Alexander Wallis on International Relations

Archive for September, 2023

Reflections on the Clarke Forum Presentation on the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2023 by wallisa

On September 21st, 2023, I had the great pleasure of attending an informative and sobering event in the Dickinson Clarke Forum. The topic was the 1983 bombing of the Beirut Barracks, which resulted in the death of 241 American servicemen. There were three speakers, each of whom covered different but equally important aspects of the attack, its history, and, its legacy.


It is fascinating how an event with such an outsized impact can be so overlooked in society today. I must, unfortunately, admit ignorance on the subject prior to my attendance of this event.


Perhaps the most important legacy of the attack were its dual influences on Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. In the case of Saddam Hussein, the attack played no small role in shaping his perceptions of American willingness to commit to a large and potentially prolonged conflict in the middle east. This, in turn, affected his decision to invade Kuwait, the aftermath of which the Middle East – and therefore the world – is still reeling from. The bombing of the Beirut Barracks had profound effects on the individual, domestic, and, systemic level of behavior and conception in America, Iran, France, Lebanon, and, therefore, the world.


I found that this neatly fit into an argument proffered up by the Texas National Security Review ( that advanced the illuminating argument that Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait was not, as general wisdom may suggest, simply an oil grab or the work of an unhinged autocrat, but rather, was due to an elaborated – and  likely incorrect – conception of the international system held by Saddam Hussein. This, in my mind, illuminates, among many things, the necessity of studying various schools of international thought. If the significance of a certain event – be it the bombing of the Beirut Barracks or Kuwaiti overproduction of oil – is determined in a manner deeply disparate from reality, the consequences can be vast, and potentially catastrophic.


Events can not be taken at face value, and multiple angles ought to be considered before the significance of a given event is determined. Saddam Hussein arguably got himself quite literally killed by his poor model of the international system. The consequences of projection and poor reflection can be monumentous.


The presentation similarly drove home how paradoxical events can be. The bombing of the Beirut Barracks was an unmitigated disaster and tragedy, yet it led to a revolution in military organization which persists to this day. Defeat was turned into victory.


I found the presentation to be an exaltation for cross cultural communication, as well. Despite deploying forces in the name of de-escalation, we arguably made a muddled situation even more complex than it already was, inviting escalation. We did not fully understand how we were perceived by the various factions operating in and around Beirut at the time. The loss of human intelligence in the American Embassy Bombing did little to alleviate this dearth of information.


I am grateful for having the opportunity to attend such a fascinating presentation, and look forward to future events.


Where I grew up and differences to where I am now

Posted in Uncategorized on September 7, 2023 by wallisa

I am from Davis, California. I was born in Sacramento, and have lived in Yolo county my entire life. However, as I have many family members spread around the United States, I am well traveled within the country, and have likely cumulatively spent several years on the East Coast (Specifically New England and the Mid Atlantic). I have similarly lived in Costa Rica and Nepal for Nine and Three months respectively. While I consider California to be my home, I feel deracinated to a certain extent. My ancestors arrived in America (specifically Virginia) around 1700 (Or so the story goes), and soon took up the American pastime of itinerancy. While I know little of my forefathers early history, they eventually wound up in Arkansas, moved to Missouri, and then, around the 1930s, moved to California. This makes me a 3rd generation Californian. Again, I consider California to be my home. But the lack of an intergenerational homeland, a continuously inhabited region inhabited by the posterity of forefathers, is somewhat alienating. This is certainly reflected in the landscape of where I live (Davis) – It possesses no truly vernacular architecture nor traditions, it resembles more of an economic zone than a deep rooted civilization.


Report Finds Davis Has a Number of Most Walkable Neighborhoods in Region | Davis Vanguard



Therefore, in a sense I feel more at home in a place like Carlisle than Davis. While I am certainly acclimatized to the Mediterranean climate of California, and am predisposed to glee when laying in my own bed, I certainly identify more with the older architecture, the historical significance of the region, and the understanding that my ancestors would have lived in similar environs (minus the I-Phones, f150s, and, high fructose corn syrup). But at the same time, I swell with pride when a winding mountain road gives way to a stunning Californian vista.


In my breakout room, there were individuals (unfortunately, I am poor with names) from Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Morocco / Canada, and, the UAE (I apologize if any information is incorrect or misleading – our time spent together was very short). I am loath to discuss at length the differences and similarities between my home and others, as I simply do not have the information required to make judgements like that. However, we were certainly able to discuss certain similarities, for example cars, our love of driving, experiences with the Quebecois, and our experiences with international travel. There is a certain diversity of background in the group, so it will be interesting to see how future conversations and understandings develop between not just our breakout group members, but between our two classes as a whole.


Generally speaking, no one seemed to feel out of place in their respective universities. I certainly don’t; at least in a cultural sense, most of what I have encountered at Dickinson has been fairly par for the course.


Culturally, I am certain there are differences between the Dickinsonians in my break-out group and the AUS students. None of us (the Dickinsonians) grew up in an Islamic household, and I am fairly certain (but correct me if I’m wrong) that none of us are well traveled in the Middle East and North Africa, nor speak Arabic. I am  uncertain to what extent – if at all – this will affect our outlooks on world issues. It will  certainly be interesting to see how everything unfolds.


Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 4, 2023 by Ryan Burke

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