Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trudeau's Quest for UN Seat: Mistaken Priority?

Just as the Liberal government gets ready to announce the deployment of Canadian troops to the NATO persistent presence mission in Eastern Europe (Canada will be the soldier in Latvia), I cannot help myself but worry about the next steps.  From all that I have heard, this government's singular focus in foreign policy is to compete for the UN Security Council seat in 2021.  This was a campaign promise aimed at Canadians who care about the UN and who were unhappy that Stephen Harper blew the last campaign.

Why want such a seat?  Obviously, it is one way to show up the Conservatives.  But what does a UNSC seat buy Canada?  Some visibility at the UN.  But at a time where the UNSC is likely to be stymied by the US-Russia conflict, which is cold war-esque as one or the other will be likely to exercise their vetoes.  Still, it is a bully pulpit where Canadian representatives can lead various efforts to develop norms and mediate disputes.  So, it would be cool

Too bad it ain't gonna happen.  Huh?  Canada is not the only country who wants one of these ten seats (five are allocated to the five permanent members), and each of these seats is reserved for a part of the world.  A few months ago, I attended a roundtable at the embassy of a country that successfully gained a UNSC seat, and they discussed what it took to get it.  The short answer: an eight year effort.  Starting in 2016 for a 2021 seat is too late.  I know that the folks in government--at Global Affairs--understand this reality.  Indeed, it is not only late to start campaigning, but it means that Canada would be jumping in line ahead of countries that are aiming for the 2021 seat.  This countries will not be pleased, so they will not vote for Canada in 2021 and maybe not the round or two later, and their friends may do the same.  Which means that Canada's 2021 effort may hurt it in subsequent rounds.

So, the campaign is not just doomed to fail, but it will hurt Canada at the UN in the medium term.  What could make this worse?  If Canada orients its foreign policies towards gaining votes for the 2021 vote in ways that cut against other priorities.  The good news is that the desire to do more peacekeeping, which is sincere and more than just a campaign tactic, did not get in the way of the NATO commitment. And, yes, Canada can do two things at once.  If it can do Kandahar and Haiti at the same time, it can certainly do a small mission like Latvia at the same time as a Colombia peacekeeping operation.

Still, I worry about this UNSC seat campaign.  It is worse than a distraction--it is counter-productive.

Centres of Adequacy

I saw a story last week about a NATO Centre of Excellence, and it just bothered me.*  Carleton is also creating Centres of Excellence.  So, I did a modest twitter poll:

Centres of Adequacy it is.  I get it that various organizations want to focus resources and bring visibility to a specific effort, but I cannot help but think the following when I see the term:
  • Overcompensation.  If a centre is truly excellent, won't it make a name for itself?  And relatedly, isn't centre of excellence just inherently forgettable? 
  • The Incredibles' Lesson: If everyone is equally special, is anyone special?  If nearly any new centre is a centre of excellence, then are any of them really excellent?
  • The bureaucratic politics of empire-building.  Some new centres are important additions, but many are created so that some administrator can declare progress/victory/something to point to as their mark on the larger organization.  

I probably should not whine about this since I am in the process of writing a major grant that would fund a research centre at Carleton and also give funds to research centres elsewhere.  However, my aim is not to create new centres, but give existing ones the funding they need to be adequate and then some.  Sure, we will aim for excellence, but just naming something excellent is like another classic phrase: confusing hope with a plan. The name does not make it so.

This blog post was funded by the new Semi-Spew Institute of Amazeballs.

* No, this post was not inspired by my learning that my old place now has a Vice Principal of Innovation.  Yuck, but no.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Montreal Defence Review Roundtable Report

I got the chance to participate in the Defence Review via a roundtable in Montreal.  Since I pooped all over the project when it was first announced, I have to say that I am both impressed and thankful that the Minister of Defence and his staff invited me to join the process.  That was mighty big of them. 

The meeting was governed by Chatham House Rule, which means I cannot attribute stuff to anyone.  So, I will apply Saideman House Rule--I will describe the event and then say what I said.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit and NATO

I am not an expert on the European Union, and my mid-career move to thinking about multilateral military operations did not spawn a new interest in the EU.  I am too much of a skeptic about the EU's ability to do common defence policy.  But I have been studying NATO for nearly a decade now, so what are the implications of Brexit for NATO?  Um, damned if I know.  Ok, perhaps I have a few clues.

First, there are no direct implications since NATO and the EU are entirely separate entities despite efforts by some (France) to have the latter supplant the former.  The UK was a major member of NATO before it joined the EU and remained such after joining.  I don't think there are much in the way of discernable behaviors that changed due to that move to inside the EU, although the EU may have lost one major obstacle to defence cooperation (the UK was always worried about expanding the EU's defence stuff at the expense of NATO).  However, as one expert noted:
Second, the indirect implications could be many, but until we see how Brexit actually is implemented, we really cannot speculate too much.  So, of course, here are some speculations:
  • The most immediate impact of Brexit is on the UK economy--the pound lost a heap of value, companies may flee, and growth outlooks are now poor.  This means that the UK, which already cut defence deeply and almost randomly in response to the 2008 crisis, will have less money to spend on alliance efforts.  This will not stop the UK from being a framework nation (leader of one of the four 1k units of troops) in the persistent basing in the Baltics to be announced at the Warsaw Summit (who will be UK rep in less than two weeks?).  This is no wartime deployment of brigades to countries with little infrastructure, so it will cost but not so much that the UK will back out.  Indeed, this will be an opportunity to show the world that the UK is still a significant player with a stiff upper lip and all that.
  • The most significant impact down the road is also more uncertain: that if Scotland were to secede from the UK due to Brexit, then the UK and NATO would lose the bases in Scotland.  The Scottish National Party dropped much of its hostility to NATO as it sought to make independence more attractive two years ago, but what happens before and after a referendum are, as we are learning anew this week, two different things.  That the Scots have indicated that they don't want nuclear weapons in "their" bases is problematic, as this means the English (or UK minus Scotland) subs would have to find a new home, not to mention the US ships that often call Scotland home.  
There is probably more, but that is all I have for now.  What am I missing?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

More Reactions to Brexit

I wrote some quick thoughts about Brexit on Friday, and then spent yesterday mostly offline as I drove to and from the US to pick up both my repaired car and my exhausted daughter (film making is hard work!).  So, of course, I have more reactions:
  • I have always thought that 50% plus one is a lousy decision-making rule for big decisions.  For many reasons:
    • The drunk frat boy vote.  Ok, not this time, but instead we have some folks, don't know how many, who may have not been voting sincerely.
    • Turnout, turnout, turnout. More on this below, but having major historical events potentially being affected rain is not great.
    • More importantly: tyranny of the temporary majority.*  The UK has already borne tremendous costs and is likely to incur much more despite the fact that the country is essentially ambivalent about leaving.  For major decisions, I have always believed that qualified majorities are necessary.  Sure, that gums up the works, and paralysis can be problematic.  But paralysis looks mighty good today compared to Brexit.
  • Referenda suck.
    • The founders of the US opposed direct democracy for a reason: "unchecked, democratic communities were subject to "the turbulency and weakness of unruly passions".
    • We are only now learning about the details of the process, the complications and all that.  Only after the event?
    • Reminds me of my time in California where much policy was decided by propositions.  And those were mostly shitshows.  Yes, that is the technical political science term.  How do we decide the best car insurance scheme?   Vote against the propositions endorsed by the car insurance industry and the trial lawyers.  California tied itself up in knots due to popular votes on tax policy.  At least in California, the government gave out booklets explaining each proposition, its estimated costs, and who was on which side and their arguments.  Brexit? Not so much.
  • The age splits on the vote and on turnout are appalling but not surprising.  Those under 50 voted against Brexit, those over voted for it.  Any student of democracy knows that the young don't turn out, but the older folks do. Which is why government spending, such as health care dollars, often is focused on the last few years of life.  Politicians respond to those who show up.  In a referendum, the outcome is determined by turnout (again, that stupid 50%+1), and this is the turnout for Brexit by age: 
    •  Yeah.  Not great, Bob.  We can and should blame the young for poorly asserting their interests. We can and should blame the old for screwing over the young.  Heaps of blame to be shared although, sorry but you cannot really blame Obama for this one.
  • The leadership on all sides in the UK is, um, wow, um, a train wreck.  Who comes out of this looking like they knew what they were doing, were representing their constituents and their country well?  Lots of craven behavior with folks running away from their stances (did we say that 350 million pounds were going to the EU?  Oops, our bad!).  
  • Yes, the EU has a democratic deficit--hard to do any research related to the EU without running into heaps of articles on this.  But one of the most likely outcomes for the UK (or UK minus Scotland) is to have to live with/by the EU's dictates but with no power to influence them--the Norway model as it is called.  Having some kind of association with the EU that reduces the costs of the transition and provides access to markets means accepting regulations written in Brussels but with no members in the EU parliament, no Brits serving as commissioners, and no UK folks on the Council of Ministers.  So, whatever "taxation/regulation without representation" folks might have thought been problematic before is going to be far worse now. Well done.

*  This is probably the attitude that makes me most American despite 14 years in Canada--concern about tyranny of the majority.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Instant Hottakes on Brexit

We will have much, much time to ponder and study what happened yesterday... whether it was the weather that made the difference in London, why Cameron was such an idiot, and on and on.  I have a few quick reactions guided by and due to my faith in confirmation bias!
  1. While I am kind of surprised by the results, I should not be as I co-authored a book that argued that individuals and leaders will often embrace xenophobia for its short term allure despite the  great costs to the country. That is why we named the book: For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism, and War (now available in an updated 2015 paperback version!).  That Brexit did well in England but not in Scotland or Northern Ireland (Wales confuses me as it always does--not enough vowels) is not surprising, AND neither does the fact that most of the polls indicated that the relationship between fear of immigrants and support of Brexit.  The strange thing, of course, is that the UK was not part of the Schengen system so it still had much more control of its borders and of immigration than the rest of the EU.  So, leaving the EU does not really "fix" the "problem" of too much immigration.
  2. Events like these have huge ramifications for those inside that country, including potentially more separatism, but not so much elsewhere.  In short, direct effects matter a lot [update: see statement by Scottish National Party leader], but indirect lesson learning does not.  Why?  For the former, the exit will directly affect the interests (incomes!) and power of those inside the UK, leading to stronger interests on the part of the Scots to leave (although it may not be as instant as some might have thought).  For the latter, the problem is that there are multiple lessons to learn.  For those who want to leave the EU or separate from their current country, they can look at Brexit and say: they did it, we can do it too, taking away the positive lessons.  For those who don't want to leave the EU or secede from wherever, they can observe the economic shocks and other painful consequences and learn that this would be awful for them.  Let confirmation bias be your guide, I always say.  Again, multiple lessons to learn, so which lessons will people take away?  The only common lesson will be that David Cameron will go down in history as one of the worst Prime Ministers of all time.
  3. Already folks are worrying what this says about Trump--that if the wave of populist nationalism can break the UK, then shouldn't we worry about Trump getting more votes than we expect?  Um, no.  Why not?  First, the electoral college means that the US election is not a pure referendum where mobilizing the cranky can lead to a win.  Trump would have to do very well across a number of states, including some very diverse ones.  Second, while whites are a majority in the US, white men are not. I don't know what the gender breakdown of Brexit was, but in the US, Trump has been quite successful at alienating not just non-whites but women.  Third, there is a huge imbalance in the American election in terms of organization, skill, discipline, resources and resources and resources--Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have a huge lead here that Trump will not be able to surmount, especially as potential donors ponder whether Trump is using the campaign contributions to win the election or to save his failing businesses.  I have no idea what the balance was in the UK.  Fourth, the GOP is divided, with vulnerable Senators running away from Trump as fast as they can.  Yes, the Dems are currently divided with Sanders still not dropping out (oy!), but eventually he will.  That HRC is ahead despite Sanders sticking around is a testament either to her strength, revulsion for Trump or both.
  4. Most importantly, Lindsay Lohan is relevant again!

Alas, she seems to have deleted all of her anti-Brexit tweets.

Anyhow, for those outside of the UK, we don't need to panic much.  For those inside, I am so sorry for your loss.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Knee-Jerkiest Comments

Yesterday, I had an op-ed advocating that Canada participate meaningfully in the new NATO persistent presence mission in Eastern Europe published in the Globe and Mail.  Because I was stuck on hold for more than 75 minutes, I did what folks tell you not to do: I read the comments on the piece. Oh my.

There were some intelligent comments that led me to post some elaboration--that the op-ed was about Canadian participation and not about explaining why the NATO effort was a good idea. 

Much of it was back and forth between fans of Russian irredentism (hey, what belonged to us in some point in history belongs to us now and Putin has not threatened the Baltics, yada, yada, yada) and more reasonable folks.  But I was amused by the competition to be provide the laziest, least thoughtful comments. 

One of the very first comments accused me of being a war monger.  Which means they didn't read the piece or could not understand it since I am advocating for a deployment of military units to deter and prevent a war, not to cause one.  The whole idea is to stop a war from happening.  How does that make me a war monger?

Vying for lazy/knee-jerkiness were arguments related to the military-industrial complex--that this deployment is about maxing out the Canadian defence budget.  Um, have you seen Canada's defence budget politics?  More importantly, deploying two hundred or so troops to reside in Latvia is not going to help boost the size of the military or its budget nor benefit many defence contractors.  It might help a few property owners and businesses in Latvia, but the scale of this thing is so small as to be irrelevant for those of us who are card carrying members of the military-industrial-academic complex.  Arguing that this is being done for profit is just silly.

What can we learn from this exercise? That folks seem to have enough time on their hands to comment but not enough time to read?  No idea, but I need to find something else to do when on hold for such long periods of time because reading the comments was not very educational.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Provoking vs. Tempting: Preferring the Former

I wrote a piece in today's Globe and Mail where I advocate Canada take a significant role in NATO's new "persistent presence" mission on the Eastern Front (the Baltics plus Poland).  I didn't spend much time arguing for the NATO mission itself, as it is a done deal to be announced at the Warsaw Summit in July.  Instead, I argued for Canada's participation, which is really the decision up for grabs this week.

Still, folks in the first few comments were upset that I am a war mongerer.  Ooops.  More importantly, some took issue with my quick mention of how this effort will affect Russia--that Putin might be provoked.  So, here's a bit more of an explanation/argument.

Yes, Russia has made a series of statements about how offputting it would be for NATO to put troops in the Baltics, that this violates the old NATO Russia Founding Acto, and that it is a waste of resources that should be dedicated towards the common enemy of ISIS.  All this is hogwash, of course.  The NATO Russia Founding Act is dead, dead, dead.  If Russia is sincere in its assertion about the primacy of the ISIS threat, then it would drop its support for Assad or at least stop spending most of its military effort against Assad's non-ISIS adversaries.

It comes down to this: what is more likely to lead to an unfortunate Russian move that might spiral out of control?  The presence of NATO troops in the Baltics or their absence?  Given that Putin has repeatedly demonstrated that he is an opportunist, I think the first move is to deny him opportunities.  A Baltic country with no NATO troops is a temptation--a quick Russian move would then force NATO countries into a difficult position: act second by reinforcing that country through Russia's anti-access/area denial defences (anti-air and anti-ship missiles already set up in Kaliningrad) or fail to act, and thus greatly undermining the essence of NATO--that an attack upon one is equal to attack upon all.  Given Putin's statements about NATO, this is an objective that he does seek, and it would give some solace to those in Russia who are upset that they lost the Cold War.

Thus, I find the absence of NATO troops to be more provocative, more tempting than their presence.  As Russia has escalated its threatening behavior over the past couple of years, including a simulation of attacking the Swedish parliament while it was in session, many more overflights over NATO countries, near misses with ships and planes, we have to return to the old playbook: creating tripwires in the East to provide credible guarantees to the allies and deterring Russia.

With NATO troops in the East, the onus shifts from NATO having to respond to a Russian attack to the Russians having to consider what their move would mean--a process that could get out of control.  As I argue in my piece, prevention is cheaper than war, so let's deploy some military units to make sure that war does not happen, eh?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Canada and Warsaw Summit: I am Entirely Predictable

I have a piece at the Globe and Mail, arguing that Canada should be the fourth major force contributing country to the NATO effort to deter Russia in the Baltics/Poland.  Comment here or there.  I am already being accused of being a warmonger, although I am actually advocating for an effort to prevent war, but reading comprehension kind of sucks among commenters.

Brexit Contagion? NO!

I got into a twitter conversation with a Canadian columnist about the implications of Brexit for Quebec/Canada.  My short answer: t'ain't none.  Or, damned little.  Why? Mostly because much of my early work (and more recent stuff)  points against political movements changing significantly due to observing events elsewhere.

Brexit is akin to secession, but secessionism is not contagious.  Politicians and publics respond most strongly to the domestic political conditions that they live with and provide incentives.  If a piece of a federation leaves, then sure, that affects the various actors within that federation.  So, secessionism was contagious within Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.  BUT outsiders who are not impacted directly can learn both positive and negative lessons, and they will tend to learn those that reinforce their existing preferences--confirmation base and cognitive closure have a huge impact here. 

For example, the Quebec separatists were following the Scottish referendum very closely until the Scots said nay.  Then the Quebec separatists basically forgot that the whole thing happened.  The lessons Quebec and Canada learned from Montenegro's secession proves the power of confirmation bias.
Quebec separatists: wow, Montenegro had a vote and voila, independent!
Canada: Hey, 55% as a threshold for legitimate referendum. 
Quebec: huh? I can't hear you.

To be sure, if the UK leaves the EU, then, yes, Scotland will leave the UK.  Things were close enough last time, and the Scots are mostly fans of the EU.  What will this mean for Quebec?  Not much.  Quebec separatism is moribund for a reason.  Ok, many reasons: the Quebeckers have gotten most of what they wanted, the Rest of Canada has learned not to poke at the beast by avoiding constitutional discussions, and the Prime Minister happens to be a Quebecker.  While that last bit is no guarantee, Quebeckers are less upset with the federation now than they were under Harper, and they were not that mobilized then either.  Oh, and it is both a cause and consequence of the weak state of Quebec separatism that the Parti Quebecois is so incredibly lame right now.

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose Brexit,* but spawning separatism in Canada is not one of them.
* My favorites are: massive economic changes that are poorly understood, the magical thinking of the Brexit folks, and, oh yes, that much of the Brexit movement is driven by the same blend of ignorance and xenophobia as the Trump campaign.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Engaging the Object of My Research: Parliament and Civ-Mil

Parliament owns the small building that appears to be
part of the big hotel to the right but is not.
Today, I had the chance to participate in the Opposition's Defence Review.  The Conservatives are running a parallel process to that of the Minister of Defence.  I will be participating in the latter Def Review next week in Montreal.  I am not sure what the rules are for today's, in terms of Chatham House or whatever, so I will only discuss my views and my experience with some broad descriptions of the event itself.

It was a smallish group of around 12 participants plus two members of Parliament (James Bezan, the Defence Critic, and Cheryl Gallant, one of the two Vice-Chairs of the Standing Committee on National Defence), and their staff.  Besides Hon. Gallant and a staffer, the participants were male, and I was at or below the median age.  The group included retired military officers, retired public servants, defence contractors, and two academics (my colleague Jeremy Littlewood and myself). 

What did I have to say?  Well, I was reacting in part to the Conservative defence review document, which was fairly (extremely) partisan.  My basic point was that the problems Canada faces in dealing with its various defence challenges are not due to any party, but due to structural dynamics (including the partisanship that focuses on point scoring rather than improving governance).

Which structural dynamics?
Spiffy room with heaps of technology
for translation, video, etc.
  1. Every democracy screws up defence procurement in its own special way.  For Canada, everything is more expensive, takes longer, etc.  If we can figure out how to just fix it a little bit so that things cost 5% less, things are just a little bit less late, etc, that would be a major contribution.
    1. I did raise the problem of "industrial benefits" as being a major factor in choosing contractors.  How so?  That any protectionist measure ultimately costs more per job than whatever that job pays.  It is unlikely that Canada will develop a comparative advantage in naval ship-building, for instance.  And in those areas where Canada can compete, it ends up selling stuff to yucky places like Saudi Arabia.
  2. The forces of the status quo will always raise the argument that Canada needs to be flexible and have stuff across the full spectrum of military capability so that it can do combat. Yes, conflating niche/specialization with not being able to do combat. This rhetorical device is ever present in Ottawa and is aimed at avoiding decisions.  I hammered away at this:
    1. Canada is already a specialized force as it has no aircraft carriers, attack helicopters, etc, etc.  Choices have already been made about what Canada can bring to the fight, and "not everything" is that choice.
    2. The example I raised is the troubled shipbuilding program--that we can either have ones that are good at fighting subs or good at knocking down missiles but probably not both.  What do our allies need/want us to do?
    3. A key military mantra--don't reinforce failure, only reinforce success.  Do not invest additional resources into something that is not working (I hinted at subs).
  3. When we speak of the budget, there are three categories: personnel, procurement, and operations/training/maintenance.  The first two have fan clubs/advocates.  At any of these meetings, there are folks who say not to cut personnel and to spend more on personnel.  Personnel is nearly 50% of the military budget, and this is a big problem. All of Canada's allies face a similar problem but not to this degree.  The procurement issues always have fans/advocates as well: the defence contractors who are involved, the politicians representing the ridings (districts) where the stuff is built, etc.  But outside of the military, there is no one lobbying for money to be spent on maintenance, training, and operations.  Sure, the government can promise to give the military more money for a new operation, but in reality that usually means that some other defence program is cut to pay for that operation.
Anyhow, that was my two bits, plus a short rant in the Q&A about how Russia is not a threat to the Canadian arctic.

As someone doing research in the role of parliament in overseeing the military, this was very much a participant-observer kind of thing. Good times.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lame Counterfactuals for $600, Alex

This has been going around:

Why is this such a dumb counterfactual?  Let me count the ways:
  1. Unlike parliamentary elections, individual voters could not vote for the full range of candidates--they voted in either the Democratic process or the Republican process
  2. Unlike parliamentary elections, the primary/caucus processes in the US were not simultaneous but sequential.  Which meant that folks voting later had few choices and were reacting to the outcomes of the previous primaries/caucuses
  3. Turnout? Primaries have lower turnout than general elections.  In primaries, the most passionate tend to turn out, so you tend to get more extreme wings of the parties show up.  Indeed, this is one reason why Trump is so confused and ill-prepared--he thinks the electorate is the same for the general as for the primaries, so he just has to do more of the same.
  4. Um, this conflates type of political system with electoral laws.  There are parliamentary systems with majoritarian electoral laws (that would be most of the Westminster places--NZ is wacky).  And presidential systems can have a variety of rules for picking the president and then different rules for the legislature.  
Ok, that's just a few (Economist also assumes most proportional of electoral systems), but I just did a bunch of tax forms (F-Bars!), so I could be forgetting some other reasons.  What have I missed?

It would probably be far more accurate to take a look at surveys of the entire electorate on a variety of issues and then figure out how they would shake out if we had a proportional representation electoral system combined with a parliamentary system.

Sorry, to be a killjoy, Economist, but this is the kind of infographic that creates ignorance, not enlightenment.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Do MOAR in Syria

There are plenty of smart, very frustrated folks in the US State Department who apparently want President Obama to do more in Syria: to engage in airstrikes against Assad's forces and not just ISIS's.  I get that, and I get that Assad is the key problem in all of this--that he has killed far more people than ISIS AND his brutality is ISIS"s best recruiting tool.


Since Russia is providing air support for Assad, attacking Assad might just lead to more confrontations in the skies between US and Russian aircraft. Indeed, these folks are aware of this:
The memo acknowledged that military action would have risks, not the least further tensions with Russia, which has intervened in the war on Mr. Assad’s behalf and helped negotiate a cease-fire. Those tensions increased on Thursday when, according to a senior Pentagon official, Russia conducted airstrikes in southern Syria against American-backed forces fighting the Islamic State.
The State Department officials insisted in their memo that they were not “advocating for a slippery slope that ends in a military confrontation with Russia,” but rather a credible threat of military action to keep Mr. Assad in line.
Um, some magical thinking here--we don't want more tensions with Russia, we just want to be striking those that Russia is supporting.  Is Syria worth the risks of US-Russian conflict?  Sorry, but no. 

What we have learned from the past 15 years of intervention is that coherent local allies with compatible interests are key ingredient in reaching some level of success.  Any of those here?  No.  Maybe earlier?  Not so sure.

All I know is that making threats without really being able to back them up is a mistake Obama has already made in Syria (chemical weapons anyone?), so he is not going to repeat that.  If Hillary Clinton wants to do this next year, then she can do so.  But this current President has been burned by those who have advocated for the use of coercive diplomacy--threats via air strikes--in Syria and also has found past interventions to be far more problematic than advocates of said interventions have recommended.

Oh, a side note: I have seen safe havens bandied about again.  Unless one wants to create killing fields a la Srebrenica, safe havens require someone, which would end up being the US, to go to war--to push back forces and keep them back to create a relatively safe space in Syria.  So, if you want a safe haven, just go ahead and advocate war.  Otherwise, you safe haven fans are trying to fool everyone else in addition to yourselves.

And, yes, I used to be an advocate of intervention (in some cases, not all), but I have a learning curve.

Defence Review Help

In the next two weeks, I am participating in two Defence Review roundtables--the widely publicized series that I have, um, discussed AND the Parliamentary version.  I am going to the Montreal roundtable on the 27th, but the more immediate one is the Parliamentary one.  I have been invited by the Opposition (the Conservatives), and they gave me a link to their conversation starter here.

I have written a short paper for each one, which I will post on my blog after each meeting with some discussion, of course, of how it went, what I said, and what I learned within whatever confines of the the meetings (the Montreal roundtable will be either Chatham House rule or in camera...).

Anyhow, before I go to these meetings, I thought I would ask my readers: what should I talk about?  What would you want to say either to the Review panel or the Defence Committee?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Trumpsters: Insane or Not Insane?

Today, Trump fans were asked about his theory about Obama's secret ISIS membership:

There are two ways to read these findings:
Wow! That seems like a lot! Trump fans are crazy!!
Trump's ravings play to only a minority of his supporters!  This is so batshit crazy that even most folks who are likely to vote for Trump can't buy it.
My basic take is that since Trump voters are something like 40% of the population, and only 40% of them find this to be either believable or uncertain, what this survey really says is that something like 10-20% of the American population buys this crap.  And, guess what, most surveys will find that a decent sized minority--10-20%--buy into crazy and/or ignorant beliefs.

This ain't great, but it is not surprising.  More relevant for now: a large chunk of Trump voters are not impressed by his recent messaging.  Trump blew his one month lead--he had no competition in his own party and HRC was still fighting Sanders, and yet he finds himself falling behind.  This is good news.  Trump resorting to this conspiracy stuff will certainly play with some portion of those who would vote for him, but it does not expand his support.  Indeed, polls show it has the opposite impact--because 60% of his fans don't buy it.  And higher %'s of independents and leaners and undecided.

So, this crazy glass is not half full, and that is something we can be optimistic about.

Life Imitating Political Science, Edition #72

Phil Lagassé, David Auerswald and I are studying how/why legislatures oversee their armed forces in various ways.  This is the big project taking us all over the world and was inspired by the Canadian example of (to me) an incredibly weak parliament when it comes to defence matters.  We have lots of hypotheses about what causes legislatures to engage in more or less oversight and via what means.  A key question is how to handle classified info. 

While Canadian MPs don't have security clearances, they can go into closed meetings (in camera they call it).  But these meetings are kind of like Vegas: what happens in them is supposed to stay there but does not always. This story shows not just that, but something more important for us: that when parties flip positions, they also flip stances:
Bezan says opposition members feel increasingly that the defence committee is “dysfunctional” and run by “a tyranny of the majority” (the Liberals have six members, to the opposition’s four).
“They should respect the rights and privileges of members but they are acting arrogantly and using their majority to intimidate the opposition,” he said.
This is fun for us and our project precisely because the Conservatives were very heavy handed with their majority when they had it--the agenda of the defence committee was driven by the government.  And this tells us that institutions provide incentives and constraints that seem to matter more than whatever principle/value differences that are supposed to exist.

Oh, and the timing is good, too, as I am participating in a roundtable with the Defence Committee on Monday.  It is about the Defence Review, but perhaps I can flip the script and make it a focus group on parliamentary scrutiny on defence matters?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Optimism about Gun Control

Can we be optimistic about gun control, given that we have seen no real progress after any/all of the previous mass shootings?  I think so.  Why?  Because of this:

No, it is not because HRC will be able to make it so when she wins (Trump's attack on the federal judge and other stuff seems to be alienating moderates, as if everything he has done before isn't inherently alienating to moderates). 

No, it is because Hillary Clinton is strategic, and will take stances on issues when those stances are likely to help her win votes.  Because we are beyond the primaries (sorry, Bernie), HRC is playing to the general election crowd.  So, this stance on gun control now is about reaching general election voters and not just liberals voting in primaries.  If she didn't think it would play well, she would not take this stand.  She may not be the triangulator willing to sell out everything like her husband, but she is very much focused on doing what it takes to win.

Which leads to this: gun control of some kind is actually something that most Americans support, even most NRA members.  Couching in anti-terrorism language makes it sell better, but the basic reality is that more Americans want background checks and closed loopholes, and the assault weapon ban was not unpopular. 

However, I am not too optimistic, because, of course, the American political system is built to allow minorities to stymie majorities--preventing tyranny of the majority is a good thing but it has costs.  So, even after HRC wins and even if the Democrats win the Senate, there will be enough craven Democrats and certainly enough GOP folks that will follow the NRA and refuse to do anything.

But the politics may be a-changing on this. 

NATO Ministerial FAQ

This week is another NATO ministerial.  What is that?  Here's a handy guide to the basics and why NATO is run like an academic conference.
  • What is the NAC?  Nope, not these guys.  The North Atlantic Council refers to a meeting of the representations of NATO members (not partners--those who play well with NATO but are not actually members).  Ordinarily, as in all the time in Brussels, the NAC consists of senior diplomatic representatives from each member--this is a very high post for an Ambassador or Foreign Affairs official.  They are called permanent representatives or PermReps.
  • A NAC FM is a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of each NATO country, and is one of two kinds of Ministerials.  These meetings tend to set the agenda for the next big meeting.  And the defence/foreign affairs bureaucracies spend a great deal of effort in the run up to these events vetting the policy policy papers and talking points.
  • A NAC DM is a meeting of the Defence Ministers of each NATO country.  This is what is happening this week.  As it is the last ministerial before the big NATO summit in Warsaw in July, much of the work here is on reaching/finessing/clarifying decisions that can be announced in Warsaw.  Again, lots of folks in each country have been working very hard to word-smith documents so that consensus can be reached.
  • A NATO summit is a NAC where the reps are the heads of state.  There is usually very few actual decisions made at a summit.  Instead, they announce decisions that have been worked through in the leadup to the summit.
And that is how NATO is like an academic conference--it sets deadlines which then force the actors to finish their papers.  Without regular summits, there would be no focal point and time limit that would force the actors to reach consensus and have some "deliverables."

And, yes, I am pretty jazzed about the Warsaw Summit both because it looks like my desire for a tripwire in the Baltics will be met AND because I got invited to the side-party--a conference taking place at the same time in Warsaw.  My first time at (ok, adjacent to) a NATO summit.  I will have to find my best blue and white clothing.  I will, of course, live tweet and blog as much as I can. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Terrorism and the Election

One of the common refrains has been that Hillary Clinton will win unless something bad happens like a recession or terrorist attack.  Well, it is too late for a recession to make a difference, but we know have that terrorist attack.  Will it make a difference?

Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but I don't think so.  It goes to the basic problem Trump has: he is unqualified to be president.  In a term of crisis, will people turn to him?  Will they think he has the right ideas and can handle the tough decisions?   The past 24 hours suggests that he lacks any/all of the qualities people want in a leader during a crisis.

Sure, the resort to hate might play well, and fear could help him.  But his first actions were to take credit for getting things right--and was widely scorned.  This morning's messaging suggests that Obama is actually working for the terrorists.  This may play well for Trump's base, but not so much for anyone else.

Here's the thing: the GOP is smaller than the Democrats, so a winning Republican candidate needs to reach out to independents and right-leaning Democrats.  This is a key part of why the primaries are so very different from the general election AND why Trump's doubling down on his primary strategies is problematic for him. 

I still think that all of the fundamentals of this election mean that HRC will win:
  • the economy is not bad
  • the incumbent is popular
  • Trump has no organization
  • HRC's organization is excellent, has great data and digital games
  • the electoral college favors the Democrats
  • the hate/fear mongering will mean that Trump can only get white votes
  • Trump's misogyny produces a large gap in attracting the votes of women, so he will need to incredibly well among white men
  • Bernie will endorse HRC tomorrow, so talk of party disunity will fade soon enough
  • The Democratic bench is deep with strong campaigners: President Obama, VP Biden, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, etc.  Which Republican stars will help Trump run from coast to coast?  
 Anyhow, it may be too soon to think of this stuff, but I can't help it.  All I know is that yesterday was an awful event, with another one that could have been as awful that was prevented in L.A.  Does it move the needle in American politics?  It should, given how many mass killings the US has been having lately.  But I doubt it, as others have noted, if the slaughter of a bunch of kids is not going to make much of a difference, not sure why this event would, except, of course, that the perpetrator was a Muslim. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Paying to Read

Yesterday, I whined that a newspaper was not letting me read their content.  Yes, I get it that we need to pay writers and editors so that they can provide us with content.  The problem is that twitter, facebook, and even email provides me with many possible articles to read on any given day.  I don't want to pay for subscriptions to five or ten news outlets.  I do pay for my local paper, and I do pay for the New York Times.  But to follow everything I want to read, I would also have to pay for the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, the Boston Globe (thanks, speechboy), and on and on. 

Folks suggested that I just go through the Carleton library website, but the joy of twitter and the other outlets is that I hit a link and I am there, rather than digging through the entire paper from Carleton's website.  This is kind of the same problem but different when it comes to video content.  I whine that I cannot hit a Daily Show link because Canada protects Comedy Network (the CA network) from Comedy Central.  So, yes, I can go search through an episode of the Daily Show via the CN network, but I cannot go directly to the specific skit/segment/whatever via link. 

The problem is that the internet has made me aware of all of the good stuff out there, and it taunts me.  I could just read less, and that is actually what happens when I stumble into a gate.  I spend too much time online as it is, so I don't expend extra effort to get stuff unless I need it for my research.  I don't expend extra effort just to get something for my blog.

This does breed a bad habit of retweeting and commenting stuff based on headlines rather than the text.  Which does bring us back to an old theme here: things I have read but not read myself.

I would be willing to subscribe to an aggregator that paid the various news outlets as I don't want the news business to die off, but I also don't want to pay for the 97% of each of these news outlets that I will never read.  The 21st century is a complex place.  Oh well, consider this the whine du jour.

Friday, June 10, 2016

NATO Asks What of Canada

I had a quick twitter rant when I heard that Canada was being asked to be the fourth big provider for the new tripwire mission in Eastern Europe.  I would write more here, but I am already on the hook for writing a piece for the Atlantic Council on Canada's expectations for the Warsaw Summit in a  month.  So, here's my storify of my short rant:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

VP Guessing Games

I am really confused by the Washington Post's super cool infographics heavy take on who HRC will pick to be her running mate.  Why?  Because there are so many folks included who are just not serious candidates:
  • Joe Biden is not VPing for another 4-8 years.  HRC can get him to campaign since he is a party guy.  Because his pal, Bo, will be doing the same thing.
  • Andrew Cuomo?  Aside from not needing New Yorkers (a recurring theme here), Cuomo would best be described as embattled.
  • Michael Bloomberg?  Really?  Again, New York?  A billionaire to fight a billionaire?  No thanks.
  • Kristen Gillibrand?  A NY Senator?  Isn't there already one of those on the ticket?
  • Terry McAuliffe?  This would be just to troll the diehard HRC haters, but speaking of embattled governors.
  • Jeanne Shaheen? NH is just not that important of a state, despite its quadrennial effort to make itself relevant.
  • Bill De Blasio?  FFS, what is it with the NY fixation.  
  • Martin O'Malley? Um, he proved what during the campaign?  That he is a lousy campaigner.
  • Bernie Sanders?  Didn't he prove he is a lousy team player?
  • Janet Napolitano?  Homeland Security is the most messed up part of the government bureaucracy, and University of California has, um, had some problems lately.
I think Elizabeth Warren is going to be an asset where she is and can more powerfully shape policy in the Senate than as VP.  Kamala Harris is probably going to be the Senator from California, so let's give her some time doing that before she is VP.  Al Franken?  For shits and giggles and for absolutely having a great ability troll the hell out of Trump, this would be a fun choice.  Sort of a caustic Biden.  But I think HRC will need to get someone who is not associated with Live from New York....  Evan Bayh?  Has he been relevant in the 2010's?

If I had to bet, I would bet on an Hispanic as this would just give Trump all kinds of fits and help ensure the Hispanics would turnout.  I don't know enough about any of the ones listed in the article although I like Tom Perez from his appearance on Keeping It 1600.  Julian Castro would be interesting as it would be fun to see the GOP have to dedicate resources to keep Texas, but Texas is not yet ready to swing, so that might be a stretch.

I know I will be wrong, but I will not be as wrong as half of this list.

Plane Speculation

The news reports have the Liberal government planning to buy a bunch of Super Hornets to bridge the gap as the current CF-18s fade out and before some other plane is ready.

First, there is no official new policy unless I missed something while flying to and from DC, even as I happened to be near the Lockheed offices.

Second, let's repeat the first: no policy announced yet.

But third, damn!  Yes, the Conservatives blew this big time by sole-sourcing, by perhaps letting the RCAF game the requirements, by kicking the can down the road--hoping to make the decision after the 2015 election even though they had all the data/info they needed from the Independent Panel and elsewhere long before that election, etc.  But, as the old saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right but two Wrights do make an airplane....

Sole-sourcing the next plane after being so critical of that is a problem.  One thing to sole source a quick purchase of a needed supply ship or a lease of helos in mid-war.  But to do this dramatic of a reverse needs much explaining.

The big problem here is that everyone will see through this: that buying Super Hornets to bridge the gap is really a decision to buy the Super Hornets and not buy the F-35.  Why?  Because a mixed fleet is expensive--different maintenance equipment, different simulators, different training of pilots and on and on.  Canada would have to have two different systems.  The US could afford such stuff, but stupidly chose not to for the lure of the economies of scale of one plane--the F-35.  Path dependence means going back and reversing that decision is hard for the US and hard for the allies who bought into the plane because they thought that a massive buy would mean lower costs.

I am not a fan of the F-35 as the entire process has been ill-conceived.  Maybe it will prove to be a decent plane, just as the F-22 ended up being a better plane that expected, once folks figured out how to keep it from killing its pilots. And the stories of the previous generation of planes is also one of problematic development.  The difference here is that the F-35 is being mass produced before it shakes out its problems, so that many planes may have to be fixed later on.  On the other hand, the Super Hornet is not as cheap as originally conceived either, so the price gap is not as wide especially when one considers the shorter life-span of the plane.

I don't buy the claims made by either Lockheed or Boeing since they are slick salesfolks with a lot at stake--why expect either one to be anything but biased advocates?  I also don't trust pieces that depend on one anonymous source (sorry, Matthew Fisher).  I have a good friend who has been deeply involved in the Canadian vetting of this stuff, but he is unable to talk to me about it since much of the stuff is classified.  So, what do I think?  I am confused.  I skimmed the Danish report, which suggests that the F-35 is the better choice (and is much clearer than the Canadian panel's report).  But then I hear that certain bombs cannot fit inside and if they are outside the plane, kiss stealth goodbye.

I am not a plane expert.  All I can really conclude is that if the Liberals follow through on this bridging approach, they are basically contradicting damn near all of their stances on how procurement should work.  And the best way to illustrate that is:

Brexit Epiphany: Secession of a Kind

As I was chatting with my dissertation adviser yesterday while in DC (yes, my dissertation was completed in 1993 but the relationship goes on), I had an epiphany that had been on the edges of my thinking but finally popped: the Brexit folks are secessionists.

Sure, the European Union is not a country (nor does it have an army), but the effort to pull the UK out of the EU is very much like the effort to secede from an advanced democracy.  How so?  While the EU's democratic credentials have long been criticized (so many articles about its democratic deficit), the key here is that it is not oppressive or repressive.  Which makes it hard for those to make the case that their hunk of territory should exit.  This is very similar to the problem facing the Scots and the Quebecois--that secession would not solve the problem of political repression, which distinguishes the cases and outcomes of these places with the South Sudans and Kosovos of the world.

When the Scottish separatists sought to win their referendum, they seemed to borrow from the Quebec playbook: minimize the costs of departure (hey, we can get right back into the EU and even NATO, no economic harm will happen, yada, yada) and maximize the expected gains.  Indeed, this is rule #1 of secessionists.

While I have not followed Brexit as closely as I probably should, I do see lots of the same kinds of claims being made--that there will be no harm to the economy from departure, that any economic instability/uncertainty would be short-lived, that it will be easy to develop new trade agreements (despite the fact that bilateral deals favor the stronger player, which would not be the UK vis-a-vis the US, China, the rest of the EU, etc), and on and on.

The arguments that this secession would free the UK from its obligations to the EU army is just the silliest bunch of crap.  As long as Greece remains in the EU and Turkey remains in NATO, there will be little progress on a common security policy of any kind (I am very much a Common Security and Defence Policy skeptic).  Oh, and by the way, any/all coalition/alliance commitments made are, um, purely voluntary.  You don't have to read the Dave and Steve book to understand that [though it helps :)  ]  The EU could not drag the UK into any commitment that would get in the way of the UK's NATO commitments. The UK remains very sovereign in that regard. 

Indeed, the one very predictable consequence of a Brexit would be bad for NATO--that if the UK leaves the EU, the next Scottish referendum would produce a very different result.  And that independent Scotland would be problematic for NATO given British basing of its nuclear subs way up north.

The big question I have for the Brexiters is this: what will British politics look like without Scotland?  Is that something you desire?  Because the Brexiters on the right find that future appealing, but the Brexiters on the left?  Hmmmm.

Arlington, About Time

Over the past several years, I have been to many cemeteries in Europe and have seen war memorials around the world, but I had never been to Arlington despite working around the corner for a year and visiting DC on a regular basis [Update: my big sister reminded me that I went there as part of a family trip when I was 6 or 7--I have no memory of that trip although I seem to remember visiting the White House in the two years we lived in DC].  So, I was due.  And D-Day +1 + 72 years made for good timing. As a scholar of conflict and war, it pays to spend some time being reminded about the costs.  One can snark and be blase about the costs of using the military as an instrument of policy, so seeing these resting places is a good reminder of the costs of the policies one advocates.

Women's memorial
 I am in DC for about 24 hours--to present how blogging can help bridge the gap beteween policy makers and academics, so I had time in between lunch with my dissertation adviser (unbreakable vow indeed) and a 4pm beer call with my natsec twitter friends.  I spent that time wandering around Arlington National Cemetary.

The site is beautiful, peaceful and full of respect for those who gave their all and then some.  The location is perfect because:
  • More by accident than by design, the land was taken from Robert E. Lee to use as the Union was running out of places to put the dead.  So, the traitor lost territory (his descendants got a big check to compensate, alas) to put the dead that he helped cause (had Lee been a lousier general, the Union might not have lost as many lives).
  • It is around the corner from the Pentagon, so those who plan and deploy the troops have a constant reminder of the costs of their decisions.
  • It is across the river but quite nearby the White House and the Congress, which should but does not always remind these folks of the gravity of their decisions.  It is easy for folks elsewhere to declare the need to do MOAR in Syria, Iraq, etc. since they do not work near the place where the folks lost in previous military efforts rest.  
  • 101st memorial
  • And it is so close to the other memorials nearer to the Mall that also mark the big efforts of the past--the Vietnam memorial, the WWII memorial, Korea, etc.
 I wish I had more time and was better equipped (nice clothes and a heavy bag were not great for exploring on a warm DC day), but I was glad I made the trip and will definitely try to get a guided tour since I missed much on this trip.  Oh, and, just like last year's trip, at the airport, the gate next to mine was full of vets from Peoria who had spent  a day visiting Arlington and other DC sites.  Mostly very old folks, but very feisty ones. 


JFK/RFK and eternal flame
Teddy Kennedy
Memorial for those who died in the
failed Iran hostage rescue effort

Challenger Memorial
Columbia Memorial

Tomb of Unknown Soldier
 And, yes, blogger does really give me good control of how the pics appear.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Dissertation Proposal!

I decided to look at my old dissertation proposal since I defended it sometime in June of 1991--25 years ago.  A quick glance suggests that it was in the first half of the month since the examples of secessionist crises barely refers to Yugoslavia, which fell apart later that month.  It was fun to see how much of the dissertation followed this proposal, how much changed, and how much my thinking has remained the same vs changed.

This document is entitled PropV4, which tells me that I had gotten a heap of feedback from my advisers, especially Miles Kahler, so I subjected him to four different versions from roughly late 1990 to June 1991.  I do remember

In terms of style, it turns out that I have always struggled to cite enough literature.  Not enough cites in the proposal, I think.  On the other hand, my hate of lit reviews didn't stop me from having a section called "Relevant Literature."  Reading through it did remind me that I had multiple targets in mind, as I had only remembered focusing on the folks who argued that "countries don't support secession elsewhere if they are vulnerable to it themselves."  I now remember being hostile to the existing work on diversionary theories of war.  I guess it took Palpatine's strategies in SW 1-3 to change my mind?

In terms of my theory, I ended up simplifying a bit from my 3x3 with strange abbreviations to a 2x3 by the time I defended the dissertation.  But the logic built into the model still shapes how I view things--that politicians have different incentives if they have a multiethnic audience to which they are are appealing versus having to compete with other politicians for the support of a single ethnic group.  I kind of underplayed the reality of multiple identities in the proposal, and I got more focused on how even a single identity might have competing meanings and imperatives later on.

My methods section made a series of promises that I did not keep in the dissertation: no statistics.  I did end up trying to test some of the assertions quantitatively once I got my hands on the Minorities At Risk Dataset's coding of international support.  My committee directed me away from doing quantitative work (really!) in the dissertation because the data was not there if I remember correctly. The case studies in the actual dissertation did not reflect what I proposed, as I focused less on individual countries over time (except for Somalia) and much more on comparing how many countries reacted to the same secessionist crisis (Katanga, Biafra, Bangladesh). 

My memory of the process is not perfect, but I have to guess that the dissertation proposal defense made a big difference--not so much in the theory but in how I would test my assertions.  The dissertation defense was far less consequential--it was interesting and engaging, but did not change what I ended up doing with the dissertation.  The resulting book had a different case study (Yugoslavia instead of Bangladesh) both to be more current and because the BG case was really about India and not about comparing many actors' reactions to the same conflict.

And, yes, my proposal was 40 pages double spaced, which means I cannot whine too much when my students give me proposals of that length.

Anyhow, it is funny what I remember and what I don't from this very formative process 25 years ago.  The dissertation proposal process is probably the hardest part of grad school--developing an original and feasible idea to study, one that will haunt a student for at least ten years (to do the project in grad school and then to publish off it as one tries to get tenure), if not their entire career as it tends to dominate one's destiny.  It involves heaps of feedback from advisers and peers, which can often misdirect a student who keeps listening to the most recent piece of advice rather than figuring out what is best for the project.  I have many debts to my committee and my friends at UCSD, which I can only pay forward.

I guess I date my career as starting pretty much at this point--when I got my first major idea started and underway.  Before that, I was just ripping apart the work of others.  Building my own research is far harder and is far more professional--that I was a part of this profession when I started doing the research.  What am I going to do for this 25th anniversary?  Get some more silver in my hair, I guess.

Friday, June 3, 2016

What is Risky For Professors?

Faculty governance?
Public engagement?
Working in government or somewhere else that is not academia?
Investing in long term projects that might not work out?

There is an interesting piece that studies the work of economists (and finance folks) and finds that they do their best work (most publications, most cited stuff) before tenure.  This is problematic because one of the major justifications for tenure is to give professors the chance to do risky work that may not pay off in the short run but could be beneficial in the long run.  Job security is supposed to free professors from playing it safe. 

They definitely find something:

Their key measure for risky work is citation.  Huh?  This is strange because gambling on risky stuff should produce fewer citations, not more, as risky gambles, by definition, are low probability exercises, right?*  That they should fail far more often than they succeed.  Maybe I don't understand the methodology of the paper (yes, I read it), but their focus is on average outcomes, that average citations and home-run averages decline after tenure.  Perhaps because many professors are working on projects that are less safe? 
* While people probably overrate citation cartels, clearly there are strategies to maximize citation that are all about minimizing risk.  So, I am very puzzled by this indicator.

The second problem is, yes, perhaps the average person does publish less stuff and less quality stuff after tenure, but tenure is to protect the ambitious, not the average?  

The third problem is that junior professors at many places are protected from doing as much service and are also seen as less desirable supervisors, so the pressure of tenure and the reduced service load may matter here in producing more work AND make it harder for tenured professors to keep up the old pace as they serve in a variety of capacities that they had mostly dodged before tenure.  The authors take that into account but then make assumptions about how this affects the gambling of professors--that those doing more service would "presumably reduce effort on low-impact projects (p.17).  Really?  Isn't tenure again about freeing up professors to gamble, so why assume that professors would gamble less?  Didn't we political scientists get "gambling for resurrection" from the economists?

Econ is an article business as far as I can tell.  In poli sci, it varies, but it might be that folks invest more in book efforts after tenure as they can take the time to do longer projects with no six year clock above their head.  The book game is, in my experience, less painful than the article game, so maybe profs past tenure change how they publish? 

Or maybe they do other stuff that is risky but cannot be measured in citations: participating in faculty governance where one pisses off deans and provosts; spending sabbaticals focused on improving teaching rather than getting heaps of articles out (not that I know of many/any folks who have done this); doing more public engagement, which can attract the ire of politicians and boards of regents/trustees/governors/whatever.

I am not denying that incentives matter.  I do wonder if professors in unionized shops have more or less decline after tenure than those in non-unionized shops, as the former tend not to have merit increases that could encourage tenured profs to keep on publishing. I also do not deny that there are deadwood associate professors who get tenure and then kick back.  The thing is that such folks are scorned, and grad school and pre-tenure life has a powerful way of socializing folks into developing certain patterns.  Perhaps it is my confirmation bias speaking, but I really have not seen my friends and colleagues tune out much.  To be sure, the previous generation certainly had a significant share of such folks when research expectations were lower. 

Again, I come back to the basic question that this article raises but mostly misses: what the hell is risky behavior?  How do we measure it?  All I know is that measuring it by citations seems strange.  Citations are a blunt but not awful measure of productivity, but of gambling?  Not so much. 

I have already navel-gazed this week about my own research trajectory, but I didn't evaluate then whether I was gambling more later than earlier.  I do think that shifting my research from ethnic conflict stuff, where I made my name, to civil-military relations and alliance dynamics could be seen as a gamble and one that paid off (the 2012-2016 peak).  Was I more willing to gamble after tenure?  After I finished my second book and felt as if I had earned Full-ness even if my full colleagues did not see it that way?  After I moved out of that place?  Probably not.  The big change in my career has been more public engagement since I got tenure and especially since 2009 when I started blogging and tweeting.  Was that due to tenure?  Probably.