Category Archives: The DC classroom

Students studying world politics at Marymount have unique access to the government agencies, think tanks, and network of other universities in the Washington D.C. area. Both as part of their coursework and as purely extracurricular activities, students have attended a number of events including Congressional hearings, State Department briefings, and public lectures at a variety of think tanks and colleges (including at Marymount itself). Below is a selection of recent experiences.

Digital World War: Islamists, Extremists, and the Fight for Cyber Supremacy

I attended a talk by Dr. Haroon Ullah author of the book “Digital World War: Islamists, Extremists, and the Fight for Cyber Supremacy”. At this talk, Dr. Haroon discussed what he wrote in his book which as the title suggests is about ISIS and their presence in the digital world. His focus was on how ISIS uses the digital world to spread their message and what methods we can use to fight back the ideas they are spreading. Before discussing these ideas he gave a little insight on the relationship between ISIS and the digital world.  An idea he presented was about how the propaganda ISIS makes creates feelings of  identity, belonging, and trust especially amongst the youth who are vulnerable and at risk. This was very interesting to hear because I never thought to interpret the propaganda this way. Dr. Haroon explains that in the native tongue this propaganda is made with many positive messages like governance and uprooting corruption which is lost when it is translated to other languages like English. 

For the second half of his talk Dr. Haroon discussed the methods he thinks we should use to combat ISIS’ presence in the digital world. Before he did so, he mentioned that if we are working towards a solution to this problem we must recognize there is a collective action problem. He emphasized that there is a tragedy of the commons when it comes to combating ISIS and that because of this getting to a solution has become harder. This was another interesting point to me because of how we have discussed this term in class and how it was easy to see the connection he was making.

Once we realize this, he stated we must use the voices of certain people who will get the intended message across. The counter narratives of victims, mothers, and defectors are of high value according to him. Next, “social media incubators”  which are groups who combat ISIS through well produced videos are of value as well. Lastly, he believed we should consider tackling a specific city or regions, then thinking of interventions and campaign to be more productive. Overall, he insisted on the urgency of this problem and keeping up with the methods ISIS does to spread their propaganda. He also insisted that by taking this type of content down we are not done but there is much more to do. They are continuously evolving therefore we cannot fall behind. His talk was very informative and I enjoyed learning more about this issue.

Media and Election Related to Kenya

I listened to Mr. John G. Tomaszewski, Regional Director for Africa at the International Republican Institute and Alison DeSchryver speak, she is from the National Democratic Institute. She spoke on the topic of Kenyan Elections and violence. In addition, to the elections, she also spoke on the legitimacy. When speaking on the government to help keep up the legitimacy, the Kenyan government decided to demand order with the media. To demand order they did my having a required training for journalist and media. They also went around to ensure that everyone was staying on track and up to the statement.
This was a great experience by being able to see how the media works with politics. Exactly in the way, we look at how things work in different countries especially in Africa.

Interrogation of Saddam Hussein and U.S. policy in Iraq

On March 22, 2017, I attended the Brookings Institutions to go see the seminar of the Interrogation of Saddam Hussein and U.S. policy in Iraq from 10:00 to 11:30. The featured speaker was John Nixon, who is known as a Middle East expert who served as a CIA analyst and moderator, Bruce Riedel. Nixon worked briefly on Capitol Hill and was hired as a leadership analyst for the CIA in 1998. While at the CIA, he worked on Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, and is thus one of the few analysts who worked on George W. Bush’s designated “Axis of Evil”. The meeting was held in a conference room where Nixon went over the findings and information on interrogating Hussein. “In order to able to interrogate Hussein, you have to live, breath, and known Saddam Hussein” (Nixon). When Nixon started working in Iran the only challenges he had was not knowing the languages and having to start building relationships and connections with the important people in the field due to the fact that everyone knew everyone. As the integration came to effect, Nixon finally got the chances to talk to Saddam Hussein. Nixon believes Hussein was willing to negotiate with the United States on its security concerns. Hussein persona was intriguing when he walked in a room; the whole vibe of the room changes. He would make jokes here and there, and try to create small talks towards the guards and Nixon. “It was almost like he was not the guest in this situation” (Nixon). He would often use this tactic to put two sides against each other instead of them focusing on the bigger picture which was Hussein. The guards would say “we’re here to ask the questions not you”. Certain topics that Nixon would bring up to Hussein made him less talkative and more secretive or he would even get mad at times. There were so many sides to him, Nixon and Hussein’s relationship was like cat and mouse basically. Hussain gave a lot of information as to why he “understand” his country a lot, Zionist concept, reasons, and invasions in his country. Nixon using make jocks here and there during the seminar, which I thought was cool, because of that fact that he did so many ruthless things due to his job, but it shows that he just like an average Joe. At the end of the seminar the moderator, Bruce Riedel introduces the questions and answers segment to the audience, where the audience asked many questions about the U.S. policy, weapons of mass destructions, Bush, and other topics. There was also a book signing with Nixon.

National security law and other legal Challenges of terrorism

Andrew McCarthy is a Editor; National Review; senior fellow at National Review Institute and Mackubin Owens a moderator; Dean of Academics; at The Institute of World Politics.

He discussed terrorism and national security law in America. According to the speaker, there is nothing we have learned from time but today we are prepared to face terrorism after the destruction of world trade center. There is an international systematic terrorism prevailing in world and there are marginal dissatisfied people in our community. They are of the view that they can’t deny the existence of Islam, followed by 1.6 billion people. Dr. Umar Abdul Rahman was overly incapable to do anything for terrorism, but he was the master of the ideology of terrorism, which is inspiring the young generation. The speaker have met with the terrorists, in order to find out their strategies. There is violet extremism and terrorist attack in America and formation of Al-Qaeda. They required evidences to prosecute the culprit in the court. A commission was formulated as a result of destruction of world trade center with all lawyers as analyzers and no investigator was there in the team. In 1990, there were some terrorist attack by Al-Qaeda, killing 19 men. In 1998, simultaneous attacks were made on U.S. embassies. In 2011, the major icon of International terrorist (Osama bin Laden) system was killed in Pakistan. There must be a military system and a national security plan made with combination of best justice system of military and civilian systems. The courts should be strict toward the guilty. One of the biggest problem is that, terrorist don’t present themselves as terrorist, so it is difficult to recognize them.

Putin’s propaganda machine and possible U.S. responses

William Courtney and Dr. Christopher Paul; Ph.D. discussed about the hybrid warfare. That there is need of plugging in the operation as an active measure. The RAND Corporation report on “The Russian ‘Firehose of Falsehood’ Propaganda include funding political parties abroad etc. Together with that they were discussing about the Canadian warfare and the Russian warfare. The Sovereign Union had a long history and recognition. After the period of 1980-84, Sovereign Union began his operations abroad. In 1978, Sovereign Union conflict was started. By December 1979, Sovereign Union invaded Afghanistan. After two years, new president of Russia was selected, his motive was to build replica of U.S. strategic nuclear army. Sovereign Union invaded not only border of Afghanistan, but also people of the area, resulting in diminishing its economy. It was discussed that Russia was not able to convince the western countries. Russian learned from their attack on Afghanistan that it’s too big and hard to invade it. One of the most, well known motive of Russia was to stop NATO army forces from entering into Afghanistan. For achieving this purpose Russia tried to separate American from European countries and created conflicts within the European countries. It was discussed that NATO is there for the purpose of security of world and its formation was a right decision. It was further talked that moto of Russia was to manipulate the expertise of America. Currently, Russia tried to effect the result of recent election at America.

President of Chile

On September 22nd, I attended the Conversation with Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile at the Ronald Regan Building in DC. It was amazing to hear her talk about gender equality in all aspects of life and the benefits of having gender equality.  I remember her saying that Chile is well off by having a balance of men and women both working in government and regular day to day jobs in society. President Bachelet also sympathized with how people treated Hillary Clinton; she commented on how horrible it is that they pick at her worst then they would ever pick at a man. Furthermore, she talked about how there should be respect for both men and women regardless of the situation and how both sexes should be on an equal plane-field. Overall, it was great to hear from a person from another country about how they feel about gender equality. It caused me to think more about how there was not enough gender equality in the world, however, with time it will change.

ISIS and Sex Slavery Moving from Condemnation to Action

POL 102

ISIS and Sex Slavery

Moving from Condemnation to Action

I visited The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on Wednesday October 5th 2016 from 2:00p.m to 4:30p.m. The Event started by welcoming remarks by Ambassador William B. Taylor The executive President of the USIP and Mrs. Cindy Hensley McCain Chair of the McCain Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council. After That Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura The US special Representative of the secretary-General on sexual Violence In Conflict gave her speech on Sexual Violence and the way it is seen through some cultures and societies. Some of the remarkable things she states in her speech that when we think of terrorism we don’t think of sexual violence and that it has become an ideologist activity. She also talks about the survivors of Isis and the treatment they get after the trauma they experience such as, psychosocial and medical support because those women face problems within their societies and families, they are seen as a shame rather than victims when they are in the most need of being welcomed and accepted which she mention is the leaders job to change that mind set. After the speech there was a discussion lead by Ms. Elise Labott (moderator) Global Affairs Correspondent at CNN, Mr. Sarhang Hamasaeed Senior Program Officer for Middle East Programs at USIP, Ambassador Mark P. Lagon Distinguished Senior Scholar and Centennial Fellow at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, and Ms. Zainab. They discuss Sex trafficking and Violence against women by Isis is one of the things we don’t hear about as we hear about other things. Mr. Hamasaeed talks about sexual Violence in Middle East and Yazidi women (women who escaped ISIS) the issue is not about sex or money but power, control, and destruction. He explains the Religion and how it’s used by ISIS but its not an actual reason, he states that one way to deal with that issue is to take this mindset and deal with it. They discuss those women and how they are treated as slaves/property not even seen as women, owners buy and sell them in market places sometimes a women is sold for 21 times trying not to get them pregnant or else they would lose their value in the market and mentioning the excessive drinking to the point they start loosing some of their memory. Yazidi women are not only the victims of ISIS sex violence, there are others however we don’t hear about them more frequently because their community accepts them. Yet Yazidi’s is a very small and traditional community and sometimes-high level of shame would result in those women committing suicide. Finally, They mention that ISIS is very systematic and fighting force from all aspects. At the end of the discussion they give the audience the opportunity to ask questions answered by the guests who were mentioned earlier.








The European Refugee Crisis: An Economic Opportunity

On April 5th, 2016, the Atlantic Council hosted speakers Antonio Spilimbergo, Moreno  Bertoldi, Laura Lane, and Katerina Sokou to discuss the migrant crisis in Europe and how it  could create an economic opportunity for Europe. Spilimbergo began the discussion with some of the facts and data about the immigrants, such as current and projected estimates.  He also talks about the effects of immigration on natives; arguing that the migrants do not steal jobs because their skills are complimentary to those of natives and that natives upgrade their skills in response to competition. Spilimbergo, Bertoldi, Lane, and Sokou discussed what society can do for the displaced migrants. They point out how several organizations have helped these refugees integrate into society, such as teaching them the native language. They argue that governments, civil society, and businesses must work together to destabilize the situation.  After the discussion, attendees were given the chance to ask questions.

The American in the Arabian Pennisula

On September 17, 2015 The Brookings Insitutue hosted New York Times reporter Scott Shane who discussed the life and path that lead Anwar Al-Awlaki to become the most important english speaking recruiter and leader of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Scott discussed the history of Anwar’s life in the United States from his time as a college student at Colorado State University to his life as an Imam at a San Diego mosque which later produce two of the 9/11 hijackers. The narrative was not only about Anwar’s path to radicalization but also about the door that was opened by the United States when we decided to use a drone strike to kill him on September 30, 2011. Evidence was provided that he was the mastermind behind many terrorism plots aimed mainly against the United States. To help Scott along this journey down the at path of Anwar’s life here in the states and in Yemen was Brooking Institute Senior Fellow and Director of The Intelligence Project Bruce Riedel. While Scott had done extensive research on Anwar from the civilian side, even going as far as visiting his native village in Yemen to interview Anwar’s brothers, Bruce has been working in the counter terrorism field his whole career and provided a larger context to the story, as well as a more modern understanding of how Anwar’s extensive on-line recruitment campaign is, still today, allowing him to reach beyond the grave and radicalize fragile young minds all over the globe.


Korean Cultural Center

On March 4, 2015, the International Affairs Society hosted a trip to the Korean Cultural Center in Washington, DC. Although it was made clear that this was not the official embassy of Korea, it was an informative visit nonetheless (and apparently the two were still affiliated). Upon arrival, we were greeted by our guide, Adam, who began the presentation by asking what we knew about Korea. Although at that point, my knowledge was limited to what I had learned in class, I still identified major companies like Samsung, LG, and Hyundai as being of economic significance in Korea. We were shown a brief video that promoted tourism in Korea, pointing out the phenomenal growth South Korea’s economy has experienced during the post-war period, as well as showing us a glimpse of the country’s landmarks. We were then schooled on the various highlights of Korean culture, going back as far as the Joseon Dynasty. We learned a few words  such as ‘hanbok’ which refers to traditional Korean dress, as well as ‘hangul’ which refers to the Korean alphabet. We were also shown the various types of Korean cuisine we could expect to try. Adam was particularly entranced by Korean pop culture, so there was a lot of emphasis on what’s known as the ‘Korean wave,’ a mix of popular TV dramas and K-pop that has only recently  taken the world by storm.

Additionally, we had the privilege of meeting two Korean interns currently studying in the United States, and were able to explore a room that was styled as one during the Joseon Dynasty might have been. Overall, it was an excellent introduction to the basics of Korean culture, and a great preliminary to our trip to Seoul.