Duke community reacts to ISIL threat and U.S. strategy

On Thursday, President Obama will speak before the U.N. Security Council in New York, calling on global leaders to support the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL). As the president declared earlier this month, he plans to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the terrorist group. The American strategy—airstrikes, counterterrorism intelligence, and humanitarian relief—will increase our engagement in Iraq and move airstrikes into Syria for the first time. As the president pitches his plan to the leaders of the world, what do Duke students and faculty have to say? [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvRd17vXaXM]Video courtesy of the White House

Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy is awash in national security experts. We house the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a collaborative effort between Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill and RTI International to research and educate on terrorism and means to combat it. Our professors, including David Schanzer (former Minority Staff Director of the Committee on Homeland Security) and Lt. Col. Tim Nichols, are leading the way in educating on emerging terrorist threats.

Following President Obama’s speech on ISIL, these Duke professors hit the airwaves to comment on the president’s strategy:

Lt. Col. Tim Nichols appeared on WUNC’s “The State of Things,” explaining that ISIL is likely not an “existential threat” for the United States. Nichols called for a stronger, broader international coalition—providing backing for Pres. Obama’s U.N. campaign in New York this week. Listen here.

And, despite growing fear among the American Public that the United States is less safe than before September 11, 2001, David Schanzer emphasized that “There is a big difference between a theoretical risk or a risk that is worth worrying about.”

Duke faculty weren’t the only ones voicing their opinions. Below, hear what Duke Sanford graduate students had to say:

My main concern is for the efficacy of airstrikes in Syria (rather than Iraq, which has a very permissive airspace) without anyone on the ground directing targeting. Discerning between Syrian freedom fighters, Assad regime fighters, and ISIL is going to be next to impossible from the air - even without the dangers of working in an airspace that has one of the heaviest concentrations of air defenses in the world. -- Mo Hartney, 1st year Master student, Duke Sanford School of Public Policy [Read Mo's blogs here]

In short, this ISIS/L situation is a situation of the establishment of a state where the previously extant one had lost all ideological and physical standing. If the president wishes to put a stop to this, the creation of a dictatorial regime will most likely be necessary. So we come full circle: invade Iraq because a dictator is bad, allow for the birth of an even more sadistic dictatorial force, remove them and install dictator. -- Kameron Burt, 1st year Master student, Duke Sanford School of Public Policy

Syria has been destroyed by the civil war, its economy is devastated, over 200,000 Syrians are dead, and almost 10 million are displaced or refugees. At the moment it seems that the Syrian government is winning the war. However, I am worried that the U.S. government will ramp up its support for the Syrian rebels (with some of the weapons bound to go to ISIL/IS) and thus prolong this horrible conflict. -- Ivan Bardarov, 2nd year Master student, Duke Sanford School of Public Policy

With several Duke opinions on the table, what do you think about the ISIL threat? What should we do to combat it?

This Week at Sanford: Sept. 22-28, 2014

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