Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

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Given the increasing pace of change and the uncertainty that is brings around issues of international and defence policy, this series is designed to bring some clarity to current events. Short in duration and timely in delivery, the Contact Report presents views and opinions by our fellows, leveraging the diversity of backgrounds and experiences to provides thoughtful and concise analysis.  We are always looking for such analysis and if you want to contribute, please get in touch with us at CIDP@queensu.ca.

*The views contained in these reports are the author's alone and do not represent those of the CIDP

What is a "Contact Report"?

“Zero, Four-one. Contact, wait out.”

These six words, spoken over a radio, bring an acute focus to all who hear them. Everything else stops. Everything else is suddenly less important. Focus now shifts to ‘Four-one’, the call sign representing a small unit of soldiers who are suddenly engaged in a fire fight – firing their weapons in anger and likely fighting for their lives. ‘Contact’ in this sense means that the small unit has begun engaging the proverbial enemy – they are being shot at and are shooting back. More ominously, they will let ‘zero’ – the headquarters – know when they are done. In essence, they are telling the headquarters, "don’t call us – we’ll call you". More importantly, until the contact is resolved, everybody else stays quiet – and waits.

What they are waiting for is called a contact report. This report follows a format that all combat leaders memorize and consists of where the shooting is coming from, who they think is shooting at them, what they are doing about it, and when the shooting started.

The contact report is designed to be a clear, concise, and precise response to an event. It is designed to get the essential information to those who need to know and, more importantly, may be able to offer support in a timely fashion. In short, what is happening to Four-one may be of importance to other organizations on the same team.

It is in this spirit of precision, concision, and clarity that the CIDP launched "the Contact Report". This series is designed to be a venue for our Fellows to provide their learned opinions on the contacts of the day, in this case international and defence policy-related events. It is designed to do so in a timely but accurate and thoughtful manner that enables us to leverage the knowledge of our researchers to inform the debates that ensue.

Get Digitally Woke

H. Christian Breede, Deputy Director, Centre for International and Defence Policy 
17 April 2019

We are being hacked.

Setting aside the cacophony of voices surrounding the Mueller Report and what it does or does not say, that the 2016 election in the United States was manipulated is now well established. More to the point, that Canada’s upcoming 2019 general election is equally vulnerable is just as certain. In a recent report released by Canada’s Communication Security Establishment (CSE), not only is interference in our democratic process expected, it already happened. The report highlights that as early as 2015, Canada was subject to election meddling through digital media. While of low sophistication, meaning these efforts were uncoordinated, poorly planned, and rather crude in execution, they flagged a vulnerability that will continue to be exploited. Moreover, it will likely be exploited in a more coordinated fashion and with greater sophistication. The misinformation or ‘fake news’ that inundated the United States during the 2016 Presidential election are closer to the mark of what we can expect in Canada come the Fall of 2019. Canada’s own Minister for Democratic Institutions warned as much this past month in Ottawa. Indeed, it appears the government is taking notice and taking action. However, an exclusive top-down approach is not enough. We all have a role to play as well in dealing with these vulnerabilities.

Put bluntly, part of the vulnerability is you. It is me. It is any of us who spend any time on an internet enabled device. To be clear, that is most Canadians. While the details vary, several online data tracking tools, such as Statista, peg Canada’s internet penetration at over 80 per cent. This means over 30 million Canadians have access to online devices. Moreover, according to comScore (a media tracking company), Canadians spend on average over 36 hours each month online and BNN Bloomberg reported that almost 50 per cent of Canadians rely on social media for their news.

We are plugged in.

In addition, both Operation Honour and the “Diversity Strategy” rely on changing the CAF’s demographics to effect culture change. For example, the Chief of the Defence Staff has directed that women should make up 25 per cent of the armed forces by 2026. However, longstanding failures by the CAF recruiting and retention system, as documented by the Auditor General in three reports dating back to 2002, especially the absence of strategies to achieve its goals, will likely thwart any efforts to increase the diversity of the CAF:

So how are we being hacked? In order to make sense of this charge, we need to understand how major social media firms make their money. As Roger McNamee, Azeem Azhar, and Peter W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking have all argued elsewhere, internet websites make their money through advertising. Websites – most notably social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat – need to demonstrate to potential advertisers that they 1) can keep you on their site longer than others (known at Time on Site or ToS) and 2) can provide information to advertisers on what their users are doing on the websites (through the provision of records of what you have clicked, watched, or ‘liked’).

So far so good. Most of us likely knew this when we did not read the various user agreements and just clicked on the accept box. What we likely were not quite so aware of was that not only were we handing over our data to these companies (in exchange for using their service for free or a small fee), but also opening ourselves up to manipulation.

We opened the door.

Since websites want you to stay so they can boast of higher ToS than others, they want to ensure they offer content that you are interested in. This bespoke curation is a great way to discover new things. Think of Netflix’s eerily good recommendations after you just binged on the latest season of Stranger Things. This works through rather simple machine learning algorithms that thanks to the continuous improvement in computing power and ever-increasing amount of data we feed them through our use of these devices and digital platforms, we stay longer and then binge on The OA next. And then again on the next thing, and the next. Indeed, my Netflix recommendation list is unique to me, based on my previous viewing habits. Yours will be different, as will my partner’s or that of my children.

This bespoke curation however has – like many things – a downside. If an algorithm is taking your viewing habits and nudging you to the next thing, it is influencing what content you consume. Taken over the long term, this same algorithm is not only shaping what you read, watch or listen to, but it is in fact shaping what you think. It is shaping your perceptions, attitudes, and maybe even your values. More to the point, it is doing so for every one of us in a relentless, agnostic manner that simply magnifies this impact. Where in the past such efforts at manipulation would be carried out by small armies of propagandists targeting a few, we are now all being targeted by lines of code and our own curiosities. More problematically, this targeting expands beyond what movies we might like next or shoes we may want to buy tomorrow; it now extends towards which political parties we should vote for or which issues we should care about in the next election. Just like the Netflix recommendation engine will not suggest the latest season of The Office after binge watching The OA, social media platforms will not suggest a post or article supporting the opposite political views to that which I have been previously reading. When you tailor content curation to each individual, perceptions and indeed ideas harden, and polarization soon follows.

We need to wake up

I am not saying we need to defenestrate our tablets, smartphones, and laptops. I am not saying we need to unplug. Quite the contrary, we need to plug in to what is going on and how it all works. We need to wake up to the idea that we are all being nudged in certain directions; sometimes unwittingly, sometimes on purpose, but always at a scale that is unprecedented in human experience. We need to be mindful of what we read and how it makes us feel. As I tell my students each year, when you read something that enrages you, rather than click share and send it to your hundreds of contacts or thousands of followers (or cite it on a term paper), dig a bit deeper. Find out where it came from, who wrote it and be mindful of how (and why) it appeared on your feed. Be a critical digital consumer. Our new digital social contract needs to be one in which we are ensured free and equal access to each other through information communications technologies on the understanding that we will also exercise a healthy dose of skepticism towards what we read, listen to, and watch. Our democracy – frankly – depends on it.

Why the CAF Cannot “Eliminate Harmful and Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour”

Allan English, Queen’s University and Centre for International and Defence Policy 
3 February 2019

Operation Honour is the capstone document that articulates publicly the response of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to the report of Justice Marie Deschamps, “External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces.” The Deschamps report, issued in March 2015, had identified serious problems related to the culture of the CAF. It concluded that sexual harassment and sexual assault were the result of an “underlying sexualized culture in the CAF that is hostile to women and LGTBQ members.” Op Honour’s stated mission is to “eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within the CAF,” and gave the CAF twenty-two months to complete this mission. Despite some vague subsequent references to converting Operation Honour into an “ongoing, enduring mission,” the original plan was for the CAF to be in a position to “Maintain and Hold” its required culture change “in perpetuity” starting on 1 July 2017.

However, just over five months into Operation Honour’s “Maintain & Hold” final phase, an event involving the senior leadership of the CAF gave us an indication of how successful Operation Honour had been in meeting its culture change goals, especially those related to rebuilding trust between CAF members and its senior leadership. The “party flight” was a series of incidents which occurred between 2 and 5 December 2017 as part of a “morale tour” planned by the CDS’s office. Two of the most senior leaders in the CAF, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and the CAF Chief Warrant Officer, as well as members of CDS’s office, were among the 20 to 25 passengers on board. Afterwards, there were reports of partying in the aisles, extreme abuse of alcohol by some passengers, and cabin crew members being sexually harassed and inappropriately touched by some passengers. This resulted in two formal complaints of sexual assault by aircraft crew members, one of which is before the courts.

The episode did not reflect well on DND. Two of the most senior leaders in the CAF on board the flight were widely seen to have been indifferent to what was happening. The CDS’s initial reaction to the incidents was to say that “what happened on the flight might have been exaggerated.” Two months passed before a formal investigation into the incidents was convened. The message that many in the CAF and among the Canadian public will take from the “party flight” episode is that, despite Operation Honour being in effect for over two years, situations involving the abuse of alcohol that are associated with increased risk of sexual misconduct and that in this case resulted in “harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour” still occur in the CAF, even in the presence of its senior leadership.

Why Did Culture Change Not Occur? One of the principal reasons that Operation Honour did not produce the desired culture change was the lack of an overall strategy addressing the causes, not just the symptoms, of the CAF’s “sexualized culture.” As a result, Operation Honour’s instructions on culture change were modified a year later to be now “linked very closely” to other government diversity programs, and particularly the CAF “Diversity Strategy” released in May 2016. This direction diluted Operation Honour’s emphasis from cultural change necessary to “eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within the CAF” to “creating and fostering a culture of respect and inclusion for all CAF members.” This change of focus is typical of new initiatives displacing old ones or operational priorities derailing “non-operational imperatives” in past CAF change initiatives when no comprehensive strategy for change was created.

In addition, both Operation Honour and the “Diversity Strategy” rely on changing the CAF’s demographics to effect culture change. For example, the Chief of the Defence Staff has directed that women should make up 25 per cent of the armed forces by 2026. However, longstanding failures by the CAF recruiting and retention system, as documented by the Auditor General in three reports dating back to 2002, especially the absence of strategies to achieve its goals, will likely thwart any efforts to increase the diversity of the CAF:

…it is unlikely that the Regular Force will be able to reach the desired number of members by the 2018–19 fiscal year as planned. We also found that although the Canadian Armed Forces had established a goal of 25 percent for the representation of women, it did not set specific targets by occupation, nor did it have a strategy to achieve this goal.

Finally, the CAF’s hyper-masculine, sexualized warrior culture is one of the most deeply rooted causes of sexual misconduct in the CAF, and a major barrier to culture change and diversity because of its emphasis on a narrow range of acceptable behaviours in a homogenous warrior culture. Not only is there no clear strategy to change this culture, but there are also mixed signals being sent by senior members of the CAF. For example, when senior CAF leaders state that “harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour” must be eliminated while “upholding the warrior ethos,” it will almost certainly frustrate any culture change initiatives designed to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour caused by the CAF’s current culture.

The Prognosis. Therefore, until the CAF adopts a long-term culture change strategy that can modify the values, attitudes and beliefs of its members in a way that complements the short-term bureaucratic methods used to date, any change will be ephemeral and inconsequential. Unless the CAF addresses the causes of its problems, not just their symptoms, and its actions are monitored by effective external oversight, the “comprehensive culture change” initiatives required by Justice Deschamps and acknowledged as necessary by the CAF are likely to meet the same fate as their predecessors – disappointment and future problems as the causes of the CAF’s sexualized, toxic culture remain in place.

Note: This Contact Report is based on a paper by Allan English written for the IUS Canada Conference, Ottawa ON, 20-21 October 2018 titled “‘Comprehensive Culture Change’ and Diversity in the Canadian Armed Forces: An Assessment of Operation Honour after Three Years and Implications for the latest CAF ‘Diversity Strategy’” and which is available on request.


Sarah Fallavollita, POLS465, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University
2 June 2018

Sexual violence is an abhorrent psychological and physical element of warfare that targets a population’s most vulnerable members. Though rape is certainly not reserved for conflicts rendered as genocide, this sort of violence is categorically at its most vicious under such circumstances. Rape as an act of genocide is perhaps the most grotesque occurrence of this abusive crime as it is conducted at an organized and systemic level. Genocidal rape is distinctly horrendous as it is rape as a policy of war, a strategic ploy to rape with the intent to kill, rape with the intent of causing ostracization, rape as a demoralizing spectacle made to degrade and humiliate and rape as a means to destroy a people.

The culture of violence and conflict for most women is one dominated by androcentric values; its patriarchal tenets continue to oppress women systemically as women are seen as a commodity and a tool for inflicting terror. The abuses that women face as a result of this cultural inferiority are grotesque and breach their human rights to security, dignity, and equality. In times of armed conflict, sexual abuse of women runs rampant and is used as a weapon of warfare. Sexual assault of women in combat zones and occupied territories occurs throughout the history of warfare, most widespread in cases of genocide or ethnic cleansing. Many wars produce rape, as the conflict becomes a fulcrum for masculinity through which men assert their dominance through violence. Rape has become a deliberate strategy of civil war and genocide in many regions and conflicts, used systemically as a means of political and economic violence, rather than just social and interpersonal.

In the context of the Rwandan genocide, sexual violence was seen on a massive scale. It was initially estimated that during the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi people by the Hutu in Rwanda, 250,000 women were raped and it was later divulged by Human Rights Watch that the number was closer to 500,000. The Rwandan genocide was an attempt by the Hutu people to ethnically cleanse Rwanda of the Tutsi. To further this goal, rape and sexual violence were used as supplementary tools aimed at destroying whole populations. Rape served as a way of stripping women of their economic and political assets. Women’s economic value resides first in their productive and reproductive labour force, and second in their possessions and access to valuables. By depriving women of these assets, they effectively eliminate the flow of resources to the enemy. With men at war, they depend on women’s productive forces to fuel the war effort and their reproductive forces to repopulate. Rape survivors are therefore stripped of their worth, as quoted by Turshen in Victors, Perpetrators, or Actors: Gender, Armed Conflict, and Political Violence, one victim stated that “I felt I wanted to die because I felt I wasn’t worth anything anymore”. In some African societies, women who have experienced rape are seen as dishonoured and are ostracised from society; often the only way of restoring honour is in killing the raped woman. Falling victim to rape can therefore make a woman unacceptable to society, thereby forcing her to fend for herself, and increasing the overall death toll of the genocide. Another desirable outcome of rape in genocide is to impregnate the victims, therefore again forcing them to be secluded from society and to bear children of ‘enemy’ ethnicity.

The widespread health concern of HIV/AIDS in Africa provides another tool of genocide to liquidate whole populations in Rwanda. Militias used HIV/AIDS as a way to terminate the Tutsi population through raping women. By spreading the HIV/AIDS virus the Hutu men were condemning Tutsi women to an eventual death. As quoted by Christopher Mullins in his article “ “He would kill me with his penis”: Genocidal Rape in Rwanda as a State Crime”, one victim recounted being told that, “we are not killing you. We are giving you something worse. You will die a slow death”. Another victim described an account with a Hutu soldier where “he said he wasn’t going to waste a bullet… he said he was going to kill me with his penis”.

Sexual violence against women in times of armed conflict is above all a method of generating terror and preying on vulnerable populations. No woman was spared, from women as young as four years old to elderly women, all ages were subjected to sexual violence. The violence that occurred was as psychologically traumatizing as it was physical. Women were tortured in the most perverse methods. Some women were raped by up to ten men, others were forced to watch friends and family raped under the threat of death, one instance recorded a sixteen-year-old boy being forced to rape his own mother. Another common practice was referred to as fistula, which denotes the forcing of a foreign object like a firearm or tree branch into the vaginal canal after being raped. This practice caused considerable damage to female genitals, often rendering them sterile or causing long-term physical issues. Some soldiers would insert hot plastic into women’s vaginas ensuring that their genitals sealed over altogether.

In 1991 during the Bosnian crisis, the now infamous “Brana Plan” was implemented. Though it does not explicitly use the word “rape”, multiple humanitarian organizations have corroborated that a policy of rape was implemented which encouraged the intentional perpetration of sexual abuse as a tactic of war. It is estimated that, over the course of the Bosnian conflict, 50,000 women were victims of sexual violence. Many of these women were subjected to such horrors as gang rape, torture and sexual enslavement. The Serbian government and military troops organized rape camps as a systemic method of creating an ethnically pure nation.

The abuse of women during armed conflict and the utilization of rape as a conduit for genocide are not unique to the Rwandan or Bosnian context, and other regions have experienced similar accounts of this horror with the numbers of victims staggeringly high. The subordination of women in times of conflict is seen as an extension of power relations between the sexes in general and it reflects the patriarchal structures of wartime society in which the female body is property controlled by men. In order to combat this issue I believe that nations should continue to promote the increasing presence of women amongst their military ranks, and perpetrators of these acts should be more consistently tried for their crimes against humanity.


Patrick Dermody, POLS 465, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University
9 May 2018 2018

In the aftermath of the 2016 United States presidential election, much of the discourse has been centered on the role Russian-propagated disinformation played in swaying American voters in favour of Republican candidate and eventual winner Donald J. Trump. Voters, pundits, and even defeated candidate Hillary Clinton have cited the circulation of disinformation to explain Trump’s unlikely victory. The 2016 campaign was not an anomaly, but rather an overture to liberal democracies’ greatest threat. 

Modern democracies have been required to adapt to the rapid rise of the Internet and Social Media, and in the coming years political parties are forecasted to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on their online presence. As voters spend more of their time online, we are entering an age of “Digital Democracies”- this has come with a consequence. Information has become the weapon of choice in this new global war: the war for the conversation. Canada is not a neutral party in this war, nor is Canada is immune to attack. Thus, it is absolutely vital the Canadian government acts proactively in creating appropriate measures to defend our voters from any incoming threat. This report will outline Canada’s recent engagements with Russia in this conflict, advocating a variety of defensive measures that can be taken to ensure Canadian voters remain informed and confident in the legitimacy of our democracy.

The situation in Latvia has been the cause of Russian ire since the country joined NATO in 2004. The “westward movement” by the former Soviet state (and others) has caused such a stir in the region that a NATO presence has constantly been a necessity. In late 2017 Canadian participation in large training operations in the country has made Canada the target of a Russian disinformation campaign. This has come in a variety of forms, mainly Kremlin-linked operatives spreading untrue stories about Canadian soldiers in Latvia online in an attempt to discredit the mission and NATO as an organization. The greater objective is to persuade Latvians that NATO is harmful, building a dissent that will lead to the country realigning with Russia. This received light media coverage, not nearly as extensive as it should have been. Why? This attack was on Canadian soldiers. However, the next battle could come in 2019, and the target may be Canadian voters.

Russia has already made an effort to bring their information campaign onto Canadian soil. A recent Globe and Mail article revealed that since 2009, Russia has been paying to broadcast government-funded propaganda network “Russia Today” (RT) into millions of Canadian homes. In 2017 the network was required to register as a “Foreign Agent” in the United States, thereby obliging the network’s American branch to disclose its financial records to the American government. This network’s M.O. is the promotion of pro-Russian content, creating instability in Western democracies and undermining democratic institutions. Make no mistake; this is the beginning of an invasion. The Kremlin has demonstrated that it is willing to entangle itself in American democratic processes, and there is no reason to believe we are not vulnerable to the same influences. The first (and easiest) step is utilizing the Internet to create wedge issues, creating divisions within society. What follows could be far more sinister. Thus, it is vital for the Canadian government to use all available means to protect the legitimacy of our information and our democracy.

There exist a number of possible solutions I believe Canada can, and should, explore to combat Russia’s war on information. The first is the diplomatic/soft power approach, primarily in the form of increased sanctions levelled at Russia. The Kremlin’s campaign against Canadians in Latvia is enough to warrant such actions. Ideally, this would deter Russia from encroaching any further on Canadian democracy. However, it is unlikely that such a strategy would be effective against the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin has demonstrated his disdain and disregard for diplomacy and democracy, thus demanding a more hardline approach. Canada needs to take advantage of institutions such as NATO to ensure that Western democracies remain stable and free from foreign interference. It is imperative that Canada and other NATO allies make a firm statement: this is an information war, and any attempt by a foreign power to influence the discussion will be treated as an act of war. Nothing short of such an absolute assertion will resonate with the Kremlin. Formidable evidence indicates that Russia attempted to divide Americans in 2016, and it is clear they will not stop there. Military action must be threatened should the Russians continue their campaign. A line in the sand must be drawn now; otherwise all Western democracies are at risk. 

Domestically, it is critical that the Canadian government consistently sponsors public awareness campaigns leading up to the 2019 election, educating Canadians on the proper dissemination of information. Websites and Social Media pages distributing fake news must be identified and shut down, as they represent a serious threat to Canadian democratic processes. An oft-floated suggestion is the creation of a national communications bureau dedicated to targeting disinformation- this would represent a positive step forward. Furthermore, the Canadian government must spare no expense in improving our cybersecurity infrastructure to ensure electoral assets such as voter data remain uncompromised.

The Liberal government cannot wait until it is too late to act; the 2016 U.S. presidential election has demonstrated the power of the propagation of disinformation. Preventative measures must be enacted immediately to ensure not only that Canadian voters remain informed and confident when heading to the polls, but also to send a clear message that such actions will be met with an appropriate military response from Canada and our allies. With so much at stake, it’s never too early to start stacking sandbags.

Why Naming Matters in Ideological Warfare

Ejaz Thawer, POLS 465, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University 
9 April 2018

Of the innumerable criticisms US President Donald Trump has levied against his predecessor, the accusation that Obama’s refusal to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” stifled the country’s counterterrorism efforts is particularly contentious. While Trump’s position on counterterrorist rhetoric is by no means flawless, recognizing radicalization-prone ideologies that inspire violent extremism is integral to success in the War on Terror. As this war is won on the ideological battlefield, naming and confronting “Islamist” radicalism equips Muslim allies and reformers with the literary tools to challenge extremist ideologies that run antithetical to Islamic values.

Debate surrounding the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” has pitted those who claim effective counterterrorism efforts necessitate its use, against others who believe it produces a false equivalence between terrorism and the religion of Islam. Unmistakeably a representative of the former position, President Trump has stated that to successfully combat terrorism, “you have to be able to state what the problem is, or at least say the name.” While his policy-based counterterrorism strategy includes the erroneous proposal of a ban on immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries, Trump’s rhetorical approach to combating terrorism logically manifests itself in the prolific use of “radical Islamic terrorism.” Opposition to the all-too-controversial president’s unsurprisingly controversial perspective on terrorism is well intentioned. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Trump’s own national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, have all expressed the importance of ensuring terrorist organizations aren’t viewed as representative of the broader Muslim community. In their eyes, rhetorically associating categorically un-Islamic terrorism with Islam may not only inspire anti-Muslim bigotry, but also substantiate the extremists’ vision of a war between Islam and the West.

Despite these admirable concerns, failing to acknowledge the ideological dimension of the War on Terror is at best disingenuous, and at worst, a fatal mistake. According to Carlo Caro, ignoring the ideological underpinnings of Islamist terrorism actually obstructs Muslim allies and reformers in their quest to confront misinterpreted doctrines that incite violent extremism. Radicalization-prone ideologies, namely Salafism, often serve as quasi-religious justifications for terrorist acts – a reality echoed by some of the Middle East’s most distinguished religious leaders, including Sheikh Aadel al-Kalbani. If these destructive doctrines remain uncontested, extremists will continue to enjoy a monopoly over the discourse surrounding genuine Islamic values. By delineating Salafist ideology and its brethren as extremist dogma vulnerable to exploitation, we create an environment conducive to critical discussion and counter-messaging. Given this distinction, liberal reformers in Islamic spheres can honestly challenge teachings detached from the principles of Islam, and disseminate religious counter-narratives geared towards deradicalization.

In addition to disempowering Islamic allies and reformers, an unwillingness to identify and address the ideologies exploited by extremists is, at its core, indicative of a greater problem: The failure to both understand and adapt to the changing character of warfare. In 2006, former US President George W. Bush characterized the so-called War on Terror as the “decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.” This conflict’s ideological character presents a unique challenge to counterterrorism forces in the form of enduring, persistent, and consistently reappearing extremist groups. As the landscape of warfare changes, so do the mechanisms by which it is fought. According to Philip Gorden, while traditional warfare would dictate victory on the basis of triumph on the battlefield and political agreement, lasting victory in the War on Terror requires that the ideology underpinning Islamist extremism lose its appeal. In essence, ultimate success in the War on Terror necessitates success in the war of ideas – a prospect as difficult to attain as it is to measure. However complex it may be, in order to win the ideological war, we must collectively recognize and challenge the doctrines rooted in gross misinterpretations of Islamic values.

Is all this to say that President Donald Trump was actually right? Surely his many critics would characterize this finding as a proverbial blind squirrel finding a nut.

Although Trump is onto something when he claims – albeit less eloquently – that effective solutions are predicated on an accurate identification of the problem, his pursuit of accuracy is thwarted by a failure to distinguish between two key terms: Islamic and Islamist. What on the surface seems like a trivial modification actually proves that when determining one’s adversary in an ideological war, the devil is truly in the details. More than a mere two-letter revision, this distinction isolates the religion of Islam and its many peaceful followers from Islamists, or individuals who wish to impose a particular understanding of the religion on the rest of society. Author and activist Maajid Nawaz, himself a former Islamist, praises this dichotomy as a means by which we can identify extremist ideologies without escalating Islamophobia or anti-Muslim discrimination. The benefit of making the Islamic-Islamist distinction when naming extremist ideologies is two-fold. On a societal level, the general public – who may be susceptible to associating terrorism with Islamic values – is provided with the tools to differentiate between the religion of Islam and its selective extremist misinterpretations. Within the Muslim community itself, liberal reformers and allies are empowered against the Islamists, who have dominated the war of ideas as limitedly contested determinants of the true values of Islam.

While President Donald Trump’s phraseology was undoubtedly – and perhaps unsurpringly – flawed, his effort to accurately define the ideology underpinning Islamist extremism was not without merit. In ideological warfare, naming matters. Beyond recognizing the inherent ideological character of the War on Terror, distinguishing Islamists as agents of extremism bolsters the voices of mainstream Muslims in the war of ideas – a battle that can only be won with an arsenal of intellectual firepower. As both scholars and religious leaders agree, Islamist extremism will only be defeated once radicalization-prone doctrines exploited by fundamentalists are discredited. Providing Muslim allies and reformers with the language to challenge those who espouse values contrary to Islamic teachings is integral to their success on the ideological battlefield. As such, sustained success in the War on Terror is down to the power of our voices, not our guns. 


A Pause thank to Events

H. Christian Breede, Georgie Giannopoulos, and Thomas Hughes
26 March 2018

When asked what would derail his government’s plans, then-British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously quipped “events, dear boy, events.” In the spirit of Macmillan’s famous response, events have overtaken our cunning plan to present our students’ best reports. Instead, we offer here a piece by Sherman Lai, one of our fellows, on the recent developments in Chinese politics. We will be resuming our plan in a few weeks and continue the publication of Sarah, Ejaz, and Patrick’s reports.



Sherman Lai, Department of Political Studies, Royal Military College of Canada
26 March 2018

“Riding a tiger” is a Chinese idiom. It describes well what Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is doing these days. Through “stealth, speed and guile,” in the words of The New York Times Beijing correspondent, Xi has recently arranged for China’s docile National People’s Congress to amend the PRC Constitution, removing the two-term limit on his presidency. The term limit was put in place decades ago, following consensus in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) elite that the rise of a second Mao Zedong should be prevented. By abolishing the term limit, Xi has abandoned the long-standing consensus and positioned himself as a successor comparable to Mao. However, Mao’s authority was based on the respect that he had earned in leading the CCP to military and political victory in 1949. Xi, in contrast, has so far only proven himself to be a particularly skillful political operator. Trampling the party’s consensus underfoot, Xi has mounted a fierce tiger. The result will be a rapid return of the predatory politics of Mao’s era.

The predatory politics characteristic of Mao’s China grew out of Lenin’s principles stressing vanguard party discipline. Stalin consolidated the Soviet Union as history’s first Communist party-state. Modeled on the Soviet Union, the PRC replayed several key events in Soviet history, including massive famine, political purges, and a flowering of corruption following the death of a strongman. In the early 1930s, Mao and Deng Xiaoping were both victims of Stalinist purges in the CCP. According to Deng’s daughter, they respected one another as a result and mutual appreciation bound them together for the rest of their lives. But Mao and Deng approached political problems differently. Mao repeatedly launched mass movements to preserve his comrades’ revolutionary zeal. The Cultural Revolution, Mao’s final campaign, led to the destruction of much of the CCP elite.

After his death, Mao’s personality cult was replaced by a new set of principles arrived at through consensus within the CCP. Deng’s leadership emerged from this consensus, and it also resulted in agreement on the development of China’s stalled economy, restoration of the rule of law, and a two-term limit on the Presidency, enshrined in the Constitution in 1982. As the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989 made clear, however, the CCP elites did not wish to give up Leninist principles by surrendering the party’s monopoly on power. Their promotion of the rule of law was soon downgraded to a strengthening of “rule by law,” to an extent that facilitated China’s new partnership with global capitalism.

Deng Xiaoping was the helmsman of a major historical transition. Seventy-five years of age when Mao died, Deng realized that he could not complete the transition. Hoping that successors would continue his efforts, Deng selected two liberal-minded candidates for top positions, but when CCP rule was challenged by student protesters during the 1980s, neither of Deng’s protegés proved capable of withstanding conservative condemnation that they were too lenient. Nor did the conservatives accept the new candidate for party leadership that Deng recommended during the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Jiang Zemin was then appointed in a compromise between Deng and the conservatives. To prevent Jiang from serving an extended term as leader, Deng also named Jiang’s successor, namely Hu Jintao. Deng passed away in 1997.

Rather than complying fully with Deng’s wishes by handing power over to Hu at the CCP’s National Party Congress in 2002, Jiang only gave up the titles of CCP General Secretary and President of the PRC, keeping for himself the commanding authority of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Eventually passing on the military command to Hu, Jiang continued to wield informal but critical influence within the CCP and the PLA. Jiang also selected Xi Jinping as Hu Jintao’s successor. As Xi’s first term began in 2012, a set of interlocking scandals erupted and reverberated throughout the CCP. Xi demonstrated enormous toughness early in his presidency. Exploiting and escalating the crisis, he pressured his party colleagues for a full mandate. At one point, he refused to appear in public for several weeks, even cancelling a meeting with Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State.

Xi Jinping’s early maneuvers were successful. With bolstered authority, he launched an anti-corruption campaign, jailing a few of Jiang’s lieutenants, including the chief of the secret police. Thus Xi consolidated his power, in preparation for turning the Nineteenth Party Congress of October 2017 into a coronation. As a signature slogan, Xi declared a grandiose goal, declaring the “China Dream.” The Dream’s most specific aim was that China would be the equal of the United States by 2050. For the sake of policy continuity, Xi secretly appointed task groups to work on removing the presidential term limit through constitutional amendment. His eagerness to extend his presidency beyond ten years reveals that Xi Jinping’s hubris and ambition have overwhelmed his caution.

Xi seems ignorant that the PRC is in fact a confederation of well-established party factions, a reality that even Mao had to respect. This situation resulted from the Chinese Communists’ two decades of guerilla warfare. In the face of overwhelmingly powerful opponents, CCP guerrilla fighters often took refuge in mountain hideouts. Their sheltering mountains became their identifications, giving birth to “mountaintop-ism” in CCP politics. Mao was not happy with mountaintop-ism but did not attempt to root it out. Xi, in contrast, is attempting to do so. In the name of military reform, Xi has replaced the Soviet-style structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with American-style organization. He has changed the names of the PLA’s group armies without clear justification. These group armies have long served as cornerstones of the CCP’s authority, and each has borne a name epitomizing a key piece of CCP party-state history. Powerful groups in the armed forces and their families identify closely with the former army names. In taking these steps, Xi Jinping has stirred up enormous resentment within the PLA. Although the PLA’s commissar system will keep discontent under control, the commissars themselves must be suspicious of Xi’s decision to rename the PLA’s group armies.

For senior CCP leaders, Xi’s abolition of the presidential term limit brings to mind the stealthy maneuvers made by Mao at times when he lacked legitimacy. Xi’s constitutional amendment lacks legitimacy. Its illegitimacy means that Xi cannot afford any serious missteps from this point onward. Even if he is fortunate enough to enjoy unchallenged authority for the rest of his career, he has set his country up for chaos. As he ages and fades from the scene, the CCP core will become embroiled in cut-throat succession struggles. But there is no turning back at this point, and it might never be possible for Xi to dismount safely from his tiger.

Reviewing his seven decades of service to the CCP in 1992, Deng Xiaoping did not hide his frustration with the CCP party-state, hoping that his successors would reform it rather than repeat mistakes made by Mao and his supporters. Today Deng would be aghast at Xi Jinping’s tiger-riding performance. Xi is rashly leading China down a path full of perils.

Special Series Introduction

H. Christian Breede, Georgie Giannopolous, and Thomas Hughes
26 February 18

Ten months ago we launched our first Contact Report and, since that time, we have showcased informed opinion from our diverse range of fellows. The CIDP, as part of its ongoing mission to inform Canadians on issues pertaining to defence and security policy, supports students within the Queen’s community through the provision of internships and aid to research and publication. In the spirit of this support, we are excited to introduce a mini-series of sorts for the Contact Report. Over the next few weeks, we will showcase a piece from our Political Studies students here at Queen’s. The reports – five in total – will be released every two weeks and represent the best work coming from POLS 465 – The Politics of War, a fourth-year elective course here at Queen’s. This course introduces students to the intricacies of war and conflict and how politics and society shape this violent and pervasive phenomenon. These five reports were selected as the best from a pool of over fifty submissions. We are excited to share them with you here.

Enjoy, and congratulations to Kayla Maria Rolland, Rachel Hardy, Ejaz Thawer, Patrick Dermody, and Sarah Fallavollita, whose work will appear here over the coming weeks, starting with Kayla’s excellent piece on what hybrid war actually looks like.


Settling Canada's Sovereignty in the Far North

Rachel Hardy, POLS465, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University 
12 March 2018

Arctic sovereignty is a hot topic; as the earth warms, the ice melts, and our technological capabilities increase, attention is slowly drifting northward. As the resource rich north is increasingly becoming part of the collective consciousness of the public and world leaders alike, Canada needs to take a proactive approach to sovereignty, resource management, and the security concerns that a new northern landscape will pose. Action now as opposed to reaction later is the best way to ensure that Canada’s interests are achieved. In order to do this, Canada must solve its territorial dispute with the United States.

There are two main areas in the north that Canada and the United States still dispute, the first being the Northwest Passage, which Canada considers to be internal waters and the United States sees as an international straight. The second is the Beaufort Sea, more specifically where the territorial line through it should be drawn. As one of the last few territorial debates left in the arctic region, it is one that must be solved in order to take proactive steps to ensure resource protection and security in the north. The Canadian Government takes the official stance that the “disagreements are well managed, neither [Canada- U.S. disputes and a Canada-Denmark dispute] posing defence challenges for Canada nor diminishing Canada’s ability to collaborate and cooperate with its Arctic neighbours”. Even accepting this position does not guarantee that the context will remain unchanged in the future. The transformation of the region is slow, and policy regarding the area is just as unhurried in its development and implementation. This procrastination needs to be stopped before the opportunity for proactive decision making deteriorates to reactive action.

In determining the position Canada must take, there are three main concerns regarding the territorial control over the disputed areas. Canada must look to its economic options, its affairs regarding its sovereign territory, including treaties with the Inuit peoples, and security concerns that are inherent, and complicated by, the dispute within the region.

Economically, the far north is a resource-rich geographical region, and as the climate changes and technology becomes increasingly adept these resources are now viable. The Beaufort Sea is rich in both oil and gas resources, with the potential for a strong fishing industry. The Northwest Passage offers opportunities for tourism, research, shipping and other transportation related endeavours. Fishing is as promising as it is contentious as many parties are desirous of the opportunity to access the territory. Due to the fragile nature of the northern ecosystem such practices must be strictly regulated. Furthermore, development regarding oil and gas would be a long-term endeavour due to necessary environmental regulation, the high cost, and difficulty accessing the area, not to mention the failure of past attempts to access these resources that hangs over potential investors.

Regarding sovereignty, both Canada and the United States have made public their claims to the small, pie shaped wedge of the Beaufort Sea, the disputed part caused by the different perspectives on the territorial delineation. Any Canadian claims to sovereignty over the region have an added consideration of past agreements made with the Inuit peoples who inhabit the area, much of which is their ancestral land and fishing territory. Any decision relating to the Beaufort Sea and fishing in the region must be made with representatives from the Inuit leadership in order to maintain not only self-governance of the region but continued access to its resources by regulating sustainable resource practices.

Security concerns lend urgency to the sovereignty dispute. The very fact that it is an issue concerning sovereignty means that compromise can be difficult to reach, but also necessitates it. As the arctic transit routes become more porous through technological advances and changing geography, the separation that the arctic provides between Canada and Russia/the Asian peninsula becomes more porous. It is not only shipping companies that are realizing the potential of these new transportation routes. The annexation of Crimea, interference in the presidential election in the United States, and continued support of the Asaad regime are examples of proxy territorial disputes more at home in Cold War conceptualizations than in modern discourse, yet such current events coupled with nuclear threats over social media increase the urgency for Canada to seek assurance regarding the northern border. The practical reality is that Canada must be able to enforce its claim over the contested regions, both for security and to maintain legitimacy. Search and rescue in the area will be an important part of this concept as travel increases. Most importantly, if the Northwest Passage is declared an international straight (which is the position taken by the United States) then it will be open for all to freely traverse through the archipelagic islands of Canada’s north. This poses a security risk for both Canada’s north and Alaska, which sits at the western end of the Northwest Passage.

There is a clear position Canada must to bring to the negotiating table to enable all three of the aforementioned concerns to be addressed. Canada has a stronger position regarding Northwest Passage than it does in its claim to the disputed portion of the Beaufort Sea. Therefore, Canada can acquiesce to the American position on the Beaufort Sea in exchange for the backing of its claim over the Northwest Passage. Canada will retain natural resource rights in its portion of the Beaufort Sea, gain legitimacy in its claim to the Northwest Passage and open dialogue for further cooperation in the region regarding regulation and security. As the less powerful and more northerly state, Canada has an interest in settling this dispute expediently. Delaying offers the opportunity for foreign parties to take advantage of such indecision and use the Northwest Passage, creating a precedent where Canada does not have control. Reaching an agreement with the United States not only furthers Canada’s claims of sovereignty in the north, but also makes it more plausible for Canada to enforce these claims and sustainably manage resources and relations in the region.

Russia & Psychological Operations

Kayla Maria Rolland, POLS465, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University 
22 February 2018

“Crooked Hillary has ANOTHER coughing fit while bashing President Trump at #Wellesley2017. Choking on her lies?” was just one of the tweets posted by the Twitter account @TEN-GOP in 2017. For months, the pro-Trump Twitter account @TEN-GOP sent out tweets promoting anti-Democrat conspiracy theories, endorsements of Donald Trump’s policies, and racist and islamaphobic content. Appearing to be run by Tennessee Republicans, the account gained over 130,000 followers, and was even retweeted by those in Trump’s inner circle including Donald Trump Jr. The account was shut down in August of 2017, after it was learned that the account was managed not by a proud Republican in Nashville or Chattanooga, but an organization supported by the Russian government. Russia’s recent actions, including during the 2016 Presidential election, should serve as a warning bell to Western states regarding the growing threat posed by information warfare and psychological operations conducted through social media. Through the use of its broadcast network RT, social media, automated bots, and “troll factories,” Russia has been accused of using information warfare to influence public opinion within the United States. Russia’s actions are an example of psychological operations, an element of information warfare that aims to alter the behaviors and attitudes of foreign populations. Through the internet, information is spread with the intention of sowing doubt and confusion. This strategy serves as a powerful tool for states and non-state actors, and is one Western states struggle to counter. 

Scholar Sunil Narula defined psychological operations broadly as, “the planned use of communications to influence human attitudes and behaviour, to create in target groups, behaviour, emotions, and attitudes that support the attainment of national objectives.” The practice is not new.  Records of the use of psychological operations can be traced back to Genghis Khan, who sent agents in advance of the arrival of his men to stoke rumours regarding the size of his army. In 1984, Russia was found to be behind an article in an Indian newspaper that claimed the AIDS virus first emerged as the result of an American genetic-engineering experiment, and during the 1991 Gulf War, 29 million information leaflets were dropped by coalition forces. While the practice is not new, it has gained profound strength with the emergence of the internet. Through the internet, information can now reach unprecedented numbers of people with incredible speed for very little cost. Psychological operations can also be specifically targeted to certain individuals in order to maximize effect. As individuals go about their daily lives on the internet, large amounts of personal data is collected. This data can be used to group individuals based on categories such as political beliefs or religion, and target them with specific content. It is now known that Russia purchased Facebook ads to target specific individuals during the 2016 election.

According to British General Sir. Nicholas Houghton, most wars today involve an online element, where social media networks are used to manipulate public opinion. Yet some have argued that information warfare no longer exists solely in conjunction with conventional warfare as a force multiplier, but in some instances may actually replace it. What we are seeing is the latest generation of warfare, where information has become the central strategy. For states like Russia, this strategy helps them to achieve their objectives while circumventing the superior military capabilities of their rivals. This strategy also requires little sophistication. It is not about the quality of the information spread, but rather the quantity. Much of the information spread by Russia during the 2016 campaign was far less convincing than narratives the USSR disseminated during the Cold War. For example, a message spread by Russian-linked social media accounts proclaiming voters could “avoid the line” and legally vote by tweeting their preference with #PresidentialElection was widely ridiculed as being ridiculous. Yet with psychological operations, an actor does not need to craft a convincing narrative, they merely need to sow doubt. During the 2016 election, Russia’s goal was to sow doubt in American democratic institutions. As explained by journalist Peter Pomerantsev, Russia’s main goal was “to confuse rather than convince... so the audience gives up looking for any truth amid the chaos.”

One positive outcome of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election may be a greater awareness the threat of information warfare, yet responding to these psychological operations poses a predicament for Western powers. Merely keeping up with the volume of information spread is nearly impossible. Western governments do not have the resources to respond to every piece of information that emerges, with the challenge often compared to a game of whack-a-mole. The commitment to truth prevalent in liberal democracies also makes crafting a compelling counternarrative difficult. Offering a truthful counternarrative to compete against sensational information, such as the existence of a child sex-trafficking ring operating out of a D.C pizza parlour, often proves impossible. Professional standards in Western media to report both sides of a story causes further difficulty, as media outlets often end up repeating information spread by psychological operations in their coverage.

Russia’s conduct during the 2016 election was not the country’s first attempt at conducting psychological operations online. Most notably, psychological operations were a key element of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. The country has also been accused of engaging in similar efforts during the 2016 Brexit referendum and 2017 French elections. In addition, Russia is not the only threat who has employed this strategy. The terror group ISIS has shown immense capability at psychological operations, producing high quality web content to recruit foreign fighters and gain sympathy for their cause.

Psychological operations conducted through the internet pose a great threat to Western democracies. If Western states do not direct greater attention to the use of information warfare online, a threat to liberal democracies may just be one click away. 


Sherman Xiaogang Lai, PhD, Department of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada
15 February 2018

Years before Donald Trump called him “short and fat” and “Little Rocket Man,” Kim Jong-un had acquired the nickname Kim San pang, Sanpang for short, in China. This can be translated as “Fat Kim III”. The name has two Chinese characters: san (three) and pang (fat). San refers to his relationship (grandson) with Kim Il-song, who brought China into the Korean War and earned himself the nickname Daliu (big tumour) because of a visible sarcoma on the back of his neck and the damage he caused to China. Kim Jong-il, Jong-un’s father, did not have a nickname. There was no need: the Chinese characters for Jong-il’s name sound, in Mandarin, like “a man who is screwing.” Although crass, the intention is clear.

These nicknames demonstrate the Chinese public’s frustration with the troubling Kim dynasty. However, until North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test in 2006, the Kims and North Korea were a taboo subject in China, even among academics. The Kim family and North Korea concern not only Beijing’s security posture in Northeast Asia and its mysterious national victory over the Chinese Nationalists in 1949 but also numerous Chinese interest groups, ranging from the People’s Liberation Army and state-owned enterprises to elite ruling families. These families’ linkage with Kim the Daliu can be traced to the 1930s, when he was a mid-ranking guerrilla fighter under the command of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Although few in Beijing are happy with Pyongyang, as a Chinese official acknowledged privately, “[The Kims are [China’s] spoilt brats. No matter how bad they are, could we kill them?” With North Korea’s first nuclear test, Beijing’s Pyongyang headache was growing.

A year after Jong-un succeeded his father in 2011, Xi Jinping came to power in China. In striking contrast to Jong-un’s inherited rule, Xi came from a CCP elite family but worked as a common peasant in a poor village during the Cultural Revolution. He climbed to the top through China’s system of meritocracy, thanks at least in part to his own efforts and capacity. As a show of his closeness to the common people, shortly after his appointment, Xi went for breakfast to a Beijing common worker’s canteen, where he ordered baozi, a kind of steamed bun with fillings. Unfortunately, Xi’s gesture garnered him the nickname Xi baozi, and baozi in Chinese also means incompetence. Fortunately for Xi, his appointment came at a moment of peace and prosperity that had been unseen in China since the 1720s and that brought the Chinese people a good life that their ancestors had not been able to dream of. But Chinese society has never been more polarized, and China’s international situation has never been as unfriendly as now. China has not a single friend except for Pakistan, a de facto client state. But its economy needs new markets and new raw materials. In the meantime, Beijing has to handle difficult, intertwined problems inherited from its revolutionary and imperial past, among these the issue of Taiwan and the territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Jong-un’s nuclear weapons advances increases Xi’s difficulties tremendously by creating a diplomatic dilemma. If Xi does not support the worldwide efforts to de-nuclearize Pyongyang, China will be alienating itself from the international community. Xi will also have to face a nuclear-weapons–armed Jong-un. And Jong-un will then have greater resources and leverage to abuse its relations with Beijing. Xi will without doubt become a baozi on Jong-un’s plate if he does not support the international efforts. But neither does he want to see a collapse of the Pyongyang regime, let alone a new Korean war. North Korea serves as a natural barrier protecting China’s critical areas, namely Beijing and the Northeast. The plight of the North Korean people also helps maintain the loyalty to Beijing of millions of Chinese ethnic Koreans. These are the reasons for which Beijing rescued and offered protection to Pyongyang in 1950. But the Kims do not trust Beijing, finding China’s Korea policy, and especially its close economic and political ties with Seoul, an insult.

As North Korea will be a direct nuclear threat to the continental US in the near future, US President Donald Trump may be inclined to a military solution, a scenario that alarms Xi. As a result, Xi has adopted a stick-and-carrot strategy. While agreeing to international sanctions, he has also repeated to Jong-un China’s guarantee to protect Pyongyang. But Jong-un has shown no sign that he is prepared to step back. The approach of war is forcing Xi to consider whether China should or even can rescue Pyongyang again. He would like to see the Chinese public discuss this issue openly and reach a consensus on the question.

Two opposing groups have emerged. At one end are intellectuals arguing for deserting Pyongyang; at the other are bureaucrats insisting on maintaining North Korea’s role as a buffer zone. The latter group forms a bureaucratic resistance against any attempts to dismiss Pyongyang as China’s buffer zone. This resistance grows as the situation in Korea becomes increasingly tense.

A recently revealed document, said to be a top-secret decision on the situation in North Korea by the CCP’s General Office on 19 September 2017, demonstrates this bureaucratic resistance. This document claims that North Korea plays such an “irreplaceable” role in China’s national security that China must defend it at all costs. The document mandates the CCP’s International Liaison Department (ILD) to coordinate China’s North Korea policy to convince Pyongyang to exchange its nuclear program for China’s up-to-date short- and intermediate-range missile systems. Although the spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) claims that the document is a fake, the ILD is the principal agency with which Pyongyang has been working, rather than the MoFA, and its history can be traced back to the 1930s, a decade before the MoFA was founded. Xi’s envoy to Pyongyang in November 2017 was the ILD’s head, with whom Jong-un refused to meet in person.

Whether or not this document is authentic, what is true is that the ILD does play a special role in the bilateral relations between Beijing and Pyongyang. The ILD, however, is a remnant of the era of Communist revolutions, as is China’s CCP autocracy. Deng Xiaoping’s pragmatic market-oriented reforms forty years ago, which would lead to Beijing’s close ties with Seoul, saved his Communist party-state from the fate of his European comrades. Pyongyang was able to exploit some of China’s outdated agencies such as ILD and accuse Beijing of betraying their common cause of Communism. Beijing cannot afford an ideological debate against Pyongyang as it did against Moscow during the 1960s. This kind of debate would promote Maoism in China and split the CCP leadership and the Chinese society. Beijing therefore selected a strategy to buy Pyongyang’s quietness.  It is not an exaggeration to say that Pyongyang hijacked Beijing in the Korean War and has not set it free. If Xi does not want to be a baozi on Jong-un’s plate, he will have to reform his agencies and alter fundamentally Beijing’s relations with Pyongyang.

Some Fresh Options

Grace Jaramillo, PhD, Fellow,Centre for International and Defence Policy 
18 January 2018

Venezuela just moved one further step into the downward whirlwind of polarization and civil violence. Just this past week, lieutenant Oscar Perez was executed – all captured on Facebook Live – while the lieutenant was asking for the possibility of surrender to the official forces. Lieutenant Perez was leading one of the many rebel groups which had taken up arms against the government of Nicolas Maduro. Lieutenant Perez did exactly what former lieutenant Hugo Chávez did in 1993, for which he was pardoned the following year. Notwithstanding this precedent, Maduro is meeting all uprisings with the full force of the government – including the military. As the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has declared that the Venezuelan government may have committed crimes against humanity, it is fair to ask when and how this crisis started and more importantly, what can be done to address it.

If we should mark a date for the commencement of the latest democratic breakdown, it should be April 14th 2013. By this time, the economy was in dire straits. From 2004 to 2013, amidst a boom in oil prices, Venezuela had already run fiscal deficits of around 17% of GDP, according to the Venezuelan economist Ricardo Hausmann. In the preceding months, the regime had contracted immense amounts of debt. Following a dramatic drop in the price of oil, the government desperately overheated the economy in order to guarantee an easy re-election for a cancer-ridden populist leader. Chavez won the presidency for the third time in October 2012, without being able to campaign in person due to his treatment. He would never be sworn into office.

The result was immediate political turmoil. Maduro assumed power and faced the immediate effects of the economic crisis. His economic team halted payment of imported goods almost immediately, expropriated even more private companies and called the crisis an economic war initiated by the so-called ‘oligarchy’ and the United States upon Venezuela. The effects were devastating for the population as a whole: food scarcity and harsh restrictions on basic grocery items like toilet paper and diapers followed. The imposed price controls and ensuing food and supply rationing pushed the country into a full-scale humanitarian crisis.

Amid the chaos, including incommensurable scarcity and inflation of almost 700% a year, the administration called for the election of a Constitutional Assembly in March 2017. The election became immediately questioned not only by the National Assembly – which has the constitutional authority to sanction it – but also by the international community that considered the decision as yet another move into a full dictatorship.

It should be noted that Chavez was himself victim of a coup-d’etat in April 2002 that although only lasting a few days, certainly weighs on Maduro’s mind now. While the military restored Chavez to office in 2002, trust between the military and the civilian leadership remains low. Today, Maduro has been a loyal follower of the steady move towards a socialist regime similar to Cuba where there is no market economy, but more importantly, where democracy in all its content and formalities, is non-existent.  In short, he is centralizing power.

For its part, Latin America as a region has failed Venezuela. The polarization and division along ideological lines have poisoned any reasonable path to mediation through Latin American channels accepted by all sides, like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the newly created Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  Even the Organization of American States (OAS) is staying out of this crisis, even though arbitration of democratic breakdowns is mandatory under its charter. UNASUR managed to get a mission of mediation approved by the Venezuelan government but, for a variety of reasons, failed to bring about a lasting solution.

So what are the realistic options for Venezuela and what can be done internationally to help Venezuelan democracy? There are three important principles that need to be considered in order to start solving the crisis. Albeit difficult to attain, any peaceful solution of Venezuela’s crisis needs a combination of all three.             

 First, direct US involvement needs to stop. For years, Venezeula has perpetuated a narrative of animosity and open propaganda that blames the US for all Venezuelan ills, including gruesome involvement in Chavez’s death. Moreover, the Bolivarian revolution only wins whenever there is a perception that US will try to meddle in Venezuelan affairs. US intervention disempowers the organized opposition. Moreover, the unilateral batch of sanctions by the US and the unhelpful inclusion of Venezuela in President Trump’s recent address has only made the problem worse by providing the Socialist government in Venezuela the perfect justification for economic hardship, food scarcity and even authoritarian control.

Second, the UN needs to take a leading role. Only a mission backed by a UN Security Council resolution can make the Venezuelan government change course. Mediation has been tried in the past: UNASUR set up a commission of accepted international leaders to set up dialogue but they did not have the leverage to have Maduro’s regime accountable to its commitments and as a result, it quickly lost confidence among opposition leaders. Moreover, the lack of consensus among Latin American leaders about the Venezuelan crisis has resulted in division and polarization in the three international organizations that can oversee a working mediation scheme (OAS, UNASUR or CELAC). These three organizations treated the crisis as a zero-sum game, hence the need for the UN intervention. If there is going to be an enforceable arrangement that prevents a conflict of unpredictable proportions, the United Nations has to get involved. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres needs to secure a mandate from the Security Council to conduct a truly impartial mediation process with committed professionals and leaders acceptable to both sides with a mandate to find a democratic and transparent solution to the crisis. Interestingly, some positive signs that a Guterres-led intervention can make a difference happened just last week when the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Julio Borges, accepted the dialogue proposed by Guterres, advancing some conditions that could make it feasible. It can be a good starting point to a new, enduring solution.

Finally, Latin America should lead the process of mediation but with new actors. The humanitarian crisis is already ongoing with spillover effects in most neighbouring countries. Despite recent quarrels and ideological disputes inside its long-standing organizations, comparative regionalism has demonstrated that regional bodies are the best institutions to guarantee compliance and long-term supportive commitment. The African Union has been far more successful at implementing peace agreements in Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda than UN agencies or foreign forces. Latin America also has a long tradition of post-conflict compliance bodies in border disputes, like the five guarantors in the peace agreement between Ecuador and Peru and the Contadora Group in the Central American Peace Process. Latin American countries can reach common ground through GRULAC, the Group of Latin American States that deliberates and works together at the United Nations. GRULAC could lead UN efforts and move the debate forward to avert a humanitarian crisis like Syria in a near future. Even more, the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, could be an active part of this initiative empowering its own region into action into a wider and authoritative forum.

The three principles of regional buy-in, UN leadership, and frankly, US patience and willingness to step back, are the best hope for the Venezuelan people. History suggests this attempt could work, and only through the will and commitment of Venezuela’s neighbors and the UN itself, will we know for certain.

Some thoughts on Preventative Attacks

Robert Martyn , Fellow,Centre for International and Defence Policy 
21 November 2017

American considerations of pre-emptive strikes are not new. Such attack discussions were reasonably common in the to-and-fro of early nuclear warfighting doctrine. It was enshrined in NSC-68 and was contemplated against both USSR and China prior to their nuclear forces being fully developed. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, US administration officials reaffirmed that specific circumstances would warrant striking enemies before they attack. Pronouncements faulted conventional deterrence as deficient against terrorists or rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction (notwithstanding “rogue state” often having more theatrical utility than international relations value, and being cited haphazardly, as seen in the dissimilar approaches taken towards Iraq and North Korea).

This past summer, President Trump stated that threats from North Korea would be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” which he revised, saying “if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough." His subsequent UN speech noted that if forced to through self-defence, there would be “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Ignoring bluster and name-calling, this report will provide an overview of pre-emptive strikes, starting with some necessary definitions.

“Pre-emptive attacks” are launched upon the belief that an enemy assault is imminent and inevitable; striking first ostensibly decides the difference between victory and defeat, or at least makes the ensuing conflict less damaging. This was the rationale behind Israel’s salvo against Egypt, commencing the 1967 Six-Day War.

Conversely, “preventive attacks” thwart less immediate threats but still with the belief that one must fight sooner rather than later. The rationale has tended to be a shifting military balance or the prospect of an adversary acquiring a formidable new military capability. Israel’s 1981 raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility is an oft-cited example. Similar to Osirak, 1994 saw US plans prepared for a strike upon the DPRK Yongbyon nuclear reactor to prevent the removal of nuclear fuel rods – a weapons-grade plutonium source.  That crisis was averted through diplomacy.

Although the UN Charter is clear that states will refrain from using or threatening force, international law generally accepts pre-emptive attacks as appropriate national or collective self-defence. This same legal interpretation is not usually extended to preventive attacks. Evaluating an attack’s legal parameters (crucial necessity, distinction in targeting, proportionality, etc.) should be a priority for decision-makers. The 1980s saw several instances of the US asserting defensive security in mining Nicaraguan harbours, as well as attacking Iranian oil platforms and naval ships in the Persian Gulf. The International Court of Justice ruled repeatedly against the self-defence claim; with equal consistency, the US disregarded the rulings.

International law may permit loose interpretations of the legal standard of self-defence, but some may question whether the law even matters. An action deemed illegal may still not preclude a first strike, contingent upon a government’s dismissiveness of international principles. Remarking upon US decision-making during the Cuban missile crisis, Dean Acheson highlighted evaluating risks and the need for effective decisiveness, yet discounted legal considerations – the government simply declared the eventual strategy lawful. That Trump used the UN as a forum to threaten DPRK’s destruction suggests some distain for the UN Charter. Regardless, while weighing lawfulness adheres to international norms, legality and logically-justified defensibility also drive perceptions of an attack’s legitimacy, and thus political costs and benefits.

Legitimacy’s broader ambiguity is underpinned by legal judgement; a lawful military action will generally be considered legitimate. Yet, anticipatory attacks usually entail significant international and domestic political costs if the threat does not appear dire to others. Assessing urgency may often be linked with utilizing other potential solutions, such as allowing China’s increasingly restrictive fiscal policies towards North Korea to play out. Strikes may also be deemed valid if conducted for a moral purpose, despite not being strictly according to law. Trump’s rhetoric has been uniformly scorned by DPRK’s neighbours – South Korea, Japan, and China – casting doubt upon its ethical legitimacy, although it may still resonate domestically within the US.

Beyond political calculations of legality and legitimacy, intelligence capabilities are critical. One must, without bias, understand the enemy’s intentions, know the capabilities faced, and have accurate targeting information. Although capabilities are reasonably straight-forward, intent is particularly difficult in closed societies such as DPRK. Analysts must weigh bluster along with observable preparations, which may be routine training exercises. Targeting nuclear assets can be particularly problematic. An immediate requirement would be the destruction of 100 percent of the weapons, which would be dispersed and well protected. Production facilities to rebuild the nuclear force would likely also be on the target list. These strikes must be accomplished while minimizing radiological contamination throughout the region. Finally, to ensure the effort has not been meaningless, complete regime change may be an essential component. Finalizing the desired outcome would likely require the military defeat and occupation of North Korea – a situation unacceptable to China or South Korea, even without factoring in inescapable environmental and refugee crises.

Significant second-order consequences could ensue from such a hypothetical strike. We may witness an upsurge in such attacks as international norms against anticipatory strikes are weakened, reducing their political costs. Further, other nations fearing a US attack may be enticed to strike first, as the precedent of ruin and regime change may be the final indication that they have little to lose. Finally, additional regimes may conclude that US propensity for preventive attack makes nuclear weapon possession a critical goal, based upon America’s previous reticence to risk conflict with fully nuclear-armed states.

Israeli examples opened this paper for its clear distinctiveness from the United States – a small state whose minimal strategic depth leaves it precariously vulnerable to critical security hazards – a condition not remotely extant in America... unless of course, one is predisposed to see most crises as existential threats because it fits a world-view or some domestic audience requirement. Michael Walzer’s timeless Just and Unjust Wars posits that the relevant criteria for a preventive strike is present when threats (“fire and fury”), preparations (naval deployments and bomber overflights), and the target nation’s failure to act risks territorial integrity or political independence (“no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”).  If correct, it becomes difficult to differentiate the aggressor from the aggrieved.

​Reflections on Canada’s past and future as an International peacekeeper in Africa

John Schram, Fellow, CIDP
9 November 2017

Canada has promised the world that we are back in the business of working for global peace. Plans for new Canadian support for international peacekeeping are said to be imminent. This is good news. It is where Canada belongs, where we can work for Canadian values and objectives, and where we can make a positive impact for humanity.

But we know from past experience that peacemaking and peacekeeping are complex, challenging and costly undertakings. We need to grasp the lessons learned from earlier peacekeeping operations, adapting them to the new challenges whether these be from IS, al-Qaeda and its associates in the Sahel, Mali, or the Central African Republic, or arise from the near civil wars of Congo or South Sudan.

Here are ten such lessons as seen through the eyes of a Canadian diplomat and admiring observer of a number of Canadian peacekeeping operations in African countries. They are not new.  But they certainly remain relevant.

  • It is the Prime Minister, not the armed forces or Global Affairs Canada, who ultimately makes the decision to intervene, and how.  PM Trudeau’s decisions will reflect two major factors: how Canadians see the issue – will they vote for it – and how it fits into Canada’s overall interests. 
  • If Canadians do not see such peacebuilding interventions as a priority or as a compelling Canadian foreign policy interest, or our like-minded partners are themselves not consumed by the issue at hand, the Canadian government should think carefully before embarking on a major peacekeeping operation. 
  • Any intervention should be grounded on facts and realistic assessment of the demands and costs. The government must formulate the mandate, publicly specify the goals, and commit the resources for as long as it takes to do the job. 
  • There is as much uncertainty in the getting out of a post-conflict situation as there is in the getting in, and that all the sophisticated planning and firepower won’t win the day unless the local people want us there, are willing to accept the intervention, with empathy flowing both ways. 
  • It’s often hard to sell our concept of stability, tolerance and development to people who believe they face immediate threats to their land, political standing, economic security or, most pervasively, religion and culture.
  • People just emerging from a violent change of government or social confrontation have little interest in promises of future development assistance from Canada – if by development assistance we mean judicial training, government capacity building, or building a better education system. They will only be convinced to tolerate outside intervention, to support the local authorities on whose behalf we are intervening, if they can see fast and visible benefits – affordable food, electricity, water, local security, and functioning local markets.
  • Many conflicts are driven by non-governmental private interests, from large companies through shadowy diamond and oil traders to well-funded and popular international religious organizations. These entities are largely outside the control or ken of either Western or African governments. We have seen many times over in Africa that one can negotiate peace, reconstruction and demobilization with governments or with apparent leaders, but if there are major private and civil interests that thrive on continuing conflict, weak government and failing economies, all the effort at restoring peace and prosperity may well be wasted. 
  • White faces throwing weight around are an instinctive affront to African national pride. This shapes a considerable amount of the debate in the AU and with African leaders when they are considering the role of NATO, US or Canadian interventions in Africa. Understandably, Africans are tired of being told what they should do by people of European extraction and perceptions. 
  • We have to understand the context in which we are operating – not just in broad terms, but especially, who did what to whom, why, how can it be stopped, what forces and goals and methods will work in that particular society to achieve our and the country’s goals. 
  • Canadians need to learn this through African eyes, not just from Western media, or donor country analysts. This understanding must come from “real” people in African countries – not just government ministers or diplomats - but business people, professionals, academics, the media - ‘ordinary’ members of each society.

 In all of this, Canadian peacekeepers can indeed be a unique catalyst for sustained peace. But peace, reconstruction or change will not come about in any lasting or meaningful sense because of what Canadians tell people to do, or wish to make happen. Only Africans themselves will really fix the root of African conflicts and build lasting peace.  

Major Air Disaster Response in an Age of Terror

Robert Martyn, Fellow,CIDP 
9 October 2017

Shattered aircraft wreckage litters the edge of the tree line. Several dozen people lay throughout the site; some moaning in agony while others are deathly still. Overlaying the scene is the roar of a CC-130 Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft. Such was the grisly tableau that greeted participants, staff, and observers as CONPLAN SOTERIA, the major air disaster (MAJAID) contingency plan, played out during this year’s SAR exercise (SAREX).

The annual training exercise was staged out of Hamilton Ontario, with challenges that featured aerial and ground searches, medical responses, parachute accuracy exercises, varied terrain rescues, plus the MAJAID at Trenton’s Mountainview Detachment. Military participants came from across Canada’s SAR squadrons, Joint Rescue Coordination Centres, and the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre (CAAWC). Additional participants included the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, plus observers from both Canada and foreign nations.

The joint exercise tested approximately 200 people in this vital responsibility; SAR is one of the eight core missions the recent Defence Policy assigns to our military. It is no easy task.  Canada’s massive SAR area spans 18 million square kilometres of mountains, tundra, boreal forest, three million lakes, and the world’s longest ocean coastline.  Such expanse, exacerbated by isolation as one moves further north – especially within the Arctic – has always created a ‘tyranny of time and distance’ necessary to be traversed to reach a crash.

Our military and Coast Guard combined responds to more than 9,000 search and rescue calls annually, approximately 1,000 of which require launching SAR aircrews. This will undoubted expand with the double drivers of climate change and technological innovation making the far north increasingly accessible. While few states or firms previously had the ability to operate in the Arctic, we currently see rising commercial interest, research, and tourism throughout the north. Such a rise in activity inevitably brings increased safety and security demands.

A great benefit of these training events, beyond the obvious skill enhancements for those being exercised, is the numerous discussions in the margins amongst the diverse gathering of observers. For example, an interesting question was raised regarding the nexus between a major air disaster and a terrorist incident. After a slight pause, NDHQ representatives acknowledged that the issue required more attention.  This report therefore provides a brief overview, rather than specific details, of recent terrorist developments that may influence the way ahead.

Terror attacks against aviation are not new. 1933 saw the first instance of a commercial airliner being destroyed by a bomb, when a United Airlines plane exploded in mid-air over Chesterton Indiana. Sporadic aircraft bombings occurred following the Second World War, usually to further a political agenda through VIP assassination. Palestinian extremists dominated the 1960s in their struggle against Israel. Although the September 11th attacks are qualitatively different from MAJAID-type incidents, they did re-focus terrorists upon airliners.  Direct attacks on airlines have again surged dramatically following the Islamic State’s 2015 in-flight bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai. 

Closer to home, 1949 saw Canada’s first in-flight bombing, wherein a Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-3 was destroyed, killing all 23 aboard. Our aviation history changed dramatically in 1985 when Air India flight 182, enroute from Montreal to London, was blown apart by a mid-air explosion that scattered debris over the Atlantic, near Ireland. The 329 fatalities made it the deadliest aircraft bombing and the largest mass murder in Canadian history.

Such attacks illustrate terrorists’ ability to strike the aviation industry, writ large. While early attacks tended to be murder/insurance scams, the past several decades have seen violent political and religious extremism as the key motivator. Over 45 years ago, radical Palestinian leader George Habash famously commented that hijacking a plane had more effect than killing a hundred Israelis in battle. The direct psychological consequences of these incidents draw attention to the extremists’ causes, create tensions throughout the target population, and potentially paralyze transportation networks, even if only temporarily. 

The tactics chosen vary and tend to be cyclic, often due to changes in security countermeasures. We still remove our shoes during airline security screening because Al Qaeda member, Richard Reid, attempted to smuggle an improvised bomb aboard a flight within his shoe. The operation failed, but the psychological result remains.  Explosives placed in luggage or within the aircraft itself, therefore, have been present for many years. As noted though, tactics evolve. There is growing concern regarding combat experiences terrorist fighters are accumulating in various conflicts; these include anti-aircraft weapons, laser devices, remotely piloted aircraft, and cyber attacks.

  • “Traditional” state-produced shoulder-fired missiles are being joined by field-expedient rockets, including heat-seeking versions. Several extremist websites provide directions on how such weapons may be constructed.
  • Increased threats to pilots from laser devices have recently increased by 1,000 percent, averaging 11 incidents per day internationally. Transport Canada notifications warn that the risk of temporarily blinding or distracting a pilot, or merely creating windscreen glare, can garner punishments of five years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
  • The threat from Remotely Piloted Aircraft (often misnamed “drones”) is gathering momentum, particularly around major airports where airliners are statistically at greatest risk of catastrophic failure, during flights’ take-off departure and landing approach phases. Certain extremist groups are reportedly experimenting with affixing up to several hundred grams of C4-type explosives onto RPA. 
  • Finally, there are rapidly-evolving cyber threats. Beyond “GPS spoofing,” for which hard evidence is growing, professional debate remains regarding the current threat to aircraft. Cyber-security experts within the passenger compartment have reportedly compromised a plane’s control system, despite the aircraft’s operating network and passenger communications systems being independent.

Amongst the varied terrorist organizations, radical Jihadist social media has shown the most dramatic increase in discussing these various techniques for bringing down aircraft.

The recent SAREX scenario, while large-scale for the rescue personnel involved, was relatively straight forward. SAR Techs determine the crises’ scale and begin the controlled chaos of casualty triage and treatment, as the Hercules aircraft orbits overhead, providing on-scene command. MAJAID stores, air-droppable pallets loaded with tents, heaters, and food from CAAWC are parachuted in, along with soldiers to provide support, such as setting up the emergency structures.  As patients are stabilized, CH-148 helicopters arrive to begin evacuating the injured, signalling ‘ENDEX.’

The skills observed were inspiring, providing much confidence in Canada’s military personnel to address the SAR requirements demanded within the Defence Policy. However, adding even a reasonably modest terrorist element raises many complicated issues. Are SAR Techs suitably prepared to address secondary explosions, possible crash scene contaminants, or hostile terrorist survivors? Should RCMP accompany parachute-trained SAR Techs; if so, how? Who determines any military/judicial boundaries? If appropriate, how would JTF-2, CFJIRU, and possibly CSOR fit into a MAJAID situation?

Given the international situation and domestic occurrences of violent radical extremism, Soteria, the ancient Greek goddess of safety and salvation, may require some advice from Ares, the god of war, sooner, rather than later.


Chris Kilford, External Fellow, CIDP
27 July 2017

One year ago, on 15 July 2016, a group of senior Turkish military officers attempted but ultimately failed to overthrow the government.  Dubbing themselves the “Peace At Home Council” their aim was to remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power and “reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and general security.”

According to the Turkish government the coup attempt was carried out by supporters of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen who has been living in the United States since 1999.  And if the coup had been successful, said Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ recently “he would have come to Turkey from Pennsylvania like Ayatollah Khomeini landed in Tehran.”  As for Gülen, he and his followers were quick to say that the whole event was simply a false flag operation contrived by President Erdoğan to give him a freehand to silence his critics and opponents once and for all.

As post-coup trials get underway and following the release of a Parliamentary investigation into the events surrounding the coup, it is clear that the scope and scale of the rebellion went far beyond a false flag operation.  Indeed, a significant portion of the Turkish armed forces attempted to topple the government as they successfully did in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997.

On the day of the coup, and using encrypted text messages to coordinate their activities, the main conspirators gathered at Akinci Air Base just outside the capital, Ankara.  Among them was General Akin Öztürk, the former commander of the air force and army Major-General Mehmet Disli.  According to prosecutors, both were the military leaders of the coup attempt.  A civilian, with allegedly close ties to the Gülen movement, Adil Öksüz, was also present. 

President Erdoğan was not in Ankara and on holiday with his family in Marmaris, on the Aegean coast.  However, the Chief of the Turkish General Staff (TGS), General Hulusi Akar was, along with his deputy, General Yaşar Güler.  But both were unaware of the pro-coup preparations taking place at Akinci Air Base, inside their own headquarters and elsewhere in the country.

According to the coup plan, at precisely 0300hrs on 16 July, commandos would take President Erdoğan into custody at his hotel.  General Akar would be detained and convinced to lead the coup.  Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was to be arrested.  The Parliament, Presidential compound, key media outlets, bridges over the Bosphorus, both Istanbul airports, the Turkish stock exchange and many other strategic locations were all to be seized.

However, at 1420hrs on 15 July, Major Osman Karaca arrived by taxi at MİT headquarters, entered the building and for whatever reason told initially sceptical investigators all about his co-conspirators.  At 1620hrs, certain that Major Karaca was telling the truth, Fidan called General Güler and by 1830hrs was in General Akar’s office.  Fidan and Akar then contemplated their next moves but decided not to warn the President or Prime Minister in case it was a false alarm.  Instead, orders were issued grounding military air traffic and Army Chief General Salih Zeki Çolak was told to visit the Ankara Army Aviation School Command, which Karaca said was another coup hub.

In some respects Fidan and Akar’s decision not to immediately inform the government was understandable.   Few believed the Turkish military was capable of overthrowing the government despite the many coup rumours that had often been tossed about in the media since President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party took power in 2002.  Indeed, responding to a fresh round of speculative coup-focused articles, the TGS issued a statement on 21 March 2016 noting that it was “inconceivable to think that the TGS would tolerate any illegal phenomenon or action that would digress from the chain of command.”

Although in hindsight Fidan and Akar were wrong that night, the actions they did take were enough to alarm the coup plotters.  Losing no time, at 2121hrs, and six hours ahead of schedule, Brigadier General Mehmet Partigöç released three messages over the Turkish Armed Forces Message and Document Delivery System that launched the coup.  The first message, “Appointments” assigned and promoted coup officers to new positions.  The second message, “Participation” confirmed which pro-coup units should do what and when.  The third message was a “Martial Law Directive” stating that the “Peace At Home Council” had seized power in Turkey.

Just prior to Partigöç’s messages, at 2145hrs a WhatsApp group was created for pro-coup Istanbul-based units and direction given to seize key locations, which they largely succeeded in doing.  Around the country, other units moved into position.  At Incirlik Air Force Base, 400 kilometers south-east from Ankara, the base commander readied at least two air-to-air fuel tankers that would later support pro-coup fighter jets.  Other officers prepared an A400 transport aircraft and C-160 cargo planes to be used for transporting pro-coup troops and their supplies where needed.

But starting the coup on a Friday night would undercut months of careful planning and secrecy.  President Erdoğan was able to leave his hotel unscathed and make his way by airplane to Istanbul.  At 0026hrs on 16 July he addressed the country on television by mobile phone, urging Turks to take to the streets in the name of democracy.  Some 30 minutes later, the 1st Army Commander (Istanbul) General Ümit Dündar began moving troops loyal to the government into place.   On television he confirmed the coup was not led by the high command and that only a small rebel faction was involved.  The actions of ordinary civilians on the streets that night acted as the final nail in the coffin.  By the early morning hours on 16 July the coup plotters were in full retreat.

In the immediate aftermath, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency.  Anyone associated with Fethullah Gülen were labelled as members of what the Turkish government called FETÖ or the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization and purged.   In total, 87 of 202 army generals, 30 of 67 air force generals, and 32 of 56 admirals were dishonourably discharged.  On 22 May 2017, 221 alleged putschists, including Akin Öztürk, Mehmet Disli and Mehmet Partigöç, went on trial.  Those on trial, by and large, have vehemently denied being members of FETÖ or having anything to do with Gülen.  Nevertheless, laying the blame at the feet of alleged Gülenist officers has certainly been very convenient for the government and has led to widespread anti-Gülen purges across the civil service.  It’s also convenient, one might conclude, for the armed forces to point a finger at Gülen as a means of avoiding full responsibility for what happened. 

In the end, there is little doubt that the coup attempt on 15 July was very real, a terrible shock for the country and likely carried out by a group of senior officers with varying allegiances and motivations.  The Gülen movement, one assumes at this point, was the glue keeping them together.  Regardless, as the plotters sensed events conspiring against them, pro-coup officers on the ground were ruthless in their attempts to take back the initiative, killing some 250 civilians and wounding thousands more.

Is this the last we will see of the Turkish military in politics?  In the aftermath of the coup attempt the government engaged is some hurried coup-proofing reforms such as closing major military bases close to Ankara and Istanbul and announcing reforms to the military education system.  To enhance civilian control and oversight of the armed forces the TGS was also placed directly under the Minister of National Defence, rather than reporting to the President directly, which had been the case.  Will this be enough to prevent future coup attempts?  One hopes so.  But what is clear is that it will now take many years to rebuild the respect the military has lost across much of Turkish society.

Putting the Trudeau Government’s Foreign and Defence Policy Statements into Perspective

Kim Richard Nossal, Fellow, CIDP
​4 July 2017

In the past, there was a certain clockwork regularity to the process of reviewing Canadian foreign and defence policy: when a new prime minister came to power, aspects of Canada’s international policy would immediately be reviewed. Lester B. Pearson published a defence review in 1964 after the Liberals won the 1963 election. After he won the leadership of the Liberal party in 1968, Pierre Elliott Trudeau published a foreign policy review in 1970 and a defence policy in 1971. When he became prime minister in 1984, Brian Mulroney published a foreign policy review in 1985 and a defence policy in 1987. After the Liberals regained government in 1993, Jean Chrétien issued foreign and defence policy reviews in 1995. His successor, Paul Martin, Jr. published his International Policy Statement in 2005. Stephen Harper published a defence policy in 2008, but broke the tradition of launching a foreign policy review: he decided that there was no need for a foreign policy review.

In theory, articulating periodic statements of a country’s foreign and defence policy makes a great deal of sense, even for a non-great power like Canada. After all, world politics is in a constant state of evolution, and subjecting policy to a formal review provides an opportunity to take account of changes and to subject the accepted verities of one period to scrutiny. Policy reviews set up a feedback loop that enables a government to adjust its international policies to ensure that its global strategy — and its spending — will keep pace with change.

This might be the theory, but all of the foreign and defence policy reviews launched by Canadian leaders since the 1960s — and the statements of policy issued at the end — were not designed for any strategic purpose. That much is clear from the fact that not a single prime minister between 1964 and 2015 ever revisited the foreign or defence policy reviews launched at the outset of his ministry, even though Pierre Trudeau was in office for 16 years, Chrétien in office for ten years, and Mulroney and Harper for nine years. Rather, the primary purpose of these reviews was purely political: to demonstrate just how different the new government was from its predecessor.

When Justin Trudeau and the Liberals came to power in November 2015, he immediately launched a review of defence policy. Like Harper, he chose not to launch a foreign policy review. 

In early 2016, it looked as though history was going to repeat itself: the Trudeau government would publish its defence policy review later that year. It would of course establish that the defence policy of the Trudeau Liberals was indeed different from the defence policy of the Harper Conservatives. While in opposition the Trudeau Liberals had made much of returning Canada to a mythical peacekeeping past, and after taking power in 2015 the new government had bruited the idea of a major deployment of peacekeeping troops to an operation in Africa, widely anticipated to be Mali. It was expected that the defence review would embrace that return as a key feature of Canadian defence policy for the next decade.

It was expected that following a cross-country consultation in the summer of 2016, the review would be published in the fall. The new defence review, in glossy four-colour format and featuring catchy slogans ripped from a Mad Men episode, would then prominently adorn desks in National Defence Headquarters — and then be promptly forgotten about for the remainder of the Trudeau fils ministry.

And then the normal sequence of events was disrupted by the rise of Donald J. Trump, whose hostile takeover of the Republican Party was followed by his election in November.

The Trump insurgency was seen by the Trudeau government in Ottawa as a major threat to Canadian interests. For Trump promised to overturn the key pillars of Canada’s approach to global politics since the end of the Second World War in 1945. Of considerable concern was Trump’s constant slagging of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as “obsolete” during the election campaign; his disparagement of traditional American friends and allies for “ripping off” the United States by not spending enough on defence; and his denigration of international trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement in particular.

The response of the government in Ottawa to Trump’s rise was immediate. Trudeau shuffled his cabinet, giving the foreign affairs portfolio to Chrystia Freeland, the trade minister, and sought to involve a number of former policy-makers, including Brian Mulroney, in the formulation of policy towards the United States.

The shift also had an impact on the defence review. The Trudeau government slowed the review right down to a crawl. The timing of the defence review release was pushed back, first beyond Trump’s inauguration in January, and then, when the new president made it clear that his America First rhetoric in 2016 was not just a campaign shtick, into the spring.

In the meantime, the idea of a major African peacekeeping operation was taken off the table. Instead, the government moved ahead with a major deployment to Latvia as part of a broader effort by NATO at reassurance in Central Europe. It continued a major operation in Iraq with the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

It was not until June 2017 that the defence review was ready for release. However, the Trudeau government decided that the defence review needed to be placed in a broader foreign policy context, so on 6 June, two days before the release of the defence review, the minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, rose in the House of Commons to deliver a major foreign policy speech that sought to frame Canada’s broad approach to global politics in an era when American leadership and support for the liberal international order could no longer be taken for granted.

Then, on 8 June, the minister of national defence, Harjit Sajjan, unveiled the government’s defence policy. To be sure, the Mad Men approach was still evident — Canadian defence, the review assured us, as all about being Strong, Secure, Engaged (“strong at home, secure in North America, engaged in the world”).

But this was a defence policy written for the Trumpian era. It promised a massive increase in Canadian defence spending. It promised that the size of the Canadian Armed Forces would be increased. It promised that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) would be modernized.

And in the minister’s announcement, no mention was made of returning to Canada’s peacekeeping past. Instead, Sajjan insisted that Canada needed to play a stronger role in NATO, particularly in the face of Russian aggression, and in Iraq, in the face of the rise of violent extremism.

In short, the foreign and defence statements of the Trudeau government of June 2017 were unlike any other in Canada’s history. The defence review might have started off like all other defence reviews of the last half-century — written primarily for domestic political, not strategic, purposes. But in an era when business-as-usual assumptions about global politics can no longer be counted on given the stream of insurgent covfefe tweets from the president of the United States, the Canadian defence review ended up, along with Freeland’s foreign policy address, being highly strategic.

It's Complicated

Josh Tupler, 2017 Fulbright Visiting Scholar
24 May 2017

It is very easy to get distracted by the almost ‘reality TV-like’ spectacle that is American domestic politics. It seems like a day can’t go by without a new scandal being revealed about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the inquiry into possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russians, and the potential disclosure of highly sensitive information—there is certainly a lot of smoke, but it still remains to be seen whether or not there is any fire. Although this is an important issue that deserves thorough investigation, the media coverage of all things ‘Comey and Russia’ has eclipsed discussion of other important global issues—especially events unfolding on the Korean Peninsula. With the announcement that the Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director (2001-2013) Robert S. Muller III as a special counsel to oversee the probe of Russian interference in the U.S. election, people should be comforted that an independent inquiry is occurring and might be wise to shift their attention to what’s going on in the rest of world.

This Contact Report is intended to bring readers up to speed on what’s happened in East Asia since President Trump and President Xi met in early April, and highlight issues of concern—specifically China’s willingness and ability to exert pressure on North Korea—that should continue to be closely monitored.  When Trump and Xi met in Mar-a-Lago, one of the primary issues of concern that they discussed was what China could do to help solve the ‘North Korea Problem.’ Trump’s quote to the Wall Street Journal on the following Wednesday that “after listening for 10 minutes, I realize it’s not so easy” is alarming not only because the American President appears to be learning about security issues from a foreign leader as opposed to a policy expert in the State Department, but also because he appears to lack basic insight or understanding of the complexity of U.S.-China-North Korean relations.

It is important to recognize that American and Chinese interest might diverge on North Korea, especially with regards to financial issues. China is North Korea’s largest import market ($2.95 billion) and largest export market ($2.34 billion).  North Korean coal is also their largest export product ($951 million), and China has been known for dexterously exploiting loopholes in the UN Security Council sanctions allowing for exports of products for ‘humanitarian purposes’, such that August 2016 saw the largest imports of North Korean coal by China ever recorded for a single month. Although China did announce a ban on North Korean coal imports, it also simultaneously took other steps to downsize imports from other coal-producing countries. It is important to carefully monitor Chinese coal imports as China has often restricted them temporarily to signal compliance with sanctions, only to drastically increase such imports again.

Another financial issue to monitor is Chinese exports of military, satellite, or missile technology to North Korea. According to a report released by UN officials last month, a sizable number of technological components critical to the development of North Korea’s ballistic missile program are almost certainly sourced from foreign countries; investigations show that as recently as 18 months ago, Chinese companies shipped restricted products to North Korea. The Washington Post has sourced anonymous former U.S. and UN officials and independent weapons experts who worry that Chinese companies continue to act as enablers. Global actors should continue to monitor such activity, investigate potential governmental complicity, and take any steps available to halt such assistance.

The final issue to monitor is U.S. forward military presence in the region. It was less than a month ago that President Trump boasted about sending an armada towards North Korea when in fact the ships were heading in the opposite direction, and the U.S. deployed a THAAD battery in Seoul—and yes, Secretary Mattis has assured the South Koreans that Americans are going to pay for it. In spite of these developments, there still has not been a major change in U.S. force posture in the region. Although all options might be on the table, anyone with a modicum of common sense recognizes that a potential conflict with North Korea would be extremely costly and bloody. It is very difficult to believe that American policymakers would take any action that risks military conflict without significantly altering the U.S. presence in the region. Deploying a weapons system or sending a ship is one thing, but I would not be too worried unless a true armada and large logistical buildup occurs in Seoul.

Although this Contact Report might paint a somewhat bleak picture of the region, there is nevertheless still a good case for some optimism. President Trump appears to be seriously considering the advice of his senior security advisors—especially Secretary Mattis and General McMaster, who are regarded with the utmost respect and considered to have great poise in both military and policymaking circles in D.C.. As long as Mattis and McMaster are in the room when key decisions are being made, you should be optimistic that no major catastrophe or conflict will occur.


Brigadier-General G.R. Smith, Defence Fellow, CIDP
28 March 2017

Conventional operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are approaching an end game in Northern Iraq. ISIL initially swept into Western and Northern Iraq in the Summer of 2014 capturing Ramadi, Tikrit, Fallujah, and ultimately the major city of Mosul. Equally, employing terror and exploiting Iraqi ethnic fissures, the warriors of the Islamic State seized vast tracts of land and large populations along the strategically important Euphrates River Valley (ERV) and Tigris River Valley (TRV). Advancing nearly to the gates of Baghdad, a modern city of seven million, ISIL’s advance was only halted through the efforts of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) including the Kurdish Security Forces (KSF), the Shia-heavy Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and Coalition kinetic targeting.

This final action, led by the United States under Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR), included the contributions of Canada and 51 other nations. Initially focused on the aforementioned air bombardments to halt ISIL’s murderous advance and the associated humanitarian crisis, Coalition activities broadened to compromise collaborative planning, providing Advise and Assist teams to ISF and KSF land formations, and the training and equipping of security forces at Building Partner Capacity sites throughout Iraq. These collective cooperative efforts of the ISF and its OIR Coalition partners succeeded in arresting and re-capturing considerable tracts of the approximately 40 per cent of Iraqi territory held by the violent jihadists.

This re-conquest has been far from bloodless and the ISF’s slow and irresistible advance has killed large numbers of Iraqi Sunnis and foreign fighters with ISIL. Similarly, at great cost to the Iraqi Forces, the Islamic State-held cities of Ramadi, Tikrit, Fallujah, and numerous other urban and rural areas throughout the ERV and TRV have been recaptured in grinding battles of attrition. The ISF, although possessing a poor brand as the result of some Iraqi Army divisions breaking and fleeing as ISIL advanced into Northern Iraq in 2014, has rebuilt itself and is now capturing the final symbolic enclave of ISIL in Iraq: Mosul.

Operations against the East side of this city of two million people began on 16 October 2016 with a collaborative assault by the KSF and ISF. After 100 days of urban fighting, the ISF completed the capture of East Mosul in late January 2017 and began preparations for the seizure of the Western half of the city. Transferring elements of the Iraqi Army, Counter Terrorism Services, Federal Police, and the PMF to the West side of the Tigris River, Iraqi Forces continued their re-conquest of Iraq's second city in February 2017. Again, the ISF faces a relentless battle against ISIL as it advances house-by-house through booby-trapped Improvised Explosive Devices, snipers, re-infiltration tunnels, human shields, crude chemical weapons, and fast-moving suicide car bombs. In this challenging operational environment the Iraqi Forces and the supporting Coalition must contend with a battle space replete with non-combatants and an enemy prepared to rapidly exploit real, manufactured, or phony civilian casualties on Social Media.

Yet this physical, military battle is approaching its conclusion. The ISF is irresistibly compressing Western Mosul and approaching the Great Mosque of al-Nuri where ISIL’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in June 2014. Following the fall of West Mosul and the clearing of some remaining Islamic State-held areas in Northern and Western Iraq, the Iraqi Government will once again possess loose control of its territory. However, Iraq’s larger strategic problems revolve around governance and not military competence. Although it will be important to secure the country against physical manifestations of a redux ISIL, this will only succeed if the Shia, Sunni, Kurd, and other ethnic and religious components of Iraq feel supported by and give their allegiance to the central government in Baghdad. This is a political, economic, and communications problem that must be resolved by continued efforts at an inclusive, competent, and representative Iraqi federal government.

Moreover, there is widespread appreciation of the need for continued, international assistance in Baghdad to achieve this. Although the United States and the Western world largely walked away from Iraq in 2011, Iraqis recognize the requirement for assistance in the post-ISIL era. With many neighbouring countries possessing national interests in Iraq and its population, a suitable post-conflict international construct must be established to enable governance and economic development in this troubled country. The United States, Iraq, and potentially Canada must decide upon and negotiate such future engagement to rehabilitate this fragile state and prevent an ISIL 2.0.


Louis A. Delvoie, Fellow, CIDP
​2 February 2017

During his campaign for the presidency of the United States Donald Trump made quite a few unusual remarks in the realms of foreign policy and international relations. One of the most noteworthy was made in the course of a speech to the America-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). In that speech he promised his audience that he would move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It is far from clear that Trump knew or understood the implications of that promise, despite the fact that the location of the American embassy in Israel is an issue which has been debated in the United States for many years. A long succession of American presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan, have steadfastly resisted pressures to make this move, even in the face of pressures emanating from Congress and from lobby groups representing elements of the American Jewish community. They recognized the implications and the downsides of moving the embassy, since it would have the effect of helping to consolidate the claim of the Israeli government that a unified Jerusalem was the eternal capital of Israel.

Jerusalem is a unique city for two reasons. First, it is home to holy sites sacred to the three main monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Second, it is the only city in the world that is the object of a UN General Assembly resolution (No. 303), which states in part that “Jerusalem should be placed under a permanent international regime.” The resolution goes on to stipulate that “The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.”

Most recently, in December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution (No. 2334) which stated in part that Israeli settlements in occupied east Jerusalem constitute “a flagrant violation under international law” and represent an obstacle to the achievement of a "just, lasting and comprehensive peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. The terms of this resolution reflect the views of virtually all of the international community, including some of its most influential members; Great Britain, France, China and Russia all voted in favour of the resolution.

If he were to implement his promise to move the embassy, Trump would be putting his administration at loggerheads with nearly all of the world’s governments, including all of the United States’ NATO allies. He could expect thoroughly hostile reactions in the Arab world, most notably from America’s oldest ally in the region, Saudi Arabia. The kings of Saudi Arabia are the self-proclaimed custodians of the holy sites of Islam, including those in Jerusalem. While the Saudi government may frequently be tepid and opportunistic in its support for the Palestinian cause, it is rock solid in its opposition to any consolidation of Israeli control over east Jerusalem.

The Saudi government can be expected to mount a vigorous campaign in Washington to prevent the embassy move. In that campaign they can look forward to having one major ally in the person of the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. As a long-time executive in the oil industry and as a former chairman of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson well understands the importance of Saudi Arabia to American interests in the Middle East. He will not want to see those interests put at risk, whether on the oil front or in the fight against Islamist extremism. In this he will enjoy the support of virtually all of the Middle East experts in the State Department.

In the face of such widespread opposition, any prudent president would find a way to fudge an ill-conceived campaign promise and leave the American embassy in Tel Aviv. What the totally unpredictable Donald Trump will do is anybody’s guess. There are, however, a few mildly encouraging signs that he is amenable to accepting a logical argument, particularly one grounded in a solid analysis of American interests.


H. Christian Breede, Deputy Director, CIDP
​5 April 2017

“Zero, Four-one. Contact, wait out.”

These six words, spoken over a radio, bring an acute focus to all who hear them.  Everything else stops.  Everything else is suddenly less important.  Focus now shifts to ‘Four-one’, the call sign representing a small unit of soldiers who are suddenly engaged in a fire fight – firing their weapons in anger and likely fighting for their lives. ‘Contact’ in this sense means that the small unit has begun engaging the proverbial enemy – they are being shot at and are shooting back. More ominously, they will let ‘zero’ – the headquarters – know when they are done.  In essence, they are telling the headquarters, "don’t call us – we’ll call you".  More importantly, until the contact is resolved, everybody else stays quiet – and waits.

What they are waiting for is called a contact report. This report follows a format that all combat leaders memorize and consists of where the shooting is coming from, who they think is shooting at them, what they are doing about it, and when the shooting started.

The contact report is designed to be a clear, concise, and precise response to an event.  It is designed to get the essential information to those who need to know and, more importantly, may be able to offer support in a timely fashion. In short, what is happening to Four-one may be of importance to other organizations on the same team.

It is in this spirit of precision, concision, and clarity that the CIDP launched the Contact Report this year. This series is designed to be a venue for our Fellows to provide their learned opinions on the contacts of the day, in this case international and defence policy-related events. It is designed to do so in a timely but accurate and thoughtful manner that enables us to leverage the knowledge of our researchers to inform the debates that ensue.

As a research center within one of Canada’s leading universities, we need to not only examine problems in a systematic and rigorous way, but we need to communicate this to Canadians too.  The contact report is one way in which we hope to do this.

Over the past few weeks, in the wake of the resignation of Andrew Potter from his administrative position at McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada and the supposed connection between this and his controversial Op-Ed from this past March, much has been written about the question of academic freedom in Canada. More to the point of this new series, this has also raised questions as to what the role of the university in Canada ought to be.

Most recently, Éric Montpetit, a professor of Political Science at L’Université de Montréal, suggested in the Globe & Mail that institutions such as universities need to choose to either remain as bastions and incubators of knowledge or weigh in on the political and social affairs of the day.  They – he argues – cannot do both and he cites the events surrounding Potter’s departure from McGill as evidence of this.

Others are not so quick to sound the retreat from public engagement.  Philippe Lagassé, another professor, but this time from the University of Ottawa and arguing through Twitter, claimed instead that those of us engaged in research that relates to the events  of the day - both political and social - should weigh in.  More to the point, he argues, we need to do so to ensure that academic research remains of value not just to other academics, but to society at large, especially when that society pays the bills.

As you can probably guess, our centre falls in line behind the position of Lagassé on this question.  The marriage between theory and practice has been a not-so-subtle theme in all of our work, to include the motivation behind our core research axes as well as within the makeup of our team.  Alongside our professors and researchers, we also have former ambassadors, senior public servants, and serving senior military officers from several different countries. This team provides a unique combination of theoretical and methodological rigor along with recent and relevant policy experience.  It is a powerful combination.

This new series, to be updated as events require, is part of the CIDP's continued commitment to communicating cutting-edge and world class research to decision makers and more importantly, to Canadians.  As our director recently challenged in a TED talk, this is your Foreign Policy.

This is something we take seriously.  Contact, wait out.