In some places – such as the role of fellows – we have an honest difference of opinion. For example, I sense you see the role of fellow as a university does: academics with research agendas. In contrast, I’m advocating for a role similar to that of the Yale World Fellows: a diverse set of interesting people who have an important perspective to contribute. Might this include government officials on leave, former political staffers, or social entrepreneurs? Absolutely.
In other places, it is unclear to me if we agree or disagree. In your original comment you argue the oped was flat out wrong, or “more caricature then valid description.” However, in yesterday’s comment you state “we all know it (the CIIA) has had it problems even its members recognize that, so what you have said in that regard is not new.” I’m not sure you can have it both ways. Either I was wrong and failed to accurately portray the situation or, I was right, and not adding to the debate.
I also don’t mind you being harsh – debate is essential to uncovering truth. However, what concerns me is that you seem less interested in debating my thesis than trying to point out typos in an effort to mock me. You may “not want to debate about the vitality of the CIIA”… but this was the subject of the oped. If we aren’t discussing that, then what is the subject on the table? I’m happy to discuss the immaterial differences between the Embassy and blog versions of my oped, and to acknowledge I identified your university incorrectly, but these discussions won’t weaken or alter the validity of my argument – which I sense is the source of your discontent.
I acknowledge that a number of CIIA members and supporters – including yourself – are upset with the piece, and so in turn with me. However, the decline of the CIIA has been going on for some time, and the window of opportunity to act and renew it is shrinking. Feedback from friends, colleagues and CIIA members suggests I simply pointed out the large elephant in the room. If this prompts a larger rethink about the goals and directions of the organization, then some discomfort among its members is a small price to pay.
What I fear however, is that some people wish to instead circle the wagons – an understandable, but counterproductive reaction. Those of us who are fans of the CIIA, but concerned about its future, will keep wondering… what will prompt the renewal and soul searching the CIIA needs?
Finally, I too was disappointing to see that Ben Rowswell and Farouk Jiwa not included in the Embassy’s list of suggested fellows. Both are exceptional individuals and their respective experience in Iraq and Africa are ones more Canadians should here about. I’m not sure why that happened and will follow up with Embassy – but my suspicion is that it was a matter of space (they were the last two bullets in the list). As for your concerns about my list – they are worse then you feared. I know each of them! But you misunderstand its purpose. I did not propose it as the definitive list, but as an example of the type of fellows I’d like to see the CIC appoint. Moreover, nominating someone I know and have worked with an old boys network does not make. Having the power to limit nominations to a select group and/or control the appointment process to favour long time colleagues does.
Also, I do wish to apologize for getting your university wrong (I’ve corrected it). One of the great things about having a blog is that when genuine errors occur, there are an army of readers – such as yourself – who are kind enough to point them out, which I’m all too pleased to fix.