Of course these ‘experts’ are pro-military — follow the money

The military and arms industry sustain many ideological institutions, which goes a long way in explaining the strength of militarist ideology.

Last week the Globe and Mail published “Canada must do its part to defend the Arctic. That requires F-35 purchases and NORAD modernization”. The commentary was written by Robert Huebert, a long-time associate and research fellow with University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies.

CMSSS is one of a dozen university “centres of expertise” that’s received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Department of National Defence’s Security and Defence Forum (SDF) and subsequent iterations. Established by DND 50 years ago to “develop a domestic competence and national interest in defence issues of relevance to Canada’s security”, SDF funneled a few million dollars a year to academic security programs. The Liberals’ 2017 defence policy review “increased investment in academic outreach to $4.5 million per year in a revamped and expanded Defence Engagement Program.” As part of this push to support academic projects, DND established the Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program in 2019. In June MINDS gave a substantial grant to CMSSS and the University of Calgary while in 2009 SDF called Huebert a “SDF Scholar”.

Alongside his position at CMSSS, Huebert is a fellow with the associated Canadian Global Affairs Institute. CGAI doesn’t hide its military and arms industry funding, which includes F-35 maker Lockheed Martin. Its most recent Defence Deconstructed podcast noted, “this episode was made possible thanks to the support of the Department of National Defence’s MINDS Program. Defence Deconstructed is brought to you by Irving Shipbuilding and Boeing.” Another episode of the weekly podcast was made possible by “our strategic sponsors Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.”

Unsurprisingly, CGAI promotes a militarist worldview. In December CGAI released the “Economic Benefits of Defence Spending” and previously published “Canada and Saudi Arabia: A Deeply Flawed but Necessary Partnership”, which defended General Dynamics’s $14-billion deal to sell Light Armoured Vehicles to the Kingdom. At least four of the General Dynamics-funded institute’s “fellows” wrote columns justifying the sale, including an opinion CGAI analyst David Perry published in the Globe and Mail Report on Business titled “Without foreign sales, Canada’s defence industry would not survive.”

CGAI and CMSSS sponsor the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies and have operated an annual military journalism course. A dozen Canadian journalism students receive scholarships to the 10-day program, which includes a media-military theory component and visits to armed forces units. The stated objective of the course is “to enhance the military education of future Canadian journalists who will report on Canadian military activities.” Captain David Williams described the student visits to military bases as a way to “foster a familiarity and mutual understanding between the CF and the future media, two entities which require a symbiotic relationship in order to function.”

Along with the Conference of Defence Associations, CGAI has given out the Ross Munro Media Award recognizing a “journalist who has made a significant contribution to understanding defence and security issues.” The $2,500 prize is awarded at a gala dinner attended by Ottawa VIPs as part of an effort to reinforce militarist culture among reporters who cover the subject.

Journalist training, the Ross Munro award and institute reports/commentators are a positive way of shaping the discussion of military matters. But, CGAI (previously CDFAI) has also employed a stick. In detailing an attack against colleague Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen military reporter David Pugliese pointed out that it’s “not uncommon for the site [CDFAI’s 3Ds Blog] to launch personal attacks on journalists covering defence issues. It seems some CDFAI ‘fellows’ don’t like journalists who ask the government or the Department of National Defence too many probing questions. … Last year I had one of the CDFAI ‘fellows’ write one of the editors at the Citizen to complain about my lack of professionalism on a particular issue. … the smear attempt was all done behind my back but I found out about it. That little stunt backfired big time when I showed the Citizen editor that the CDFAI ‘fellow’ had fabricated his claims about me.” While it may not have succeeded in this instance, online criticism and complaints to journalists’ superiors can drive journalists to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.

CGAI has held joint symposiums with DND, NATO and NORAD. It’s also received financial support from a bevy of arms contractors such as General Dynamics, BAE, Boeing, MDA, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

Initial funding” for CGAI, notes Howard D. Fremeth in a PhD thesis on “Canada’s military-cultural memory network”, “came mostly from a single patron, Robert J. S. Gibson.” Honorary colonel of the 10th Battalion Calgary Highlanders, the wealthy Calgary businessman “had a deep personal connection to the military.” After securing funding for CMSSS at the University of Calgary, Gibson supported the creation of a think tank that wouldn’t have to deal with “the impediments resident in academia.” Gibson was chair of the CGAI Board.

Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies are two of many institutions funded by the military and arms industry to promote their ideas.

At a minimum, media outlets serious about journalistic principles should point out individuals direct or indirect financial ties to the military when offering their opinion on the armed forces.

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