Violent Extremism and U.S. Response: A Conversation with Senators’ Graham and McCain by Ms. Breann Garcia

Protestors outside of the event.

Protestors outside of the event.

On a pleasant evening in downtown Denver, protestors took to the streets for an anti-war rally in response to Senators’ Lindsey Graham and John McCain’s political discussion on violent extremism. Denver police filled the area, and a strange amount tension lurked in the environment, especially given the recent criticism against local law enforcement nationwide.

That, however, is a discussion suited for a different blog post… This post explains the importance of the recent event, hosted by the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL), and what we can learn moving forward in an increasingly unpredictable world.

During the sit-down, the two most central topics of discussion were U.S. response against ISIS, and Iran’s nuclear capability. First, as most nightly news programs have advertised since the summer of 2014, ISIS or ISIL continues to become a more prominent threat to the U.S. and other states. Both Senators’ endorsed an offensive approach to this threat, but for different reasons.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)  Alex Wong / Getty / Meet the Press

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Alex Wong / Getty / Meet the Press

Senator Graham stated that ISIS is a group who is both wealthy and firmly entrenched in the region, which is why the need for U.S. deployment is necessary.

Senator McCain however, boasted a different perspective- explaining that the U.S. cannot merely count on Iraqi (or other) troops to fight ISIS due to their likeliness to join forces with the Islamic State. McCain reminded the audience, that the same troops we fought against in Iraq are now the ones we are hoping will fight off this powerful new threat.

American boots on the ground are not ideal, and most certainly are not what the Obama administration would like; but according to Senator Graham, there is no way to defend this country without sending troops.

Senator John  McCain Kasfter/AP

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
Kasfter/AP

Regardless of one’s political perspective, McCain makes a valid point suggesting the unlikeliness of success against ISIS without some powerful military reinforcements.  American boots on the ground are not ideal, and most certainly are not what the Obama administration would like; but according to Senator Graham, there is no way to defend this country without sending troops.

Iran’s nuclear ambition is not a new topic within U.S. foreign policy. Even though this discussion is ongoing, there does not seem to be a viable solution provided by the international community to ensure that Iran does not gain nuclear capability. Senator Graham took a strong stance on this matter, arguing that Iran continuously pushes its boundaries because they know good-and-well that there will not be military response by the U.S.Part of the fear surrounding Iran’s potential nuclear capability is that they could give such weapons to a radical group in the region. Senator McCain provided a moving connection from Graham’s explanation. McCain explained how devastating the attacks on 9/11 would have been if weapons of mass destruction were used.

McCain explained how devastating the attacks on 9/11 would have been if weapons of mass destruction were used.

Nuclear capability cannot be placed in the wrong hands. The author wishes to acknowledge that the use of “wrong” in the previous sentence is completely subjective. However, the damage caused by a nuclear attack infringes on the human rights of all, and therefore should be avoided by all actors whether “wrong” or “right.” Threats such as these quickly blur the lines between national security and human security.

As mentioned, the two main subjects discussed on April 1st were ISIS and Iran. However, there was no doubt about the senators’ priority with these topics. Graham prominently declared that the number one priority for the U.S. should be the prevention of Iran gaining nuclear power, with ISIS at a distant second.

A Syrian man walks amid destruction in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 10, 2013 DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images

A Syrian man walks amid destruction in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 10, 2013
DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images

Another moving statement provided by Senator Graham was the general need to rebuild and assist the Arab world. Graham explained that no young people should be forced to live under a dictatorship for our convenience. I personally support this statement, but was somewhat surprised to hear it phrased in such a humanitarian fashion. Perhaps the Arab unrest has brought the region to the international community’s attention for new reasons. The tragic events occurring in Syria and Ukraine, as well as the importance of education and employment in the Middle East also made the agenda that evening.

Maybe the protestors outside were right to wave their signs and chant into their megaphones. But inside the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the discussion provided valuable insight to current foreign policy issues that are not easy to deal with, but are also not going away anytime soon.

 About the Author:

Breann Garcia is a graduate student in the political science department at the University of Colorado Denver. She earned her undergraduate degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a political science major and history minor. Breann’s academic interests include international disasters, climate change, and human rights issues. Her goal is to pursue a career in public safety. 

Breann Garcia

Breann Garcia

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