Strategic speaking

By Kris Kotarski

According to a Venezuelan academic, military inßuence on government can challenge the democratic process.

The keynote speaker at the University of Calgary Society for Military and Strategic Studies Conference, Dr. Domingo Irwin from the Venezuelan Instituto Pedagógico de Caracas, addressed his concerns with the strength and inßuence of the military in affairs of state.

"We must strengthen civil society, military professionalism and democracy," he said about his native Venezuela. "But how do you civilize the military? How do you advance democracy?"

Irwin could offer no solutions other than vigilance in the face of hardship. He was even unsure his discussion would be appreciated by the Venezuelan government.

"I don’t know what the consequences of [my presence at] this conference will be when I get home," he said.

Organized by Chris Bullock and Jillian Dowding, the conference, held at U of C Feb. 2-3, was hosted by the SMSS Conference.

Support came from the Canadian Department of National Defense and the Students’ Union. Speakers included U of C undergraduates, PhD candidates from Carleton, Queens and the University of Montpellier III in France and Dr. Irwin.

"We tried not to distinguish and [gave] everyone a voice," said Bullock.

The conference was started by SMSS as a way to get U of C students to discuss issues, but evolved into what Bullock called "one of the best in North America," with speakers coming from countries all over the world including Norway, South Africa, France and Venezuela.

Other issues covered during the weekend ranged from Indian-Pakistani relations to citizen soldiers in North America.

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