mall, just like that day in DC where the media reported that there was a car bomb at the State Department (and I had just told my wife that I was headed there). 

I followed it on twitter rather than TV, which might have been a mistake since the TV coverage turned out to be great. But the media folks on twitter were also sharp.  I have met more than a few during my time here, and I have much respect for them. 

There was much uncertainty for quite some time with a press conference producing no new insights at all.  I am getting ready to watch the Prime Minister's address.

There will be much criticism of the security folks since this guy got into the building, but he was killed before he could do much damage.  By whom?  By the guy responsible for security, the Sergeant at Arms, apparently.  Former Mountie and all that. 

I am going to run now, but I had two tweets that went pretty viral today, and I feel pretty good about them now:

I will have more thoughts tomorrow as we learn more about this event and how it relates to Tuesday's attack (or not).

My List of Canadian Journalists

With today's events, I am posting my twitter list of Canadian journalists including many who are on or even in this story.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Canada's Half-Full/Empty Glass

Yesterday, an apparently radicalized recent convert drove his car into a couple of Canadian Forces soldiers.  This is the first successful attack by a "homegrown" Islamist extremist.*
* I had a quick conversation this morning with my colleague, Jez Littlewood, who is our terrorism expert, that informs this post.  One should go to him for an informed take on these events. 

The good news is that only one person was killed.  The second soldier was not as seriously hurt. 

The bad news is that a guy who only converted in the past year or so decided to engage in violence. 

The good news is that he was apparently "known" to the authorities. 

The bad news is that this attack might have been inspired by "Inspire" magazine, which is an Islamist extremist publication that has encouraged their readers to engage in such attacks. 

The good news is that this might represent progress in counter-terrorism--that Inspire and its kin are pushing for low level violence because the organizations have been pressured enough by a variety of efforts that they cannot plan and stage bigger attacks. 

The bad news is that this event was first known across Canada via a planted question in Question Period, quickly politicizing it.  Perhaps this is because an election is less than a year away, perhaps it is because the government wants to pass some counter-terrorism legislation.

The good news is that the reports indicate that the opposition did not really bite, that Mulcair treated the story well.

The bad news is that this is not the first example of this kind of low level attack, with Australia and UK having very small scale attacks in the past year by knife-wielding extremists.

The challenge in all of this is that governments and publics need to react but not overreact to these events.  Any loss of life is a tragedy, but we need to have some perspective on all of this.  My good news/bad news list illustrates this reality--concern is required but let's not give into the terror that ISIS, Al Qaeda and other groups want to create.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Placement Incentives and All That

A twitter conversation about the job market took an unexpected turn where someone argued that there were few incentives for professors and departments to care about the placement of their graduate students.  I was flummoxed.  It didn't make sense to me, either as a supervisor of grad students or as a member of various departments  So, let me explain this at both levels--the department and the supervisor.

But before I start, two caveats: 
  • the outcome of a job candidate is not determined entirely by the placement efforts of individuals and departments--there are both the individual candidate's qualities and performance in play and the politics of the hiring department.
  • there are departments and individual advisers who suck at this.  
OK, the department logic is pretty simple: the reputation of a department hangs on a few things, with the placement of their grad students being a key ingredient.  If departments do not place their students, the word does get out to a degree, making it harder (although not impossible) to attract good graduate students.  It might also make it harder to hire faculty since people tend to prefer to be at places with upward trajectories.  It is also something that Deans care about, as they prefer to have departments that do well in the rankings than departments that do poorly.  They can direct resources to and away from departments, so their concern about rankings is important.

Sunday Silliness: Robo-Surgeon General

If only we had such a robot, everything would be swell-ish

by Brian McFadden of the NYT

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Helpful Review Vs. Not

The boon and bane of our academic enterprise is that we get feedback all the time on our work.  Our work is better for it--that the hack-iest stuff I read is always stuff that is not submitted to any kind of refereeing process and relies instead on editors who seem to be blind to the hack-ness.

The bane is that, well, rejection and criticism can not only delay publication but also hurt feelings.  Today's particular focus is on reviews that focus on stuff that one "should have cited."

I am thinking of this because I got teased today after I griped:

What is the Saideman Helpfulness Standard©?  Well, this specific discussion was about the citations a reviewer asked me to include in my work.  I was highly annoyed because I had to spend time reading a bunch of stuff that did not change my outlook or add new information.  I did find thus far one citation that was useful, but the rest were not. 

So, the SHS is this:
  • does the recommended citation compel the author to better defend the originality of the argument?  That is, if this argument has been made before, the author should justify why it is worth making again.
  • does the citation provide an argument that must be addressed?
  • does the citation provide information that the piece (article/book) could use to strengthen the argument?
  • does the citation provide information that challenges the arguments of the article/book?
What is the SUS (Saideman Unhelpfulness Standard©)?
  • a citation that provides information or arguments that the author has already addressed,
  • a citation that is a slightly different version of a piece that is already cited.  For instance, saying that one should cite Saideman and Auerswald 2012 even though the work cites Auerswald and Saideman 2014 (the latter is more comprehensive than the former).  This would make sense if one wants more citations--the former is an article which citation indexes capture well, and the latter is a book.  Why add more cites if the basic argument/info is already included in stuff that is already cited?
What is the SSUS (Saideman Super Unhelpful Standard©)?
  • Citations of unpublished works. Yes, the internet is a miracle, but there are limits to one what can do when writing an article.
  • Citations of works that come out after the work under review has been submitted for review.  Until we perfect time travel, this is what we call a party foul.  It is perfectly fine for a reviewer to suggest how new work could improve the piece under review, but cannot expect that omitting this newest stuff should be grounds for rejecting the manuscript.
  • Citations of the reviewer's work.  Yes, I have sometimes criticized a piece I was reviewing for not citing me, but I always feel awkward about it and only do it when the author(s) are ignoring not just me but a key argument that they should be addressing. 

I am sure I am forgetting stuff that fits into these three categories (is there a fourth category?), so let me know what I am missing, including stuff I should have cited.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Realism Has Many Flavors

A friend posted on facebook a partial answer from a student: "Realism has many flavors."  And my response was: of course, it does.
  • Classic Realism tastes like sherry because ye olde Realists reclined in ye olde academe, chock full of tweed and sherry hours.
  • Structural Realism tastes like beer (note: this is a change from my original fb post) as it takes a bit of getting used to.  Which kind of beer?  A stout, most assuredly because it is has a bitter taste, just like the security dilemma.
  • Offensive Realism tastes like stale cigarettes.  Why?  Because it is offensive.
  • Defensive Realism tastes like structural realism but perhaps a sweeter beer like a trappist beer. 
  • Neoclassical Realism tastes like sherry but has a strong vinegar taste.  Why?  Because it is actually aged classic realism.
The good news is there are plenty of new flavors as people come up with new variants of realism or resurrect old ones.

Unintentional Comedy: Message Management Edition

I wrote a piece for CIC today on how the Harper government's efforts to create fear in Ottawa--do not talk to the media or else--leads to perhaps more messes than otherwise.  Yep, media is scary: boo!

Check it out and comment there or here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Upside of Malware

I somehow found a link that took me to a site that promised free e-versions of one of my books.  I alerted Columbia U Press, and the folks there told me not to worry.  The place was actually a phishing/malware trap--no actual book to be stolen. 

So, woot?  Folks seeking to get my publications without paying will end up falling into a trap.  Hmmmm. 

As it turns out, Columbia UP has been using a relatively new system and found 32 instances of actual infringements.  Of these, 25 for my first book were removed once Columbia UP contacted the sites.  The "non-responsive" sites for my first book were in Switzerland, Russia and Panama.  The four infringements of For Kin or Country were from one site in China, and they were all removed. 

What to read in these patterns?  That Swiss, Russian, and Panamanian thieves like to peddle books on the IR of secession and don't quit when caught?  That Chinese folks are interested in infringing on irredentism stuff, but are more responsive when caught? 

I don't know how to make sense of this, but found it interesting. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pacifist Paradox? Nay. Just Turkey Being Turkey

One of the striking discoveries while researching the NATO book was the case of Turkey.  Turkey had very restrictive rules of engagement--it was unwilling to engage in offensive operations.  It only lost soldiers due to a helicopter crash.  They did let their soldiers engage in offensive operations if they were embedded in an Afghan army unit, but that was the extent of it.  The basic claim was that they didn't kill Muslims.

Why is this surprising?  Well, unlike Germany, where pacifism is a key domestic political challenge, Turkey is not that reluctant to use force.... against Kurds (many of whom are Muslim).   As the world puts increased pressure on Turkey to help the Kurds of Syria, Turkey responds by dropping bombs on its own Kurds.  This nicely illustrates the priorities Prime Minister Erdogan has, but this is not that new either. 

On the other hand, this is not a very nice reality.  It should not be that surprising either.  Galling perhaps, but not surprising.  Turkey has felt under-supported by NATO as the frontline state facing Syrian (Assad, that is) attacks across the border, the brunt of the refugees and all that.  Turkey's priority is Assad and the Kurds with ISIS in third place... maybe. 

While I have argued elsewhere we should not overly bash Turkey, and that we need to take seriously the context, this bombing of Kurd positions in Turkey while it refuses to do much to help out in Syria is a bit of a finger in the face of the international community.  So, yeah, we can direct some umbrage at Turkey, not that it will matter much. 

As I have said before, alliances are hard... as countries have their own interests. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tournament of War: The Original

A few years ago, I wrote this post, where I pondered about a lost graphic--a tourney bracket of countries as they warred over the centuries.  That is, in a tournament like the NCAA playoffs, or TwitterFightClub, pairs of actors confront each other until there is only one left (if only Highlander had a tourney bracket!). 

I had seen the graphic long ago, but could not remember where I had seen it.  I did remember the final outcome, which was quite brilliant.  Vietnam, having defeated the US, was to face Afghanistan, having defeated the Soviet Union.  That was the punchline. 

The good news is that I was contacted yesterday by a scholar who was looking for the original ... and then contacted again when he found it.  It was in Spy magazine and then re-posted at the Atlantic!

My memory was not all that far off:

Given how history really played out--that Nazi Germany was defeated by the USSR, I think I prefer US vs Japan and USSR vs. Germany.  Otherwise, still quite good.

Anyhow, big H/T to AM for letting know where we can find this wonderful graphic!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bad Ally or Bad Editing

Jonathan Schanzer wrote a piece for Politico on Turkey entitled "Time to Kick Turkey Out of NATO?" which I called both histrionic and inaccurate.  Indeed, I went on a bit of a rant last night on twitter, as this piece is pretty awful.

First, many members of NATO vary in how reliable they are.  We could start with the US in 2003 and what its invasion of Iraq did to both the alliance and to the interests of allies in the Mideast.  We could discuss how Germany and Poland (and others) opted out of the Libyan mission entirely, requiring some to withdraw their ships from the NATO fleet in the Mediterranean (whose day job is to do counter-terrorism).  We could start with France that pushed its allies into the Libyan campaign.  We could start with Greece, which has never given much to any NATO effort of note.  We could start with Hungary, which is becoming NATO's only authoritarian state (and was so lame in Afghanistan that the short-handed New Zealanders would patrol in Hungary's sector since ... Hungary did not [see chapter seven]).

Second, the piece uses Turkey's 2003 reticence as part of the claim about unreliability.  Given how stupid the US was in 2003 in so many dimensions, including not trying to seal the deal with the Turks until the war was imminent, can you blame Turkey for this?  Much of the alliance sat out that ill-conceived, poorly executed war, so one cannot really fault Turkey for that.

Third, I don't know about the legalities attached to the base at Incirlik, but this assertion "it  [Turkey] cannot restrict the NATO activities on the base in an approved operation" ignores the reality that the wars in Syria and Iraq are NOT NATO approved operations.  There has been no decision by the North Atlantic Council to bless the air campaigns.  It might be due to Turkish opposition (that would be the best bet), but the point here is that this guy does not understand NATO.  And regarding Article V, which has not been invoked by NATO but was cited by Schanzer, does not require any country to do anything: each country responds "as each deems necessary."

Fourth, Schanzer mischaracterizes Turkey's participation in ISAF as "logistics and training and refused to take part in combat."  Turkey was not alone in refusing to engage in offensive operations (Germany was similarly restricted until 2009).  Turkey was a major force provider, engaged in patrolling, and, most importantly, a particular kind of training.  One of the big differences among the allies were between those who were willing to do OMLT-eering--embedding trainers in Afghan combat units--and those who did not.  This was dangerous as it involved combat, and these trainers would have to depend on the Afghan National Army soldiers around for their defense.  Turkey ran two Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which was one more than most participants, and these PRTs were seen as a key element of the effort to improve the government and economy of Afghanistan (the hearts and minds part of COIN).  By leading in Kabul, Turkey allowed other countries to do more of the heavy lifting elsewhere.   Sure, Turkey was among the most restricted contingents in Afghanistan, but that didn't make the contribution irrelevant or Turkey all that distinct. 

Fifth, Turkey has complicated issues in this current conflict.  Yes, ISIS is a threat, but so are the Kurds and so is Assad.  Turkey did not get much support from NATO when Assad's armed forces attacked across the border.  Turkey has to worry about what happens if the Kurds become well-armed and if they gain sanctuaries in Syria.  So, it is hardly surprising that Turkey is not entirely enthusiastic about the ISIS fight.  Now that the fight has come closer to the its border, Turkey is starting to take steps that support the larger anti-IS effort.

To be sure, I am not a fan of Turkey's decisions, especially when it comes to the Kurds and to the increased role of Islam in domestic and foreign policies.  I don't think Turkey could have done much more in Afghanistan, but I do think Turkey can do more here.  But ignoring the realities of the situation--that NATO has not been that reliable of an ally to Turkey, that Turkey faces significantly more cross-pressures than nearly anyone else, and so on--is just not helpful and a poor place to start a conversation about Turkey's role in this conflict.

I am not sure why Politico published this piece except to gain clicks.  And I fell for this click-bait.  I feel stupid for having done so, and I feel even more stupid spending any time on thinking about this piece that should never have made it past the editors.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Today in Twitter: Media Impatience and Civ-Mil Relations

Tis early, but I am already engaged on two fronts on twitter.

First, I am pretty annoyed by the media, who seem to think that bombing is a miracle cure that should have led to reversals in ISIS's fortunes.  So, I have been tweeting stuff like this:

Second, I read a really good piece by Peter Feaver on whether generals should resign in protest. I culled a few key quotes

and then my response to the classic quote by Clemenceau:

I guess my timing is good--I submitted yesterday a grant application to study the role of legislatures in the civil-military relations of 21st century democracies.  Now back to an earlier book project that is getting a second life thanks to Putin's irredentism.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Canada and Iraq: Good and Bad Arguments

Today is the day of the vote that expresses confidence (or not) in the government's decision.  Lots of arguments and spin.
  • The government, as always, is muddying its message by trying to have it both ways: that the mission is only for six months but that it may last longer.  This just makes them look like liars.  The reality is obvious--this thing is going to last for more than six months.  Canada is lining up with Obama, who has said three years.  The Libyan air campaign lasted for eight months, and that was a far less complex effort (with a lousy aftermath).  Why can't the government say that this effort is likely to take some time but they will evaluate every six months (or year or whatever) progress? 
  • Mission creep.  Watch out for the slippery slope!!! Boooooo!!!  I really want to dress up as Mission Creep for Halloween.  The opposition is correct that bombing will not be sufficient to defeat ISIS.  But Harper's rhetoric is a bit different from Obama's--tis about disrupting not destroying ISIS.  Anyhow, my real problem is that Canada has bombed before without engaging in ground combat (Libya, Kosovo--only peacekeeping in Kosovo), that there is a real distinction between air combat and ground combat in terms of risk, cost, and political consequences
    • I am very confident that this government will not put infantry troops on the ground because this government cares far more about balancing budgets and message management than anything else.  Sending infantry troops would be very, very expensive and making the CF pay for it out of money already budgeted would be very controversial.  Putting one or two thousand young men and women on the ground in combat with embedded reporters would mean that the messaging of the war would be driven by events in the field and not by Harper's people in Ottawa.
    • The votes that Harper schedules on these things, that are not required by the constitution, do serve to bind him just a bit.  If he were to decide to escalate, that would seem to require a vote--not legally but politically.  He would win that vote with his majority, but the opposition could use that opportunity to make far more credible arguments about the mission creeping.  Today's vote, thus, serves to bind the government to the current course of action.  Doing more will be costlier.
  • The better criticisms can focus on what this bombing might do: empower Iran, empower Assad, and other stuff that happens on "the road paved with good intentions" as Elizabeth May put it.  To work well, this effort depends on the Iraqi government making a deal with the Sunnis that the Sunnis will find not just attractive but credible.  The Shia-dominated government has reneged before.  So, one could argue that we should make our bombing commitment contingent on an Iraqi deal.  Well, we cannot really since Canada has no leverage since its allies are already ahead of it--US, UK, France, Belgians, Danes and others are already there, engaging in airstrikes.
Meanwhile, Phil Lagassé and I will argue about what votes do in this wacky semi-democratic system that Canada has.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Second Job at NPSIA: Intl, Terrorism, National Security

We finally got approval for a second position at NPSIA (here is the first ad):

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.

NPSIA is a recognized centre of academic excellence in international affairs and public policy.  It is the largest and oldest school of its kind in Canada with an international reputation and full membership in the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs ( We offer M.A., M.A.-J.D. and Ph.D. degrees in international affairs (, and contribute to the Master’s in Infrastructure Protection and International Security (MIPIS) degree that is jointly offered with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carleton University. NPSIA also contributes to specialized undergraduate programs in the area of international affairs and development.  The School’s multidisciplinary faculty is engaged in a broad and growing array of research projects, innovative teaching initiatives, and linkages with the policy community. 

Applicants should have, or expect to have, a completed Ph.D. at the time of appointment (July 2015) in Political Science, Economics, International Affairs, Law, Public Policy, Public Administration or other relevant discipline. The ideal candidate will have a strong record in teaching and research (including relevant publications) and demonstrated potential for excellence as a teacher and researcher in the identified fields. Candidates should be committed to working in a policy-oriented multidisciplinary environment; related policy experience in the public or private sector will be an asset.

We will begin to review applications starting November 10, 2014.  Candidates should submit applications electronically to Karen Howard ( in three PDF files including: 1) a curriculum vitae; 2) a statement of teaching interests, a teaching portfolio and any evaluations or other evidence of teaching performance, and a statement regarding their approach to teaching; 3) a plan for ongoing and future research, a short description of papers or monographs published or in progress, a summary of the doctoral thesis, and links to any publications or some sample publications. Candidates should also arrange to have three confidential letters of reference sent to the School.  All candidates invited for an interview will be asked to deliver a research seminar to faculty and students.

Please indicate in your application if you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.

Located in Ottawa, Ontario, Carleton University is a dynamic and innovative research and teaching institution committed to developing solutions to real world problems by pushing the boundaries of knowledge and understanding daily. Its internationally recognized faculty, staff, researchers, and librarians provide more than 27,000 full- and part-time students from every province and more than 100 countries around the world with academic opportunities in more than 65 programs of study. Carleton’s creative, interdisciplinary, and international approach to research has led to many significant discoveries and creative work in science and technology, business, governance, public policy, and the arts.

Minutes from downtown, Carleton University is located on a beautiful campus, bordered by the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal. With over 12 national museums and the spectacular Gatineau Park close by, there are many excellent recreational opportunities for individuals and families to enjoy. The City of Ottawa, with a population of almost one million, is Canada’s capital city and reflects the country’s bilingual and multicultural character. Carleton’s location in the nation’s capital provides many opportunities for research with groups and institutions that reflect the diversity of the country.

Carleton University is strongly committed to fostering diversity within its community as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to the further diversification of our University including, but not limited to, women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity. Those applicants that are selected for an interview will be requested to contact the Chair of the Search Committee as soon as possible to discuss any accommodation requirements. Arrangements will be made to accommodate requests in a timely manner.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. All positions are subject to budgetary approval.