Friday, October 31, 2014

Mission Creep! Booooo!!!!

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

Tis a villain that threatens any potential military effort!!

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

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Colbert on Canada

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

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

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

Podcasting at CIGI

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

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

Sexual Assault Is ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

IR 101: Countries Are Different

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned While Learning Lessons

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

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

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

Blog Outage

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

AMA Deja Vu

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

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

Anyhow, check out the transcript.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meme Busting, Canada Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Tough Day in Ottawa

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

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

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

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

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

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

My List of Canadian Journalists

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