Former Iraq Ambassador Christopher Hill presented ‘Dissecting Syria,’ an on-campus lecture drawing on his international and Middle Eastern experience.
According to Hill, one of greatest problems Syria faces is a loss of political identity. The country is composed of various cultural sects that are separate from one another.
Past Syrian attempts to establish democracy have failed because Syrians do not consider themselves to be of the same nationality, according to Hill.
“Syria had this kind of democratic awakening, if you will, after the Arab Spring, but the trouble is that when you vote according to what sectarian identity you have, an election is not really an election. It’s more of a census,” Hill said.
Besides giving historical context to the Syrian conflict, Hill proposed solutions for ending the conflict that has become a stalemate between rebel groups and the Assad regime.
“I submit to you that if we’re going to change the order of the battle in Syria… we are going to have to pick off a lot of Assad supporters,” Hill said.
According to Hill, past negotiations to remedy the conflict were ineffective.
“The idea of getting people around a table (hinges on) the idea that they don’t throw things at each other,” Hill said. “And usually, when you get in a nasty war – and there’s been no war that I’ve seen that’s nastier than the one in Syria – I submit to you that … rather than get people around a table, you should get people around some ideas.”
Jackson Brockway, a junior political science major, came to the lecture to learn about the Syrian conflict from a professional in the field. Brockway said Hill’s lecture paired well with what he is learning in class about the Middle East.
“I came today because he’s got such a great track record, and he’s really in tune with the international sphere of things,” Brockway said. “I think (understanding international relations) is really important for America as a leading nation, and college students in it should have a good world perspective.”
Sulav Magar however, a sophomore construction management major, was less satisfied with the way Hill addressed the Syrian conflict. As former military, Magar wished that Hill would have addressed why America may intervene in Syria.
“I was looking for more of why are we going there, why is this happening, but he talked more about the history,” Magar said. “It was a good speech, but not to my expectations.”
Even though Syria is a country thousands of miles away, Hill urges students to take interest.
“(This conflict) involved all of the Middle East and it involves some vital American interests – economic interests and I think, political interests – and our capacity to deal with these problems is very much being put to the test by Syria,” Hill said. “So even though it’s a small country, far away, I think it really does have implications for our country, which is why I think we need to be diplomatically engaged in it.”
Collegian Reporter Ellie Mulder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.