By Spencer Curcillo
The situation in the Middle East is a multifaceted quagmire that is often not understood by Americans; Graham Fuller sought to change this at Youngstown State University last week.
On Thursday Nov. 13, Fuller gave his speech, “ISIS and the Challenge to Leadership in the Middle East,” in YSU’s President’s Suite in Kilcawley Center.
Fuller is a retiree who worked twenty years for the Central Intelligence Agency.
As a CIA operations officer, he spent time in Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan. He has also authored several books regarding the situation throughout the Middle East.
Fuller’s speech focused on the Middle East as a whole rather than exclusively the situations in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan that Americans frequently hear about. He believes the countries to be deeply connected and that it is important to consider all of them to get a good understanding of the situation.
“The feeling that [9/11] is where it all started is very erroneous and indeed dangerous, because like most things in life and history, there’s always a backstory,” Fuller said.
Fuller generally disagrees with the level of American involvement in the Middle East. He said he believes that having “boots on the ground” tends to foster animosity between nations.
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, a professor in the philosophy and religious studies department, played a large role in organizing the event. He believes that Fuller’s first-hand experience makes him a valuable speaker.
“I think it’s important to bring speakers like Graham Fuller to YSU because of his wealth of experience, particularly in a very troubled part of the world, the Middle East,” Palmer-Fernandez said.
Jacob Schriner-Briggs, a philosophy major, attended the event. He shares Palmer-Fernandez’s view regarding the value of experience in teaching.
“To have someone this experienced with foreign policy, and then have them come talk about foreign policy is pretty valuable,” Schriner-Briggs said. “You can learn a lot in the classroom setting, and that’s good, but it’s also good to inject that real life element into the subject matter. It’s a good learning opportunity for sure.”
Palmer-Fernandez said getting the personal, expert opinion of someone such as Fuller can contribute an element that is lacking in American news reporting.
“Most of what we get is through the major news outlets, and those are lacking in substance,” he said. “To have an expert on the Middle East with huge amounts of experience, for an hour and a half of discussion, is of extreme value as an educational experience.”
The speech itself was approximately a half hour with about an hour of question-and-answer following.
“I thought he was a really compelling speaker; I thought he was well informed; and I thought he was really interactive taking questions,” Schriner-Briggs said. “He didn’t talk at the audience, he talked to them.”