Canada's Groupthink Tanks on Afghanistan

As the debate over Canada's military mission in Afghanistan continues, the country's "Department of National Defence is ... spending millions of dollars sponsoring think tanks and scholars to offer up agreeable commentary," writes University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran. "Take the Conference of Defence Associations, a think tank that got $500,000 from DND last year. ... A current DND policy reads that to receive money, CDA must 'support activities that give evidence of contributing to Canada's national polices.'" CDA's annual conference featured "no opposition politicians," and its executive director said the DND "contract obliges it 'to write a number of op-eds to the press.'" DND also "sponsors policy scholars, who create the ideas, news and views that shape Canadians' perception of the military and the war. ... When DND needs a kind word in Parliament or the media -- presto! -- a [DND]-sponsored scholar often appears, without disclosing his or her financial link." Attaran calls for full disclosure and a system "to award [DND] grants on an arm's-length basis." He adds, "Canada needs fresh ideas -- not groupthink -- to win."