The New Face of Warfare

“Rwanda is emblematic of the wars of our time,” Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Peace Studies Nancy Ries stated as she introduced the latest speaker in the Weapons and War Lecture series. Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire came to Colgate on Tuesday to speak on Rwanda and the failure of the world community to stop genocide. Dallaire, a French-Canadian, was head of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces in Rwanda in 1994. He used his experiences to explain the conflict in Rwanda and encourage Colgate students to become involved in humanitarian efforts worldwide. Dallaire began by discussing the differences between the “Old World Order,” the conflict between the West and the Soviet bloc, based on “classic warfare,” from the 1950s to 1990s. The downfall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s contributed to the current situation of “New World Disorder,” in which 80 percent of humanity lives in poverty. According to Dallaire, this collapse had led to the proliferation of ethnic cleansing, intra-state conflict, genocide and global terrorism. Within this context of a “New World Disorder,” Dallaire shaped the emergence of crisis in Rwanda by focusing on the country’s status during the Cold War, during which the country was governed by despots. “After the Cold War, these powers left African countries to sort their own problems out,” Dallaire said, “leading to an era of enormous conflict over pent-up differences. In Rwanda, security problems, civil unrest, riots and finally a civil war created a humanitarian catastrophe that was much more complex than traditional conflicts.” Rwanda was emblematic of the “New World Disorder” for many different, complex reasons, which Dallaire attempted to shed light on. The first problem was that world powers viewed military and political leaders of underdeveloped countries as if they were “dummies”. However, Rwandan leaders were educated in the same universities as Western leaders, and they learned how to manipulate and influence others. The problems of child soldiers and the use of civilians in warfare also became prominent, as Dallaire explained. Overpopulation in cities meant that the youth was easily recruited by the military and taught hate, superiority and impunity. Light weapons, readily available after the Cold War, were used in Rwanda and could easily be wielded by children. “[This latter issue] created complicated moral, legal and ethical dilemmas that soldiers were forced to address,” Dallaire said. “Do you kill children who kill?” Dallaire also discussed the problem of genocide in Rwanda and the inability of the international community to prevent it. “Rwanda did not count,” Dallaire said, “Rwandan people had no value to the United States.” Addressing the difficulty in sending troops into Rwanda, the first of which were sent into the country after the war was over, Dallaire explained that it took six weeks for the international community to be convinced that genocide was occurring. “The term ‘genocide’ has been used today in regards to the conflict in Sudan, ” he said, “yet that has hardly changed anything in terms of aiding the country. Dallaire proposed the question, “Are all humans human, or do some count more?” Dallaire ended his lecture by suggesting how the world community could prevent another genocide. He encouraged countries to invest in international development and emphasized the need for multi-disciplined leaders, a stronger United Nations, more mature non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and a stronger middle power coalition including countries, such as Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada, who, according to Dallaire, are not pulling their weight. Dallaire also encouraged students to “get their boots muddy” and become seriously involved in such causes. “You have a lot of power,” he said. Dallaire’s lecture was well-received, and many students walked away with a positive message. “Romeo Dallaire brought to Colgate not only the horrors of a genocide and inaction of the past,” sophomore Dan Prial said, “but also the horrors and inaction of the present. He came with a message of hope and initiative that should hopefully revitalize the Colgate community into action.” Prial would love to see student groups rising out of this lecture with the purpose of changing the world around them, getting involved and making a difference. “Dallaire’s speech was touching, poignant, and powerful,” he said. “He affected everyone in the room with his idealistic dreams of peace and global governance.” “I think General Dallaire burst the Colgate bubble for a lot of people,” first-year Nikhil Fernandes said. “He’s given our complacency a kick in the pants and told us that we need to get cracking if things are going to get better. I have no idea how I can help, but at least I’m thinking about it now.”