Deepening Danger Overseas

The terrorism organization ISIS has been a force that has created recent global mayhem with their attacks.

On Thursday Nov. 20, the SUNY New Paltz Center for Middle Eastern Dialogue and the Department of Political Science and International Relations held a panel discussion to talk about these attacks entitled “U.S. Foreign Policy in Regard to ISIS/ISIL/IS.”

The panel was comprised of professors Vijay Prashad of Trinity College, James P. Ketterer of Bard College and Lewis Brownstein of SUNY New Paltz.  The three professors addressed the threats made by the terrorist group, President Obama’s order of airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and the actions the U.S. should take in order to defeat the threat.

Brownstein addressed many of the elements responsible for the strength of the terrorist group. Similar to Al-Qaeda, ISIS uses mass terror to gain notoriety, prove their purity and attract recruits.

“Terrorism on a mass scale works,” Brownstein said. “It intimidates civilian groups, it intimidates other military forces. It gives power to those who have felt powerless. It presents a united front of committed fighters and provides outlets for thuggery.”

He said these groups use their appeal to Islam to justify their doings.

According to Brownstein, regional rivalries are causing ISIS to thrive. Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Syria are all struggling with internal conflicts, giving the terrorist group an environment to flourish.

Prashad condemned the lack of ISIS opposition in Turkey.

“There were ISIS fighters strolling across the [Turkey] border, getting treated for free and returning to combat,” Prashad said.

He argued that NATO should have forcibly shut down the border immediately. Prashad noted that ISIS has been successful because it is comprised of veterans of the Afghan War and Iraqi War.

“The veterans of the Afghan War were trained conspiracists, while veterans of the Iraqi war were skilled tactically and in close combat,” he said.

Close combat training was something “old Al-Qaeda was lacking, making them unprepared for battle,” Prashad said.

Ketterer criticized President Obama’s order of a series of airstrikes against ISIS targets.

“Airstrikes, alone, can really do very little,” Ketterer said. “They make a lot of great TV, especially with all the cameras mounted on these airplanes, and you can see it on NBC News that we just hit this, and this blew up, but in reality, it does very little in advancing the cause.”

Ketterer said he believes the only solution to this threat is the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Iran. “Iranians are the real power in Iraq,” he said.

Ketterer also commented on Obama’s decision to work closely with the Iraqi army.

“This is the same Iraqi army that just two weeks before the President gave his speech, took off their uniforms, put down their guns and those who could run away, did, and those who couldn’t run away, unfortunately, were slaughtered,” he said. “This is not an army that is in fighting shape. The United States has spent years and billions of dollars to train and to stand up and it has been an utter failure.”