The Lion, The Fox, & The Eagle
Jun 07, 2022

A Story of Generals and Justice in Yugoslavia and Rwanda

Author: Carol Off
Publisher: Random House Canada, 2000, 406 pages, $16.99
ISBN: 9780679310495

Reviewed by: Captain Alexander Landry, MBA, Engineering Staff Officer at NATO Allied Land Command

As the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) undergoes a period of review and renewal in a cultural sense, it is this reviewer’s belief that one of the keys to sustainable progress lies within the analysis of a previous tumultuous period for the organization, including the strategies that ultimately led to its exit. Amidst reviews of CAF missions abroad in the 1990s, perhaps as part of a self-reflection on a time synonymous to what the organization is experiencing today, author Carol Off’s The Lion, The Fox & The Eagle, published in 2000, becomes relevant once more – particularly as one of its principal characters is former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, who would later be tasked with an independent review of the CAF (released in 2022 by the Government of Canada).

Ultimately, it is a self-proclaimed story of generals and justice in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, or perhaps a lack thereof, the latter depending on how history is interpreted thirty years later.

Carol Off is indisputably a living legend among Canadian journalism, previously host of CBC Radio One’s As It Happens, and one of the leading journalists on CAF involvement in the Balkans during the decline of the Former Yugoslavia. Accordingly, The Lion, The Fox & The Eagle, provides background on the eruption of conflicts in both Bosnia and Rwanda in great detail prior to specifically diving into Canada’s involvement through two former generals and a judge.

Firstly, the author investigates the Lion of the story – Romeo Dallaire. A self-proclaimed “NATO man”, with experience in preparation for what was supposed to be the zenith of confrontation with the Russians, he was arguably unprepared for the powder keg that was Rwanda at the time leading into one of the worst ethnic cleansing campaigns now known to society. The author takes great care in outlining the story of a stellar military leader who would unfortunately yet inevitably become embroiled in politics of the affair, only realizing too late that the cavalry wasn’t coming and that the international community was ready to sit on their hands in anticipation of what was believed at the time to be a conflict between two parties, not an overall ethnic massacre that would become of the situation. Throughout the text, Off provides detail not only into the conflict itself, but the resulting effects it had on Dallaire, in what I found to be a prelude (as the book was written in 2000) to Shake Hands with the Devil then subsequently Waiting For First Light. Considering its release date and its inclusion of interviews with the retired general, this alone makes it a must-read for Dallaire fans and United Nations military historians alike.

Changing gears to represent the Fox of the story, the author brings readers into the setting that saw a city sieged for three years in modern times, while a peacekeeping force once again debated moral equivalency between two seemingly armed forces in the area. In this instance, the Canadian at the helm of the task force was Lewis MacKenzie, a general who would become famous (and perhaps later infamous) in his use of the media to bring the eyes of the world onto the conflict between parties. Many things can be said on both sides of the metaphorical token about the former general, and Carol Off emphasizes many of them. In what I found to be an incredibly fair portrait of someone who could be considered the foil of Dallaire in many respects, the author demonstrates what can happen when a neutral force arguably becomes biased towards one side of the conflict, and how that consequently compromises the situation through its resulting effects on moral equivalency (if there even is such a thing) or simply the relations between the factions involved.

Finally, Off provides an overview of the Eagle of her narrative, depicting Justice Arbour’s appointment to the world stage for both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). As Justice Arbour has recently completed an independent review of ongoing culture issues within the Canadian Armed Forces today, I was heavily interested in this section to see what hints of future recommendations Carol Off picked up on. From within this portion of the book, it becomes evident that Justice Arbour was an incredibly fair leader of these two courts, making the best of a difficult situation when the United Nations was looking to lighten the burden of dismay following two arguably failed missions. Although inconsistencies exist within the scope of these tribunals, Arbour moved the yardstick forward concerning international law and successfully underlined the importance of such prosecutions, the first of their kind since Nuremberg.

Overall, The Lion, The Fox & The Eagle remains a foundational review of CAF and Canadian interest in peacekeeping pre-Afghanistan, which is becoming increasingly relevant once more as the world enters a new era of near-peer confrontation and sabre-rattling amidst neighbouring countries in the hot spots of the globe. Two decades after its publication, Off’s account of two Canadian peacekeeping affairs remind us of our role in the world, and of times when Canada was at the forefront of foreign affairs in trying to make sense of fairness within declining empires and long-standing ethnic feuds.

Although it remains to be seen where the future of the United Nations and its peacekeeping missions lie amidst renewed tensions between global powers, The Lion, The Fox & The Eagle provides insight into what can happen when these missions go wrong and the situation isn’t managed in its precursor phases. I highly recommend this book for my fellow CAF members, as well as for any Canadian looking to get a glimpse back at a past time when Canada played a pivotal role on the world stage.

Captain Alexander Landry, MBA, Engineering Staff Officer at NATO Allied Land Command