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DSCC Great Decisions Forum Welcomes Former Congressman Tanner

April 13, 2016

As originally appeared in the Dyersberg State Gazette.The Division of Continuing Education at Dyersburg State Community College welcomed guest speaker former Congressman John Tanner to its annual Great Decisions Forum on Friday, April 8 at 10 a.m. The event was held inside the First Citizens National Bank Auditorium in the Campus Activities Building on the Dyersburg campus.Great Decisions is America's largest discussion program on world affairs. Dr. Bowyer has served as the Great Decisions state coordinator for Tennessee since the 1970s. The program model involves reading a Great Decisions Briefing Book, watching a DVD and meeting in a discussion group to discuss the most critical global issues facing America today. The grassroots, face-to-face model adopted by Great Decisions more than 50 years ago continues today, with tens of thousands of participants taking part in discussions nationwide annually. Anyone can start or join a group and register it online with the Foreign Policy Association.DSCC President Dr. Karen Bowyer warmly welcomed Tanner back to the college, as he has been a guest on other previous occasions."It has been a pleasure in my life to have the association I have had throughout the years with Dyersburg State; it goes back around 30 years," Tanner recalled.During his discussion, Tanner covered topics relating to the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), U.S. foreign policy, as well as our internal governmental issues. Tanner spent a considerable amount of time with NATO and was part of the general assembly and served as their president from 2008-2011. Both his knowledge of foreign policy and experience with NATO are factors that led to his invitation to speak at DSCC's event this year.In regard to the UN and its significance at the global level, Tanner stated, "There has to be a meeting place for civilized people and civilized nations to come together and talk about issues, that either unite or divide them, without fighting; the United Nations is that place."Tanner shares and elaborates on experiences with United Nations/NATO and his suggestions for handling specific terrorist groups [ISIS/ISIL].[Click to enlarge]The formation of NATO, at the end of the Second World War, was a purely defensive mechanism to stop the Russians from rolling through Eastern Europe and overtaking Western Europe. The importance of NATO was of particular interest when addressing the current threats of terrorism facing the world."NATO does not have the ability to respond as quickly and as decisively as it needs to because of the way it was originally structured. NATO was originally structured as a consensus organization, and it now has 28 member states. Can you imagine how hard it is to get 28 member states to agree in a timely manner when faced with something like the Brussels airport, the Paris airports, and some of the terrorist acts that have occurred in Germany and Seoul? It is a very unwieldy way to transact NATO's business," Tanner states.Concerns about nuclear threats, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and how to proceed are among the pressing issues being debated in NATO at this time.There is a great deal of unrest about what plans for nuclear power North Korea is trying to put together, and they are just one of the problems. There are problems with the security of nuclear materials all over the world, particularly in the Middle East with the Iranian situation that took place nearly two to three months ago. Many other Middle Eastern countries say if Iran has the ability to run its centrifuges and make nuclear materials, then we want the same thing. Tanner is involved with a group that is trying to do what it can to make sure whatever nuclear facilities are in the Middle East would be protected by American security and to American standards as to the way they handle it."It is not easy but is probably one of the most important things that could happen," Tanner stated.Concerning ISIS/ISIL and the threats of religious terrorism, Tanner made it clear that we must become aware of the difference between groups that have theo-political agendas versus those who simply claim to be operating out of Islamic beliefs. There is much misconception and a lack of perception about what is really going on."We must use the right words. ISIL/ISIS is not radical Islam, Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood are radical Islamic groups; those groups resort to armed struggle and terrorism sometimes, but they are political organizations with internal rules, standards, and codes of conduct. They can actually be negotiated with," shared Tanner.He added, "ISIS/ISIL is different; ISIL is a religious cult on an order and magnitude more extreme than any other Islamic groups from the past. They have nothing, really, to do with Islam other than calling themselves, 'Islam.' This cult of criminals worships at the altar of a perpetual apocalyptic jihad that claims that each act of mass murder, rape, or suicide terrorism against its enemies is a form of worship equal to prayer."Referring to ISIS/ISIL as a destructive religious cult, rather than legitimate theo-political radical Islamic group, is not just more accurate, but it also exposes their corrupt religious narrative. It will allow the Muslim world, which consists of nearly 1.6 billion people, to reject the group without rejecting their faith. Isolating the problem by defunding and removing support of these groups is imperative.In regard to ISIS/ISIL Tanner suggested, "We cannot win this by military action; it will require enlisting the help of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world in sending the message that ISIS/ISIL is not a religious group, but a barbaric criminal group who have last their humanity."As American citizens, he said, we must fight this tendency to lump all Muslim groups together into these radical terrorist groups.Tanner put it in perspective by sharing, "only .001 of 1 percent of the 1.6 billion Muslims are connected with ISIS/ISIL. If we can convince, and I think we can, the Muslim world to reject this barbaric religious cult of people who are basically nothing more than common murderers and thieves, then we can win this fight."

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