Tuesday, August 30, 2011

APSA and the Slow Blog Week

Heading to Seattle tomorrow so I don't know how much blogging I will do.  Should be a good time as I have never been to Seattle.

Hope to see my readers at the conference--I will be at the bar.

Ultimate APSA

I have been asked to see if there is interest for an ultimate game at APSA in Seattle. 

Is there much?  It may be too late, but I will beat the bushes to get a game organized for ISA in San Diego.  But let me know if APSA ultimate makes sense to you.

The Accountable Bush Administration

Thanks to Steven Metz's tweet.

When Do I Like Rankings?

When my school comes out ahead, of course!  Jeez, you guys should know me by now.

The Washington Monthly ranks universities in the US according to: their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).  Quite distinct that the focus is on the public good or, as some folks would put it, the greater good.

So, these priorities, rather than just citations, or entering test scores or ultimate team performance,  make a lot of sense if you want to argue about, say, public funding of higher education.  So, it is probably a good thing that the evidence suggests that the system most in crisis--the University of California system--is well-represented at the top (five of the top ten)--justifying perhaps efforts to save the system.  And at the tippy top: UC San Diego, my graduate alma mater.  I have always been proud of UCSD.  I bought low-ish, as it was an up-and-coming department in an up-and-coming school, and sold high as it now has a much better reputation.  I am not sure I could get into that program now.

Anyhow, what I like about this set of rankings, besides it boosting my old grad school, is that it directly addresses the questions of legislators and not of parents. We have enough of the latter, but not too much of the former that are any good.  Given that state funding has been dropping for some time--even before the current crisis, it is nice to have a reminder what universities do, especially public ones.  They provide key public goods--such as allowing people to move beyond their origins via education, serving their communities, and providing some knowledge that improves our world.

 I am sure it would be hard to measure, but I would be curious about the economic impact of universities.  UCSD was surrounded by bio tech, computer tech and other advanced knowledge-based industries--and it was not an accident. Those businesses grew up around UCSD, not the other way around, although they do feed off of each other.

So, I like rankings that illustrate what universities can do, not just in terms of paying profs more or keeping young adults off the streets.

Plus Ca Change

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  You betcha.  Francois Legault has been getting a lot of play here in Quebec as a possible leader of a potential new provincial party.  Polls suggest it would win the next election.  So, why I am less than thrilled about this potential threat to the lame Liberals and the PQ?  Because Legault and his folks issued their first statements: focusing on immigration and protecting French.  With the bridges and tunnels falling apart, these are the priorities of the new party?

But anti-immigration, even as softly phrased here, is an obvious strategy given how well it played out two elections ago in Quebec.  And protecting French?  Ooh la la.  Playing to divide the PQ.  Sure.  I get both tactics, but how about starting out by really changing Quebec politics by focusing on the, um, issues that are affecting people today.  Not immigration and not language, but the economy and the infrastructure?

No, I am not naive.  Anything but.  Still, I can be disappointed by the strategies folks deploy.  And I am.

A Warning We Should All Heed But Will Not

From http://yfrog.com/kll8olgj
My only real question with this: English?  How many folks with guns read English in Tripoli?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Late Summer Tour of NATO

Happy NATO Day!  Okay, this is not an anniversary of anything NATO-esque.  But heaps of posts a-twitter about NATO, its members and so on.  So, some semi-random shots at some semi-random NATO members and NATO in general.

First, France is the best-est ally ever!  Lots of people linking to this article.  Yes, the Libyan adventure certainly raises France's profile as an active contributor, assertive military and the rest.  But to be fair to the French (yes, completely out of character for me, given how easy it is to make jokes in my big lecture class), the Libyan crisis is not the first time that the French have been assertive. 
       During the Afghanistan war (which, by the way, is still an on-going NATO mission), France moved from being relatively restricted to being quite willing to take risks.  When Sarkozy replaced Chirac, we all got a NATO-friendly (to say the least) President.  Sarkozy moved some and then nearly all of French combat forces from the safety of Kabul to the more dangerous areas of Kapisa. 
        Postwar French have never been pacifists--they just have been known for pursuring their own interests.  A lot of those interests were in Africa, with Qaddafi serving as a critical obstacle to French ambitions.  So, the French are so very bold now, taking the lead in the effort, even willing go without NATO.  Still a fun time and an interesting contrast to:

Second, the Germans look more feeble than ever, when the Foreign Minister (for at least a few more days) Westervelle* said that Qaddafi is falling due to economic sanctions.  Now, we have German politicians across the spectrum from Helmut Kohl to Joshcka Fischer saying that Westerwelle is as bad a foreign minister as Colin Powell Condi Rice they can imagine. 
*Unless you are Italy, having a Foreign Minister named Guido is always going to raise questions about credibility.
Here is Fischer's first question and answer:
SPIEGEL: What is it about Germany's current foreign policy and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle that bothers you?
Fischer: Pretty much everything. As the former foreign minister myself, the lack of fundamental convictions pains me. This is fundamentally much worse than losing your compass. We are being governed by those who have lost touch with reality and are denying what's obvious to everyone else.

I am sorry, but Fischer is being oblique.  I really wish he could open up and say what he is really thinking.  Fischer then goes on:
No, the behavior of Germany's government during the Libya conflict, its abstention in the UN Security Council (vote in March on whether to impose a no-fly zone in Libya), was a one-of-a-kind debacle and perhaps the biggest foreign policy debacle since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany. Our country's standing in the world has been significantly damaged.
Okay.  Now, Fischer is being a bit less opaque.  Actually, this entire interview makes me want to vote for the guy.  Anyhow moving on:

Third, I found this on twitter: "Dutch Defence Minister calls for pooling and sharing military capabilities in Europe."  Sure, smaller means working harder and smarter.  Sharing and pooling would be smart, but we can only pool and share with countries that will release the forces (troops, planes, ships, whatever) to the multinational effort with few conditions.  That is: NO CAVEATS and few requirements for phone calls home for permission
Maybe it is not wise to write here one of the conclusions for the forthcoming book on NATO and Afghanistan, but one of the implications of the Afghanistan experience (and of the Libyan one and so on) is that countries will rarely give up national control of their militaries even when they are delegated to the most institutionalized, robust, interoperable alliance on the planet.  So, if you build a military so that it can only do certain things and needs to depend on others to fill critical gaps, you have to gamble that when you are deployed, you will be partnered with countries that have pretty loose rules.  Otherwise, you might be asking for, say, helicopters to extract your troops from a battle but the helo pilot has rules about not being close to the battle or it being night-time or whatever.  You cannot pool if the other guy cannot be counted on to pool right back. 

No wonder Napoleon apparently said: I would rather fight a coalition than be in one.  On the other hand, he lost to a series of coalitions, right?  So, there is really no alternative for the Dutch or the Germans or the Canadians or, with their latest cuts, the French and the British, to working together.  But don't expect it to be easy, simple or efficient.

Defense budget cuts make sharing and specialization sensible.  The politics of participating in alliance warfare make sharing and specialization very, very problematic. 

Coast to Coast

I have been spending the morning on radio stations throughout Canada via CBC syndication, talking about NATO and Libya.  For those not having access to radio stations based in Thunder Bay, Corner Brook, Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Calgary, Kelowna, and Vancouver, here's how it played out:

Is the last day's bombing in Sirtre mission creep for NATO?
No, once NATO interpreted protecting civilians to require striking at Qaddafi's forces, the mission has been pretty consistent--attacking Q's forces.  These forces in Sirtre just happen to be some of the last remaining potential targets.  Regime change may not have been the mission the UN approved, but given Qaddafi's threats and actions, protecting civilians did essentially require changing the regime.

What about hunting Qaddafi or NATO peacekeeping mission?
The mission creep question moves to this concern about next steps.  I suggested (contra Rathbun's advice) that the outside countries would be unlikely to do either.  NATO will help the rebels find Qaddafi via drones and other recon/intel, but not participate.  I raised some doubts about a NATO PKO as its members are exhausted from Afghanistan and are facing deep budget cuts, especially in defense budgets.

What about the Special Operations Forces by NATO countries?
I explained that countries often deploy forces outside of NATO command structures even as they participate in a NATO operation, as in the cases of Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.  That some countries will be more enthusiastic or have different ideas about what needs to be done so they send troops that are independent of NATO command and control.  In this case, the British and French SOF apparently are training the rebels, coordinating them, and helping them communicate with the NATO forces.  

What is Canada doing now?
Six F-18's striking at Libyan targets, recon and refueling planes, one ship off-shore, participating in NATO command structures, including the head of the mission, LtG Bouchard.

What is the future of NATO in Libya?
Again, I basically suggested that NATO was too tired to do much more.  Also, rebels are not looking for an NATO pko.

It is always kind of fun to see how the questions mostly stay the same (they are given a script by CBC syndicated) but then one or two stations will throw a curveball.  The last one asked me about whether the disorder now will make it harder for subsequent international war crimes tribunals.  Um, don't know, but they managed elsewhere.

Of course, doing this first thing in the morning is a bit of a challenge--not too awake.  Oh well.  I think I didn't suck too badly.  The proof of that might be whether they ask me back to do a 9/11 anniversary interview.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Remembering a Fourth Member of the Axis of Incompetent

On twitter, I was snarky about Colin Powell being upset about the shots he receives from Cheney in the lame-athon that is Cheney's memoir.   Basically, I noted that Powell was finally getting upset, when the time for that was about eight years or so ago.  Too little, too late.  Powell does not quite get as much of my wrath for being a part of the worst US foreign policy team in history™, compared to Rice, Rumsfeld and the Cheney machine, as I don't think of him as the worst Secretary of State ever.  There are far more SecStates (going back 220 years or so), so I would have to do significant research to figure it out.  

James Joyner, the managing editor at Atlantic Council, and blogger, pushed back:
  • that Powell was a former soldier who respected the chain of command above all else.  
  • that Powell was merely the representative of the President
  • that Powell had mixed accomplishments.
First, when Powell was a soldier, specifically as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he went public with his opposition to gays in the military at a time where Clinton could have at least used a silent Chairman if not one opposing him in public.  So, one could argue that gays in the military would be somehow more important and requiring more insubordination than invading Iraq without a plan, but that would be, well, problematic.  Plus there is another problem--a good soldier puts country above individuals and individual leaders, and the folks near the top of the command have a greater responsibility to consider the actions being taken.  The Iraq decision-making process was a disgrace, damaging the US in a great many ways.  Powell, once he realized that he could not beat Rumsfeld, ran away and hid, essentially.  If he could not fight the big decision, he had to win the process decisions to make sure that the damage was minimized.  But he did not.

Second, Powell had to represent Bush policy, but a Secretary of State is supposed to do more than that.  Cyrus Vance was a representative of a pretty lame president (one of the best ex-presidents ever), fighting regularly with folks who opposed his ideas (Zbig Brzenski among others).  Vance was able to shape policy, even when losing debates, and represented the US well even at difficult times.  Powell stood before the UN and the world, "representing" the US with a pack of lies.  One could say that he didn't know better, but he did spend about thirty years in the military consuming intelligence.  So, naive he was not, at least about intel.

Third, Powell might have had a mixed record of accomplishments, but nothing positive comes to mind.  Certainly nothing that offsets the Iraq fiasco.  Kissinger is a nice comparison here, since he made both excellent and spectacularly bad decisions, so his record is mixed.  Detente, opening to China versus abetting invasion of Cambodia, negotiating badly with the Soviets on SALT, and so on.  That is a mixed record, which suggests good and bad of similar heft.  I am sure we can find some good things Powell did, but other than being the first African-American secretary of state, did any of these have any heft?

I actually thing the biggest mistake Powell made was his very first non-decision.  Let's think back to the winter of 2000-01 when the Bush team was being put together in the aftermath of a contested election.  Powell was the first big person to join the team, well, after Cheney had picked Cheney to be VP.  Powell had heaps of gravitas then (I am now tempted to chant O-VER-RAY-TED, but will refrain), and should have made his acceptance on the team conditional--that he would have a veto over the choice of Secretary of Defense.  In any administration, those two positions are natural rivals (except Gates/Clinton--who would have thunk that?), so Powell should have been careful about who got the other spot.  Rumsfeld was clearly going to be heaps of trouble.  Perhaps Powell should have pushed to be Secretary of Defense, which might have led to a Bolton-esque person as SecState?  Yes, this is a bit more hypothetical, but allowing a Rumsfeld as his primary adversary was  a huge mistake that no one seems to consider.  Yes, Rummy was Cheney's man, but the administration, at this fragile time, really needed Powell.  He had no more power than at that moment in time.  What did he get with that leverage?  Really? Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

I could go on, but my power may go out again (Montreal's power infrastructure is better than its roads, perhaps, but that ain't saying much). 

I guess I am very, very disappointed in Powell for two reasons.  A) I had reasonably high expectations.  B)  I have been in enough academic departments where the truly dysfunctional people are allowed to do heaps of damage precisely because folks with some power stand aside.  I know that I probably lost at least one job interview when I mentioned that I would not stand aside if I saw evil being done.  I perhaps have not always followed through on that vow (not an unbreakable one apparently), but I have used whatever power I have to help those who have been harmed by the dysfunctional folks.  Powell had power and he did not use it.  So, he ultimately enabled the worst SecDef, the worst National Security Advisor, and a very bad VP to make awful policies that damaged the US abroad and at home. The truly damning thing is that, by all accounts, he knew how bad these policies were at the time.

Let me know what you think: how responsible is Powell?  What good did he do?  Was the symbolic advancement of African-Americans enough to overcome the disaster that he facilitated?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Confused Public

Another report about a survey of Canadians about their defence forces.*  Canadians feel under-informed, so the title of the article says.  Well, are they?  They claim that the Afghanistan mission was "Deadly" "expensive" "underfunded" and "endless."  Sounds about right to me.  It was all of these things, so not so confused so far.
*  Yes, I confuse myself about defense vs. defence but when it is Canadian, go with the "c".
 Canadians reported that they did not know why the CF was still there in March 2011.  Well, that is a bit of under-informing.  Of course, the obvious answer would be: the last mandate was to end on July so Canada was meeting its commitment to itself.  I think a large part of the confusion about why Canada was still there has to do with the mixed/lack of messages from the government.  Message control does not necessarily mean clear messaging, so the effort to keep most agents and agencies silent may not have done the mission any favors.**
** I still do resist adding "u" everywhere.
What Canadians are really confused about?  They would like more peacekeeping and less combat.  Well, that is not just up to the Canadian government but to the various actors on the ground.  One of the lessons of Somalia and Rwanda was: shoot a few members of the international community and they might leave.  The potential places that Canada may be asked to go are full of folks who might want to shoot at them.  Traditional peacekeeping is not as peaceful as often believed, and is also less in demand.  Darfur, Southern Sudan, Congo all would be places where there might be public support for a mission--until the Canadians started shooting and being fired upon.

So, the real confusion is not so much about Canada but the world in which we live.  If only there were people writing about such stuff.....

PS  One last note on this piece: one of the opinions uttered by one person was:
"If that means putting more military (in the North), to show Denmark that we really do own that island and they can't go there, then that's what we should do"
Which reminds me--everyone is entitled to their opinion, but they are not obligated to have a sensible one, nor do we need to pay heed to every opinion that is registered.

SOF, NATO, and the 140 Character Problem

I have been having a twitter conversation with Roland Paris about the presence of special operations forces [SOF] on the ground in Libya that are from NATO member countries (UK, France) but not part of the NATO effort.  Roland suggested that this was essentially a fudge so that NATO folks could claim that NATO has no ground troops.  I pushed back, saying that there is more than symbolism here since countries will often not want to put some units under NATO, especially SOF, because they want to retain command and control of these folks.

In Afghanistan, the numbers each country has deployed does not match up neatly with the NATO figures for all kinds of reasons, but especially because countries will not put all of the troops in theater under NATO command.  Yes, countries do put some SOF under NATO command (having talked to an Aussie who served as ISAF SOF commander last year, I do know that he had some folks to command), but not all of them.  The most obvious instance would, of course, be the SEALs who took out Bin Laden, as they did fly from Afghanistan.  These guys and dog were not under NATO command, and I would hazard a guess that while many US SOF have been under NATO command, few of the top echelon folks ever have been.  Indeed, one of the messes in the spaghetti chart that is the command structure in Afghanistan has been the separate line from Special Operations Command back in the US to the special operators in Afghanistan.  That was supposed to have been simplified under LTG Rodriguez, but it is my semi-informed guess that this was not entirely fixed. 

In Bosnia, I know that there were American SOF doing stuff that was not under NATO command (no specifics since this is an unclassified channel), and they were commanded by the senior Americans under their American hats, not their NATO hats.  Indeed, the current Dave and Steve project started out pondering the dynamics of dual-hatting--how officers will have to report to two different chains of command and how they manage that.  Anyhow, SOF folks in Bosnia clearly operated under the American chain, even though there was no need for optics to confuse the situation since there were at the start 25000 American boots on the ground for all to see.

Anyhow, when NATO sends out a mission to someplace (Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Libya), it has to come up with a set of rules that all members to which all members must agree.  I am not sure how the OPLAN and such worked for the Libyan operation, but the general standard operating procedure has tended to have countries put only some/most of their troops under NATO command and control and reserve others for national command and control for situations/realities where they expect NATO rules to be less convenient.  Or just that they want to have additional discretion about how their folks are used. 

In the Libyan case, NATO agreed to deploy air and sea power.  Countries wanting to do more would have to do it on their own--France and the UK.  NATO has much experience "de-conflicting" the nationally controlled SOF and the multilaterally controlled everyone else.  So, they can and do communicate with each other even if legislators back home insist on caveats that limit cooperation between them (for Afghanistan, politicians wanted to draw a distinction between US-led ad hoc Operation Enduring Freedom and the NATO-led, UN-blessed multilateral adventure that is ISAF).

While it is certainly true that is allows NATO to deny having troops on the ground (one of the key joys of SOF is their plausible deniability), I don't think this was the intent of deploying French and British SOF and not NATO SOF.  I think at every step of this operation, the French in particular but also the British have shown more enthusiasm than anyone else, so they have been willing to do more than their NATO pals.

While it may look like a dodge to some (like Roland), this is a pattern that has happened again and again even when the rest of NATO was willing to throw in tens of thousands of troops.  So, I think I can explain a constant pattern of behavior with a constant--the way NATO and its members always operate--rather than explaining a constant with something that varies in this case--the desire to avoid appearing to have boots on the ground.  While there are many differences among the various NATO operations, there has been some significant continuity as well, including having SOF on the ground controlled by their home countries and not under the command of NATO.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Map of Arab Spring

Check out this map of Arab Spring

My favorite part is the crack in the Schengen ....  Well, that and the omissions of Switzerland and the former Yugoslavia from "EUTOPIA."

Short Attention Spans ... What?

Ok, we have been warned not to make predictions.  Let me make a few anyway. 

Unless Qaddafi is found, the Libya story will face from North American media outlets, as the focus turns to the breakup of Derek Jeter and Minka Kelly Hurricane Irene.  East Coast bias in US media is always present, but is amplified when NYC, Boston, and DC are threatened.  Already my facebook status feed has shifted from Libya to hurricane preparations.  I never did expect the class flirt from my old high school to become an expert on Hurricane preparation, but she has lived in Florida long enough to go through this enough times.

And Irene, if it is not quite as bad as it is feared, will soon be overcome in media by 9/11 anniversaries.  I did my first few interviews yesterday, and have already prepared a column for Currrent Intelligence (probably to be posted in the first week of September). 

The media has a short attention span and so do we (nobody is forcing my FB friends to shift their focus).  Plus local emergencies will, of course, crowd out distant crises.  The strange part will be the obsession about a round number (10) that gives more weight to an historical event than to current ones. 

I am not saying we should not mark the anniversary, and I will be thinking about that day and year much over the next couple of weeks (well, that and where to find good beer while in Seattle for the annual American Political Science Assn meeting).  I am just noting that we have a short attention span, and there are a few distractions up ahead from the events in Libya.  So, squeeze out the blog posts, tweets, op-eds and such now because the focus will be turning away from Libya if I know my international crises media coverage.

Let the Credit Taking/Blame Casting Begin

With the fall of Tripoli, it is time for everyone to take credit and cast blame.  There is a triumphant piece in the National Post where the Canadians take credit for providing a disproportionate contribution to the bombing effort.  Depending on what one considers to be the denominator of the ratio of x/y to determine proportionality, nearly every country that dropped bombs on Libya could probably be viewed as providing more than it share with the possible exceptions of the US, Italy, and maybe the UK.

Clearly, the Danes, Norwegians (who re-deployed their planes back home in August), and the Belgians (assertive defense policies are easier when one does not have a government?) played a bigger role than their population sizes, defense budgets or expectations would have predicted.  And, yes, the Canadians, too.  France's 1/3 of the load certainty is punching above its weight, to use the phrase everyone uses in these circumstances.  Italy's 10% or so and Britain's 10% or so (before the last few weeks) are probably about right for the larger economies/populations/militaries of Europe.  The US did not do as much as folks ordinarily expect but given its relative military power, it certainly carried a very significant load, particularly providing much of the stuff needed to facilitate the bombing--intel, communications, satellites, re-fueling, ammunition, etc.

It seems that Qatar really punched above its weight with Special Operations types helping the rebels.

The disproportionalities are not only a function of who gave but who did not--Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and most of the East European members of NATO. 

Given this pattern, it is fun to see both those pieces that are triumphant about NATO by past NATO officials (Abshire) and scathing about the European Union which once again failed to be relevant in a crisis near Europe.  Actually, there has been lots of debate over the past few days about NATO's value.  It is more than just that a handful of Europeans and the Americans joined France and Britain in their quest.  NATO as an institution provided all kinds of experience, practices, assets, headquarters, personnel and more to provide the glue among the many planes, ships, and other forces in the region so that the planes could reach Libya and then hit rather precisely the targets that had been identified (and still are being identified).  But NATO has never been a place where all countries agree all the time, as the above piece by Abshire remind us.  Burden-sharing always has been and always will be a topic if debate when you have sovereign countries with disparate interests trying to agree to do something.  Someone should write a book about this .... perhaps to be published in the next year (yes, Dave and Steve are nearly done, but now must revise conclusion to address Libya).

And the EU, well, I have long been a Euro-skeptic, especially when it comes to defense issues.  Not much more to say than the piece linked above. 

Of course, the real burden-sharing/avoiding will be in the days ahead--who does what in post-Qaddafi Libya?  The experts (Marc Lynch and others) want NATO out of it, and I think NATO is likely to agree--exhausted by Afghanistan.  But the African Union is not a serious alternative.  We may see stabilization by the willing and perhaps not even an institutional figleaf.  No predictions yet thanks to Rathbun's admonition.  At least, not until I forget his post.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Still Crazy After all These Years

“But I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.
Yep, another book I am not going to read myself.  That is, Cheney's memoir.   Glad to know that there reached a point where only VP Dick (what is it about the administrative Dicks of the world?) was alone in thinking that bombs are like magic beans--drop a few and everything will be swell.  Yes, we just have had a demonstration this past week that airpower can work--under limited circumstances with a pretty limied notion of what "success" looks like.  We have no clue what will happen in Libya post-bombing. And the bombing would did not work on its own but was a key complement to the rebels on the ground.

In 2007, with a surge just underway in Iraq, did another bombing campaign on another Arab/Muslim country make sense?  Not to anyone in the room but Dr. Strangelove Jr.  I have often exclaimed that Rumsfeld was the worst SecDef ever and that Qaddafi's favorite fashonista, Condi Rice, was the worst NSA ever.  But they have an advantage over Cheney--only sixty so years of folks with whom to compete.  Cheney has to compete with VP's going back to John Adams in the 18th century.  I don't know my arcane American history well enough to figure out if there were worse VPs, but I would have to guess that if one measures worse in part of having a detrimental effect, instead of just dumb, stupid or evil, then Cheney is pretty close to the worst.  He empowered Rumsfeld (well, he picked him), he picked himself (which means everything he did counts either twice or is squared--the math can be fuzzy), and he fought to keep all folks who were knowledgeable far away from Iraq reconstruction.  He was amazingly successful in that last part.  Oy.

And then he shoots a friend in the face and the friend has to apologize?  Topping it all off, Cheney then gets to be on TV all the time after being part of an entirely crappy administration to criticize his successors.  So, he is a hypocrite with no class and a poor record to show.  Am I reading his book?  Hell no. 

Holy Schadenfreude!

Twitter has been alive and yesterday with stories about South Africa making a series of mis-steps in its reactions to the events in Libya.  At a time where we might be expecting South Africa to playing a bigger role around the continent, we find, instead, that its policies are marginalizing itself.  Does this sound familiar?

Yes, it does.  We would call this Germanizing one's foreign policy after Germany's keen ability to make itself irrelevant even when it comes to events impacting Europe rather directly.  Yesterday, former Chancellor Kohl was quoted thusly:
Former Chancellor Kohl, 81, who oversaw Germany's reunification, has warned that Germany is "no longer a reliable force, internally or externally" and lacks "a compass" in matters of foreign policy.
"We have to return urgently to our old dependability. We have to make clear to others what we stand for, where we are headed," the former leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) warned in the latest edition of Internationale Politik, a foreign policy journal. source
Chancellor Merkl pushed back feebly because, well, that is what she does.  Germany must be embarrassed to see France get heaps of glory along with the Brits and the Danes and the Italians????  Yes, the Italians are getting some credit while the Germans are on the sideline.  So much for Germany being the great power of Europe in the aftermath of reunification (realists will have to check their great power matrices and get back to the world on when Germany will rise again).

So, we have a new term to describe a country that tries to make itself irrelevant in the world around itself--to Germanize.  South Africa is busily Germanizing itself.  One could argue that heaps of Republican candidates would do Germanize the US if they have the chance.

Any other countries engaging in Germanization?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slow Blog Day, Pre-APSA

No posts today.  Had to finish APSA paper and then IRS paperwork.  Next week is the deadline not just for the American Political Science Association, but also for declaring one's off-shore funds.  Since I live off-shore (if cross the St. Lawrence counts), I got funds off-shore.  Strange stuff, but I am pretty sure I am below whatever threshold there is.  Still, got to be in compliance.

So, watch the Libya coverage and let me know if anything happens.  It has been a slow news week.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Getting Older Every Year

Jacob Levy tweeted this link to Beloit's mindset list, which informs profs of the new generation of students--what they have experienced and what they have in common.  AND how different they are from the geezers who teach them.  I discussed the previous years' versions.

Let's review shall we?
  1. Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents. [Only if you think they really would have stayed together.  And Ferris was too drug addled to be reliable, right?]
  2. There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.  [Unfortunately, the most visible female "role models" are Palin and Bachmann.]
  3. As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration. [Unlike the impact of the phone, the radio, the tv, etc.  Adults worry about technology--nothing new about that]
  4. Their school’s “blackboards” have always been getting smarter. [Only if their schools have unbelievable funding]
  5. “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?
  6. More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe. [Really?]
  7. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you're talking about LeBron James. [Just as successful as the original, so no big change, right?]
  8. All their lives, Whitney Houston has always been declaring “I Will Always Love You.” [Um, all their lives, Whitney has been irrelevant]
  9. Jim Carrey has always been bigger than a pet detective. [Not lately, what a dated list]
  10. We have never asked, and they have never had to tell.
  11. Life has always been like a box of chocolates. [Um, if this list is supposed to get hip to the kids, I gotta wonder if the kids are Gump-aware].
  12. “Yadda, yadda, yadda” has always come in handy to make long stories short. [Please, Seinfeld did not invent that, been around much longer than that]
  13. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV. [Does not distinguish these folks much]
  14. Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief. [So, the line is really post 1984?]
  15. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century! [Finally a relevant one--internet has always been fast for these folks--now we can generalize about their impatience as if we aren't]
  16. Women have always been kissing women on television. [The real revolution is this one--that homosexuality is no longer entirely alien.  Rather than hating the homosexuals, it is now ok to hate the homophobes.  It does get better!]
  17. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers. [No, they have probably been told about Spears and Timberlake singing songs about the other].
  18. The bloody conflict between the government and a religious cult has always made Waco sound a little whacko. [I am sure they are unaware of this one]
  19. Electric cars have always been humming in relative silence on the road. [Really, we have that many e-cars around?]
  20. No longer known for just gambling and quickie divorces, Nevada has always been one of the fastest growing states in the Union.  [Sure, the kids are aware of demographic change]
  21. New kids have always been known as NKOTB. [Again, out of date]
  22. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael Who? [Actually, they want to be Kevin or Blake]
  23. They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
  24. It seems the United States has always been looking for an acceptable means of capital execution. [This does not separate these folks from any generation since when?]
  25. Refugees and prisoners have always been housed by the U.S. government at Guantanamo. [Ah, we find a relevant one]
  26. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness. [Um, no, both still relevant]
  27. The New York Times and the Boston Globe have never been rival newspapers. [Newspapers not so relevant]

Either I am really out of touch or the folks who made this list are.   You make the call.

    Libya and a War of Definitions

    I tend to be less precise and less insistent about definitions than some folks, but I do want to make a few un-bold assertions about the state of play in Libya (and nearby) based on my understandings of the key concepts.

    First, the war is, indeed, a civil war.  Some folks want to call it something else like a rebellion or a revolution (more on that in a second), but a civil war, to most scholars, involves two-sided combat between combatants within a country.  Usually, one of the combatants is the government.  If only one side is killing the other, as in mass killings and/or genocide, then it is not a civil war.  Perhaps the Libyan conflict started out as a mass killing, in an effort to repress the protestors, but the rebels have been fighting back, killing Qaddafy's troops for about six months now.  If one wants to get supra-technical, the usual standard is 1,000 battle deaths.  No doubt that we are beyond that. 

    Second, it is far from clear that this will produce a revolution.  I think I might have mentioned this last spring at some point, but, in my mind, a revolution involves more than just a change in leadership.  We do not know yet what the form of the new government in Libya will be.  The constitution of the rebels is vague at best, and will only be worth more than the paper if folks follow through.  Looking at the other "revolutions" of the Arab Spring, it is not clear yet that significant political change will be occurring.  Egypt is still led by its military, so thus far we would code that case as a coup d'etat and not a revolution. If we want to go all Skocpol on this, a revolution involves changes in the shape of society and how government changes to match.  Just changing the guys at the top is not sufficient for a revolution and perhaps not even really for regime change, which suggests a change in the type of political system, not just the two or three goons at the top.

    We need to be realistic and patient (six months from beginning to end of the civil war would not be a bad outcome at all).  We do not know what will emerge here and how long whatever does emerge will last.

    This is the end of the beginning, as they say.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    New Patterns in NATO Burden-Sharing

    From the Atlantic Council:

    NATO discloses each day the total number of collective sorties flown in the previous 24 hours and the total of all sorties since the start of OUP, but it does not break it down into national contributions. Such national details can only be found sporadically and from different sources.  National levels of strike sorties flown have fluctuated since NATO took over military operations in Libya on March 31, 2011. The following information matches each country’s most recent number of strike sorties to the number of total strike sorties by that date.
    France:  33%, approximately 2,225 strike sorties (out of 6,745 total sorties by August 4)
    US:  16%, 801 strike sorties, (out of 5,005 strike sorties by June 30)
    Denmark:  11%, dropped 705 bombs (out of the 7,079 missions by August 11)
    Britain:  10%, 700 strike sorties (out of 7,223 total sorties by August 15)
    Canada:  10%, approximately 324 strike sorties (based on 3,175 NATO strike sorties by May 25)
    Italy:  10% (Not applicable until April 27 when Italy committed 4 Tornados for strike sorties)
    Norway:  10%, 596 strike sorties (out of the 6,125 missions by August 1, no longer active)
    Belgium:  8th ally participating in combat missions, no public data available on number of strike sorties.

    So, the US provided about half as many strike sorties as France.  Wow!  This makes France a more energetic, enthusiastic, committed NATO member than any other!  Sacre bleu!  The US figures are deceptive both because they are old and because the US has provided heaps of assistance besides the occasional strike.  The rest are pretty close to each other.  Belgium has shown that it can be more aggressive when it is sans government.  Norway had to duck out towards the end due to the strain on its air force. 

    What this pattern does demonstrate is that NATO, like in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is a coalition of the willing.  All countries may sign up for a mission, and all must at least grant consent for any mission to take place BUT there are no requirements for any country to contribute.  And contributing equally?  Nope.  What is striking about the stats above is actually how even the contributions are among the countries willing to strike.  France is, well, exceptional, but the rest range between eight and sixteen percent.  Drop the US and the range is from eight to eleven percent. 

    Of course, notable are those countries not listed.  Not just Germany but also Poland, Spain, the rest of the East Europeans, Greece, and Turkey.  Some of these countries have enough aircraft that they could have played as much of a role as those that did.  So, a few bore the strain while the others watched.  This is not a new story to NATO or to international relations.  NATO being NATO, it tends to make us expect equality, but does not reach it.

    Still, NATO made a difference here as an institution, doing heaps of coordination and logistics that made the mission possible.  Lots of planes in the air, coordinating with ships at sea, random special forces guys (Brits, French, who knows who else), and so on.  Very complex stuff, but handled well given NATO has much practice at interoperability even if the politics make the realities of inter-operating a bit more difficult.

    We need to be careful not to give too much credit to NATO, as the rebels on the ground bore nearly all of the risks and paid all of the costs.  Victory only is certain when one looks back, so these folks risked their lives for an uncertain outcome.  Qaddafi made their decisions easier by being capricious.  Perhaps the lesson here is for dictators to discriminate more carefully?  But that is a post for another day--how to advise the princes of the 21st century.

    What Not to Do in Libya

    I pretty much as ignorant about Libya as the next person, so let me just suggest a few generic lessons learned from other conflicts:
    • Don't hold elections immediately.  Everyone likes to do so to give the new folks legitimacy, but then it usually means empowering those who might not be the best folks to be empowered (see Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan). 
    • Think carefully about the guys with guns on both sides. Biggest mistake in early Iraq was firing the Iraqi military.  Helped to create the insurgency.  There has been a cottage industry in Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and Security Sector Reform (SSR), so perhaps this time folks who know what they are doing in these areas might not be deliberately excluded?
    • Don't expect tribal affiliations to go away.  Folks have been trying to ignore or do away with tribal identification and tribal loyalties in favor of national identities for generations.  Don't expect it to happen quickly or at all.  Relying on extended kin is way too convenient for politicians, particularly if they cannot easily deliver progress.
    • Promises are not reality.  The proposed constitution looks great, but it promises everything, including much stuff that cannot be readily delivered--everyone has a good job, for instance.  Don't expect the timelines to stick.
    • The international community will not coordinate well.  I have no clue as to which elements of the international community will show up--UN, NATO, EU, UNHCR, World Bank, IMF, African Union (um, never mind), and so on.  But who ever does show up will be plural--heaps of governmental and non-governmental organizations with different mandates, missions, cultures, etc.  Even when they play well together, there are big problems in getting everyone moving in the same direction.  Easy to see multiple countries getting involved, picking favorites and trying to manipulate the situation (China?).  So, don't expect the international community to be as coherent as the word community suggests.
    • Don't rely so much on the ex-pats.  They may speak English well, but if they have not been involved in the fighting over the past few months, they probably have limited credibility on the ground with those did risk and lose.
    • Don't overestimate the power of the outsiders.  Yes, the outsiders will have money and influence, but between the competition among the outsiders and the need for the folks in the country to pursue their own interests, politics will remain more local than outsiders would like.  The people on the ground will have to live with whatever decisions are made. The outsiders always can go home.
    There will be heaps of stuff on what will happen next.  I have no clue.  I just know that we will probably fall into the usual traps and have overblown expectations.  How democratic is Egypt today?

    Anyhow, if you have additional lists of do's and don't's, let me know.

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Why Not Blog?

    Given past posts about blogging and reputation, why not blog?  This post addresses this question. The post does not address a few significant reasons. 

    First, there is time.  It takes time--not tons of it necessarily.  It depends on how fast one thinks and types and what one wants to do with a blog.  Some of my entries take a few minutes (like this one) and some take more than thirty minutes as I look around for relevant links, pics, clips, etc, and some thinking.  But not all bloggers post daily or multiple times a day.  I fell into this routine more or less, although I average fewer posts a day than before.  Not sure why exactly.

    Second, some folks are shy.  I tried to convince Mrs. Spew and Teen Spew that I am shy.  They laughed in my face.  Oh well.

    Third, some folks like to be discreet, vet whatever they do pretty seriously, and worry about public perception.  This would slow down blogging. Just as perfection is the enemy of the good, filtering is probably adversarial to the blogging enterprise if the filter is set too tightly. 

    Any other reasons not to blog?

    Those Wacky Germans

    Seems as if some folks in Germany want to raise a big stink about German military folks remaining in various NATO HQs during the Libyan operation.  This is a classic tale of folks either being ignorant or mendacious.  Of course, there are Germans at NATO HQs, as Germany has long been one of the big providers to NATO.  But Germany has clearly not been participating in operations--it has removed its people from AWACS planes that coordinate the strikes, there are no German planes flying in any part of the mission, and even the German navy has pretty much sailed in the opposite direction.  Indeed, Germany has lost a heap of political capital by ducking this operation even as it is fits with past German support of efforts in Kosovo, for instance. 

    So, if folks want to get all Germans out of all NATO positions that have anything to do with Libya, then it does raise some questions about their intent--do they want Germany out of NATO?  Or do they want to score some points politically?  Given that it is the Green Party doing this, it could be a little of both.  In the distant past, the Greens were anti-NATO.  In the more recent past, the Greens were actually supporting Germany's participation in NATO.  Hmmmm.  Perhaps the party might be divided, but I am no expert on the Greens.*
    Updated: A friend of mine essentially confirmed this.  That there are divisions within the Greens and that I am not no expert on the Greens ;)

    The thing to keep in mind is that there is much more smoke here than fire.  Germany is not playing any role in this conflict for good or bad.  Any accusation to the contrary is either delusional or nit-picking.

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    The Joy of Low Expectations

    We often think that having low expectations is a bad thing as it limits ambition.  But, if the news on twitter is right and that Qaddafi might be losing power sometime soon, then isn't this a tremendous victory for NATO?  That is, it has been a half-assed effort, with only a few members doing any of the work--that would be UK, France, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, Italy (sort of?) and until recently Norway.  And the big power, the US, has tried to be as behind the scenes as possible, after taking a lead role in the first few days.  Minimal effort, with fewer sorties and bombs dropped than in the Kosovo campaign, yet with high demands--regime change. 

    It is too soon to say if Qaddafi will fall and what will happen next, but if it does, all that NATO irrelevance stuff will be OBE--overcome by events.  Of course, the rebels on the ground might have something to say about who gets credit.

    Ma'am, Yes, Ma'am

    Interesting story in the WP about Brigadier General L.E. Reynolds today--the first woman to command Parris Island.  The base serves as one of the two principal training bases for the Marines and has been featured in heaps of movies (unlike the one in San Diego).  I love how matter of fact Reynolds is about her status.  She says it is "2011."  Yep, enough progress has been made that the folks taking remarkable steps are able to depict their situations as unworthy of remarking. 

    Women still cannot serve in infantry, artillery, or armor, but it seems this will change in the near future, after the end of don't ask, don't tell is absorbed into the system.  With women now allowed to serve in submarines and the head of special operations thinking about women in the elite forces, the various restrictions are following as they are exposed as most problematic in contemporary warfare. 

    Women have been hurt and killed in combat despite their designated positions as combat support, as the battlefield does not discriminate by gender as much as legislators would like to think.  The dynamics of fighting in an Islamic country also make women more necessary since it is hard/impossible for the male troops to interact with the female citizens and trainees.  Plus there is the reality that if you discriminate on the basis of anything other than talent, you will probably have less talent in the pool.  Just as there was less talent in baseball before Jackie Robinson, there has be less talent in the combat arms of the US military if one half of the population is not allowed to do it. 

    Not all women will want to serve in combat, but I would guess that many women who want to serve their country would prefer to do it without restrictions based on gender.  And their time is already here.  We just need to recognize the reality.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Tips for APSA in Seattle

    Dear APSA goer's,
    Apparently my guide to the ISA in Montreal has inspired the next generation of political scientists to provide a helpful guide to Seattle.  Brad Epperly of U of Washington (Box 353530, Seattle, WA 98195
    epperly@u.washington.edu) provides the following:

    First, a link to a google map with heaps of stuff highlighted.
    Second, a hunk of text below to instruct conference goes about the stuff highlighted in the map, so here is Brad talking about his town (one that I have never been to before, so this is all his expertise plus some highlighting by me):

    This map is a more geographically focused version of a map I made for a friend visiting Seattle when I was abroad last summer. It's focused mostly on places to drink, eat, and see some music. It's not so heavy on the touristy spots, because if you're interested in that, it's easy to find via google. Seattle's a good town for beer, food, and music, and that's what this is going for. It was also modified from a guide written by a grad student for another grad student, so there's no fine dining establishments included.
    The hills and water cut off a lot of Seattle neighborhoods from easy access to one another, which has created some interesting and distinct areas. I'd highly recommend getting out of the center and seeing some of them (especially Ballard, Fremont, and Georgetown). But since that might be hard during the conference, this map is focused on places that are a short walk from APSA. That means it's pretty much restricted to the downtown/Belltown/Capitol Hill area (with a few notable exceptions for those who like beer or Mexican food). Most anything in downtown, Belltown, or Capitol Hill is an easy walk from the hotels and convention center.

    So a guide to these areas for APSA-goers:
    -Downtown is a typical American downtown, with the requisite offices and chain stores and restaurants. There are some hidden gems, despite the small wheat/chaff ratio. The Pike/Pine corridor cuts through the part with the convention center, running from the Pike Place Market at the bottom (near the water) up to Capitol Hill. The Market is very touristy, but also a good spot to grab something to eat.
    -Belltown is directly north of downtown, beginning about five blocks north of the Pike/Pine corridor. It's got a lot of condos, a robust drug trade in parts, and a lot of places to eat and drink. There are some great spots, but also a lot of surbanites trying to get into clubs. Think popped collars on the guys and stilettos and mini-skirts on the ladies. Very odd for Seattle.
    -Capitol Hill is the recently (last decade) gentrified neighborhood that is directly northeast of downtown. It's historically the bohemian and gay neighborhood, and still retains some of that despite the proliferation of condo developments. The I-5 (which is sunk as it passes through Seattle) cuts it off from downtown, and gives it a very different feel, even if it's only a few blocks from the convention center. It's two main areas are Broadway, which runs north/south, and the Pike/Pine corridor (these streets are also downtown arteries). It vies for Ballard as being the most vibrant of the neighborhoods in Seattle. It has the added advantage of being in the middle of the city, not on the periphery. 

    It is worth noting that Bumbershoot (Seattle's biggest music festival) is happening over the long weekend, which is held at the Seattle Center (north edge of Belltown, where the Space Needle is). For APSA-goers, this means this part of town is going to be a madhouse. For music lovers, this means other venues are going to have limited offerings.

    Back to the Spew-ful one: The Mariners are in town, and the stadium is apparently a beautiful place to see some baseball.  Since the team, well, sucks, tickets should be easy to get.  The Seahawks have a pre-season game on Friday, so tickets for that might be available as well.  Both are pretty close to the convention.  And, for any town with heaps of water, my guess is that the best way to really see the area is to take a ferry someplace.  Just an educated guess.
    Anybody else have any Seattle tips?

    American Exceptionalism

    Here is a great graph to show how the US is so exceptional (meaning different, not better):

    Thanks to Chris Blattman's blog. Hmmm. 

    Academia and Defence as Dopplegangers

    We tend to think of academic and military folks as being pretty much opposites: talkers vs. do-ers; messy vs. neat; anarchical vs. hierarchical, and so on.  But there is one way in which they are very much alike (and not different from other organizations): those who make decisions seem to be proliferating more than those who are the raison d'etre of the institution.  That is, I have blogged before about administrative bloat in universities.  Now, we have pretty good evidence of the same in Canada where the "Chief of Transformation" General Leslie has called for cutting HQ's to give the pointy end of the military stick more heft.

    There is a lot to to this in Canada (and, of course, elsewhere), but I do have one beef with the accompanying claim that the Hillier re-organizations were mistaken.  Hillier did many things--one was to create operational headquarters--CANCOM, CEFCOM.  CANCOM is for Canada, CEFCOM is for pretty much everywhere else.  The idea is that the Canadian Forces, before Hillier, had all operational decisions made by the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, which meant that he had a lot to do, in addition to his other jobs (sexist language is appropriate--no female DCDS's as far as I know).  CEFCOM was to run all expeditions (Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, etc), providing a single chain of command to control the various elements of the Canadian Forces in each operation.  This is very much like the roles played by EUCOM, PACOM, CENTCOM, etc for the US.  That is, the army, navy, and air force (royal or not) recruit, train, equip, and promote the forces, but it is the job of the operational commander to send them to the field with their orders and oversee operations. 

    Canada is not alone in this kind of reform--the Aussies did it, and so did several other partners (whose identities elude me for the moment).  Of course, standing up a new HQ does not mean that one needs to stand up four--Canada Command makes sense but not sure about Support Command and pretty annoyed at Special Operations Forces Command since that could easily be folded into CEFCOM since I would guess that nearly all SOF is expeditionary in nature.  Two Operational HQs are probably better than four, but two are much better than none, me thinks.  And, of course, setting up operational HQ's probably means that each of the services (Army, Air Force, and Navy) should have cut newly redundant elements that had being doing operational planning.  Did they?  Unlikely. 

    So, there is, of course, room to cut.  And the cuts should fall hardest on the headquarters, especially since making hard decisions (really, can Canada afford a high tech navy, high tech army, and high tech air force?  How about picking just one or two?) is not their specialty.  But is it likely?  No.  People tend not to cut their own jobs.  Provosts don't get rid of vice provosts and generals tend not to eliminate jobs for other generals.  Shaggy or not, we tend to think alike.

    Grade Inflation Day

    With the fall semester rapidly approaching (yes, I should be getting real work done rather than blogging, but I am awaiting a dataset), the thoughts of students turns to orientation and meeting new folks.  The thoughts of everyone else inevitably turns to grade inflation.  The Beast has a great series of graphics here.  I tend to give more B's than A's and only a hefty number of C's in my big intro class.  So, I still have a bell-ish curve usually, just higher at the one end. 

    Actually, some of the other stats in the graphic are more disturbing: that hefty number of students think that showing up should be sufficient.  I did have a conversation with a grad student (not one of mine) in my previous job who said--if you are here long enough, you deserve the degree.  Oy, I hit the roof.  Education is more than just about endurance.

    Why less than 20 pages of writing required?  In my case, I blame .. the unions.  The teaching assistant unions to be specific.  We have a strict limit on the number of hours they can work, and those hours include showing up at lectures, email contact hours, hours in discussion sections (called conferences up here), weekly meetings (necessary for my big class where I have eight or so TAs to keep on the same page), and so on.  So, either I cut back on how much grading they do or I cut back on how much contact they have with the students, more or less.  So, my intro students get about 15-18 pages of writing (two papers and a final).  My advanced students get just a bit more than 20, with one big research paper, one shorter paper and sometimes a final.  Of course, I could just do more grading myself, but the incentives certainly do not point that way.  Plus I hate grading. 

    My students very much do have to read more than 40 pages a week to get by.  Of course, such a stat is deceptive since some courses are not as reading intensive as others.  Math?  Hmmm.  But social sciences are reading heavy.  I guess I average (if I am thinking real hard about the numbers) about 100-150 pages of reading a week, depending on the level of the class.  I am sure my students are willing to do the math to prove I assign more.  But some of those pages will be Zombie-related, so they can moan all they want to.

    What is worse than grade inflation?  That lower standards are most common in programs that focus on educating educators.  I observed early in my career and often since that students who are majoring in Education generally have the worst performance.  Not all, but I used to guess pretty accurately the majors of students who were getting low C's and D's in my courses.

    It is important to note Canada and especially McGill do not suffer as much from grade inflation.  Indeed, a few of my colleagues systematically engage in grade deflation.  I don't get that much whining about grades here because my colleagues have beaten down their expectations.  This is good for me, as I am probably easier than most of them but still more demanding, I think, than the average in the US (if the numbers in the article cited up above are correct). 

    However, it is BAD for our students who want to get into grad programs in the US.  After linking to the grade inflation pieces on twitter this morning, I got a twitter reply back from a prof at George Washington University (Dan Nexon) who noted that Canadians suffer in comparison to Americans due to grade deflation up here.  I assumed this might be a problem--nice to know for sure.  So, I include text in my recommendation letters addressing the grading differences--although that may or may not help that much.

    As Dan noted, what we really need is some sort of solution to the collective action problem since those folks who are tough grades face all kinds of problems, including lower teaching evals, flack from parents, hurting the students relative to others in jobs and grad school applications, and so on. 

    But I am skeptical. Profs are hard enough to herd when their numbers are small.  Getting all of us to agree to anything?  Ha! 

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Random Recognition

    Somaliland counts!

    Ok, perhaps not so great, but this map by the World Food Programme essentially recognizes the existence of Somaliland.  As the map shows, Somaliland is better off than Somalia--yet again. 

    Somaliland is a proud member of a club of countries not allowed in the club of countries.  Byman and King had a nice piece in the NYT this week documenting the problems raised by "phantom" states. They recommend:
    transparent government, free elections and a peaceful foreign policy are as vital for phantom states as they are for real ones. If phantom governments behave well, they should be offered a path toward legitimacy by the world’s major powers. Economic and political reforms can proceed parallel to, and even bolster, discussions over sovereignty.
    Good luck with that. Their orphan status is a product of political conflict, not just aversion to changing international boundaries (O-ver-RAY-ted).  The political problems that create these non-entities are very hard to resolve, so waving a magic wand is unlikely to do the trick.

    The funny thing is that I was thinking of these kinds of countries after listening to Bill Simmons's podcast with NBA commissioner David Stern.  The commish mentioned that the NBA appears in 215 countries or so, but the UN only has 192 countries or so.  Which means the NBA appears in countries that are lacking in the rule of law and then some.  Verrry interesting.  To me, at least.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Dog Days of August

    For the first time since 1992, my family is dog-less.  We got Flynn (the smaller one) shortly after we were married from a shelter in San Diego, and we got Tessa (the larger one) shortly before my daughter was born.  Flynn died a few years ago while I was away at a conference.  We had to put Tessa to sleep yesterday after she handled a week at a kennel rather poorly.  We usually used dog-sitters so that they would not have to endure the stress of a kennel, which, in our minds anyway, is too much like the animal shelters where we found them. 

    But Tessa was about 17 and was starting to lose the ability to stand and to walk even before we went on vacation.  Indeed, we faced a few points over the past six months when we thought about doing what we had to do yesterday. 

    Flynn was clearly my favorite of the two, with Tessa being more neurotic, especially early on.  Flynn was simply too cool, with our move from Vermont to Texas producing many sad-faces in New England.  He had charmed not only all the large female dogs in the townhouse development but also their owners.  Tessa was still a sweetheart, and she will be missed, even though she used to wake up the baby long ago by barking at any time a leaf flew by the front of the house.

    I post this not to get more sympathy--facebook provided aplenty--but to explain why blogging has been infrequent lately.  Losing Tessa will greatly simplify our lives and save us a fair amount of money, certainly, but she will be missed.  Perhaps Game of Thrones will show more of the black Direwolves next season to remind us of Tessa as Friday Night Lights briefly teased with a Flynn-esque Skeeter.

    And, no, we will be getting any more dogs.  We loved the dogs we had, we love the ones we encounter, but we hope to travel more in the next few years.  We were glad we could save a couple of shelter dogs, including one that had clearly been abused, giving them really, really long lives.  If you like dogs, get a shelter dog.  Pure-breds are for Slytherin.  If you want a dog with character and heart, get a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff at a shelter near you.

    Holy Socks! Somebody Found a Metric I Was Looking For!

    I have often complained about how hard it is to measure progress in a COIN effort, especially Afghanistan.  And I have often said that if I knew what the trends were in actionable intel tips, I would have a clue about progress.  Well, it is a good thing there are grad students who are collecting this data because: TA-DA:
    Using the infamous Wikileaks Afghan War Diary data, my advisor David Sobek and I found that collaboration between Afghan locals and U.S. forces, in terms of turning over or pointing out caches of insurgent forces has increased since the president ordered a surge in forces in early 2009. We also find that collaboration breeds collaboration. In other words, while there isn’t much cause to celebrate yet, U.S. forces are beginning to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan.
    A problem with the link is making it hard to read their paper.   And I would use the phrase credibility rather than hearts and minds--the Afghans might have found American/NATO commitment more credible and as more credible partners but that they love us and think like us (hearts and minds)?  Not so much.  But this is really cool, if the info is right.  Of course, lots of other stuff going on, but if the patterns of intel tips is what is suggested here, then we have some progress.  The question then is--what is the pattern now as the US starts to reduce and after the Dutch and Canadians have, as they say in French, skedaddled? 

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Bachmann Overdrive

    I have tried to avoid paying attention to the American election campaign. I am depressed enough as it is.  Plus it is way too soon.  But Kathy Griffin is just, well, mighty terrific in this piece on Conan.  Bumping into Bachmann, Griffin asked her:
    "Were you born a bigot or did you just, like, grow into it?"
    The answer:
    "Good question.  I will have to get back to you on that."
    As Monty Python skit number 47 would say: Say no more!

    Hobbes Was Right for the Wrong Reasons

    Famously, Thomas Hobbes argued in the state of nature, life is nasty, brutish and short.  It turns out he was way ahead of his time. Turns out that watching television may shorten one's life.  So, if you notice that I stopped blogging, it might be that TV killed me.  I watch a heap--so I should be dropping dead soon.  Just fair warning.

    Afghanistan and the Pundits

    Check out this cool graphic of where the various pundits fit on Afghanistan.  Where would I fit?  Probably somewhere near the President's plan, I suppose.  My ambivalence makes me hard to code.

    The larger point is that we have a whole heap of dissensus on the issue.  This may not be a representative list of names--perhaps an accurate survey would have more folks in one corner of the circle (yes, a circle can have corners if I say so).  But the key is that we should stop saying with any sense of incredulity that the people are confused by Afghanistan when the messengers and the decision-makers (not to mention the war itself) are so very confused.  Of course, publics are confused.  The situation itself is fairly opaque, counter-insurgency is less easy to measure than conventional war (where there are often surprises as well), and the elites do not have any level of coherence on this.

    I believe it was Feaver (need to re-read civ-mil stuff for winter semester's course) who argued that public support for war correlates highly with elite consensus, which goes a long way to explaining why the war used to be popular but is no longer.  I do think he was right on this, if not on everything.

    Royally Amused

    The Canadian Department of National Defence is putting Royal back in the names of the forces that fly and sail: the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy.  Twitter has been a fun outlet for those in favor or against.  As some noted, Canada's RCMP stands for Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the ships are Her Majesty's ....., so this is no big deal.

    But to an ex-pat American, this does seem like a strange move now.  Embracing royal-ness in the 21st century?  I guess any way to get closer to Kate Middleton makes sense.

    See here for quotes from my friends in Ottawa.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Good Advice to Grad Students

    Some slides that present good advice to grad students as they move past their first classes.

    Canada and NATO: Irrelevant?

    Granatstein, apparently the dean of Canadian diplomatic historians (I say apparently since I am neither Canadian nor an historian), has written a piece questioning the relevance of NATO.  If he were an American, I might have to make an argument.  However, for a Canadian, this is a relatively silly question to ask given the absence of alternatives

    The US can and occasionally does go it alone, perhaps covering its unilateralism with a fig leaf of supporting countries.  Canada simply cannot act militarily in the world without help.  So, the choice is either go bilateral with the US or multilateral with NATO, as there is no other viable security-producing institution in the world (nope, the UN does not count).  Its military is simply too small and lacking in key capabilities to do much abroad (or defend itself). 

    What about the facts in the piece?  Well, yes, the US did send 1,000 troops to southern Afghanistan, but that was part of a deal that brought a French battalion to the dangerous area of Kapisa near Kabul.  The French wanted to go East, not South, largely for logistical reasons. NATO worked in this case by facilitating the redeployment of Americans before the big surge and because Sarkozy wanted NATO to succeed.

    Granatstein is also right in suggesting that Afghanistan is not a huge success story, but consider the context--is it NATO's fault or is it due to the situation?  I would not use Afghanistan as a good measure of what NATO cannot do, after countries have bled in a war far away from Europe just to support an ally a la Article V.

    The piece does tend to overplay the "Europeans" didn't fight thing, as even an author of book on caveats (well, soon) would not say that Europeans didn't fight.  Not only did the Danes and the Dutch fight in the South, along with the Poles in the east, even the Germans and Italians, handcuffed by domestic politics, still bled and fought.  Yes, some countries fought harder, but Canada was hardly alone and the NATO blessing to the mission meant it was possible for others to participate.  Hard to get missions through parliaments without a thick gloss of multilateralism.

    Oh yeah, true for Canada as well.  Canadians are more likely to support a multilateralism mission.  Isn't that one of the lessons of 2003?

    Granatstein's final take:
    And where does this leave Canada? Ottawa has been fed up with the way most NATO members hid under the bushes to avoid Afghanistan and Libya while Canadians fought and died. That ought to lead to a serious re-examination of the utility of the alliance, of its worth to us in the immediate and longer-term future. But NATO contains most of our friends in the world and, while the grumbling among the mandarins and politicians continues, there is unlikely to be any immediate interest in pulling out.
    But in diplomacy as in baseball, it's three strikes and you're out. Afghanistan was strike one; Libya was strike two. And strike three? No one yet knows where the next call for action might be - Syria? - but if NATO funks it again, then the pressure from Ottawa and, possibly, Washington may be irresistible. NATO has lasted more than 60 years, but even historic alliances can become so attenuated and powerless that their irrelevance can no longer be ignored.
    Convenient to ignore Bosnia and Kosovo--where the casualties have been few and the peace relatively robust.  Also strange to mention Syria as no one is really thinking of doing anything there.  Is NATO really supposed to intervene and stop all violence?  Rwanda would have meant NATO was irrelevant in the 1990s.  Or Somalia?  Oops.

    As a committed skeptic of conditionality, I still see the merit NATO had in helping the democratization of Eastern Europe by both providing security guarantees and helping to develop civilian control of the militaries.  

    Back to the main point: with broken submarines and a navy with few significant platforms, a small air force, and limited defense budgets down the road, how can Canada either defend itself on its own or intervene anywhere in the world without significant help?  Relying solely on the US is one way to go, but not popular in Canada and perhaps not a wise strategy to always be a mouse with little influence on the elephant.  NATO institutions give Canada some sway, especially when Canada "punches above its weight."  No institutions means that there is no place for a LTG Bouchard to run the Libyan campaign.  If the purpose of a military is just defense, NATO is necessary.  If the purpose is to have influence, NATO is still relevant as it has amplified Canadian influence in Europe, the North Atlantic, the Med and A-stan.  Not too shabby.

    Yes, the institution has problems and caveats have been challenging (but Canada has them too).  But the reality is that there are not abundant choices, and NATO has done both better and worse than its critics/fans aver.

    Cutting Defense: First, Steal Some Underwear

    The NYT had an interesting piece on defense cuts that must occur for any serious deficit cutting to occur.  The graphics show the trends in spending:

    The first shows quite clearly that the "easiest" way to get back to a normal spending level is simply to stop funding war.  Getting out of Iraq will eventually pay off, once the US un-surges from Afghanistan.  War is simply expensive, but Bush, unfortunately, did not feel he needed to pay for the wars he started.  Iraq was especially expensive and will be for generations due to the injuries incurred by the Americans who fought it and survived (the US will not be paying the bills for other countries' veterans). 
    This picture also makes its clear why there is some urgency about getting done with Afghanistan.  But that is a bit harder to do simply because there is not a reliable partner to take over (yes, Karzai makes the Iraqi folks look reliable).

    So, war will continue in Afghanistan.  Libya will cost some but not nearly as much.  What else to cut?

    Here is where the tradeoffs get hard.  If you want to cut the numbers of planes purchased, do you also want to cut the older planes?  Is upkeep of those more or less expensive than the maintenance of the new planes?  The A-10 is an old, old plane but a unique platform for doing precisely the kind of stuff that needs to be done--air to ground attacks. 

    The other really hard part is reforming pay and benefits.  Mostly because there are entrenched constituencies for this kind of stuff--making the soldiers and sailors and marines and air-folk pay more for their benefits is deeply unpopular with them and their pals in the Congress.  It is funny that I resist Verizon's efforts to make their workers pay but not so much efforts to make the folks in the armed forces pay.  Perhaps because Verizon execs are getting paid far more than the President, SecDef, Chairman and the like.  Anyhow, tangent aside, the challenge is that it is easy to recommend stuff to be cut, but it is hard to figure out ways to make cuts politically possible.  Policy experts need to think more about step b (underwear gnome's shoulder shrug) between policy recommendation and policy outcome. 

    Good thing my job is simply to point this out rather than come up with ways to convince Congress to make hard decisions.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Geek Bucket List

    Interesting post on what geeks would like to do before they die.  Which ones would I want to do?  Some random thoughts below:
    1. Get Superpowers.   Naturally.  Addressed this before.
    4. Become  Jedi.  Course of want I.
    10.  Ban all re-boots, re-numbering and multiverses within comic books.  Oh, my, yes!
    15.  Sit in on a film, comic book and pop culture discussion with Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Roddenberry, etc.
    22.  Kill a Zombie w/ a vinyl record, the Batman soundtrack or Dire Straits....  Oh, I have a few albums I could toss.
    26. Go to a bar with Mal and Zoe on Unification Day (although I don't remember what Unification Day is about).  Must get Firefly series on DVD.

    32. Be able to download new skills a la the Matrix.  Ah, but which skills.
    37. Pass the Kobayashi Maru with flying colors.  Don't need to pass, just take.
    40. Solve a crime with a group of meddling kids and their dumb dog.
    47. Trick William Shatner into one last, great Kaaaaahnnnnn!!  Just tell him it is an audition for a new series.
    49. Walk through saloon doors ominously. Absolutely, rootin' and tootin'
    53. Take part in a "Fastball Special" with Wolverine.  Actually, I would want the wolvie part--to be thrown.
    62. Play a game of thermonuclear war with WOPR.
    63.  Revoke George Lucas's writing privileges.  And, more importantly, directing!
    69. Defeat the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Actually, I would prefer to heave the Holy Hand Grenade at the anarchist.
    75.  Drink Butterbeer.  Someday soon.
    76. Wield a Lightsaber.  A flashlight just is not the same.
    79.  Roadtrip with Jay and Silent Bob.
    80.  Re-kill a zombie.
    81. Train a pet dragon.
    92. Ride along with the Vegan Police.  As long as I can continue not to be a Vegan.

    Got it down to just over twenty.  Not bad.  And you?

    Blogging Vacation Ends ... Tomorrow

    Just got back from vacation, so blogging will commence with a bit more frequency and depth (well, perhaps not so much the latter) tomorrow.  Luckily, I do have some meat stored up--Granatstein wrote a pretty dumb piece on NATO while I was off boating and climbing.  So, the fish in the barrel have been lined up.  

    If anything happened in Montreal last week, let me know as I did not get any news.  I did, however, drive out of my way (west off the island) to avoid the various bridges and tunnels that were closed/failing/falling.  So, I am ready to rant about Mtl infrastructure if there is any new story to focus my ire.