Munk School hosting Canada-Australia military strategy conference on Afghanistan
On April 10 and 11, UofT’s Munk School of Global Affairs, along with Trinity College’s Centre for the Study of Contemporary International History (CCSCIH), is hosting a two-day conference entitled “Afghanistan: The Australian and the Canadian Experience Compared”. The event will bring together “Canadian and Australian military officers, senior diplomats, elected officials and other policymakers, and onetime representatives of international organizations and Afghanistan itself”. Speakers include Major-General Jonathan Vance, Director of Staff, Strategic Joint Staff, Canadian Forces, and one of the architects of the occupation of Afghanistan; author/politician Michael Ignatieff, famous for his endorsement of the war on Iraq; Conservative MP Chris Alexander, Former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan and UN Special Representative to Afghanistan; and a host of other members of Canada’s militarist elite.
As is clear from the event description, with “Afghanistan itself” appearing as an afterthought, the perspectives of Afghans themselves are of little importance for those organizing this event. While two former high-ranking representatives of the Afghan government will be in attendance – Omar Samad, Former Ambassador to Canada and France, and Humayun Hamidzada, former Deputy Minister for Policy, Ministry of Finance – not a single member of Toronto’s populous Afghan community will be addressing the audience. The anti-war discourse and vocal local organizing of networks such as Afghans for Peace might help explain the fact that such groups are not invited to the table when Canadian military elites discuss their country’s governance.
Presented with partners Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy and Canadian Forces College, this type of event can be understood as a stage set for aspiring scholars of “global affairs” to become enrolled into projects of militarized global governance. This is in keeping with the latest Canadian government policy orientations: the Canadian Senate’s standing committee on national security and defence recently recommended the Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces re-establish a military presence on campuses.
Munk School: Global Security Nexus
The Munk School is becoming a testing ground for the militarization of Canadian campuses, reflecting the shifting priorities of UofT’s increasingly corporate-controlled academic planning. As University administrators consent to the withdrawal of public funding, academic decision-making authority is being ceded to the corporate sector. Career prospects in “pure” research are gradually being squeezed to the unfunded margins, and the global security-industrial complex is positioning itself to recruit newly precarious young scholars.
UofT’s promotion of careers in the ascendant war and development planning machine fits within broader trends towards securitization of research and development. The security agenda suits resource companies such as Peter Munk‘s Barrick Gold, whose profitability depends on the violent repression carried out by security forces around sites of extraction in countries such as Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. It also suits communication technologies companies such as Research In Motion (RIM), who design security platforms to equip the ever-expanding surveillance and communication networks of security states everywhere. The enrolment of scholars into militarization mirrors the work of one of the tenants of the Munk School’s new digs on Bloor Street: the Canadian International Council, a right-wing think tank directed by RIM’s Jim Balsillie, Peter Munk and other members of Canada’s corporate elite to lobby on behalf of banking, resource and technology sectors.
Imperial Fantasy and Confrontation
Canada’s military-academic nexus is particularly obsessed with fantasizing about countries such as Afghanistan as places in need of “counterinsurgency” and “stabilization” in the interests of “global security”. The Orwellian discourse that is being enacted at the Munk School is conveniently silent on the disruptions to security and stability being caused by Barrick Gold’s attempted incursions into nearby Balochistan. As we know from the case of Barrick’s successful SLAPP lawsuit against Québec publisher Écosociété – whose book Noir Canada documents Barrick, Banro and other Toronto-based mining companies’ role in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – such silencing can take a very aggressive shape.
Meanwhile, Canada’s state development agency CIDA is doing its part to contain surging global resistance to Canadian extractive industries, by linking its community programs to “corporate social responsibility” projects of Canadian resource extraction companies. Canadian foreign policy strategists are tightening the interlocking synergy of Canada’s defence forces, international development industry, and resource extraction capital. UofT has emerged as the central node for recruiting the intellectual talent needed to pursue this project of flexible, strategically networked Canadian imperialism.
The Munk School has a history of celebrating Canada’s occupation of Afghanistan, from speaking engagements with Major-General Vance, to Munk School director Janice Stein’s mindless war-boosting. As per standard procedure for these types of policy-oriented events, the sessions promise to be free of any opportunities for critical discussions beyond the limits of the standard narrative of benevolent Western intervention in a “complex” situation.
The escalation of war planning on UofT grounds demands public expressions of opposition. The recent rejection by York University faculty of a contract with RIM shows that campuses can be defended from the corporate/military governance agenda. It is up to members of the wider UofT community to contest and reject the war planners’ takeover of our learning spaces.
Interested in getting involved to challenge the militarization of UofT?
To urge Trinity College’s CCSCIH to disengage from the militarist agenda and withdraw from participating in this conference, email firstname.lastname@example.org
…and stay tuned for updates!