This Reader is a guide to some of Martin Kramer’s most influential articles and addresses. These are presently grouped around seven themes: Academe, Islamism, U.S. Policy, Terrorism, Shiism, Identities, and Mediators.


Martin Kramer’s 2001 book Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America challenged the untenable dogmas that have dominated the field for twenty years. For his critique of Middle Eastern studies, see the following:


The debate over Islamism has grown in intensity as Islamist movements have grown in influence. Dr. Kramer has long expressed a skeptical view about nature of Islamism and its possible evolution:

U.S. Policy

United States policy has wavered between idealism and realism. It has been crippled, too, by the failure to build up a cadre of experts who would explain U.S. policy to Arabs and Muslims. These articles touch on aspects of U.S. policy and its promotion in these essays:


The Middle East is the world’s prime generator of terrorism, global and local. But experts on the Middle East have avoided the study of terrorism, and terrorism experts often lack a grounding in the region’s history, culture, and languages. These studies seek to bridge the gap:


It has been called the ‘Shi’ite crescent’: the belt of Shi’ite Muslims that runs from Lebanon in the west through Iraq, Iran, the Persian Gulf, and into south Asia. Martin Kramer came to the study of Shi’ism via Lebanon, and expanded from there. Here are some highlights:


The Middle East is a place where identities have been turned upside-down by modern history. The break-up of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of nationalism, the resurgence of religion, and the crises of the state, have sharpened primordial allegiances and prompted violence. A few excursions:

  • Arab Nationalism: Mistaken Identity runs briskly through the rise, heyday, and decline of the idea of one Arab nation. (This is the most-visited article on this website.)
  • Rude Arab Awakening reflects on the deterioration of Arab politics in the mirror of Fouad Ajami’s Dream Palace of the Arabs.
  • The Middle East, Old and New, is a mid-1990s think-piece on the state of identity in Israel, Iran, Turkey, and the Arab Middle East.
  • When Minorities Rule, inspired by the Iraq war, asks whether minority rule is always illegitimate in a Middle East with no tradition of democracy.


The Middle East is subject to perpetual mediation by those who seek to explain, clarify, or obscure it to the West. Some come from the region, some from the West. Their motives are mixed, but their mediation is often driven by a personal pursuit of meaning. Some examples: