Friday, March 31, 2017

Threatening Friends, Coddling Enemies

I spent much time this morning talking to Canadian radio and TV folks about the NATO meeting in Brussels that SecState Tillerson, a walkingunmitigated disaster, deigned to attend. Tillerson, after rudely refusing to attend and then changing his mind (because he is an amateur with few experienced appointees under him), showed up and issued an ultimatum: come up with plans in two months to get to the 2% goal or else.  Or else what? Damned if I know.  But his entire performance is enraging.  How so?

  1.     One does not threaten friends.  Especially after seeming to prioritize good relations with adversaries over working with friends. 
  2.     Tillerson saysstuff that discounts what America's friends has done: "Allies must demonstrate by their actions that they share US government's commitment."  Isn't that what they did in Afghanistan in blood and treasure and political costs?  FFS!
  3.     No longer sustainable for US to maintain disproportionate share of NATO defense spending?  This might make sense if the US were looking to cut spending, but Trump wants more defense spending, so how is this not sustainable?  Oh, because Trump hates the current international order and pretty much all multilateral institutions.   
  4.     The fixation on 2% misses the point: NATO does not exist to pressure countries to spend on defense.  It exists to provide stability in Europe.  However, that job #1 is being put to the side because Trump cares far more about a campaign promise or because Trump is so profoundly ignorant about NATO that he thinks countries owe the US for past unpaid dues. 
  5.     Tillerson does not seem to get that these democracies have domestic politics, so humiliating them is unlikely to pay off.  Germany alreadyhas its Foreign Minister (who is not of the same party as Merkel--yes, Rex, coalition politics are a tad complex) push back hard.  Germany is not going to double its defense budget, nor is Canada.

Again, this whole statement and performance makes little sense--Tillerson throws out language about NATO being so important and the US commitment being ironclad at the same time he tells its members that they need to put up or be shut out.... or something. 

Thus far, I can say is that just as not showing up would be an unmitigated disaster, it turns out that showing up was as well.

Flynn the Flipper

A friend of mine took the lawyer's statement regarding Flynn potentially turning state's evidence and annotated it thusly:

This got more play on my feed than anything else I have ever tweeted, I think.  And a debate--whether Flynn should get immunity or should he be prosecuted?  My take:

On the one hand, this might be the best early shot at getting some truly impeachable material on Trump--that Trump has sold out American interests to get elected.

On the other hand, I doubt that the GOP in the House would vote for impeachment even with a smoking gun.

On the other hand, it would be harder to call this fake news if a recent Trump appointee is the one pointing the finger.

On the other hand, Flynn is about as unreliable a narrator and perhaps as unconvincing a witness as one can find, given that he is, well, pretty crazy.

On the other hand, no one else has probably been closer to the Trump-Putin relationship.

On the other hand, Mr. Lock Him Up and Mr. If You Get Immunity You Must be a Criminal deserves a heap of prosecution.

On the other hand, we need to shine as much light on what the Russians were doing so that the GOP can perhaps shake off its desperate attachment to Trump as they realize the alternative is to sink with him.

On the other hand, I am still bitter that Oliver North got away with it as his immunized testimony allowed him to appeal his conviction. And the last thing I want is Flynn to be on TV in 10 or 20 years as a pundit.

On the other hand, I ran out of hands a while back.  It is never great that a criminal gets to walk as long as he rats out his bosses, but that is how you bring down the big guys.  Sure, the GOP could just focus on emoulements and dump Trump right now, but that is not going to happen.  Something has to force it to happen.  But I doubt that Flynn can be the key lever to make that happen, especially as some are speculating that the public nature of this offer means he really does not have that much to spill.

Again, I don't think impeachment is going to happen.  Not with the GOP polling numbers still way too high for Trump.  Until the people who are Republican voters see the world as it is and not as Fox/Breitbart say it is, and until they rediscover their values and their patriotism, nothing is going to change much in DC in terms of impeachment. Thus, this picture still applies:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

NATO and Tillerson from Coast to Coast to Coast

Tomorrow, Friday, March 31st, I am celebrating April Fool's Day early, as I will be talking about NATO and Tillerson and Trump across Canada.  My schedule is below (the west coast folks tend to be taped):

Toronto--Metro Morning
Matt Galloway - Host
Twitter (show): @metromorning
Twitter (host): @mattgallowaycbc

Ottawa - Ottawa Morning Robyn Bresnahan - Host
Twitter (show): @OttawaMorning

Thunder Bay - Superior Morning
Lisa Laco - Host @morningshowlisa

Charlottetown - Island Morning
Matt Rainnie - Host
Twitter: @islandmorning

Producers:Salome Awa/Lucy Burke/Host: Quavavao Peter

Prince George / Prince Rupert - Daybreak North
Hosts: Russell Bowers (PG) Carolina DeRyk (PR)
Twitter handle (show): @daybreaknorth
Prince George hosts: Carolina: @rupertsmaven

Victoria - On The Island
Gregor Craigie - Host
Twitter: @cbcontheisland @GregorCraigie

Kelowna - Daybreak South
Chris Walker - Host
Twitter: @cbckelowna

Rule Zero

A while back, I wrote that Rule #1 for Professors is to treat the staff well--that secretaries, office managers, and administrators within one's department--both because it is the right thing to do and because it is strategic (these folks can make your lives miserable or most pleasant).  The first commenter suggested that Rule #1 was "'Don't sleep with your students?'" My response: no, that is just basic behavior that does not need to be rule-guided.  The past 24 hours has made me realize that I might need to elaborate this Rule Zero.

Why now?  A couple of things: first, Pence's policy of not dining with non-wives raised discussions of how does one work with the opposite sex (with this dumb tweet suggesting Pence ain't alone); second, a Center for New American Security survey was tweeted yesterday about the role of gender in the national security business; third, I got another email from a student who experienced sexual harassment at my old place (my previous posts on that topic have led to a steady stream of such email, direct messages and other contacts although these are not always about the same guy).

So, what is Rule Zero? Treat students essentially the same regardless of gender, sexuality, race, religion, origin, nationality, class, disability, age, etc. This makes everything far easier--one does not have to figure out different rules for the opposite sex, the same sex or whatever.  And it is the right thing to do because whatever a person's attributes, they are at school because they are students, not because they are temptresses or targets of sexual desire.  As professors want to be treated as professors (call us prof or doctor, not hey you or Miss, or bro), our students are entitled to be treated as students.  Not as sexual objects and not as seductresses or seducers.

Sure, young professors or advanced grad students are told to keep their doors open so that they don't get accused of sexually harassing their students.  Let's be clear--the norm should be to keep one's door open, more to assure students they are not trapped than because of the prof's fear.  But note: no gender or sexuality is mentioned in that norm as I stated it.  Treat people the same.  I only close my door when a student, male or female, LGBT or not, when they ask because the matter is a private one.  This has happened rarely as most students have not had to talk about deeply personal issues with me, but those that have (because they want to talk about how they have been harassed or they want to explain their medical excuse for missing an assignment, etc) could do so.  The only time I refused to close the door was a plagiarist who might have been the one student in my career who was either trying to seduce me or set me up.  But in that circumstance, trust was already broken by the aforementioned plagiarism and the lying to cover it up. 

About dining or drinking with students?  The key is this: if you do it with some students, then don't deny opportunities to women or to men or to single people or to married people.  Because my wife is secure in our marriage and because I can resist hitting on women and because I get it that people are in school or in this profession because of who they want to be and not because they want to be sexualized, I do drink, eat, karaoke and gamble with women (married or not).  Why?  Because I have found in my career that women have been probably more than half of my closest friends, most supportive colleagues, and engaging scholars.  Oh, and because more than half of my Phd students have been women and to treat them differently, to put them in an inferior position, would simply be wrong.

I have seen enough sexism in my career that I don't want to perpetuate it or reinforce it. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Am I Unreasonably Impatient?

Mrs. Spew would probably argue, hell's yes, I am unreasonably impatient. But the issue du jour is whether the Liberal government is taking too much time deciding which peacekeeping mission to participate in and how.

I absolutely get that it makes sense to take seriously the various options before choosing.  That going in precipitously can have consequences.  But being slow also has consequences.  There are those that say that Canada moved so slowly about deciding to deploy in Afghanistan that it got stuck with Kandahar.  I don't buy that argument (see my book), but it is out there.

For instance, it is my belief that Canada worked the decision to deploy to the Baltics slowly, which meant it got Latvia, which, I have been told, was the least desirable of the four possibilities (Lithuania, Estonia, Poland being the other three).  The Latvians have apparently expected way too much from the Canadians--that the Canadians would serve in the Latvian chain of command (hell no).  It also meant that Canada was at a disadvantage (I think, I have no evidence except for the outcome) in the process of getting partners.  Canada got two of the countries that had the tightest restrictions in Afghanistan (Italy and Spain) as well as, wait for it, Albania.  Poland is joining as well, and they had formally wide discretion in Afghanistan limited by the realities of providing their soldiers with very limited benefits, which meant that they did not go out beyond the wire much.  Maybe that has changed.  Slovenia?  I have no clue what they have done, which might be suggestive.  On the other hand, Canada moved fast regarding Libya, which made it easier to give LtG Bouchard the job of running the entire mission.

What are the consequences of being slow in deciding to participate in a peace keeping effort? People might die.  The usual justification for a PKO is that it needs to be done to manage violence, to enforce a settlement, to prevent the spread of conflict.  The only reasons that taking lots of time to decide would not be harmful are if the Canadian contribution is going to be to replace a unit that is rotating out or if it is to provide some training or technical support to help continue the effort.  Or if the Canadian contribution is purely symbolic so it does not matter when it arrives as long as it shows up (before the next election).
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that there are other consequences.  There have been stories about unhappiness at UN HQ, about Canada losing the chance at gigs to command as the organization waited and waited for a decision.

I would be willing to buy the arguments of those in government and its supporters (see the rest of Roland's tweets today--he makes much sense) if we were not more than nearly 18 months into this government and if we had any sense of when this decision process would end.  It seems like they were on the verge of making decisions at several points and then backed off.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Academic Kindness

I find that discussions of academia are like popular discussions of ethnic conflict--just as there is far less ethnic conflict than there is ethnic peace, there is actually probably more kindness in academia than assholes.  But the assholes do asymmetric damage (depending on how the many manage the few) and create an appearance of being far more prevalent than they probably are.

There is a hashtag #academickindness aimed at spreading positive stories of academia perhaps to offset the outsized impact of the unkind but also to compensate for all of the rejection in this business.  So, I thought I would just try to list key moments or environments of academic kindness in my career.  Because I love anecdata and thinking/writing about myself.

It all starts at the beginning of my career: UCSD in the late 80s and early 90s was a terrific place to do poli sci.  The grad students were truly a community, where much help was given, and where we leaned on each other.  My girlfriend/wife and I moved twice in grad school, and we probably had a ratio of mover to stuff to be moved greater than one with just the promise of pizza and beer to compensate for the first move.  I remained in the program mostly because of the commiseration I received after classes the first term or two as I questioned whether this was for me.  The support I received while studying for comprehensive exams and while revising my dissertation proposal kept me going during times of great anxiety.  And my work was clearly better for having more eyes on it.  Same for practice job talks.

During my temporary job, where I was a dead man walking for 1.5 years (didn't get the tenure track job there in my first year but they kept me around since I lost to none of the above and they needed classes taught), I was treated most kindly by the staff and by much of the faculty, compensating for the deranged folks.

The junior faculty at TTU was perhaps the best community in my career or second best after the grad students at UCSD.  The frequent lunch whine-fests over pizza or burgers were critical to keeping sane in often very stressful times.  As many of us were young parents, we ended up being a great support group.  I will never forget how quickly Cherie Maestas showed up at my house when we needed emergency babysitting.  That was huge.

At around this time, I started developing contacts and networks in the discipline. The folks I met at conferences, especially a certain future President of the ISA, gave me far more than I have ever given them, in terms of reading my stuff, writing letters of recommendation, providing advice and commiseration. Why do I spend so much effort on the annual poker game?  Not just because it is fun, but because it has given me so much. 

One key experience, my Council on Foreign Relations Fellowship, was definitely a product of kindness. I bumped into Dan Drezner as I was preparing for the interview, and he gave me some key bits of advice that helped me in the interview.  Also, that fellowship would not have happened without yet more letters of recommendations.

My next job, at McGill, involved much kindness as well, as I received much help and support while learning how to teach, research, write grants and live in a new country.  I got great advice about where to send my daughter to school from someone who turned out to be, well, not so kind later on.  I got much stats help from one of my colleagues who has since moved on.  When things turned south, I still received much support for the non-Full professors, especially the key associate professors/voices of reason: Jacob and Juliet.  Once again, the staff, including a woman whose laugh was as loud and as frequent as mine, were super-kind people who really set the tone for the place.

During my time in Montreal, I started doing interviews for my research for the For Kin or Country book and then the NATO book.  The key to those projects was the kindness of experts who were generous with their time and with their networks.  Neither project would have worked out that well if I could not rely on experts who helped me navigate their countries.  The NATO project also benefited from book workshops organized by friends, which led to excellent feedback.

I have benefited from much kindness in my new job, as folks showed me the ropes in Ottawa and at Carleton.  The research support folks and the Dean have been incredibly kind to me, helping me do what I do and recognizing my contributions.  NPSIA staff have also been most patient and kind as I have stumbled through the system, and I become even less good about learning rules and procedures as I get older.

My book tours, which have been not just about skiing, have been due to the kindness of both former students and friends in the discipline.  I appreciate their giving me a chance to expose my ideas to wider audiences and also the food and beer that usually accompany such occasions.

My latest work on Japan is going to be successful almost entirely because Jennifer Lind gave me a great suggestion for whom I should affiliate with--Takako Hikotani.  I can't remember ever reaching out and being denied a hand when I have asked for one.

Oh, and about that social media world that gets much grief for the plenitude of trolls, I have met many kind folks who have provided solicited and unsolicited assistance, feedback and support along the way.  I have found very supportive communities online that have made my work more interesting, more knowledgeable and more fun.  Oh, and helped fix my FOMO/Rudolph problem.

I could have included all my co-authors, of course, but then this post would double in size.

What have I learned from this overly long tour of kindness I have experienced in my career?
  • Communities are key--virtual and departmental.  As I have long argued, the quality of communities depends critically on managing the a-holes.  However, the good ones are good in large part because they empower and reward the kind as well as confront and/or marginalize the unkind.
  • Mentoring matters so much. I have benefited so much from the kindness I have received from Miles Kahler, David Lake, Lisa Martin, Peter Cowhey, Pat James, and many others.
  • I can't really return much of the kindness I have received from these folks as they don't need my help much, but paying it forward makes sense.  I have, imperfectly, tried to use what I learned from these folks to help the next generation or two of IR types.
  • It pays to ask for help.  While much kindness will be unsolicited, it is often the case that people don't know what you might need.  
  • Be lucky in who your staff folks and then treat them kindly.  They usually work harder with less control over what they do, so be nice to them.