A Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Lecture

Gwynne Dyer

Gwynne Dyer

Canadians commemorate the outbreak of the First World War this year (2014): after two centuries of small wars in North America, we finally got to play in the big leagues. We joined the game at an unfortunate time, and we paid a high price: 60,000 dead, out of a population one-quarter of what it is now.

The First World War was a horrifying surprise for the young Canadians who stumbled into it and the people at home who sent them. The lethal new weapons, the huge casualties, and the ghastly nature of trench warfare made it the worst war there had ever been.

Twenty years later, the Second World War killed four times as many people as the First. But what made the these two wars so destructive was just a rise in national wealth and a sudden leap in the efficiency of the technologies of killing. The style of international politics that drove them had scarcely changed since the 18th century.

Canada volunteered for these great Eurasian wars when all the other countries of the Americas, including the United States, tried very hard to stay out. Paradoxically, our heavy losses shaped our national psychology in such a way that we have gone on sending troops overseas ever since. But we – Canadians and everybody else – did learn something from all this pain and waste.

Propagandists tried to convince people that these terrible wars were fought for greater and more moral causes than the lesser wars of earlier times: turning them into crusades was the only way that they could justify the scale of the killing. But by 1918 many people in government had realised that the international system itself was the problem, so they tried to change it: they created the League of Nations.

Like many first attempts, the League was a failure. The United Nations, founded after the Second World War, seemed scarcely more effective at first, but the true measure of its success is that we have not had a nuclear Third World War. Indeed, no great power has fought any other for the past 69 years.

Smaller wars continue, and Canada continues to send its troops abroad to most wars that involve its major alliance partners (although we had the sense to skip Vietnam and Iraq). But at least the wars are a lot less destructive than they used to be: 110,000 Canadians were killed in wars in 1914-1964; only around 500 have been killed in action in the past half-century.

It’s progress, of a sort.

Thursday,October 2, 2014
Reception: 5:00 pm in the Loeb Lounge
Lecture followed by Q & A: 6:00 pm in the Kailash Mital Theatre

This is a free event. Register Here




Gwynne Dyer has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years, but he was originally trained as an historian. Born in Newfoundland, he received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities, finishing with a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs, which is published by over 175 papers in some 45 countries.

His first television series, the 7-part documentary ‘War’, was aired in 45 countries in the mid-80’s. One episode, ‘The Profession of Arms’, was nominated for an Academy Award. His more recent works include the 1994 series ‘The Human Race’, and ‘Protection Force’, a three-part series on peacekeepers in Bosnia, both of which won Gemini awards. His award-winning radio documentaries include ‘The Gorbachev Revolution’, a seven-part series based on Dyer’s experiences in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in 1987-90, and ‘Millenium’, a six-hour series on the emerging global culture.

In Canada, Dyer’s column appears regularly in the Telegram in St. John’s, the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, La Presse in Montreal,  the Kingston Whig-Standard, the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, the London Free Press, the Winnipeg Free Press, Vue in Edmonton, the Calgary Herald, the Georgia Straight in Vancouver, and about sixty other newspapers.

Outside North America, papers that use Dyer’s column regularly include the Japan Times, the Korea Times, the Straits Times (Singapore), the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), the Canberra Times, the New Zealand Herald, The Pioneer (New Delhi), DNA (Bombay, The Telegraph (Calcutta), Dawn (Karachi), 7 Days (Dubai), the Bahrain Tribune, Arab News (Saudi Arabia), the Jordan Times, the Jerusalem Post, the Turkish Daily News, the Moscow Times, Lidove Noviny (Prague), Helsingin Sanomat (Finland), Information (Copenhagen), NRC Handelsblad (Rotterdam), De Standaard (Brussels), Zeitpunkt (Switzerland), Internazionale (Rome), Daily Vision (Uganda), The Star (Nairobi), The Citizen (Johannesburg), the Cape Times, and the Buenos Aires Herald.

Dyer’s books include “Ignorant Armies: Sliding into War in Iraq” (2003), “Future: Tense” (2005) and “The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq” (2007), all of which were number one or number two on the Globe & Mail’s non-fiction best-seller list. A new edition of his classic book “War” was published in 2006.

His more recent works include “Climate Wars”, which deals with the geopolitical implications of large-scale climate change. It was published in the US and the UK by Oneworld, in Canada by Random House, and in Australia and New Zealand by Scribe. It has been translated into French, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and a number of other languages.

Random House has just published “Canada in the Great Power Game, 1914-2014” to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

In the spring of 2012, Gwynne Dyer was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

Thursday,October 2, 2014
Reception: 5:00 pm in the Loeb Lounge
Lecture followed by Q & A: 6:00 pm in the Kailash Mital Theatre

This is a free event.

Register Here