Gwynne Dyer, Future: Tense

I didn't really want to know all this. I'm happier muddling along in my artsy way, dabbling in books and helping students with grammar, but friend Rob thought I'd appreciate Gwynne Dyer's Future: Tense - The Coming World Order (it should be two colons, but that looks silly). And I do appreciate it, really, but it's written for Canadians about -- basically -- how the world needs to respond to the madness in American politics organized around Iraq.

The gist is that Iraq was intended as a test case for the world the neo-conservatives wanted to create, namely permanent American pre-eminence, acting independently rather than in service to international law. Dyer's main thesis is that the UN is a good idea, irrespective of its miscellaneous failings and weaknesses, because it represented an ingenious way of slowly convincing every sovereign nation to sign onto a non-aggression pact. He views the UN as a hundred-year project, one that had done some very good work in its first 60 or so years but that is now under serious threat as a result of American unilateralism.

Dyer says that we live in an increasingly multipolar world, where American dominance is on the way out due simply to the pressures of trade, population change, and climate change. So, we need to be developing mechanisms that can survive whatever shifts may come in the nation or nations that are the most powerful on the planet. The Cold War, he argues, was inherently stable, because it was one on one; a multipolar world is like the world before WW1, a time of changing and secret alliances that made the war inevitable. Current military technology, if multiple great nations went to war, would result in the destruction of what we know as civilization. It's the goal of the UN to prevent that, through the creation of stable international law that governs the relations between nations of all sizes.

Dyer's analysis of neo-conservative speeches and declaration is devastating, incidentally. His perception of the sophistry of Richard Perle, for example, is astonishing in its clarity.

The book argues that if it takes the US much longer to get out of Iraq, the other countries of the world are likely to start making allegiances that exclude the US. This would lead to global instability of a kind and degree not seen for close to a hundred years, and it would take all of our best efforts simply to avoid annihilation.

I support the troops. I do. We need the troops to be willing to do what they're told, because if they don't, we will have lost the roots of civil society. But I'd rather they were home -- they've been given the wrong orders.

I support the troops, but not their leaders.


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