February 06, 2003



All that below said, here's where I part with Dyer. While he feels that this is a war not worthy of Canadian support, because in his view it is so unlikely to be a long-term positive for humanity, I can't entirely content myself with the long view. There are Iraqis living under vicious oppression now. There is a move afoot that, whatever its other flaws, will alleviate that. Even if one believes that move stems from entirely the wrong reasons, the end result (the lifting of the sword off Iraqis' necks) has to be seen as a desirable good.

Even if we wouldn't want to go to war for America's stated reasons, even if we believe their unstated reasons are worse, that doesn't mean there can't be other reasons of our own that compel us to join them anyway. That's what alliances are, after all: not teams with common mindsets, but with common goals. If one can accept that argument that begins "yes, the Iraqi leadership is a horror, but the Americans still don't have a casus belli" I believe it's still moral to say that the horror is worth fighting and defeating in and of itself. If one wants to provide a moral alternative to the proposed war, it must include a path to freedom for Iraqis, particularly the Kurds and Shiites. Having not seen any alternative that maps out such a path, I find I can't in conscience oppose what amounts to the only hope for these people, even if I think the Americans are nuts to attempt it.

Speaking only as a citizen now, I'd also have to say I'd like Canada to be there. Perhaps not in the war phase, as I have yet to see a convincing deployment proposal that gets us there in time and in impressive force, and support among the population is so stunningly low. But definitely in the reconstruction... something of a historical specialty for our country. I believe the Americans will want to share that burden, even if they choose to leave the UN out of it, and I believe working with them we could do a lot of good for one country that deserves it. (The plan floated this week, to relieve a US battalion in Afghanistan with one of our own, would also be a worthy move, for the same reasons: there's a lot of reconstructing still to do there, too.)

Our sitting home and complaining isn't going to help one Iraqi. Anteing up and kicking in, in whatever way the Americans will have us, could help the Iraqis a lot. That's the unavoidable conclusion that I seem to have come to on this one. Not that I think anyone who knows me would be surprised by that.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, Dyer believes, at least based on his remarks last night, that Canada can be expected to ultimately support the war, too, but will avoid deploying ground forces, and drive a hard bargain with the Americans on other cross-border issues before consenting to the provision of whatever naval and air forces it can reasonably offer, a la 1991. He seems to regard this as the appropriate position for the Canadian nation to take: me, I find it a touch weaselly.

Posted by BruceR at 05:24 PM



I'll say one thing for Gwynne Dyer... he doesn't pander to his audience. I'm not saying it takes anything you'd call bravery, or courage, to walk into a potential confrontation with a room of several hundred peace activists (we're presumably not talking a particularly violent bunch here), but when he started his presentation at U of T last night by saying that all the efforts of Canadians to protest war in Iraq were guaranteed to be ineffective and possibly even counterproductive, one had to admire his candour.

Dyer, as he always does, had scathing words for excrescences like Arafat and Hussein, the undeniable chief architect of all Iraq's troubles. He was quite confident, however, that there will be a war in Iraq, that the Americans will win, that the Saudi monarchy is on its last legs, and that peace in Israel will begin to be achievable again once both Arafat and Sharon shuffle off stage. Americans are not imperialists, he told the gathered crowd, and the control of oil resources is not a factor in Bush's calculations. American fatalities in Iraq will at worst be in the low four figures. The Afghan intervention was not only just, but by comparison to any other war in history a moderate and proportionate response by an aggrieved nation. And the long-term trend in the Middle East, he believes, is still towards democratization and peace. So far, he and Paul Wolfowitz could hardly disagree.

Where Dyer parts ways, as do I I'm afraid, with the hawks on this issue is the absence of any confidence that the forthcoming American action will in the long run contribute in any way to that same long-term trend towards freedom he identifies. The former Sandhurst lecturer does believe this next war will be a setback, both for individual freedom in Iraq and international peace. I also have exactly zero confidence the post-war reconstruction, left in American hands, will go well. I base that, as does he, on the uncomfortable junction that must by now be self-evident, between achieving military success in Iraq and electoral success for Bush: the need by the Republican machine to look strong to a domestic audience, that seems to be driving not only the push for this war, but its curious, election-driven timetable.

In the meantime, he encouraged the peaceniks present to, um, keep their powder dry, if that's an appropriate metaphor, for the Iraq war, or perhaps just to continue to organize, because there might be better prospects of success the next time the Americans attempted a "regime change." Given Dyer's famous cynicism about everything and everyone except long-term human progress itself, that's not in retrospect an unusual or uncomfortable position for him, personally; I doubt, however, it was exactly what many of this particular crowd either expected or wanted to hear.

Posted by BruceR at 02:35 PM