The Whistler Forum for Dialogue’s Dialogue Café series has tackled some complicated issues in its time, but the Sunday, July 22 talk is as controversial as they come.
Dr. Graham Fuller, a Muslim and world affairs expert who has helped plan strategy at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency as well as the RAND Corporation, will lead an open public forum on “Options for Canada’s Role in Afghanistan”. He will be joined by Lauryn Oates, a human rights advocate who has just returned from Kabul.
Both presenters contributed to a paper called “Canada In Afghanistan: Is It Working?” that was commissioned by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.
In their executive summary, authors of the report recognized that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s current strategy for pacifying and rebuilding Afghanistan is not working, and in some ways may be making the situation worse. However, they also recognized that the cause is not hopeless, and outlined a series of steps that include coordinating the efforts of the military and aid agencies, with a new focus on aid. They also recommended that other NATO countries committed to the mission provide more aid and security.
Not all participants in the study were in agreement on the conclusions reached. It’s safe to say that Dr. Fuller, who believes that the presence of western military in the Middle East is fueling terrorism and extremism, likely had a few objections. In a recent article Dr. Fuller suggested that western nations need to withdraw all military forces from Muslim soil, renew the military emphasis on counter-terrorism and intelligence, and find other ways to support peaceful, moderate and pro-democracy forces in the Muslim world. He believes that the presence of western militaries in the Middle East is having the opposite effect of what was intended, and has caused a shift towards extremism in the Muslim world.
Dr. Fuller recently moved to the Squamish area and is an adjunct professor of History at Simon Fraser University. He is also an independent writer, analyst, lecturer, and consultant on Muslim and world affairs.
He originally planned to keep a low profile in Canada, but the deteriorating situation in the Middle East prompted him to step forward into the public eye and re-engage in the discussion.
He brings an impressive biography to the task.
Dr. Fuller has a Masters degree from Harvard in Russian and Middle East studies, and worked 20 years as a CIA operations officer — 17 of them overseas and mainly in the Middle East. He rose to the position of Vice-Chair of the National Intelligence Council at CIA, responsible for national level strategic forecasting.
After leaving the CIA, Dr. Fuller served as a Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation for 12 years. He speaks several Middle Eastern Languages.
Since 1990 he has worked as an independent analyst on Middle Eastern affairs, especially on issues of Islam, ethnicity, democracy, and geopolitics. He has also written several books relating to the Middle East, including a book on the geopolitics of Islam and the West, several books on Turkey, one on Iran, and a study of the Arab Shi’a with Ren Rahim Francke. His most recent book, published in 2003, is The Future of Political Islam.
As well, Dr. Fuller has written several articles for international relations publications such as Foreign Affairs, World Policy Journal, Orbis, Current History, Middle East Insight, The Middle East Journal, and Mediterranean Quarterly. He is a regular op-ed contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Christian Science Monitor.
Dr. Fuller is considered an expert on languages, and speaks Russian, Turkish, Arabic and Chinese, and wrote a popular book called How to Learn a Foreign Language.
Lauryn Oates has a BA Honours in International Development Studies from McGill University, and is working towards her Masters degree in Human Security and Peacebuilding at Royal Roads University in Victoria. She is the regional officer for the Women’s Rights in Afghanistan Fund, which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.
The Dialogue Café, which takes place just two weeks after Canadian Forces lost six more soldiers to a roadside bomb, will take place at Legends in Creekside from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday, July 22. A minimum $5 donation will go towards the Whistler Forum’s Facilitator Fund.
On July 27-28, the Whistler Forum for Dialogue is hosting a Corridor Canoe trip on Howe Sound with community leaders from Sea to Sky and both Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations.
For more information on the Whistler Forum or Dialogue Café series, visit www.whistlerforum.com.