Thursday, February 22, 2007

CND studies, influenced by DND funding

The Politics of Security Studies in Canada
Embassy / a division of Hill Times Publishing Inc Brian Adeba February 21st, 2007

A look behind the centres studying war and defence at Canadian universities, where they get their funding and their political biases.

At a time of heightened security concerns in the aftermath of 9/11, the study of security and defence in Canada has gained a new prominence. But defence and security studies can be controversial, especially at times when issues like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are so politically divisive.

Currently, there are 12 Canadian universities with centres that specialize in security and defence studies, in addition to one centre that serves as the chair. These centres were first set up in 1970s when the Cold War was a growing concern. At the time, the Canadian government thought it needed a larger pool of strategic thinking, which then wasn't available in Canadian universities. The government then created a forum at the Department of National Defence to fund security, defence and international relations studies. Today this DND centre is known as the Security and Defence Forum.

Critics of the SDF charge that it is not interested in scholarship or opinions that do not agree with Canada's military.

"They all tend to have the same opinion, one that is consistent with that of the Department of National Defence," says Steve Staples, head of the newly created Ottawa-based Rideau Institute on International Affairs.

According to the Department of National Defence, over 600 people, including 183 faculty members, are employed in these centres across Canada. In 2005-2006, scholars from these centres churned out 600 publications, including articles, books, and chapters. In this same period, the centres received funding worth $1,255,000. As of October 2006, DND approved a 25 per cent increase in funding. In the next five years, the funding will shoot up to $1,650,000, a 32 per cent increase.

Mr. Staples says that while it is not uncommon for government to fund academic programs in institutions, SDF centres have to toe "a particular view" that subscribes to larger spending on the military.

"Most of the hawkish academic viewpoints that you see in the media are part of this Security and Defence Forum group," he says.

"Many of these spokespeople in charge of these institutions were in favour of invading Iraq, missile defence and large increases in defence spending."

DND Funding Doesn't Affect View

But David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, dismisses the argument that SDF centres have to subscribe to DND viewpoints.

"I know that's what they say, but I'd rather they read all of the research done by people connected to these centres," he says, stressing that there are various opinions out there on many security and defence issues that it is sometimes hard to find academics agreeing on one viewpoint.

However, Mr. Staples argues that DND does not approve of every research that comes out of these centres.

"Any researcher who says that the source of funding for the program has no influence on their work would not be entirely honest to you or to themselves," he says.

He also argues that the research SDF centres carry out is not entirely about scholarly research but a lot of attention is paid to the annual reports, which have a heavy focus on the media.

"It's not about scholarly journals, peer reviewed articles that they have written–it's really about appearing in the mainstream media. What you tend to get as a general trend, is a steady stream of hawkish opinion from academics that are all linked together through Department of National Defence funding," says Mr. Staples.

Erika Simpson, an associate professor of politics at the University of Western Ontario, says editorial opinions in most mainstream media reflect a pro-military stance and attributes this to the lack of funding for alternative studies in defence issues.

Ms. Simpson argues that one such program called the human security program, which funds post-doctoral research, receives far less funding than SDF programs. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade funds the human security program, but according to Ms. Simpson, this year the program was slapped with funding cutbacks.

But Ms. Simpson also says questions need to be asked "whether subsidizing research by academics on defence issues makes those academics reluctant to publicly criticize DND policies, such as Afghanistan."

Another accusation leveled at Canada's security and defence centres is that some of them harbour a right wing or conservative ideology, a charge David Mutimer, deputy director of York University's Centre for International and Security Studies, denies.

"I don't know of any Canadian university where there is some form of ideological requirement," he says. "And that coming from a university that is described as a Marxist university.

"We have a lot of Marxists here, but that doesn't mean anything," he says.

'Like Studying Cancer'

David Mendoloff, director of the Centre for Security and Defence Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, says that to him, the accusations are not so much about hawkish or conservative slants in ideology, but are based on a perception that since the centres are funded by the government, "they are somehow in the service of DND.

"My response is that the accusation does not reflect a good understanding of the work the centres do. It is based on one or two centres. There are 12 centres and they run the gamut ideologically from far left to right," he says.

But whatever the argument, Mr. Bercuson says war is an inevitable part of international relations and it must be studied to better understand it.

"It shapes societies, it is brutal in its implications, but if you don't try to understand it, how do you learn to deal with it?" he asks.

"It's like studying cancer. The fact that I study the military does not make me pro-war and that goes for all these folks across the country."

The centres have to apply to a body appointed by the minister of defence in order to receive funding from the SDF. Centres can receive between $80,000 to 100,000 in funds. The SDF will spend $2.5 million on grants to the centres this year. In addition, the SDF also awards scholarships for graduate and post-graduate studies and also offers special grants to individuals and institutions to finance academic projects and conferences.

The research topics must focus on the following: Terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, failed or failing states, regional flashpoints, Canadian Forces transformation, the defence of Canada, the Canadian Forces' international role, the 3D approach and Canada-United States defence regulations.

SDF Centres in Canadian Universities

• Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, Dalhousie University

• Military and Strategic Studies Program, University of New Brunswick

• Programme Paix et Sécurité Internationales, Université Laval

• Groupe d'étude et de recherché sur la securite internationale/Research Group in International Security, Université de Montréal/McGill University

• Centre d'études des politiques étrangéres et de sécurité, Université du Québec à Montréal/Concordia University

• Centre for International Relations, Queen's University

• Centre for Security and Defence Studies, Carleton University

• Centre for International and Security Studies, York University

• Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies, Wilfred Laurier University

• Centre for Defence and Security Studies, University of Manitoba

• Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary

• Centre for International Relations, University of British Colombia

Chair of Defence Management Studies

• Queen's University