Perry says US needs to build international cooperation for war on terrorism

 Holmes Lecture group
Above: From left, Stanislav Kirschbaum,professor of international studies at Glendon,  and John Polanyi, Nobel prize-winner and peace activist,  welcome speaker Wiliam Perry with help from Glendon Fellow David Collenette, former Canadian minister of defence.

Former US defense secretary William Perry appealed for a return to Wilsonian ideals and Churchillian pragmatism in US Foreign Affairs in his address at the 15th Annual John Holmes Memorial Lecture at Glendon on March 7.

Perry, now a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies, told a packed crowd at Glendon’s Dining Hall that, while he agrees that the Sept. 11 attack by international terrorists amounted to a declaration of war on western civilization, the Bush administration’s strategy to fight that war was “too narrow”. And, although he applauded some of the effective tactical actions the US has used to fight terrorism, Perry said other actions, particularly those on the diplomatic front, were “inadequate or counter-productive” because the US perception of the terrorist threat is too self-centred.


William Perry

Above: Former US defense secretary William Perry speaks at John W. Holmes Memorial Lecture in Glendon’s Dining Hall on March 7.

“The threat is not just directed at the US but against all of democratic society,” Perry said, “certainly including Canada and Europe.”

Citing the international scope of terrorists’ communications, travel, propaganda and funding, Perry said the US should put greater effort into building a cooperative international effort to deal with terrorist organizations, such as Al Quaeda, that have support from sympathizers “among the more than one billion Islamic people around the world.”

In what he described as the fourth time since the First World War when international cooperation was critical to world peace, Perry said the threat from transnational terrorists was more serious than most Canadians and Americans realize. His greatest fear, he said, is that “we are racing to an unprecedented catastrophe where a terrorist group would detonate a nuclear device in one of our cities.”

“To prevent this,” he said, “the US must get full international cooperation but, to this point, has failed to do that. The administration didn’t properly describe the threat as facing all countries, not just the US.”

Citing examples from his years as defense secretary in the Clinton administration implementing nuclear disarmament agreements with the former Soviet Union from 1994 to 1997, Perry said getting cooperation from other allies and partners was “hard and not always agreeable work” but was nonetheless essential to success. “Working with the former Soviet Union required listening to their points of view which did not always correspond with ours,” he said.

“The US needs other countries,” said Perry. “We will have to pay serious attention to their ideas.”

David Collenette and John Holmes

Left: David Collenette (left) shares a laugh with  friend and former counterpart William Perry.

Perry was introduced by his friend and counterpart, Canada’s former defence minister David Collenette, now a Distinguished Fellow in the Department of Political Science at Glendon (see story in Sept. 28, 2004 issue of YFile). Perry said Collenette played a key role in persuading NATO to back the international effort during the crisis in Bosnia in 1995.

In his opening remarks, host Stanislav Kircshbaum, professor of International Studies at Glendon, recognized Lindsay Tyler, winner of the 2004 Edward Appathurai Scholarship in International Studies. He also acknowledged several friends and colleagues of the late John Holmes, including his wife Lee, who were in the audience.

Kirschbaum also recounted a story about Holmes during his teaching days , which followed his time in Canada’s department of External Affairs from 1943 to 1960. Kirschbaum recalled how students making presentations often “dreaded” his critiques, which always included the words, “you see, I was there.”

About the Holmes Lecture

John W. HolmesThe annual John Holmes Memorial Lecture honours the late John W. Holmes (right), O.C., Canadian diplomat, writer, administrator and teacher who was a professor of International Relations at Glendon College, York University, from 1971 to 1981.

Shortly after his death in 1988, a memorial fund was set up at Glendon under the chairmanship of Albert Tucker, University Professor in the Department of History, to make possible a series of annual lectures sponsored by Glendon’s International Studies Program.

The first John Holmes Memorial Lecture was delivered in 1989 by Sir Brian Urquhart, retired under secretary general of the United Nations.