Tempted by the promises of good baklava, turkish coffee, and a possible connection to Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bwogger Romane Thomas headed over to Hamilton Hall for The Turkish Engima, an event put on by the Alexander Hamilton Society. Though she missed out on Lin-Manuel, she instead found an intelligent and striking lecture on the role of Turkey in foreign affairs.
“The CNN employee said to me, ‘You look good up there,'” said Dr. Michael Rubin. “I said, ‘That’s funny because my wife just called and said I looked fat and mean.’”
Here is what you need to know about former Pentagon official Dr. Rubin:
Resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Dr. Rubin made an appearance in Hamilton 503 yesterday night to give a short lecture and Q&A titled “The Turkish Enigma: Erdogan’s Stance In the Syrian Conflict”, sponsored by the Alexander Hamilton Society. Just before the lecture started, the audience enjoyed turkish coffee with a delicious selection of turkish specialities, among them Turkish delights, dates, and baklava.
A graduate from Yale, Rubin is an expert in diplomacy and terrorism in the Middle East. After a shoutout to his wife, the daughter of a Russian journalist dissident, Rubin gave the crowded room insights about Erdogan’s policy regarding Syria and about general attitudes regarding ISIS before answering questions from the audience.
Dr. Rubin first stated that although there is a general desire to “fight terrorism in Syria,” there is constant disagreement on which definition of terrorism to use. Today, over 250 definitions exist, up from 100 definitions in 1988. Rubin explained that the definition of terrorism now often rhymes with “I know it when I see it,” in reference to Justice Stewart’s definition of pornography. This diversity in understanding, Rubin argued, has been used to further political aims. For example, Erdogan condemns “the Kurds as a terrorist group, but not Hamas.”
Dr. Rubin also stated that the Syrian conflict may not be solved through a military solution. He argued that most foreign fighters were able to enter Syria through Turkey due to its flexible visa policy. This is why, Rubin said, Tunisian and Moroccan nationals are in larger numbers in ISIS’s rank than Algerians. Although Algeria also has “a problem with radicalization,” only a small number of its nationals are able to cross over into Syria due to Turkey’s harsher visa policy towards its citizens. Thus, controlling visa policy may be another way to cut off ISIS’s supply of foreign fighters.
Following his short lecture, Rubin answered questions about topics ranging from the US’s investments in Turkey, to the Kurdish independence movements. Although he strayed off-topic at times, his answers provided interesting insights into the policies of the US in the Middle East and of Turkey in relation to the Syrian conflict.
Blaklava Sweets via Wikimedia Commons