The Department of History and Political Science hosted a lecture highlighting the brutal impact Islamic group ISIS has had on Middle Eastern countries and may potentially have on the U.S.
The lecture, held on Nov. 5 in Munson Chapel, was entitled, “U.S. National Security and the expanding threat of ISIS: Are we safe?”
Chair and professor of the Department of History and Political Science Dr. Daniel Palm introduced the key speaker, Dr. Frederick W. Kagan.
Kagan is the Christopher DeMuth chair and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. He has credentials serving in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of a strategic assessment team. Kagan is a former associate professor of military history at West Point and also an active editor of the Weekly Standard with experience writing for publications such as The Washington post, The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.
During his lecture, Kagan explained the terrors of the violent Islamic group actively spreading to other countries and taking over large portions of Syria and Iraq. This discussion was especially timely in light of worldwide concern after attacks on Friday by ISIS in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad.
With the Islamic group becoming increasingly mobile and news reports of young adults in the U.S. being swayed by ISIS through social media, Kagan asked the question: “Does this group pose a threat to us?”
He immediately answered his question: “Yes. It does. This is Al Qaeda.”
Throughout the seminar, Kagan expanded on the history of ISIS and the direction it is headed, while the U.S. government dismissively believes they are not a threat.
“The end state of that ideology is [America’s] destruction,” Kagan said. “This is a revolutionary group we are dealing with. This is a heresy and insurgency within Islam, and its objective is to seize power—first within the Muslim community and then to mobilize the Muslim community to attack the West and force the West to convert or die, so the entire world will be governed in accordance with their vision of justice. That’s what this is all about.”
He went on to explain that, compared to another group that may plan to attack immediately, ISIS may not be as much of a threat. He emphasized that this does not mean they shouldn’t still be considered a threat.
“ISIS is not a terrorist group,” Kagan said. “It’s an army, and it has a state. It governs cities.”
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), renamed itself the “Islamic State” by the end of June 2014. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS’ leader since 2010, has announced that he is now ruling over all Muslims.
Muslims, however, are not welcoming of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“They are becoming a global organization,” Kagan said. “Are they focused on attacking us at this minute? No, not necessarily. Are they a threat to us?” asked Kagan. “Yes. Are we safe from them? No. Do we need to do something about this? Yes, [but] are we? No.”
Kagan believes that Americans think the U.S. is a “war-weary nation,” and said, “We’re not—and I’m not—making an argument [that] war is the solution to all things.”
“I don’t like war,” Kagan added. “I don’t take this lightly, but the problem is that when people are at war with you, it’s very problematic to say that you’re not at war with them.”
According to Kagan, the “humanitarian consequence” of inaction against ISIS and all the lives affected in the Middle East is leading the U.S. to moral bankruptcy.
“I think we need to consider our moral compass here, and decide why we are comfortable with a policy of inaction that is making no effort to prevent this,” Kagan said.
Palm concluded with a Q&A session where he asked Kagan his own questions, as well as questions from the audience. Kagan answered questions about ISIS’ influence on other nations and gave his opinion on the varying political stances of the issue.
A majority of the students in attendance were political science majors.
“When I heard Dr. Kagan speak about how we should be doing something about [ISIS] and shouldn’t forget about it, it really sparked something inside me, and I thought, ‘We should be thinking about this more and not letting it go to the side, and why should we think that Muslim lives don’t matter?’” sophomore political science major Jackie Nunez said.
Nunez plans to go into campaigning, and said she would fully support a candidate who felt strongly about taking action against ISIS.
“I would help them in whatever way they needed,” Nunez said.
Palm hoped that the lecture gave students a chance to better understand what ISIS is and the threat that it poses to those in the Middle East.
“I think the thing for us to think about as Christians is, ‘Do we have any kind of obligation to help [those] suffering from ISIS…and how can we help protect ourselves, our families and fellow citizens from the dangers of ISIS spreading further?’” Palm said.