Thursday, March 5, 2015

Which Costs Matter

There has been much focus, and deservedly so, on the economic sanctions hitting Russia hard.  The problem is whether they hit those who support Putin or not, and whether they create economic opportunities for those who are good at evading the law (the police, organized crime) who also happen to be tied to Putin.

The latest reports focus on a different set of costs--that the Russian military is losing "large numbers" of soldiers in Ukraine.  This matters a great deal not so much because the mothers of these soldiers might become a huge political force (I am not sure their impact during Afghanistan was exaggerated or not) but because coercive political rule always, always, always depends on a key question: are the folks with the guns going to fire upon those who oppose the government?

Chenoweth and Stephan have engaged in much research on when non-violent dissent works, with one key factor being defection among the military/police.  What might cause the military to be more ambivalent about Putin?  Bearing the costs for his adventures.

I am not saying anything is going to happen soon or quickly, nor should we be thrilled that Russian young men and women are paying the price of Putin's aggression.  Also, as Bill and I argued in our book, there is nothing new about a country paying the price for a leader's ambition--the question is not what is best for the country but for the "kin".  In this case, the relevant kin are not the Russians in the near abroad (nor in any case of irredentism we studied) but those who prop up the government.

This is not going to end soon, but it may at some point end.  Hope is not a plan, but costs are integral for Ukraine's future and perhaps Russia's as well.  Does that make me favor the delivery of arms to Ukraine?  Um, still not sure about it.  It would increase the costs for everyone involved, and I am not sure that is a good thing even if it promotes dissension in Russia's ranks in the long run.  Why?  Because Ukraine will pay a higher cost in the short run as Russia has escalation dominance--it can and likely will go up and up in terms of escalating the conflict.

On the other hand, Ukrainians die while we sit by patiently.  If this were an easy problem, the answer would be obvious.....  And the last few times I have advocated the use of force, I have been not so happy with the outcomes (Libya, Afghanistan surge).   I have learned a wee bit of humility in all of this. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Saideman's Law, part two

I have argued that stupid decisions in the past should not serve as binding precedents for stupid behavior in the present or future.  Upon reading this piece, I had a similar reaction with a modification of the rule.  Rosa Brooks argues that there are plenty of others who messed up in similar ways.  Maybe the system is broken, but Petraeus still knowingly gave highly classified info to a person who did not have the same level of classification.  His initial reluctance is rather telling. Then, of course, he lied about it.  So, he broke the law and should be penalized, just as others should have been.  And if the law is a problem, then, yes, it should be modified.

To be clear, I am not a P4 hater.  I had a brush with him in 2001-2002 when I was on the Joint Staff as I had to talk to him about something (I forget the specifics) as I was on the Bosnia desk and he was serving at the time as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations for SFOR, the NATO force in Bosnia.  I was impressed at the time, and followed him avidly when he was leading the 101st division into Iraq and into Mosul. Early reports and then Tom Rick's Fiasco indicated that Petraeus was doing the occupation stuff far better than most Americans at the time (a low bar but still).

So, I was a Petraeus fan before it was cool.  Perhaps I am pissed off now as a let down fan.  Or because he slept with his dissertation supervisee (Paula Broadwell).  But I also think that one should not think with one's penis when handing around classified material.  That she had a classification is not sufficient, as there are degrees of classification for a reason.  Well, many reasons but two are: need to know and degree of risk.  She didn't need to know, and reserved officers are a much wider group of people so no need to have as many with high classifications.

In my year on the Joint Staff, I had a Top Secret clearance.  Which was handy and it did allow me to see stuff that I didn't need to see--the daily intel circulated throughout the interagency.  But I did not get to participate in some meetings, especially those involving terrorism and the search for PIFWCs (war criminals) as that stuff involved Special Operations (what I inferred, not what I actually learned).  I knew what I was missing, but not the specifics.  And despite my desperate genetic imperative for more information--I am a very curious person, I was ok with being outside the room and not in the circle of trust.

Paula Broadwell should have understood that she was overreaching, and Petraeus should have gone with his first instinct and not give the stuff to her.  As they say, you do the crime, you do the time. 

Oh and one story about classified materials: on 9/11, I was on the way to State with two army officers.  After the plane hit, these guys were determined to get back to the building both to see if our comrades were ok and to deposit the classified materials they were carrying.  Taking stuff home is serious business and requires serious paperwork (see Erin Simpson on this).   So, we did, indeed, go back into a burning building (a very big building where the burning was on the other side) to drop off the documents.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Back to the Casino: Wagering on the Next CDS

Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson is stepping down, which is not great timing for NPSIA since we have him at our school on Monday.  But it does allow us to play the favorite game of: guess the next CDS.

I suck at this game, having guessed wrong before.  When Rick Hillier stepped down, I had a favorite candidate--the officer that I knew personally and whom I thought would be a good political choice given his Quebec origins--Mike Gauthier.  Gen. Walt Natynczyk was chosen, and should have been the obvious candidate, given that he is quite soft-spoken.  I tend to bet on Stephen Harper seeking to manage messaging more than most other priorities, so this choice made some sense.

Next time, Harper chose Tom Lawson, which was a bit surprising to me since the Air Force had been much trouble--F-35 and all that.  Still, Lawson has proved to be pretty good at sticking to the messaging. 

Which is why I doubt that Jon Vance, currently the Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command, is likely to be chosen. Vance proved in Afghanistan that he was willing to push hard against the rest of the government when he thought his model village plan was better than sticking to the playbook as written.  That is, he did not care so much about the magical six priorities and three signature projects--he would build schools that did not count on the whole of government map of 50 schools.  I just don't see Harper going that route. 

Beyond that, I am not sure.  There is no formal rotation among the services, with the Navy being left out of this spot for 18 years.  However, given that the Navy has much of the focus in the years ahead with the shipbuilding program, it might make sense to put the Navy first for a change. 

I honestly don't know, but if I were in Vegas, I would wager on the Not Army line if the odds were good.

21st Century Travel

I could complain a great deal about how hard it was to get home from Berlin--that after two days of flight cancellations, I ended up driving home via rental car.  Instead, as my brother noted (I stayed overnight at his house in between the day I was supposed to fly back to Ottawa from Newark and the rescheduled day where I was supposed to fly to DC and then to Ottawa, which was then cancelled and led to a proposed flight to Chicago yesterday and then on to Ottawa today):
Messed up map--too much work, too little time
No, the point of this post is to celebrate.  What?  The modern smartphone and all of its apps.  I have FlightTrack, which along with alerts from United via email, informed me all along the way of flight changes.  This allowed me to call directly (one app has a button that spits out the United phone number) or go to the desk and start work on the next flight plan.  I got immediate service since I was just ahead of the curve.  I also got phone calls and emails from family who assisted me along the way (that the GOES card people found my lost Nexus card, that my wife could call National and rent me a car, that National informed me that I had a reservation before I stepped on the Chicago flight).  If I got on the Chicago flight, I would have called the airport Hilton to get a reservation before I landed....

The phone also has a GPS app which helped me navigate out of NYC until I was on I-80 and knew how to drive home from there. 

So, I could have been more stressed, but I was constantly informed and then reacting (keeping the illusion of control) all along.  Good times.  Woot for the 21st century smartphone plus apps!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Travel Notes In an Airport That is Easily Frightened by Snow

I thought my travel complain du jour was that I didn't get a happy ending in either Berlin or Newark, but it turns out that Newark's airport shuts down its flights to Canada pretty quickly when it snows.  In Canada, this kind of snow would not shake things up.

Anyway, it seems like it was a "random" day at security for Steve, as I got "random" attention twice.  The second time it was hardly necessary since I went through security to get to my flight and then turned around both because my flight was cancelled and because I dropped one of my ID cards in the Customs area.

Good times.  The good news about the cancellation is that I can't teach tomorrow I had plenty of time to go back and get my dropped id.  The other big of good news is that NYC is a Saideman-rich environment, so I am blogging while I wait for my brother to pick me up.  

I forgot to mention in my previous posts that something happened on the way to Berlin that I had never seen before.  The bathroom door fell off its hinge so we got to watch the flight attendants repair it mid-flight.  They turned out to be handy folks.

I am enjoying my year of United Gold as it gets me into European airport lounges, and the pretzels in Berlin were tasty and soft.  Almost as good as Philly soft pretzels.

On the way back,  I watched Big Hero 6, which was good but not as worthy as the Lego movie.  I did enjoy both the Eye of the Tiger montage moment and T.J. Miller yelling "Science, yeah!"  I am pretty sure that the movie won the Oscar because they put the animator credits before the voice cast credits.

Spoilers below

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gratuitous Effort to Reach Average

For the first time in Spew history, I think, I will average less than a post per day this month.  I have been blogging less over the past year, but this month has seen a bigger dip.  Why?
  • Well, conferences and related travel make it hard to keep up.  Sure, I learn a lot and used to share more of what I learned while conferencing (such as this post two days ago), but I have much less time while conferencing these days.
  • Related: I am way overcommitted.  So, while blogging does not take as much time as people usually suspect (my typos in old posts remind me how little time I spend vetting each post), it is still some time.  
  • Am I burning out?  A friend was gleeful when I started blogging, saying that I would not be able to keep the pace.  Well, maybe I could not. 
  • I also blame twitter.  Sometimes, I get my views out via twitter and then don't have the compulsion to express them here.  Yes, twitter still inspires more than a few posts, but it may be that twitter is eating some of my blogging energy.  
On the other hand, this was actually a good month for blogging, if one measure it less by output and more by readership.  Of course, taking swipes at IR trolls always increases my hit count, but I also had posts on my participation at PSR, on the GOP and anti-vaxxing, sexism in security studies, and sexual harassment in academia that all had decent audiences.

However, I didn't get into blogging to make my hit counts (or else I would trash the IR trolls more frequently), but to vent on a variety of topics, including many outside my lane (which junior academics probably should be a bit more reluctant to do).  Twitter does provide an alternative outlet for such venting.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I thinking about this today mostly to get my average post per month a bit higher this month. 

Berlin, Day 3

Wait, what happened to day two?  Well, as most second days in Europe for me, it was lost in a haze of jet lag.  The second day of the workshop was very interesting, but I lacked the focus to be able to keep track of what I should blog about.  The one point that seemed most important was that the promise to aspire to spend 2% of GDP on defense, one that is not just being violated by the usual suspects in 2015 but also the British, has been significant for slowing cuts, if not leading to more spending.

But day three?   Wunderbar!  Just a beautiful day (it rains on me less in Berlin than Paris).  I did much tourism the last/first time I was here, so I had to figure out the mix of repeat/new stuff.  I found the same chocolate shop as last time--Fassbender and Rausch and then I walked from there to the
Brandenburg Gate. 

From there I walked along, past Humbolt U to the German Historical Museum.  I walked past the museum the last time I was here.  This time, I spent several hours inside.  I was most struck by all of the discussion of balance of power politics, something you don't see too often inside American history museums.  Ah, Bismarck and all that.

Next to the museum were a bunch of folks selling art, food, and such.  I really liked the sign that said "I am so angry I made a sign."  Even more appropriate--the seller of said sign was miffed that I was writing this down rather than buying the sign.  Beware of anger and signs, they lead to the dark side.

I wish I had more time and stronger feet.  Still, I did get a chance to hang with some interesting analysts of politics:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Jimmy Kimmel and His Doctor Friends Are Miffed

Get your kids $^%@^*&!#@ vaccinated!

More on Germany in Article V Scenarios

I briefly discussed the German challenge in my previous post, but a conversation during the coffee break was most helpful in clarifying the confusion.  So, let me try again.

There is a big difference between Article V operations and expeditionary efforts... maybe.  That is, the German cabinet could deploy troops to deal with an attack upon NATO (not just an attack upon Germany) and then consult with Bundestag later.  The problem is that the cabinet may dither because they fear what the parliamentarians might do/say later.  This is akin to the US problem that the public is not as casualty averse as politicians think, but these perceptions of casualty aversion can cause politicians to pull back (Somalia after Blackhawk down). 

This dynamic did appear in Afghanistan in that the Bundestag did not create really tight restrictions for the German troops---the cabinet did, the German defence minister did because of their anticipation about what the Bundestag would and would not accept.

For me, the key concern is that there is still some confusion about Germany's legal constraints--what does Article V mean now as opposed to back in the day?  In the Cold War, NATO defense and Germany's defense were one and the same.  These days, an attack on Latvia or Turkey may not really endanger Germany. 

Which gets to two key dynamics.  First, an article V attack is only an article V attack when NATO agrees (consensus!) that such an attack has taken place.  An ally could be attacked, such as Turkey, and yet the alliance may not agree that it counts as an attack.  Indeed, I use the Turkish case because we have already seen this play out.  Second, article V includes opt out language--each country responds as each deems necessary.  So, still plenty of room to waffle. 

Anyhow, it seems clear to me that any NATO rapid reaction force would not be that rapid, as SACEUR is not being given authority to send troops without consulting the North Atlantic Council and without getting the consent of the countries contributing troops the force.  In other words, thus far, no pre-delegation of authority. 

And this is not just a German challenge--it is true for many/most/all members.  On the bright side, SACEUR can act with his second hat--as US commander of European forces.  But that means having some US troops nearby to throw into the mix. 

And, yes, I am having heaps of flashbacks to the Cold War.  We may not be in the Cold War 2 now, but there are lessons to learn from the past.  Russia is not the Soviet Union, but NATO is NATO. 

Berlin Day 1 2015: A Bridge Too Far?

I am at a two day workshop in Berlin with the topic of NATO after the Wales Summit.  It is a Chatham House/SWP (German Institute on International Affairs) event, so I cannot say what particular individuals (aside from myself) have said.  I can point to a few general themes/tendencies. 

Before getting into it, I have to say that while I found it somewhat strange previously to hear a Dutch diplomat say "a bridge too far," it is even stranger to hear it come from a German given the history of the phrase (Operation Market Garden). 

Anyhow, what did I say?  My job was to discuss whether the "deliverables" at the NATO Wales Summit last fall were sufficient and whether they are being, um, delivered. 
  • Hope is not a plan.  That the promises made at Wales were far more aspirational than anything close to being realized. 
  • The promises made to create a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force [VJTF] have been insufficient since they have not worked out the key details.   The VJTF was supposed to be able to move within 24-48 hours but is now going to be a week or so.  
    • My question was answered yesterday--whether countries committing troops to this effort have figured out the domestic legal requirements of deploying such a force (the stuff that produces caveats and also causes decision-making processes to be sloooow).  That is, for those countries that need legislative approval to deploy troops, are there efforts to deal with this challenge ahead of time so that the rapid reaction force can react rapidly?  The answer: nein.  It might be that the German requirements do not apply when it comes to self-defense/NATO defense in Europe.  But we don't know.  
    • And the other two countries that are making early commitments, Norway and Netherlands, also have domestic processes that need to be "fixed" if SACEUR is going to be able to move troops quickly.  That this responsibility will rotate to other countries with mixed Afghanistan does not fill me with confidence.
  • I was critical of the lack of a commitment at Wales to permanently base NATO troops in those states on the frontlines with Russia.  Got some fun pushback on that--what is the difference between rotations of training and permanent bases?  Just a wee bit of credibility and commitment.
    • Of the six countries committing to micro-bases (six NATO Force Integration Units), two have cut their budgets fairly dramatically (UK/France) and the other four were highly constrained in Afghanistan (Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain).
      • A speaker or two suggested that the lessons of Afghanistan are not applicable since it was not really an Article V mission.  Well, Article V has an opt out clause, so excuse me for my skepticism.
    • I even made the point that permanent basing might lead to American spouses and children living near the bases to create a more robust tripwire... returning to the Cold war.  
  • Re pledges to support Ukraine made back in the fall, I basically hand-waved since I am ambivalent about arming Ukraine.  But that's ok, NATO is shrugging as well.  
    •  I learned via people's comments that Russia's campaign to get support in Europe is working well--that many NATO allies are essentially pro-Putin, including Greece, Hungary, perhaps Bulgaria, at least one of the Slo-allies (Slovenia/Slovakia?), Mearsheimer.... not to mention Russian support of the National Front in France.  The key here is we are farther from consensus than I had thought. 
  • The big commitment that all members were to aspire to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense was entirely aspirational.  There have been arguments made here that this limited the ability of countries to cut their budgets--that the cuts that have been made would have been worse.  Um, ok.  But this was not even a pie crust promise since there was very little real intent to follow through.  Indeed, this morning (day 2) I have already heard the claim that it is not how much is spent but what one gets.  Well, given that each country is mostly messing up the procurement process, it is not like there are heaps of capabilities being produced even as spending goes down.  
    • I did make the Canadian point that it is more the doing than the spending.  Indeed, it may be easier to do more than spend more in the short term, although that is not so good in the long term.  
  • I did point out the big lesson that everyone has implicitly or explicitly learned--humility.  That NATO efforts to improve Afghanistan, the Libyan effort, etc have had less than wonderful outcomes.
Other observations:
  • Europeans are divided about whether to focus on the East (Russia) or the South (Mideast).  I would assert that NATO should focus on its old job--Russia--and let coalitions of the willing worry about ISIS.
  • TRIP survey was cited by a couple of European government officials.  So, yeah, they know that academics have opinions.  Alas, the opinion cited was that Russia was five or eighth on list of concerns, so we are thus wrong and irrelevant.  Ooops.
  • I was making a tripwire argument and someone used a different phrase--tethered goats!  Jurassic Park oh my!
  • As always, I realize that being one of the few academics in the room, I have far more freedom/discretion/bluntness/rudeness than the people working for governments.  So, I did, of course, mention which countries are just a wee bit less reliable.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

PSR Diaries, Continued

It has been a particularly combative few days at Political Science Rumors.  Folks are not pleased that some ISA goers engaged in a bit of fun as they cosplay-ed a panel on Game of Thrones and IR.  They think it hurts the profession, and got especially upset when I defended (perhaps not articulately) those who engaged in the supposedly shameful behavior. This devolved into accusations that I hurt the profession by lending legitimacy to PSR because I mod and post there under my own name (nearly everyone else is anonymous). 

I have gotten that from time to time--that I am just an attention seeking hound and that my participation at PSR is bring shame upon me and the profession.  The former is true, the latter is not.  Of course, I don't participate at PSR for the attention or for the strange and disturbing cult of Sadie that pops up.  I get plenty of attention via blogging and twitter, thanks. 

I started because people were being incredibly wrong about the job search where I was employed.  Denying the rumors didn't work so well from a position of anonymity.  After that, people asked me questions, and I felt like being a voice of reason was not a bad thing, even though it was occurring online at a place where there was much unpleasantness.  I eventually started moderating at the old site (PSJR) and then the new (PSR) so that I could delete attacks on my students as well as students elsewhere (I leave nearly all of the attacks against me alone--I post there so I accept the consequences). 

This led to some attacks upon me on the site, and when I asked the community whether I should stay or go, I got much support to stay.  So, I have stuck around.  I now get emails from people who ask for particular items to be deleted, and I do so.  So, perhaps some folks in the profession view me negatively because I am active at PSR, but others are thankful that I am there, the only moderator that is not anonymous, that can be reached.

Someone today raised the possibility that I make the place worse, that trolls are there because I moderate and post there.  My response?  Well, the place had much negativity before I started, so unless the place has a Benjamin Button kind of dynamic, the person has a bad grasp of social science.  Plus PSR is hardly alone on the internet in producing some toxicity from the brew of anonymity and a lousy job market/anxious graduate students.

I try to be myself there--a combination of earnest desire to help (which probably annoys the hell out of some folks), a weakness to trolls (I have a hard time not responding when folks poke at me or at things I care about), and a tendency to snark.  Indeed, I have been tempted to post this in response to all of the concern that cosplay at the ISA might be damaging to the profession:

Image result for why so serious

I actually don't think that PSR does much damage to the profession either, although it certainly is more problematic than a handful of people dressing up at the ISA.  Any accusation that I am hurting the political science profession is giving me far more influence than I actually have.  I would argue that the Putin apologists in the NYT are doing far more damage to our kind.