Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Future: Tense, by Gwynne Dyer

This review can be nothing less than a fan rap. This is my third Gwynne Dyer book and not one of them has disappointed. The refreshing thing about Dyer is that he is totally devoid of any political ideology when discussing the topic of global politics and the wars that they throw up. He’s not into point scoring, saying look at me, I’m right on this topic. Rather he keeps his sense of humour and more importantly, sense of perspective. It’s as if Gwynne Dyer has landed from another planet, then been asked to give his opinion of our global situation. He says much that unsettles all preconceived wisdom.

The basic message of Future: Tense is that the Iraq has been a shemozzle from the get go. The worst outcome could be the loss of the United Nations. The UN, we are told, was never meant to create a harmonious global utopia. Its main aim was to prevent another world war. The UN created the idea of a global law that would make illegal aggressive, predatory wars. Before the UN it was the law of the jungle. Any country could invade another country without incurring too much opprobrium. It was just what was done. The strong dominated the weak.

With the possibility that the UN may now have been sidelined as irrelevant, we could be back to the old world order, or disorder. A world without a mechanism to stop or stare down other countries from behaving belligerently could mean a return to out-of-control wars of conquest. This would mean countries would begin the dance of building allegiances and power blocs.

How to stop this? Dyer says it is of utmost important that the world create an exit strategy that allows the US to withdraw from Iraq with some of its honour intact. For we need the US to be a major player in a world that believes in multi-lateralism.

There’s a great passage in the book that explains Australia’s defence policy as going to any war the US asks us to, in the hope that if one day we are invaded the US will rush to our help. Dyer humouresly says that if the US invaded Mars, then we would too.

If there’s one person you should read about the global political scene, then it is Gwynne Dyer. A couple of hours is better spent with this realist rather than seeking the future from the current array of political clairvoyants.

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