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Applying Lessons From 9/11 To Syria

Evening Edition

Aired 9/11/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Ric Epps, Political Science professor, San Diego State University

Ibrahim Al-Marashi, Asst Professor of Middle East Studies, Cal State San Marcos


Ceremonies of remembrance are once again marking the anniversary of the attacks on 9/11.

And once again, America is contemplating a military strike against a country in the Middle East in retaliation for a deadly attack. This time, it's an alleged attack by the Syrian government against its own people.

Now, the country faces a dilemma: Should we move forward with plans for a military strike or push toward a diplomatic solution of ridding Syria of its chemical weapons? President Obama presented these options in a Tuesday night speech when making his case for action in the Middle Eastern country.

"Many of you have asked a broader question: Why should we get involved at all in a place that is so complicated and where, as one person wrote to me, 'Those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights'? It's true that some of Assad's opponents are extremists," he said.

But Obama pointed to the role of Al Qaeda in the Syrian civil war.

"But Al Qaeda will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death," he said.

However, UC San Marcos Middle Eastern history professor Ibrahim Al-Marashi said the president left many questions unanswered.

"Did al-Assad actually order those weapons? He's basing this military strike on the intelligence he has. It was ambiguous. He just said that chemical weapons were fired from a regime-controlled area," Ibrahim said of president's remarks. "And what I was looking for, the most important thing, has the command of control of chemical weapons in Syria broken down?"

Fox News San Diego analyst and former San Diego State University political science teacher Ric Epps said it is unclear how the alternative to military action — obtaining and destroying Syria's chemical weapons — would be carried out.

"If you're going to have access to them during a civil war, what's the mechanism to have that happen?" he said. "And the next thing is, how are you going to destroy them? Are you going to destroy the infrastructure so they can no longer manufacture them? So that's a lot of things that are problematic."

Epps also pointed out that Russia and the U.S. disagree over what should happen if Syria doesn't give up it's chemical weapons. The U.S. wants the country to be held accountable while Russia wants the threat of force to be removed off the table.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | September 11, 2013 at 12:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 5 months ago

"On the anniversary of 9/11, what lessons learned in Iraq can help us understand where the U.S. stands in regard to Syria?"

The attacks on 9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq.

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Avatar for user 'TMail'

TMail | September 11, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. ― 3 years, 5 months ago

Professor Epps states that blowback is the result of the inability of the U.S. to properly do "nation building" after its military conducts foreign operations. Due to the U.S. failure to provide jobs and a stable cultural environment, there is hopelessness amongst the citizenry, who then turn back to radicalism.

Actually, Chalmers Johnson was the person who defined what blowback is and what causes it. The concept "blowback" means retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It also refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes – as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 – the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.

I suggest reading all of Johnson's books for a complete understanding of blowback and the recurring damages caused by American hegemony.

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