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June 1, 2015

International Relations 29:2 (June 2015), pp. 139-176

Abstract:  How do foreign actors involved in ‘regime change’ decide which kinds of domestic governance structures to promote in place of the regimes they have deposed? Most of the literature on foreign-imposed regime change assumes that interveners make such decisions based on rational calculations of expected utility. This article, by contrast, contends that interveners are predisposed to promote political arrangements that correspond to their own governance ‘schemas’, or taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of political authority.


January 2, 2015

Centre for International Policy Studies, University of Ottawa, Policy Brief no. 26 (January 2015)

Last week we learned that Canadian troops in Iraq are spending approximately 20 percent of their effort close to, or right at, the front lines, that they have been calling in airstrikes from those front-line positions, and that there was a firefight between Canadian forces and Islamic State fighters after the Canadians had been fired upon.

These revelations appeared to contradict earlier statements by Canadian military and government leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who had previously said that Canadian forces would not “accompany” Iraqi troops to the front lines. Chief of the Defence Staff Tom Lawson had also indicated last October that Canadian troops would not join Iraqi and Kurdish fighters in front-line action, nor would they be involved in guiding airstrikes.

Following the revelations about Canada’s new front-line role, General Lawson issued a statement last Thurs...

April 2, 2014

Policy Options (March-April 2014), pp. 26-33

Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan officially ends in March 2014. It began in 2001 with the dispatch of a small number of special operations troops to oust the Taliban and punish al-Qaeda militants in wake of the 9/11 attacks, and grew to include the deployment of a battle group to secure the southern province of Kandahar between 2006 and 2011. At its peak, the Kandahar deployment numbered over 3,000 Canadian soldiers. Of these, 158 died, in addition to one Canadian diplomat, and thousands more suffered physical or psychiatric injuries.

In visits to Kandahar in 2008 and 2010, I saw Canadian soldiers and government officials performing with professionalism and courage under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. To suggest that their sacrifices may have been in vain seems like wretched recompense.

Yet anything short of an honest assessment of the mission’s legacy would do a greater disservice to the military and civilian veterans o...

January 20, 2014

Globe and Mail

Since news broke of Friday’s horrific suicide attack on the largely foreign clientele of a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, attention has understandably focused on the civilians who lost their lives, including two Canadians. But the event, which comes at a critical moment, could also have major implications for the international presence in Afghanistan.

For those of us who live in the national capital region, learning that the slain Canadians were residents of Ottawa and Gatineau was particularly jarring. For some, the news hit even closer. My friend and neighbour, Michael Von Herff, posted this tweet about one of the victims: “Heartbreak. Peter McSheffery was a wonderful wonderful man. A big heart & devoted to serving others. I will miss him.”

One of the most touching accounts came from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet, a frequent visitor to Kabul over the past decade. She described the “ebullient spirit” of the Lebanese restaurant owner, Kamal Hamade, a man with a “warm and ready s...

June 1, 2013

Perspectives on Politics 11:2 (June 2013), pp. 538-548

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, which deposed the Taliban regime, was followed by a major international effort to stabilize that country. More than a decade later, this effort has yielded neither security nor political stability in Afghanistan. After having been ousted from power, the Taliban reestablished itself in the borderlands of Pakistan and began fighting an effective guerrilla war against international and Afghan government forces. Despite heavy losses in recent years, the insurgency shows no sign of giving up. Meanwhile, attempts to establish a credible and legitimate Afghan government have been similarly disappointing. President Hamid Karzai, once hailed as the country's democratic savior, came to be seen instead as the leader of one of the most corrupt regimes on the planet, a perception that has damaged his government's legitimacy both at home and abroad. Afghanistan's development and human rights i...

July 11, 2012

Globe & Mail

It was fitting that last weekend’s international donors’ conference on Afghanistan took place in Tokyo: The event resembled the city’s famous kabuki theatre, with its ritualized drama of grand gestures and hidden meanings.

The centrepiece of the meeting was a pledge by donors, including Canada, for $16-billion in development aid to Afghanistan over the next four years in exchange for the Kabul government’s commitment to fight corruption, among other things.

In fact, there is virtually no chance that the Afghan government will tackle corruption – and everyone knows it. President Hamid Karzai has made similar commitments for years, yet not a single high-level official has been convicted for graft, in a country whose public sector ranks as the third-most corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International.

The unspoken reality is that the United States, which drives international policy on Afghanistan, appears to have resigned itself to this kleptocracy. Back in...

June 19, 2012

Panel discussion on TVO The Agenda

"Canada stepped into Afghanistan in 2001. Almost 11 years later, what was accomplished, and what are we leaving behind? The Agenda looks at Canada's past, present and future role in Afghanistan."

November 9, 2010

TVO The Agenda

"What is Canada's military going to do after the 2011 scheduled end to the Afghanistan combat mission? What do you think should drive that choice?

April 16, 2010

TVO The Agenda

"Have we made a difference, and was it worth it?"

March 5, 2010

Ottawa Citizen

Canada can make a huge difference by leaving a small contingent of military trainers in Afghanistan after the 2011 withdrawal deadline.

Afghan National Army troops march alongside a Canadian soldier, right, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Photograph by: Finbarr O'Reilly, Reuters, Citizen Special.

In yesterday's throne speech the federal government reiterated its plan to end Canada's military mission in Afghanistan next year. No one can fault Canadians for wanting to conclude this long, costly deployment. But by leaving behind a small contingent of troops to help train the Afghan army, Canada could make a modest but vital contribution to the ongoing NATO operation.

Building Afghan security forces is central to NATO's disengagement strategy. The alliance hopes that the current "surge" of U.S. troops will reverse the insurgency's momentum and buy time to increase the size and capability of Afghan forces, thus making it possible to hand off the lead responsibility for security...

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Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

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