Pizza and politics discuss terrorism after 9/11 attacks

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Photo by Collin Cooper

The theme of Pizza and Politics, organized by UVUSA, revolved around how the U.S. government’s tactics have evolved in handling terrorist situations since the 9/11 attacks. It was presented to an audience of students at Centre Stage Sept. 20.

Speakers Ryan Vogel, director of National Security Studies at UVU, and John Macfarlane, an academic advisor for the history and political science department, conducted the panel and answered the questions of students.

The U.S. has changed from a law enforcement approach to a militaristic approach when handling terrorism, said Vogel. After the attacks in 2001, the U.S. government took a more aggressive offensive posture on terrorism, and it became the top priority.

“All of a sudden we have a new Department of Homeland Security; we have a national security strategy that’s completely focused on terrorism, our focus goes primarily now to our counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaida specifically, but even broader than that,” said Vogel.

According to Macfarlane, religion plays a minor role in terrorism. “Religion plays a role, but it’s not the primary reason behind all of this. My argument is that it’s the political upheaval, the civil war, the conflict, that is driving terrorism.”

According to the Global Terrorism Index, 92 percent of all terrorist attacks that happened between 1989 and 2014 occurred in countries where governmental political violence was widespread.

Vogel and Macfarlane also discussed the evolution of Salafi jihadis militant group, ISIS, after the 9/11 attacks and how ISIS originated from al-Qaida, a militant group founded by Osama bin Laden that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Jasmine Hansen, a communication student at UVU, said, “I thought it was very informative. Terrorism and ISIS are really hot topics right now.  I think both professor Vogel and MacFarlane did a great job in simply sharing with us the origins of it. Even though I felt like I knew a lot, I feel like my knowledge grew even more about these terrorism groups.”

During the Q&A portion of the event, both speakers agreed that they don’t expect grand attacks such as 9/11 to occur again. However, there may be more frequent isolated incidents, similar to the 2015 San Bernardino attack, that may occur in the future.

Nick Varney, secretary general for the UVUSA Political Action Committee, hopes to foster more political involvement on campus.

“Honestly, I feel like some just came for the pizza. But once they came it was a subject that drew them in. Terrorism is something we hear about a lot, something we care about a lot. It’s something that can really affect our lives, and it is something that people are genuinely curious about.”

While 124 students attended the event, about 95 students stayed through the hour-long discussion, making it one of the most attended pizza and politics of the year.