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ISIS To Be The Subject Of Downtown Lecture Series


With the recent attacks in Brussels, ISIS has once again come to the forefront of people’s minds of terrorist groups operating worldwide.

Emerging only two years ago, the movement has made an impression, but not everyone is sure who ISIS is and what their objectives are.

UWF’s Dr. Jacob Shivley, a researcher who focuses on US foreign policy and national security strategies and Dr. Michelle Williams, an expert in far-right and extremist parties, will try to bring some understanding of the group’s motives and host a public discussion as part the Experience UWF Lecture Series at the Museum of Commerce in downtown Pensacola on March 31 at 6 p.m.

“That’s one of the key confusions, I think, initially about what ISIS is. We wanted to characterize it as a terrorist organization, but really, it’s an insurgency and their goal is to build a state that crosses the border between Syria and Iraq,” Shivley said.

Shivley says that unlike other previous terrorist organizations, ISIS isn’t interested in taking power, but rather creating a new paradigm.

“Earlier waves of terrorism, I suppose, were more focused on trying to seize control of a state or at least trying to coerce a government to recognize whatever the agenda of the organization was.”

Williams agrees, but says that ISIS may have a difficult path in charting that territory.

“One of the challenges for ISIS is that they may or may not have a specific territory objective and they may or may not have a specific outcome in mind and I think that is a complicating factor for them,” Williams said.

ISIS also different organization than previous groups, according to Shivley.

“In terms of the organization of ISIS specifically, you have a combination, I think of a hierarchy layered on top of a grassroots network,” Shivley said. “There are a set of leaders coordinating the actions ISIS is undertaking, but you also have a kind of relatively loose network at the same time, again because of this hybrid of an insurgency and a terrorist movement.”

Williams believes that this lack of identifiable hierarchy makes ISIS unique among radical terrorist groups.

“To have a movement like that, you can look back to the 70s with the PLO and HAMAS and there were clear leaders of those organizations – somebody at the top that you could point your finger to and say that person’s in charge,” Williams said. “With ISIS, I think it’s interesting because I don’t see that as clearly even as Al-Qaeda, which was a fairly loose organization as well of young fighters divided on one level and a few ideologues at the top like Osama Bin Laden.”

There will be a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by the presentation entitled, “Radicalism, ISIS, and National Security” at 6, after which the floor will be opened for discussion and debate. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

This article is part of a collaboration between WUWF and the UWF Center for Research and Economic Opportunity.