As part of their ongoing Monterey Security Dialogue, the Middlebury Institute (MIIS) and the nearby Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) hosted a February 4 public event on "The Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria: Lessons for U.S. Policy."
Chaired by NPS Assistant Professor Tristan Volpe, the event featured George Mason University Associate Professor Gregory Koblentz and two faculty members from the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies Program, Professor and Program Chair Jeffrey Knopf and Associate Professor Philipp Bleek. A packed room of attendees included students from the Middlebury Institute, the Naval Postgraduate School, faculty, and community members.
Bleek opened the event by providing an overview of chemical weapons in Syria's recent civil war, drawing on his research and experience staffing a Syria-focused interagency task force in the US government.
Koblentz argued that perceived threats to the Syrian regime's survival motivated its use of chemical weapons. And Knopf examined both the Obama and Trump administrations' efforts to shape Syrian behavior via threats, drawing on an ongoing collaborative book project.
The talk is part of an ongoing collaboration between the two institutions that brings together faculty and students in dialogue around myriad security topics. Combining the expertise of MIIS and NPS provides for a more robust exploration of complex and timely topics. The discussions are also open to the public. As one participant noted, “the discussion. . .explained such a complex issue so clearly, with a great mix of theory, policy, and science, and international relations.”