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Mideast Expert Decries US Foreign Policy at Campus Discussion

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University at Albany students filed into the Campus Center on Wednesday for a discussion on ISIS led by an expert from at the Institute for Policy Studies.

During her 60-minute address, Phyllis Bennis, the director of the new internationalism project at the D.C. institute, displayed her knowledge on understanding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the war on terror, and the issues that this “very different political moment” could bring to the Albany community to 35 students.

“The notion of reclaiming that name as a slogan or this presidency is a rather problematic notion, it implies a kind of pull-back from political engagement, economical engagement, and especially diplomatic engagement; what it doesn’t include is military pull-back,” said Bennis, referring to the World War II slogan of “America First.”

Although details are still unknown about what the Trump foreign policy is going to look like, according to Bennis, it is clear that it will not take up the question of how to deal with what are widely understood to be global problems.

The director said that it would still be a problem if we are only concerned about people in our own country and not about the rest of the world, being that we are by far one of the most wealthiest countries.

Additionally, there is a global war on terror that hasn’t changed. President George W. Bush gave that name to the war that he was waging after 9/11. However, what changed the world and the United States was not 9/11, according to Bennis. Instead it was the day after the attack when the president announced that the response to this crime would be to take the world to war.

Although the wars changed during former President Barack Obama’s term and were no longer based on deploying thousands of troops, but on using air drones, air strips, and small numbers of Special Forces instead, they were no less deadly for the people in those countries.

As a result of the US -NATO war, Libya is also a complete catastrophe, according to Bennis. Libya has three competing governments, none of whom are recognized by anybody in Libya, and “the good guys” have largely been defeated, killed, arrested, and driven into exile.

A similar issue can be seen in Syria where ISIS still is in control of large amounts of territories. Those who were once involved in the heroic popular uprising of people against a repressive regime have now been taken over by international sectarian religious forces, Bennis said.

“This notion that the U.S. is supporting the good guys against the terrible government simply isn’t true,” she said.

The director hopes that people will get rid of the mentality that ISIS is a lesser evil; there will always be more people facing those challenges, and that way we’d never get rid of them.

Bennis said one last action would be to stop the wars that create refugees.

“Refugees don’t just happen; nobody gets up and leaves their country for a terrifying two, three years in a refugee camp without running water, electricity, snowstorms with no real protection, unless they are desperate,” she said.

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