Ambassador Dennis Ross speaks at RMU


Photo credit: Paul Wintruba

Samantha Sektnan

Robert Morris University was happy to welcome Pittsburgh Speakers Series guest speaker Dennis Ross, renowned American Diplomat, to campus this Wednesday, Dec. 2 in the Sewall Center. All members of the RMU community were invited to attend.

The program began with Interim President David Jamison introducing Ambassador Ross and providing a brief summary of his professional experience.

Among his many accomplishments, Ambassador Ross played a lead role in the Middle East peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. Ross served two years as special assistant to President Barack Obama. He was also a special advisor to then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Ross is also the author of several books on the peace process.

“It is a privilege for RMU to have such a distinguished speaker,” said Jamison. “Ambassador Ross will give us a lot of insight about the Middle East.”

Ambassador Ross opened the discussion up to the audience with two rounds of four to five questions for him to respond to.

A main issue he discussed pertained to his opinion on how Iran sees itself as the superior culture and dominate region. Because of this, he believes that Iran has a sense of empowerment and a loss of fear, which explains why terrorism is so prevalent.

In addition to that point, Ross believes that the United States is used to leading in war and we do not do great at leading from behind. In order to defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups, Ross thinks we need to do this with other countries that have an incentive to act.

“You can’t destroy an ideology from the outside. You have to basically discredit it from the inside and it can’t be us,” said Ross.

Ross went into more detail of his opinion that if we want to defeat groups like ISIS, we must do so by discrediting them from the inside. To be successful, he believes we need Muslims forces on the ground, a good governance, and to lead Islamic scholars.

When asked about the deal with Iran, Ross was undecided about the subject because of the possibility that Iran will cheat on their end of the bargain.

“The likeihood of them cheating on this deal will increase as time goes by,” said Ross. “They’re not going to cheat in a big way early on because the sole reason for doing this was to get sanction relief. So if the deal is enforced, you buy fifteen years and that’s good.”

The last question answered by Ross involved his opinion of what presidential candidates have the best position on the Middle East.

“If I look at the two leading Republican frontrunners, I have no clue as to what their positions are on the Middle East. I suspect, they have no clue either,” said Ross.

Ross also stated that he believes that Marco Rubio and Hilary Clinton understand the issues, while there are others that do not.

The discussion was met with a wide range of members of the RMU community attending the event, including the president-elect of RMU Christopher Howard and his wife.

“I heard Ambassador Ross when I was a student at Harvard University around twelve years ago and I was impressed,” said Howard. “I am happy to report that nothing has changed. He still possesses his high intelligence and sense of humor.”

Photo credit: Samantha Sektnan

Philip Harold, Ph.D., professor of Political Science at RMU, expressed his enthusiasm over Ambassador Ross.

“Ambassador Ross is such an impressive figure. You saw him at the top of his game working the crowd,” said Harold. “He’s someone who could work with whoever is elected president of the United States.”

In addition to faculty and staff, RMU student Mike Sieber attended and thought the discussion showed a new way of thinking.

“The discussion was very eye opening, never thought in that perspective with the Middle East,” said Sieber. “It’s a very messy situation but I’m sure with our political leaders, that we will be able to find a way to end this war and hopefully end this horrid ideology of killing people in the name of Allah.”