Today’s Interviewee: Liam Buchanan

Liam is currently a fourth year Bachelor of Arts student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His honours thesis will be in the field of Political Science (International Relations).

His home is in Moncton, New Brunswick where he grew up and graduated from BMHS in 2018. He has one sister, Abby, who is also an undergraduate at the same University. He has many hobbies including playing video games, working out at the gym, playing the guitar, reading, and spending time with friends/family.

Thank you Liam for agreeing to be interviewed. Also, congratulations on your successful completion of your Bachelor Of Arts Degree, Honours in International Relations, Major in Political Science.

Editors note: Please leave your feedback and comments at the bottom of the interview page. Thank you.

Q. Where were you born and what is your current age?

A. I was born in Moncton, New Brunswick on March 1st, 2000 and I am currently 21 years old.

Q. What were your favourite activities as a child?

A. As a child, my favourite activities were playing hockey, biking in the neighbourhood, playing sports and hanging out with friends on the weekends.

Q. Who was your best friend growing up and what makes a good friend?

A. I had a few best friends growing up. A friend of mine from Newfoundland, Erin Baker moved to Moncton in 2009 and although we don’t see or speak to each other much anymore, he was definitely a best friend growing up. I also have a group of about 10 people who I consider to be my best friends now. I consider a good friend to be someone who is loyal, trustworthy, always there for you, and will be honest with you about stuff at times when you may need to hear the truth.

Q. Who were your major influences while you were growing up?

A. The biggest influence has been my father, Tom. My mom and other family members were also influences, but my dad being my male role model had the biggest impact on me growing up.

Q. You grew up during the Internet and smart phone age. When did you realize that you were a part of a much larger world?

A. I realized this when I gained access to the Internet around 2011. Before that, I was confined to my own world. The north end of Moncton, which is comparable to Quispamsis, is quite an affluent area. When you gain access to the Internet you realize that not everywhere in the world is as affluent as the area that you grew up in.

Q. When and how did you learn to interact with the opposite sex?

A. I knew how to interact with the opposite sex in day-to-day conversations when I’d speak to my mom and my sister. Also, going to pre-school before beginning kindergarten helped with my social skills. You definitely learn more about people of the opposite sex when you come to age through puberty and in high school. I learned different things about people at different stages of my life.

Q. Through the years that you were growing up do you think it was easier for a boy or a girl? What challenges does each have?

A. I would say boys had it easier. Although I do think things have changed for the better now, where men and women are seen more as equal, I do remember being younger and thinking girls had it harder. The whole notion of you “throw like a girl” is an example of how there was this constant unfair advantage that men would have. I think that the challenges for females were to overcome the barriers that were already set in place. It took more of an effort for them to prove people wrong when there was already doubt sewn in them. For men on the other hand, I think speaking about mental health and feelings was discouraged, and I especially learned this while playing hockey growing up. It was a whole “boys club” mentality, where you don’t talk about how you feel. Thankfully, it has become more acceptable now.

Q. You excelled at sports as a teenager. What was your favourite sport?

A. My favourite sport was football. Out of every team sport I played, it was the sport that relied most on the interactions between everyone in order to harmonize and create a play. This would allow us to effectively reach the goals that we were trying to achieve. For example, if the foot work of the offensive lineman is off by one or two seconds, then the whole play is a bust. What I liked most is that football seems to be more about the team than the specific individual.

Q. How did your parents help you growing up? What would you do the same for your children?

A. My parents helped by providing me with opportunities in life to succeed. They knew they wanted me to be social, which I think is a good thing, so they put me in daycare, school sports and activities. I also played recreational sports outside of school. When I was younger, I had fluid built up in my ears and had to see a speech pathologist once a week from the ages of three to five. My parents helped me through that. More recently, they are able to help me sometimes with money. Thankfully, I’m pretty financially independent and have been able to make my own money and pay for rent and school, but I know that if I needed help they would be there and I think that’s the best gift they can give me.

Q. What things does your sister do that bothers you and what things does she do to make you proud to be her brother?

A. I found when we were younger she would be selfish; it was her way or the highway. I would try to keep the mindset of “cooler heads prevail” and would try not to tick her off. But now I think she has matured and there is not as much that bothers me. I also don’t see her as much for me to know what bothers me. Every interaction I have with her now is positive. I think the values she has are the same as mine, because we grew up and spent so much time together. Her morals and ethics align with mine and that makes me proud to be her brother. The life path she has chosen in her education and where she will go in life will have an impact on her community and I am proud in that regard as well.

Q. At what point in high school did you know what you wanted to take in University?

A. I knew in grade 12, my final year. I was either going to do a business degree or perhaps go into nursing or sciences. However, I took a political science course that was offered at my high school after having dropped a chemistry course. I really enjoyed it and knew I wanted to do that for a degree.

Q. What was the most surprising thing about University life?

A. The most surprising thing for me was the fact that you have to create your own schedule. Although you may have classes at a certain time, you still have to have discipline to create your own schedule around them.

Q. I have read your thesis proposal The Contemporary Eye of Providence: The Implications of Drone Use in UN Peacekeeping and Multilateral Peace Operations. It is both a topical and important subject. What made you gravitate to this topic?

A. I’ve always been fascinated by how technology has been changing so rapidly, especially over the past five to ten years. I gravitated towards drones because I had a keen interest for intelligence operations. I was reading a lot about American FBI and CIA and how they operate. I found a book called “A Theory Of The Drone” by Gregoire Chamayou, a French philosopher, and he wrote about drones being used in the context of the American warfare to target kill people. This had me thinking that’s where I wanted to go with my thesis, because it has to be something that’s relevant and contemporary instead of something that happened thirty years ago. You have to contribute to the growing literature and I knew that drones are a recent phenomenon, especially in pop culture.

Q. In brief, what will be the central argument of your thesis?

A. My central argument will be that I believe drones can legitimately contribute to United Nations’ peacekeeping operations and international organizations to achieve the mandates and the goals they have. Drones can be used as a tool or instrument to help them achieve this. One thing I want to stress is that it’s not the only instrument needed, but one of the multiple tools you could use in order to achieve the mandates by enhancing their material capabilities.

Q. You talk about the two main approaches to International Relations; realism and liberalism. Which approach are you using in your thesis and could you explain, to our readers, what each of these terms means?

A. I’m not necessarily using either approach. I’ve realized that my approach will fall in the liberalism umbrella term but I’m essentially just using a theoretical framework that will understand that drones can be used legitimately and that they can be used by different entities within the international political sphere. Liberalism is a theory that says that nation states such as Canada are not the only actors that need to be taken into consideration. There’s a polarity of actors that need to be considered, such as the United Nations and the European union and non-governmental organizations when it comes to discussing international relations. Realism on the other hand is the original theory in international relations, which sprouted at the end of World War I. It was made famous by Hans J. Morgenthau, a German political theorist, and he essentially argued that nation states such as Canada and the United States are central to international politics. It doesn’t take into consideration organizations such as the United Nations and non-governmental organizations. It considers solely countries or nation states and says that they will ultimately act in pursuing power. For example, we can look at what is happening right now with Russia and Ukraine from a realistic perspective. Russia is looking to put troops in the Eastern part of Ukraine to gain more geopolitical power and is working in their own self-interest. Liberalism would say it is not just nation states that need to be considered, but that both nation states and other entities that can influence international politics.

Q. Can you give us an example of a nation that uses realism in their international relations and one that uses liberalism?

A. To expand on my answer above, Russia is acting in self-interest and not considering the sovereignty of Ukraine people to gain more geopolitical power by controlling the territory that is not theirs and ultimately doing it in an illegitimate manner. In a liberalism perspective on the other hand, Canada does take into consideration that they are not the center of all of their actions and are a part of many free trade agreements and international organizations, such as the United Nations or the Francophone organizations. They are not trying to expand their geopolitical power. They know they are a middle power and are not necessarily trying to get to a larger power and know they are serving their purpose. Canada definitely has more sway in international politics compared to places such as Ireland. It’s interesting to think what could be contributing to that. People might see Canada as an off shoot of the US culturally and economically and might not necessarily deserve a place on the Security Council.

Q. In your thesis proposal there is a section on International Humanitarian Law (IHL), where you refer to Joe Clarke’s 2021 scholarly work on how IHL applies to the use of armed UAVs (armed drones). I quote ”There are four key elements to IHL, according to Clarke: distinction; proportionality; unnecessary suffering; and military necessity…”. I was struck by the description of proportionality. Once again, according to Clarke, “Proportionality deals with the idea that civilian loss of life and damage to civilian property must not be more than that of those who were being targeted; this means that the target must outnumber both civilian casualties and damage caused to their property (Ibid, p. 320)”. What did you feel when you read this description of proportionality?

A. I believe proportionality means that even if the target must outnumber the civilian casualties that it’s considered ok. It’s unfortunate and saddening and shows that my perspective as a Canadian might be different than someone on the ground level in the Middle East who may have had siblings that are murdered in that manner. On a humanitarian level it’s saddening. But on a geopolitical strategic level, it’s said that if that’s what it takes instead of going on the ground where, in general, drone strikes cause less causalities to civilians than traditional warfare has, then you need to pick your poison. It’s like trying to dance with the devil and pick the better of two evils.

Q. Are you planning on doing a postgraduate degree, either now or in the future?

A. I think in the future I would like to however right now I am a bit burnt out from the amount of reading and writing I’ve been doing over the past four years, especially this year. I’m looking forward to graduating and finding a job and making money. I do think about the future and the different possibilities of potentially doing a masters degree.

Q. What, in your view, are the most important functions of the United Nations?

A. It is important for world peace. In the latter 20th century they were able to help cease fires in different countries in the Middle East, however people need to understand that they can’t necessarily put all of their trust into the United Nations. Countries themselves need to also take responsibility in ensuring peace and security internationally. The UN does have some flaws; the permanent five on the Security Council who each have a veto is very ineffective. If the UN wanted to conduct sanctions right now against Russia, they can’t because Russia has a veto. I don’t believe it’s as effective as it could be based on how these structures are set in place.

Q. Many people believe that democracy is under threat in the United States specifically, and the Western nations generally. What are your thoughts on this?

A. That is a plausible and correct assessment in my opinion. One example we could use is the recent freedom convoys that converged in Ottawa. Many people don’t know that one of the main organizations that organized the freedom convoy called “Canada Unity” put out a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that essentially called for the Governor General of Canada to disband the legitimately elected parliament of Canada and have the government be made up the senate of Canada, the Governor General, and the board of truckers to dictate what comes next for the country. That goes against what we stand for in our parliamentary democracy in Canada specifically. Elsewhere, Donald Trump has also sewn doubt in democracy. I don’t thinks it’s fully in danger and will still prevail. But people are starting to question the legitimacy of democratic states and people who adhere to the principles will have to stand up for what they believe in if they want to see democracy continue to thrive.

Q. There is so many more questions that I would like to ask you, however this will be the last one. What person or persons, dead or alive, would you consider to be your hero?

A. I would say my father. He has had the most impact on me. I would still consider him today as my best friend. He raised me to be who I am today. I would also consider my mom to be a hero based on all of the sacrifices she’s done. But growing up, every boy needs a male role model to help guide him in life and that’s something that my mom could never give to me as a mother, and that is why my father has always been my hero.

Q. Thank you so much for answering my questions Liam.

A. Thank you Allan… I enjoyed answering your questions.

Editor’s note: This is a transcript of a telephone call. I have edited it to remove long silences, illegible sounds and for clarity.

Transcription and editing services provided by Shalyn Arseneau

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