Current Institutional Affiliation
Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University

Stephen Saideman holds the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He has written four books: The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy and International Conflict; For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War (with R. William Ayres); NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone (with David Auerswald); and now Adapting in the Dust: Lessons Learned from Canada’s War in Afghanistan, as well as articles and chapters on nationalism, ethnic conflict, civil war, and civil-military relations. Prof. Saideman has received fellowships from the Council on Foreign Relations and the Social Sciences Research Council. The former placed on the US Joint Staff for a year, and the latter facilitated research in Japan. He taught previously at the University of Vermont, Texas Tech University, and at McGill University. He writes online at, Political Violence at a Glance, Duck of Minerva and his own site ( He has won two awards for teaching, one for mentoring other faculty, one for public engagement, and one for special achievement in online media in the area of international studies. He is currently working on the role of legislatures in civil-military relations as well as seeking funding to build the Canadian Defence and Security Network.

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Paterson Chair, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University
The Role of Parliamentarians in Overseeing Armed Forces

This project seeks to understand the role of legislatures in overseeing armed forces. The classic phrase is that war is too important to be left to the generals. The logical extension is that oversight of the military is too important to be left to the executive branch of the government. Leaders may be tempted to hide problems involving the military and even use the military secretly in ways that may not be legal, effective, or wise. We expect legislatures to oversee the military, but how that oversight is conducted varies quite widely among democracies. This project aims to compare democracies to assess the differences in both how legislators conduct oversight and how militaries respond to the differences in oversight. This project will compare Presidential systems to Westminster parliamentary systems to European style parliaments. Parliamentarians in Westminster systems are mostly blind and defence committees can be controlled by the government, limiting their relevance when it comes to military matters. Presidential systems can give legislators not only much information via committees with security clearances but much independent power as they control their agendas and can have significant influence over budgets. European-style democracies may tend to be more consensus-based, giving parliamentarians more control over their committees but information access may vary widely. The study aims to understand the variations both across these categories and within them. The focus will be on powers, capabilities and motivations of legislators and the responses of the military. For legislators, the keys are access to information, agenda control and tools of influence. Defense committees vary in how much information they can access, with some having security clearances that allow members access to much classified material, to ask sensitive questions and to get answers. These committees also vary in how independent they are, with some having very little control over their own agendas. Partisanship, public perceptions and budgetary issues may provide incentives or disincentives for oversight. A key aspect of this project is to consider the other side of the oversight equation—how do military officers perceive and react to oversight efforts? The project will involve interviewing members of defense committees, retired and active military officers and officials in defense departments. This project is very appropriate for thee SSRC-Abe Fellowship because it focuses on contemporary issues, is explicitly comparative, and is quite relevant for policy-makers. In reaction to recent events in Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere, legislators and analysts are confronting the challenge of how to engage in oversight without micro-managing militaries. The aim is to compare Japan with European parliamentary systems (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden) to see what is common and what is distinct within this institutional category as well as to compare with Westminster systems (UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa) and Presidential systems (US, France, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil). This project is policy-relevant as legislators need to understand better what they can do and what they can learn from others as they oversee the armed forces of their countries.