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.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Public Engagement and The Realities of Universities

The Potter mess (I refuse to call it -gate) has got folks thinking about public engagement and universities.  There are some basic facts that folks need to consider, with my basic recommendation is  that people need to grow up.
  1. Public engagement is not new even if it is easier and faster via social media.  Profs have been on TV since ... well, sometime after TVs were invented and news programs sought out experts.
  2. There is greater pressure for professors to engage in public engagement.  To justify the expenditure of tax dollar and/or grant dollars.  To make their universities more visible.  To insure better access to the knowledge that is created.
  3. Colleges and universities consist of many professors, tenured and not tenured, and with the exceptions perhaps of the Liberty Universities of the world, these professors are not on the same page on everything and probably not on the same page about most things.  So, it is impossible for professors to match a university viewpoint--the math just does not work.  With so many profs with so many views, it would be impossible for any university to be expected to endorse all of the views of their faculty.  Again, basic math.  
  4. So, the default assumption should be that whatever a prof utters or writes is owned by the prof and only that prof.  Because universities do not vet everything their professors say or write, it is impossible and unrealistic and actually profoundly dumb to expect universities to agree with/support/endorse whatever their profs say.  
  5. While the heart of this matter is academic freedom, there is just a basic math dynamic that should serve as a challenge to anyone who thinks that professor y's statements represent the views of a university.
  6. When professor y says something and it upsets people, well, then those people should be upset with the professor.  If they want to blame the university and call up the Dean or whoever, they can do so.  But the right response of the university is that the views of the professors are the views of the professors. 
While the twitter age is still young, these basic realities have long existed.  Universities owe no apologies or explanations for what their profs say with, of course, a proviso that universities have a role when their profs incite violence and or abuse people (the guys who keep calling and harassing the Sandy Hook families come to mind).  And folks--the media, the government, boards of governors, whoever--should just grow up and accept that universities are not responsible for what individual profs say. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

No Joy in McGill-Ville

I have been holding off on commenting on the column Andrew Potter wrote, his resignation (coerced or otherwise), and the reactions of folks.  Mostly because I am traveling this week, but also partly because so many people (especially this guy) have written such smart stuff that I don't have that much to add.  So, what do I have to say?  A lot as it turns out.  I can't help myself.

First, one does not have to agree with Potter's original column to note some stuff in it that resonates:
  • having police and firefighters be major political actors is problematic (here's where Phil Lagasse thinks I am to his right--that I am not a fan of unions.  I actually don't mind unions when public service ones don't take sides in city politics and are major actors).
  • there is beaucoup de corruption.  Yes, there is an underground economy--any house reno project raises the question about whether one can/should get $10,000s in cash to pay the reno guys.  My fave story is that the firm that had the contract to fingerprints for permanent residency applications in Montreal demanded cash, not checks or credit cards.  Yeah, the one responsible for helping the immigration services identify criminals/security threats.  
  • I am not surprised that the truckers were less than cooperative.  Tis a province where customer service is, um, spotty.  When I was at McGill, we had a candidate give a job talk on language politics, and he started by saying, well, in a store, the owner wants to speak in French, but an anglophone customer walks in, and since the customer is king, and we all laughed, interrupted and said, nope, not here.
  •  On the other hand, Quebec is not a place where there is little social connectivity/capital. For me, it was a huge, friendly, silly, generous ultimate frisbee community of anglophones, francophones and allophones (those whose first language is not French nor English) that welcomed me and my family.  Bowl alone?  Maybe.  But heaps of communal stuff with much glue provided by the Canadiens.

Second, the real story is "Quebec-bashing." That the province overreacts to criticism from certain quarters (English-speakers inside and outside the province) is problematic.  Yes, Quebec was oppressed long ago, but it has been winning for forty plus years.  It has had nearly all of its demands met by the federal government, it has had more than its proportionate share of Prime Ministers, and on and on.  It is a great place in many ways, so it should not become a provincial crisis when one columnist says something that is inaccurate, critical or both. Worse, these reactions provide yet more distraction sauce--rather than focusing on fixing the problems (how are the corruption trials going, I've lost track?), the politics of the place does not lend itself to making much progress on improving things.

Third, I got into an argument with someone on someone else's facebook page about the hypocrisy of all this.  Potter lost his job over criticizing the province, which, in my mind, is a far less of a crime than targeting particular groups.  And, oh yeah, some folks in Quebec can be most insensitive towards groups, such as Jews and Muslims and immigrants.  Do the folks who advocate restricting the abilities of groups to practice their religion get forced to resign?  Hmmmm.   The good news is that those efforts have failed repeatedly.  But the bad news is that the regular appearance of xenophobia and the embracing of it by major parties does not often lead to shaming and exclusion (not just Quebec).  I have long written far more about Quebec's problematic ethnic politics than Ontario's flawed fiscal politics because I have studied ethnic politics and have no clue why Ontario is so stupid about the various fiscal plans.

Finally, while two dots may or may not reflect a pattern, I can't help but note that McGill cares more about reputation than about academic freedom or its students.  When the choice is to do the difficult thing and protect a key part of its mission or do the easy thing and protect itself, it chooses the latter.  Speaking of Potters, Harry would not approve. Will McGill's leadership pay a price for not defending the academic freedom of one of its employees?  I have no idea.  To be clear, I never got any pushback from the administration when I wrote critical things about Quebec or about McGill in my time there.  But if my audience was larger and if they got Quebec politicians yelling about it, I am not sure how much support I would have received.  And, of course, I have tenure whereas Potter and many others do not.  Given that modern universities are staffed primarily by temporary folks, the signal here is clearly that the majority of those on campus should not be doing any public engagement because they might offend someone and find that their contract is unlikely to be renewed (most of the leaders of the temporary faculty effort to get better wages at the school my daughter attends found that their positions have not been renewed).  This bodes poorly not just for McGill but for democracy itself.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mumbai, Day Two

Prettiest poli sci dept?
Yesterday, I talked with folks affiliated with think tanks about Trump and US interventions in West Asia (what I call the Mideast when I am talking to the Asian Society).  Today, I lectured the grad students of the U of Mumbai (the Fighting Traders), presenting what I have learned about intervention into ethnic conflicts over the course of my career. 

I hung out on the beach west of the airport and of the hotel area
to watch the sun set.
It was fun to talk to a completely different audience on this topic, and I tried to summon what I wrote long ago in my dissertation about India abetting the creation of Bangladesh.  The Q&A was most interesting, as questions of supranationalism and partition came up (not a fan of the latter). 

I go back tomorrow to talk about NATO and Trump.

What did I learn today? 
Anyone mention that cricket is a big deal here? Cricket bat statue
  • Oy.  I see that Tillerson is now recommending safe havens, which means that he has hit the Worst SecState Bingo sheet in only two months.  Well played, sir.
  • McGill prioritizes its reputation over academic freedom as it either pushed out or did not try hard to keep Andrew Potter, who dared to right something that was a bit over the top about Quebec's problems.  Good thing I never blogged about Quebec while I worked at McGill (oops).
  • Oh, back to Mumbia, I am amazed that the cars here do not seem to be dented or scratched.  How do they manage that, given how crowded the roads are and how aggressive the drivers are?
  • The lunchbox at the university was amazing--packed with a heap of naan!  Could be the best lunch of the trip.
  • The beaches to the west are mighty rocky, with plenty of young couples canoodling.  Nice spot to watch the sun set over the Arabian Sea.
  • If I do get sick, my faux pas would have been ordering a wheat beer--which came with an orange with a peel. Not good--only peeled fruits, not peels, are ok.  Still, so far, so good.
  • The Canadian consulate does excellent work--I had my last face to face interaction with my Canadian consulate handler, and was most impressed.  The events have been great, the trip has been well organized, and they have tried hard to make sure I don't do anything to hurt Indo-Canadian relations.
Tomorrow, my lecture is at 3, so I hope to get in some tourism before I have to get back.

McMess McContinues

It has been a year plus since I posted about the McGill mess. Every so often, I get contacted by a journalist who seeks to pursue this story,* but they always come up short because no one will talk to them on the record and name names.
* I also get contacted by students from time to time who say that it has happened to themselves or their friends.  They have been let down by the system again and again.

I was just asked by one journalist what I would ask McGill administrators if I had the chance.  I came up with this:

I’d ask her (the administrator) how she feels about confidentiality protecting the perpetrators more than the survivors.  How can future students protect themselves from being preyed upon by serial harassers if they don’t know who is doing the harassing?  How should students feel when they can never see the profs getting punished, if they ever do get punished, because everything is confidential?

Shouldn’t professors who engage in harassment not be given administrative responsibilities?

Most bluntly: the current system doesn’t protect the students, but does protect McGill’s reputation.  Is that the right set of priorities?

Yeah, I am still pretty angry a year later.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Evergreen Post: Canadian Defence Spending as Good Politics, Bad Policy

From my perch in Mumbia, I see that the new budget does two things related to the Canadian Armed Forces: it kicks down the road a heap of money set aside for major procurement projects and otherwise did not increase the defence budget.

This makes complete sense politically.  Canadians have not been demanding more money for defence.  Canada faces no real military threats unless one counts cyber attacks.  Despite fearful pieces in Macleans, the arctic remains too far away from everybody to be a key line of attack.  The oceans and air spaces are protected by the Americans due to their own interests.  NORAD gives a fig leaf that allows Canada to feel ok about that.  The biggest change to Canada's defence situation is Trump's election, and there is little Canada can do military to offset that earthquake.  So, the Canadian people get it and are not clamoring for more money for defence.

Can the Tories accuse the Liberals of being weak on defence? Sure, but since they cut the CAF's budgets, they have weak ground to stand on.  Will NDP?  Ha.  So, who besides defence scholars and random folks will mind?  Keep in mind that one of the few points of consensus in last summer's defence review is that the CAF could use more money.  So much for that review....

Oh, our allies.  Ooops.  Yes, the one political downside is that the US has been demanding more $ going to defence, and it is unlikely that this budget is going to improve the % of GDP spent on defence.  Most of the rest of the alliance is shifting towards more spending, so Canada is going to stick out more.  Perhaps Trudeau feels that he can keep Trump distracted (not a bad bet).  But it is not good.

This budget, if it is what we think it is, is bad policy.  The CAF is being asked to do quite a bit these days: train in Ukraine, train and assist and surveil and refuel in Iraq, base and exercise and lead in Latvia, eventually do a new peacekeeping mission, and more.  Yet without more money.  Oh, and the other bit of consensus of the defence review is more effort in cyber.  Where will the money for that come from?  Who loses in the CAF?  So, perhaps the defence review will still matter as it might identify some prioritization, but don't bet on it.

So, in short, this budget is predictable and predictably bad.  Same stuff, different year.

Mumbai, Day 1

I am in Mumbai, as being on the other side of the world has allowed me to ignore the failure that is the US Secretary of State.   Oops, not so much.  Why am I really here?  Not for research this time.  The Canadian Consulate here has a program that brings in Canadian speakers and has them chat with classes and with think tank type folks. 

I got in last night on a wonderfully half empty plane--I could stretch out in my row.  The hotel is super efficient and secure.  This morning I met my contact at the Canadian consulate, and the car we hired weaved through traffic.  In all the places I have traveled, none surpass Mumbai's level of "hell no, I won't drive in this city."  Too many vehicles of all kinds, with few seeming to obey the rules and heaps of chicken games going on.  Pedestrians have heaps of guts here. 

Anyhow, the morning session was with the Asia Society, India.  A very sharp group engaged me in a very interesting discussion after I presented my take on what Trump means for US efforts to foster security in West Asia---not good.  The conversation was wide-ranging as the audience was composed of people with very different backgrounds and interests.  The only real pushback I got was from the diplomat from the Chinese consulate, so mission accomplished.

Lunch was with two leaders of the Strategic Foresight Group, and then we had coffee/tea/hot chocolate (the Canadian diplomat!) with a bunch of their staff.  In one day (or I could have just remembered Indira Gandhi), I realized that women have a much more substantial role in India than those in Japan.  Again, the conversation was all over the place with Trump proving to be an effective conversation starter/icebreaker.

I didn't have much daylight for tourism, but will squeeze some in later this week before I fly back. First, I have a couple of classes to teach at U of Mumbai, whose mascot is The Fighting Pacifist.  So, here's my first batch of pics.

Add caption

Save the clocktower!

I love funky trees

The slums are sprinkled throughout the city as you can see here

Not sure if this what it is all about

Or this

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dark Thoughts About Sanctuary Cities

I get that cities want to make it safer for targets of Trump's awful policies, especially those aimed at immigrants.  But I do have one dark thought when I see news about sanctuary cities: how well did safe havens work out for Bosnia's Muslims?

I worry that sanctuary cities will have only have the appearance of security.   What happens if federal government forces show up and find a convenient concentration of undocumented immigrants that they want to seize?  Do the police forces of these cities have rules of engagement that allow them to confront federal law enforcement?  If not, then I can easily see apparent safety becoming the opposite very quickly.

Please tell me I am wrong.

When the New Guys Exceed the Old Guys

This week is the anniversary of the start of the Iraq War.  The Bush team got much criticism, and deservedly so, for its core approach: to be arrogant enough that they believed that the realities did not matter as they were going to impose their views on reality.  All the noise and complications of what might happen in Iraq were dismissed because it was their mission to revise the map and the realities of the Mideast by removing Hussein. This was an awful approach for many reasons, including empowering Iran, energizing the radical Islamists, and breaking Iraq which has ramifications we are facing in Mosul today. 

The new team of Trump folks seem to be even more arrogant and definitely more ignorant as they seek to act in ways that ignore the very basics of international relations.  What basics are these?
  • Countries respond to threats by balancing--either via building up their arms or by developing new alliances (Realism).
  • Reciprocity is key to international relations (Liberalism). Trump seems to think he can impose policies upon trading partners, including building barriers to trade.  It is most likely that if he imposes tariffs, others will respond.  
  • The domestic politics of other countries matter (much of the rest of IR). Bullying friends and foes alike will make it harder for them to compromise since their domestic audiences will be upset if they see their leader submitting to Trump.  Merkel, for instance, has an election coming up, so her performance last week was all about making clear that she would stick by German values (which are also translatlantic values, thanks to generations of US-European institution building and cooperation and reciprocity).
So, Tillerson blunders through Asia and Trump keeps on Trumping along.  Ignorance is bliss until you need friends to do something for you.  The future is not bright, but we might need to wear shades anyway (nuclear explosions are oh so bright).  Ok, that is a bit much, but if the Iraq War of 2003 tells us anything, it is to be wary of those who think that the realities of International Relations can be ignored or overcome via enough confidence.