- Associate professor of political science at Dayton University
- Harsh critic of American foreign policy
- Views America as a nation guilty of many human-rights violations
Mark Ensalaco is an associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton, a Catholic institution whose faculty he joined in 1989. He also serves as the university's Director of Human Rights Research.
Much of Ensalaco's teaching prior to 9/11 centered on Latin America. But following the attacks, he focused his efforts more heavily on a class called “Political Violence,” and on a seminar course titled “Human Rights and Terror.” Of the former, Ensalaco said: “I see that our students are angry and hurt about what happened in New York and Washington [on 9/11], and as important as it is for us to promote learning here at the University, I think it's also important to promote tolerance.” “I'd like our students to understand the historical context of the attitudes that caused the attacks,” he added. “If the students understand the complexities involved, perhaps they'll avoid the conception that all people of Islam or all Arabs are terrorists.”
In Ensalaco's “Human Rights and Terror” course, students were challenged to write a “War on Terror Rulebook” and were asked to consider such issues as prisoner-interrogation techniques. “We don't avoid controversy,” said the professor. “We're asking ourselves some tough questions.” In this same course, Ensalaco assigned students Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama Bin Laden, Radical Islam & the Future of America, a screed penned by an anonymous author described as a “senior U.S. civil servant with nearly two decades of experience in the U.S. intelligence community's work on Afghanistan and South Asia.” That author, who was later revealed to be Michael Scheuer, claimed that “[Osama] bin Laden's character, religious certainty, moral absolutism, military ferocity, integrity, and all-or-nothing goals are not much different from those of individuals whom we in the United States have long identified and honored as religious, political, or military heroes, men such as John Brown, John Bunyan, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine.” Comparing the American abolitionist John Brown to bin Laden, for example, Scheuer wrote: “Although the dissimilarities between Brown and bin Laden as individuals are greater than their similarities – the latter is, by far, the better man – the two men share a passionate, uncompromising devotion to ridding their nations, the United States, and the Muslim believers, or the ummah, of what they perceived to be a dominating evil.”
A longtime critic of American foreign policy, Ensalaco has said that he “would like to see a truth commission investigate the United States' support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.” He also has called for an investigation of Iraq's gassing of the Kurds during that war, because “the United States gave the Iraqis the principal agents on which to build chemical weapons.”
At a May 2011 religious studies conference at Dayton University, Ensalaco participated in a panel discussion about American immigration policy. “The immigration debate is all about exclusion,” he said. “Who will [the U.S.] allow to be here? Church social teaching compels it to repel the thought of exclusion.” The professor lamented that past efforts to enact immigration reform – i.e., amnesty and open borders – had “failed miserably,” in part, because of the Catholic Church's reluctance to pressure legislators in the House and Senate. “The Church failed to convey the message,” Ensalaco expanded. “It needs to find a way to communicate its message on immigration to the average American.”
In the immediate aftermath of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings by the jihadist brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Ensalco theorized about who might have been responsible for the atrocity: “My immediate reaction is this is something similar to [previous bombings in] Oklahoma City and the Olympics in Atlanta. Because it's tax day and a holiday in Boston honoring revolutionaries who fought for America[n] freedom, and many people from foreign nations were in attendance, I worry a right-wing extremist used a highly visible event such as the Boston Marathon to make a highly visible statement.”
In October 2015, Ensalaco headed an international human rights conference at Dayton University. In an interview prior to the event, he said that the conference would promote “the new agenda for [environmental] sustainable development that the United Nations will adopt,” and which Pope Francis had addressed more than once as well. Noting that the U.S. and China together “account for something like half of the emissions of the greenhouse gases” worldwide, Ensalaco lamented that some political figures were “denying the reality of climate change”; he also emphasized how vital it would be for the U.S. and other nations to sign the Paris Climate Accord in December 2015.
In the same interview, Ensalaco added that the upcoming Dayton conference would also emphasize the need for “corporate social responsibility” in “helping everyone to live a prosperous, fulfilling life,” and in refraining from doing business with human rights abusers—e.g., the professor voiced his displeasure with “the policies of U.S. companies that import products from Brazil, where we know there’s slavery.” Explaining that human rights violations were not solely a foreign phenomenon, he said that there was “dramatic room for improvement in the United States” in terms of “ending poverty,” creating “more inclusive societies,” “ending racial discrimination,” and promoting the “full participation of women in society.” “To achieve the world we want,” Ensalaco asserted, “we’re going to have to transform the world we have. And that’s no easy task.”
In an April 2017 op-ed for the University of Dayton website, Ensalaco said that “the Trump administration's positions on Syrian refugees and humanitarian assistance” were “deeply flawed, both strategically and morally.” He condemned President Trump’s “executive order indefinitely suspending entry of Syrian refugees into the United States,” as an affront to people who were “fleeing … atrocities.” “Yes, a few ISIS fighters have managed to sneak into Europe hidden among millions of Syrian refugees,” Ensalaco conceded. “But Syrians who manage to gain asylum in the United States undergo a lengthy and comprehensive vetting process. Syrian refugees do not pose a danger, they are fleeing it.” Ensalaco also denounced Trump for having “proposed deep budget cuts to the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other agencies that provide humanitarian relief,” “without regard for their impacts” on needy people around the world.
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