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Future Tense: The Coming World Order

by Gwynne Dyer

The growing space on bookstore shelves dedicated to events related to 9/11, Bush administration malfeasance, and the war in Iraq will benefit from Gwynne Dyer’s Future Tense, a good primer for the political novice gingerly negotiating the complicated world of global politics.

Dyer is a prolific writer whose newspaper column, frequent television appearances, and previous books are marked by a sardonic wit and biting cynicism rare in Canadian non-fiction. His no-nonsense approach continues to combine humour, hard-hitting analysis, and provocative challenges to those tempted to buy into various party lines that dot the political spectrum.

Dyer takes on sacred cows of the left and right as he attempts to place the bombing of Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq into their proper historical context. He refuses to reduce the causes of such world-shaking events to the bumper sticker slogans of oil lust or foreign currency concerns, taking the time instead to paint the complex canvas that forms their true backdrop.

Dyer’s bleak view of the choices facing the 21st-century world is framed by an analysis of the Bush administration’s neoconservative roots in such groups as the Project for a New American Century (a right-wing think tank whose members populate the U.S. administration) and the small band of Islamists who feed off U.S. imperial adventures to expand their ranks. Dyer sees a symbiotic relationship, with neither side able to thrive without the other in a dangerous spiral that has not yet spun completely out of control.

Dyer can be arrogant, in a charming sort of way, yet some readers might find his occasionally undocumented assertions just as difficult to swallow as the line coming out of the White House. While he is a master at getting to the roots of a particular issue (“terrorism is a technique, not an ideology or a country,” he points out, a phenomenon which kills fewer people annually than lightning strikes), a bit more documentation would have helped his case.

Dyer’s analysis also falls apart in places in his conclusion, in which he tries to convince readers that world events were going fairly well pre-Bush, and that the post-Second World War order, while no doubt bad for the millions of U.S. foreign policy victims from Vietnam to El Salvador to South Africa, was the best geopolitical scenario humanity could hope for. It’s an odd end to what is an otherwise worthwhile journey.