ISIS, Syria and the Middle East

ISIS, Syria and the Middle East

In the wake of the Paris attacks and the recent rampage in San Bernardino, people in the U.S. are asking, "Who or what is ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)?" ISIS did not exist on 9/11; now it controls vast swaths of Syria and Iraq and has demonstrated — gruesomely so — that it is has the discipline, training, reach and logistical capability to wreak havoc.  

Arts and sciences experts weigh in on U.S. strategy to combat ISIS, and build a political coalition to advance stability in the Middle East. A young woman, about to graduate, offers her perspective of being a Muslim student in a precarious world. They provide insights into the refugee crisis rolling across that region. Our students learn about the strategies of war and peace and take on the responsibility of crafting a blueprint for the future of the world.

There were 19.5 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2014; 51% of the refugees were under 18 years old. This is the highest figure for child refugees in more than a decade according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)  •  More than 10 million Syrians, almost half the population, have fled the country or been forcibly displaced from their homes; more than half are children (UNICEF)  •  This year, the U.S. plans to accept 85,000 refugees, including 10,000 Syrians. 

Photo courtesy of The Institute for the Study of War

ISIS Sanctuary July 2015_Iraq and Syria Map


Migration Crisis

ORIGINS Podcast on the Syrian refugee crisis with Ohio State historians Robin Judd and Theodora Dragostinova and colleagues takes us beyond the daily headlines. Our experts provide much-needed perspective on this latest refugee crisis as they discuss the historical, cultural, global, economic and political issues in play.

Theodora Dragostinova
THEODORA DRAGOSTINOVA, associate professor, history, is a scholar of eastern Europe and comparative migrations in Europe and beyond. She is the author of the article, "Refugees or Immigrants? The Refugee Crisis in Europe in Historical Perspective.” 

Robin Judd
ROBIN JUDD, associate professor, history, is a specialist in Jewish and European History and has studied the migration of Jewish survivors after WWII, looking at the  numbers Britain, Canada and the United States actually admitted. 



Everyone is talking about how they’d deal with ISIS. The human impulse is to do something, anything. The rational mind goes to sleep. The winds of chaos blow and suddenly everyone is a military expert. For those whose rational minds are still quite awake, one cure for chaos is to ask an actual military expert to help us sort it out.

No one is better qualified to offer solutions based on hard-fought (literally) experience than History Professor Peter Mansoor.

 Peter Mansoor
PETER MANSOOR, the General Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair of Military History is colonel, U.S. Army (Retired) and a CNN military analyst. He has a battleground strategist’s perspective on Middle East military issues from service in Iraq during the surge, 2007-2008.  

Political Strategy

During the surge of U.S. military forces in Iraq, the U.S. put over 100,000 troops on the ground and was successful in suppressing violence. Unfortunately, we made very little headway in addressing the contentious political issues that divide Iraqis; including how to share power between Shi’s and Sunni, how much autonomy to grant to the Kurds, and how to distribute oil revenues. Richard Herrmann provides insights into how to avoid this same pitfall as the U.S. navigates the political crisis in Syria and the surrounding Middle East.

Rick Herrmann
RICHARD HERRMANN, professor and chair of political science, served as a Council on Foreign Relations Fellow on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning staff. For more than 30 years, Herrmann has taught “Strategies of War and Peace” to countless students.

On November 18, 2015, Herrmann along with Missy Ryan, Pentagon reporter with The Washington Post and Sean Kay, director of the Arneson Institute for Practical Politics and Public Affairs at Ohio Wesleyan University, discussed counter terrorism and foreign policy on All Sides with Ann Fisher, WOSU radio.

Addressing Islamophobia

Melinda McClimans is assistant director of Ohio State’s Middle East Studies Center (MESC). For more than 15 years, McClimans has taught introductory and graduate courses on the contemporary Middle East and global education. She directs the center’s teacher training programs and develops instructional materials for the P-12 community. McClimans has lived and studied in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, has research ability in Arabic and French and is fluent in Italian. Along with Alam Payind, director of MESC, she is author of the book Keys to Understanding the Middle East.

 Melinda McClimans
MELINDA McCLIMANS, assistant director of Ohio State’s Middle East Studies Center, teaches introductory and graduate courses on the contemporary Middle East and global education. She is currently teaching a course on Islamophobia for teachers of grades 6-12. 


Nima Dahir: Wholly a Buckeye

I am wholly an American – my words neatly tumble out of my lips in a standard Midwestern accent, my heart fills with pride whenever Team USA wins a gold medal, my patriotism pushes me to demand more from this great nation.

I am wholly a Buckeye – I pretend to understand the intricacies of Ohio State football, I slip to the 11th floor of Thompson just to watch the sunset and I love to hear “O-H-!” when I am far from Columbus.

And yet, occasionally, these communities that are wholly mine reject me with an unyielding ferocity. Following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, I anticipated the betraying sting of that rejection once again. This atrocity had been committed in the name of my faith, and my fear of backlash was immediate. Intermingled with the grief, there were the predictable reactions demanding Muslim condemnation of the attacks, calls for increased surveillance of Muslim communities, and most painfully, for us Muslims to go home. As though we had other homes to go back to, as though our hearts did not ache alongside the world.

The Diplomatic Game

The Diplomatic Game

Welcome to The Diplomatic Game, an exercise in diplomacy that has been part of Political Science Professor Richard Herrmann’s “Strategies of War and Peace” class for 30 years. Over the course of three weeks, Ohio State students took over the 11th floor of the Thompson Library, and the world.

Twenty countries, governed by a small cabinet of students and their heads of state, determined the world’s fate. The students have already experienced our “present” and were charged with drawing up strategic options and alliances to address global crises.

Students in the Diplomatic Game

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