What’s Next in Syria?

Jessica Lowenstein ’15, Contributing Writer

Panel members answering questions during the “Syria: What’s Next?” event.
Panel members answering questions during the “Syria: What’s Next?” event.

As part of a debate series on current event issues, students, faculty, and Carlisle community members gathered in Althouse room 106 of Monday, Sept. 2, to discuss the future involvement of America in Syria.

The panel discussion, called “Syria: What’s Next?” was hosted by the Clark Forum.

Though the event was standing-room only and the storm had knocked out the venue’s air conditioning, it was not enough to keep the nearly 100 member audience away out of the small lecture hall.

The Clark Forum organized this event in the wake of last week’s breaking news of the use of chemical weaponry in Syria. The panel discussion was designed to help students understand the ramifications of the attack.

In order to help answer these questions, four panelists drew from the perspective of their respective specialties to speak about about the possibility of American intervention in Syria. These speakers included Ed Webb, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Admiral Joseph Sestak, General Omar Bradley Chair in Strategic Leadership, and Neil Diamant, Professor of Asian Law and Society, Political Science, and East Asian Studies. Russell Bova, Professor of Political Science and International Studies, served as the moderator. Guest speakers included Doug Stewart, Professor of International Relations, Andy Wolf, Professor of International of the Clarke Forum.

Professor Webb presented a historical and analytical view from the Middle Eastern perspective. Syria, a young state by modern standards, has been involved in a Civil War since 2011, shortly after events in Tunisia sparked what is known as the “Arab Spring.” Professor Webb stated that the nation’s army is well organized and it is clear that they have used chemical weaponry and that this is not the first time.

Professor Diamant, though his specialty lays in Chinese affairs, studied in Israel and served in the Israeli Defense Force. From his knowledge of Israeli politics, he argued that Israel would be in support of a US strike in Syria. Since President Obama laid a brightline saying if Syria used chemical weaponry the US would strike, the US must now strike.

Admiral Sestek predicted that the strike will occur, and that it will probably happen at night at military bases with the goal of sending a message of force rather than altering Syrian courses of action.

“At the end of the day, this is a strike for strategic reasons,” Sestak said, with Professors Webb and Diamant in agreement.