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Paris Attacks: Making Sense of the World

November 25, 2015

Jackson School of International Studies Professor Daniel Chirot speaks to faculty, students and the public on Nov. 24 as part of a panel about understanding the recent Paris attacks in the context of history and U.S. foreign policy.

“What’s important to remember about ISIS ideology that is not mentioned enough is their belief that the apocalypse is coming,” said Jackson School of International Studies Professor Daniel Chirot to over 120 students, faculty and members of the public who gathered on Nov. 24 to discuss the fallout from the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.

Chirot was one of five University of Washington faculty who presented at “Paris II: Making Sense of the World,” a public discussion hosted by the School and four of its centers and the Department of History.

The panelists analyzed the Paris attacks through the lens of European, U.S. and Middle Eastern history and regional, religion, social, economic and political dynamics. UW Dept. of History Chair and Professor of International Studies Anand Yang opened the session by noting the Nov. 13 Paris attacks are part of a larger pattern, from recent bombings in Beirut and Turkey on civilians to the Nov. 24 shooting down of a Russian jet in Turkey-Syria airspace.

Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba emphasized the role of the collapse of four states in the Middle East, namely, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya, and how major states like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Russia and the U.S. are jockeying to fill the resulting power vacuum. He underscored the overall feeling in the Middle East as one of skepticism of the West and one that goes far back in history.

UW History Professor Ray Jonas compared French President Francois Hollande’s reflex to publicly call the recent Paris attack “an act of war” to those of former U.S. President George W. Bush after September 11, 2001. He stressed that Europe’s increasingly nationalist reaction shows the weakness of the European Union as an institution: “This has been a bad decade for the European Union…Europe is poorly prepared…this latest crisis will either fulfill or destroy the European Union.”

eiffel tower

The Paris motto, “Fluctuat nec mergitur (Tossed but not sunk)” is projected onto the Eiffel Tower after November’s terror attacks. Photo by Loïc Lagarde.Loïc Lagarde |

Jackson School Associate Professor Kathie Friedman, an expert on refugee issues, reflected on the effects of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks on U.S. refugee policy, noting “the current debate in the U.S. about Syrian refugees has been going on long before Paris [since 2011 and the Arab Spring]…” She talked about the extensiveness of the 18-24 month U.S. refugee screening process versus the lack of harmonization among European Union refugee protocols, and border pressures.

In giving advice to the audience on what can be done to improve the Syrian refugee crisis, Friedman urged to lobby lawmakers to increase resettlement quotas for pro-democracy Syrians, spread accurate information about U.S. refugee screening as one of rigor, and talk about “refugees as innovators and contributors to society, not as the problem.”

Questions from the audience ranged from the role of Turkey in the crisis and Kurds as significant allies to the U.S. to the level of ISIS appeal in Afghanistan.