On February 17th, former commander of the U.S. Central Command General James Mattis came to CU Denver on behalf of the History and Political Science departments. General Mattis had a 41 year military career as a General in the Marine Corps. The General came to CU Denver for addressing a variety of topics to the school’s veteran student population. This is part of a series of blogs that critically analyze the General’s discussion. Our blog will focus on the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.
General Mattis consistently stressed the importance of using history to guide strategic thinking in U.S. foreign policy. In 2011 a female intelligence analyst informed the General that in the summer of 2014 a new Muslim extremist group would emerge as an evolution of the Al-Qaeda model. This analyst predicted this group would redefine Muslim extremism.
General Mattis consistently stressed the importance of using history to guide strategic thinking in U.S. foreign policy.
While this analyst’s forecast proved to be true, the U.S. government has struggled to adopt an effective strategy to combat the Islamic State ideology. General Mattis advocated the need to define the ideology before moving forward. After this, the government must clarify its political end state. While defining the ideology and political end state the U.S. must include other Arab countries who share common interests. Effectively working with other MENA countries will allow the U.S. to weaken IS’ funding through its black market networks. A crucial ally to combatting the ideology is utilizing Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, who is well known for his expertise in counter-terrorism. Effective Muslim leadership must also be utilized to attack the IS ideology from a grassroots level. The General also emphasized cracking down on IS social media presence.
With that being said, a strong and effective military presence is required from the U.S. General Mattis specifically mentioned a more nuanced use of special operation forces. One example is striking sensitive IS targets that are unapproachable by conventional boots on the ground. Also, moving a battalion of the 82nd airborne off the coast of Syria would send a clear message to IS that the U.S. is serious.
It is important for our generation to avoid the pitfalls of cynicism; and instead, use this energy to guide America with wisdom in the future.
General Mattis briefly switched gears to discussing Egypt. Egypt is a crucial ally for combating extremism across the MENA region; however, this country must improve its human rights record. The General acknowledged that Egypt’s public impeachment of the Muslim Brotherhood clearly violates human rights.
Mattis aimed his discussion to the student body and the millennial generation as a whole. He encouraged our generation to provide fresh perspectives to guide strategic thinking in the U.S. government. Mattis stated, “foreign policy requires passion and human connection.” It is important for our generation to avoid the pitfalls of cynicism; and instead, use this energy to guide America with wisdom in the future.
About the Authors:
Richard Hancock: Richard is a recent graduate from CU Denver’s International Studies Program with a focus on the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region and Arabic. He has helped found CU’s Arabic program where he has served as the Teaching Assistant for 1 ½ years. Previously Richard lived and studied at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, a city that is struggling to handle Syrian refugee flows because it is less than twenty miles from Syria. After briefly living in Egypt, Richard was employed by the Department of Defense as a Contract Administrative Assistant in the MENA region. Currently he is working on freelance journalism and job opportunities primarily within the MENA region. Richard is excited to start a career in Political Risk Consulting.
Zach McArthur: Following a stint in the Army, Zach moved back to Colorado where he enrolled in college courses, majoring in Political Science with minors in Chinese Studies and Economics at University of Colorado Denver. He helped pioneer a program at CU Denver combining students studying as part of the ICB program from China with Americans in an effort to increase cultural awareness and help integrate students into American culture. Following graduation he hopes to continue his studies of the Chinese language and culture by moving to the country. His favorite aspect of life at CU Denver is the diverse student population that affords everyone the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life.