Monday, July 29, 2019

Introducing Battle Rhythm: A CDSN Podcast

We have launched a new social media endeavor: a podcast!  Available here and here with more links soon to other outlets.  Stéfanie von Hlatky and I are co-hosting Battle Rhythm, one of the first outputs of the Canadian Defence and Security Network.  What is it and why are we doing it?  

The podcast will appear every other Wednesday (we hope--this podcasting stuff is not easy) on the CGAI Podcast network.  The Canadian Global Affairs Institute is a partner of the CDSN-RCDS, and a key contribution to our network is hosting our podcast.  We are aiming to keep each podcast under/around an hour.  The first segment will have us discussing defence and security stuff (Canadian and beyond) that is in news or otherwise worthy of our attention and falling somewhere near our expertise.  Stef will occasionally report back and comment on debates going on in Francophone defence and security studies.  Sometimes, we will chat about books we have read.
We will then have a short interview with an Emerging Scholar to present their research (which is usually further along at the cutting edge than established profs).   The aim will be to provide an outlet to the next generation, especially those from communities that have been underrepresented in previous generations.
The third segment will usually be an interview with someone who we have met along the way--Stef and I interviewed a number of folks who were at the Kingston Conference on International Security, she interviewed some at the Annual Workshop of Women In International Security-Canada, and I interviewed some of those presenting at ERGOMAS and EISS conferences in Europe this summer.
The penultimate segment will be "Steve's Peeves" where I audibly Spew about an issue that troubles me.  I am hoping to lure Stef into doing some peeving of her own, but she has much greater restraint than I do.
The last segment will be responding to listener questions, assuming we get some.

Why are we doing this?  First, one of the key missions of the CDSN is to provide greater visibility to various events in Canada.  By conducting interviews with those attending KCIS and WIIS-C (both run by CDSN partners), we help to extend the audience for those events both over distance and over time.  An event in Kingston or Toronto will largely get local attendees and those invited explicitly for the conference.  By giving some of these participants a potentially global (ambitious, aren't we?) platform, our podcast will extend how far the conference reaches.  Because podcasts, once put on a cloud somewhere, can be downloaded months or years later, it also means that the stuff presented at a conference can resonate beyond the week of the conference.  The CDSN effort aims to amplify and connect, and this podcast is a way to do so.

Second, while there are an increasing number of podcasts in Canada on defence and/or security issues, we think we have a different perspective that might be of interest. Both of us come at Canadian defence and security with a comparative perspective as well as the awareness of needing to keep in mind that Canada never operates alone.  Stef and I have both written on alliance politics.  However, our expertise is only overlapping and not identical, as she has an extensive background studying nuclear policy, US-Canadian relations, and gender policy in contemporary militaries.  My work is more on the domestic politics of civil-military relations, and my older work is on intervention and on the international relations of ethnic conflict.

Third, another explicit aim of the CDSN, and one that has been something the two of us have been doing separately, is to provide outlets for those who have lacked such outlets.  She started the Canadian branch of Women in International Security-Canada to give female scholars more opportunities to share their research and to provide more mentoring.  One reason why I started building the CDSN was to do the same for not just women but also people of color and indigenous voices. 

Fourth, despite the difficulties, podcasting is fun.  Doing the podcast gives me more opportunities to chat with Stef.  She is not only smart and dynamic, but she makes me laugh.  And, yes, doing a podcast means one more form of social media for me to play with.  Plus it gives us an excuse to track down and have extended conversations with interesting folks that we mostly did not know beforehand.  That is one way in which the first episode is not going to be a model for future podcasts.  I interviewed Dan Drezner for the first episode, and I have known him for nearly two decades.  Pretty much everyone else we have interviewed have been people we met for the podcast or met quite recently.  In sum, I like to talk, I like to talk to Stef, and I like to talk to people who are excited about their own work.  Hopefully, Battle Rhythm will be fun for our listeners as well.

All I ask is that you have some patience with us, as podcasting is not nearly as easy as it seems. And let us know via our twitter account @cdsnrcds or via email at if you have suggestions, comments, or questions.  Again, we hope to have listener mail as a regular segment.  It has the potential to be the most interesting, funnest segment.  

The CDSN Thanks SSHRC!

We got the word from SSHRC in late April that it would be funding the partnership grant the Canadian Defence and Security Network had sought, but we could not talk about it.  We could operate, but we could not give credit to the funder... until now.  The Minister announced the results, along with other competitions (hey, co-director Phil, congrats!), so now we can give thanks to SSHRC for the funds.

And not just the funds for which we are thankful.  The partnership grant process required us to do a great deal of networking and leveraging. That each partner has to not just specify what it wants out of the partnership, but what it wants to put into it.  Indeed, the process requires partners to give at least 35% in cash on in kind to match the SSHRC funding.  Our partners went way beyond that.

While the Carleton publicity gave me heaps of credit, I need to make clear this was very, very much a team effort.  The folks who are now CDSN co-directors helped write heaps of draft documents (the application has more than 20 pieces), gave comments on drafts, met in August to discuss the Stage 2 application (it is a three stage process, with us making it past stage 1 the second time we tried), and helped bring along more than 30 partners.  Our partners had to grapple with the SSHRC website and with their own legal people to get a Memorandum of Understanding signed, so I will be forever grateful for them.  Our roughly 100 participants also had to do some SSHRC webwork, so I am thankful to them.  I had multiple RAs work on this project with us, doing much of the tracking and grunge work, so thanks!  The folks at Carleton, especially Kyla Reid, our grants facilitator, who knows this process and has brought several teams to success over the past few years, will be owed beers for a long time.  Our Dean, Andre Plourde, not only provided support and enthusiasm, but also served as a mock interviewer for the third stage of the process--a 20 minute interview.  Which reminds me that I owe Stéfanie von Hlatky and Caroline Leprince for kicking butt in the interview.  Twas a strange process, and they came through big-time.  Our VP for Research and his staff were also very helpful.

Now what?  Well, since we got the notice in late April:

  1. We had a meeting in Ottawa to develop the rules and procedures so that we operate well; 
  2. I have started distributing some of the money to the leaders of the five research themes; 
  3. I hired two great staffers in Jeffrey Rice, our project coordinator, and Melissa Jennings, our knowledge mobilization coordinator or comms person, and kept on Alvine Nintai, our excellent research assistant.
  4. Melissa built a webpage and staffed the twitter account and email address, and we now have a banner and stickers for the podcast!
  5. Stef and I started a podcast, Battle Rhythm, with two episodes out and one to be taped and dropped next week.
  6. The Co-Directors have started planning their first workshops.  Each of the five theme teams will be holding annual workshops to build focused research agendas.
  7. We supported the Kingston Conference on International Security and the annual workshop of Women in International Security-Canada.
  8. We (and by we, I mean Jeff) applied for several DND project grants to fund some of our efforts.
  9. I went to Europe to network with the European Research Group on Military and Society and the European Initiative for Security Studies to see if they want to join our network.
  10. We have added one new partner and are working to bring along a few others who have indicated interest.
  11. We just transitioned to a new Defence Fellow--a Canadian Forces officer who becomes part of the CDSN HQ team.
So, yeah, it has been a busy three months.  Our next steps will be to develop the goals that SSHRC wants to measure us by in year 3.5, and to help various partners with their events this fall.  It is not exactly all downhill from here, as years 2-7 will have a variety of activties that we are not doing this year (annual conference, summer training institute, book workshop, post-doc competition, etc).

We believed very strongly in this endeavor, that it will provide many collective goods to help the Canadian Defence and Security community, so we are most pleased by what we have accomplished thus far, and, finally, we can thank SSHRC for funding this effort.  

Monday, July 22, 2019

F-35 Sales Are America’s Belt and Road

JULY 12, 2019, 4:20 PM

Imagine a globe-spanning economic and security project—with a cost of over a trillion dollars and whose members encompass 46 percent of the global economy—designed to advance the interests and influence of the lead state, even as it binds the smaller ones into an asymmetric interdependence. Recipients get large economic rewards for participating, but they will find it even more expensive to extract themselves from the network in the long run.
Perhaps one day, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which by the most generous definition of membership encompasses 40 percent of the world economy in its sprawling infrastructure initiatives, will live up to this description. But the United States’ Joint Strike Fighter program, peddling the F-35 fighter jet, already does, something the recent brinkmanship between Turkey and the United States makes clearer than ever.

On Friday, Ankara received the first parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system, which Washington says is incompatible with Turkey’s participation in the F-35 consortium. The Department of Defense has already stopped training Turkish pilots on the aircraft at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, and Congress is threatening to kick Turkey out of the program entirely. In the worst-case scenario for Turkey, the United States can apply various sanctions on the country under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, ranging from denying visas to restrictions on almost any Turkish arms exports to banning access to U.S. financial institutions.

The F-35, a highly capable fifth generation aircraft, has been rightly criticized for being over budget, long delayed, and burdened with design flaws. Yet the “jet that ate the Pentagon,” to use one critic’s biting phrase, has yet to lose out to any other fighter in any formal procurement competition. And whereas many countries can build a port, albeit not as cheaply as China, building weapons is different. No other country has yet built a high-end fighter like the F-35 at any price.

Modern fighters require thousands of subcomponents drawn from many different technologies and involving a dizzying supply chain. The upfront development costs of the F-35 are staggering and can only be offset by purchasing large quantities. And once a country has several F-35s in its fleet, switching to a (less advanced) competitor is unappealing. Meanwhile, laggard states—facing the prospect of potential rivals buying larger, more advanced jets—will be pressured to join the winning program, leading to market dominance.

China has been criticized for using Belt and Road-related debt coercively, for example by taking overa Sri Lankan port lease for 99 years after the country failed to repay a loan. And China’s Defense Minister recently confirmed that the initiative has a military component. But the F-35 program goes far further. It makes a state’s very security reliant on the United States for decades—and Washington uses that leverage. In 2005, it suspended Israel’s access to the program in retaliation for Israel selling drone parts to China. Israel quickly stopped those sales.

Turkey is even more dependent on the F-35 network, because its own aviation industry supplies a number of F-35 components. It would face major losses if the United States cut Turkey off for good. Whereas the Pentagon estimates that finding alternate domestic suppliers to replace Turkey will cause at most a few months’ delay, Turkish production lines will be unable to so easily adapt, putting at risk the $12 billion in component parts business Turkey expected. That figure may be a rounding error for the trillion-dollar F-35 program, but it is equivalent to eight years’ worth of all Turkish aerospace exports. Erdogan will thus pay a high cost if he crosses the United States and persists in his purchase of Russian weaponry.

Before the United States stopped sending F-35s to Turkey in April, Belgium ordered 34 planes, Singapore took steps to order 40 to 60, and Japan increased an existing order by 105, more than making up for Turkey’s 100. Meanwhile, although Italy’s governing Five Star Movement ran on a platform of canceling the program, it has since backed down. As Five Star’s junior defense minister reported to parliament in December 2018, “It is obvious we cannot deprive our Air Force of a great air capability that puts us ahead of many other countries.”

Relative to the fighter network, Belt and Road’s optimistic projections cover a larger landmass and more countries, and—crucially—the initiative brands itself as a generator of wealth and peaceful co-existence on a global scale. But Joint Strike Fighter membership provides its own benefits in terms of prestige, access to technology and subcontracts, and close security ties with the United States. Sovereign states will balance these benefits against the potential for dependency—and indeed which country they will have to depend upon. Perhaps Belt and Road wins out in the future, but the current reality favors the U.S. version.