Americans are split as to whether the U.S. should intervene in the conflict in Syria, and after Thursday night's Spinning Syria discussion, so are OU's faculty.
Four of OU's experts on the Middle East discussed their opinions on the conflict with students, faculty, guests and people across the planet watching the streamed event. The standing-room only event was co-sponsored by OU's College of International Studies and the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
The panelists included Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies; David Craig, Presidential Professor and associate dean of the Gaylord College; Samer Shehata, professor and program coordinator of Middle East Studies; and Mike Boettcher, journalism professor and correspondent in residence at Gaylord.
The event quickly transitioned from a discussion to a debate.
Joshua Landis opened the event with his anti-intervention viewpoint, stating, "civil wars are very brutal" and that "maybe we should stay out of this one."
Samer Shehata countered Landis's argument; "I disagree with professor Landis on this," he said. In Shehata's opinion, the U.S. has "a moral duty to intervene" as over "100,000 people have been killed."
While Landis and Shehata both had clear positions in regards to U.S. involvement, Mike Boettcher and David Craig seemed to remain undecided.
Boettcher drew on his personal experiences as a correspondent in Lebanon, remembering the bloodshed there in 1982, and even choking up as he spoke about the killing of innocent children.
Yet in regards to the U.S. getting involved in the present situation in Syria, Boettcher said, "I'm the guy in the middle… I'm wrestling with his."
David Craig argued more about the ethics of the media coverage of Syria rather than his own personal thoughts of U.S. involvement. To Craig, the ethical challenge is whether or not graphic images of the violence should be published.
"I believe really strongly that [the images] should be out there," Craig said.
While all the panelists had varying opinions, a few parallels were present. Some panelists disagreed with the Obama administration's take on the issue.
"We have been disserved by the White House," Boettcher said.
Shehata said Obama has been lacking leadership on the issue.
Many of the panelists also agreed that comparisons between the Syrian conflict and the Iraq War need to stop, as both Shehata and Landis said, "this is not the Iraq War."