By R. Paul Dyck
Canada’s role in Kosovo and East Timor was just one issue addressed by renowned journalist Gwynne Dyer last week at the University of Calgary.
On Oct. 28, Dyer, a Canadian journalist and war historian, spoke at MacEwan Student Centre about the changing world of international politics and the impact of these changes on Canadian foreign policy.
"We have, twice in a year, done something quite uncharacteristic [of Canada]: we have actually imposed our will in situations where we have no strategic and no economic interests worth mentioning," said Dyer. "It’s certainly not something that we’ve done before much."
The lecture displayed Dyer’s extensive background in military issues. In addition to a PhD in Military History from the University of London, Dyer has worked as
a journalist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years.
"I think he has been a positive speaker in the past," said Students’ Union Vice-president Events Jared Lorenz, who, along with the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, Museum of Regiments, and Royal Alberta United Services Institute, played a significant role in bringing Dyer to Calgary.
Dyer’s lecture comes close on the heels of military intervention in response to reports of genocide in Kosovo and East Timor–intervention that saw Canada assuming an aggressive stance along with international powers.
"We did not do what in the past we have done on occasion, which is a Canadian thing: you know, what you do is fastidiously hold the coats of those who are actually doing the dirty work," said Dyer. "This time, 10 percent of the bombs dropped on Serbian Kosovo were Canadian bombs."
Dyer suggested that the actions of democratic nations over the past six months related to their failure to act similarly in areas such as Bosnia and Rwanda during the mid-’90s.
"Kosovo was a very much smaller humanitarian crisis than those we dodged in the mid ’90s," said Dyer. "The point was not the numbers; by then the point was ‘never again.’ We’re not going down that road again."
Dyer went on to say that the choice of democratic nations to act in Kosovo and East Timor reflect changes in government perception towards genocide, and display
significant changes in how democratic governments will act towards oppressive nations in the future.
"What we are trying to do here is a big thing: to move international law on from a law that protects governments to a law that protects people, even against their own governments," said Dyer. "That’s a big thing; if we actually achieve it, we will have changed the world dramatically."
Following the lecture, audience members had the opportunity to ask Dyer questions.
The audience was composed of students, non-students and faculty members, whose response to Dyer’s lecture was enthusiastic.
"He’s rather exceptionally confident and extremely proficient in the subject, which is really interesting," said university graduate John-Edward Searchfield. "I mean, the way he manages the questions was astonishing."
"You can’t pigeon-hole him; he follows where the logic seems to take him," said Political Sciences professor Dr. Robert Huebert. "That’s what I’ve always found the most useful about his talks."
Dyer feels events such as his lecture are important to attain a greater understanding of significant issues facing Canadians.
"This is the democratic process," said Dyer. "Talking about what we’re doing and the implications of what we’re doing with the intention of coming to some conclusions about a very confusing and fast-moving world where decisions have to be made on imperfect information.
"These kinds of discussions are necessary."