Amos Guiora ’79 travels the world sharing his views on drone policy and counterterrorism. A former advisor to the Israel Defense Forces, and a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Guiora has written several books. He has twice taught at Kenyon. Guiora will deliver a lecture titled “The Dilemma of Terrorism for Democracy” on Monday, Oct. 5 in Brandi Recital Hall.
How do you feel your Kenyon education helped to shape your views today and contribute to your academic interests?
Kenyon taught me how to critically read … how to engage in scholarly debate and discussion and Kenyon certainly taught me how to write. I wouldn’t say that Kenyon shaped me, but I would say that it was incredibly important in my development. I knew I was going to go to Kenyon when I was 12 years old. John Rinka was Kenyon’s greatest basketball player of all time. When I was 12 years old, there was an article about him in Sports Illustrated. He was a small guy and I said to myself, if John Rinka can do it, I can do it, and that brought me to Kenyon. I applied early decision to Kenyon. No other place really interested me.
You wrote an article in January about edgy journalism and the Charlie Hebdo style. Could you elaborate on your feelings on political correctness? What about the current PC craze at college campuses across the nation?
I think that, in the long run, it will significantly harm your generation’s ability and willingness to engage in rigorous discussion. I think that’s doing all of you a disservice. It’s not always pleasant to hear certain things, but the whole idea is discussion on a college campus –– again, within the context of civility –– and denying you guys that rigorous discussion, within the context of civility, seems wrong. The whole idea of a liberal arts education is that we can agree and we can disagree, but at the end we break bread and have a beer.
Do you feel like there’s a disconnect between how the government views terrorism and how the populace views terrorism?
The population is concerned about terrorism. The population is not concerned about counterterrorism, and I think that’s a very big difference. That disconnect, or lack of concern, or unconcern, or no concern, about counterterrorism gives the administration extraordinary wiggle room, and I think that the media –– by the way, I don’t know what the hell “media” means today –– gives the administration a pass in terms of its counterterrorism policies, and I find that very troubling.
Where do you see the drone field going and evolving over time?
I think it’s the warfare of the future. I think, from the American perspective, it’s a minimization of boots on the ground. The failure to create and articulate an effective drone policy, by my standards, is rooted in the law, and also in a sense of morality. Drones are here to stay. Drone warfare is kind of like the Wild West at the moment, and that’s obviously troubling. Damage, you know, enormous damage can be caused, and the lack of controls raises really important questions. I don’t know what is preventing ISIS from getting a drone. They seem to get their hands on pretty much anything else, right? That may well be their next step.
How can liberal arts students use their skills and knowledge to get involved with the counterterrorism effort?
Learning language — there were no language requirements when I was at Kenyon. Learn languages and you learn cultures; learn cultures and you understand other people. With languages, I would think that a Kenyon graduate who has language and analytical skills would be a welcome addition to things like the CIA, FBI and the military. But I would think that, to make yourself appealing, learn relevant languages. I would think that Arabic or Farsi would be very much welcome. I think that the beauty of a liberal arts education, as I recall, is that it gives you the skills to “understand the other.” If you have the opportunity to travel and see places in the world, there is nothing like getting out there. The more you can see, the more you can engage, the more you can meet with people; I think that’s enormously beneficial.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.