Sandbox: August 2004

Public diplomacy ABCs. The new Hoover Institution book A Practical Guide to Winning the War on Terrorism is available in its entirety on the web. Here is the table of contents (if their server is up), and here is my article: “Déjà Vu: The ABCs of Public Diplomacy in the Middle East.” It’s a long view of the lessons of influencing Muslim public opinion, from Napoleon through the world wars and the Cold War, up to the present day. I conclude with some explicit dos and don’ts. I seek to enlighten, influence, and, in some parts, amuse.
Tue, Aug 31 2004 7:05 am
Cole for president! It’s official: Juan, professor, blogger, (left-wing) media darling, major academic theorist (specialization: conspiracies), and a growing presence on my website, is one of two candidates for president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). He’s running against Fred Donner, University of Chicago specialist in medieval Islamic history, who’s equally big on conspiracies. (But he’s not a, which gives Cole a tremendous advantage.) This is almost too rich. MESA members! You can vote now, but the deadline isn’t until the end of October, so I urge you to hold off. Wait until you’ve heard and read more—and there will be more. (Candidates’ bios at the main link.)
Mon, Aug 30 2004 10:31 am
To protect Israel? In October 2002, James Bennet of the New York Times wrote a story on Israeli views of a possible Iraq war. “Even as Mr. Bush has sought in recent days to play up the imminence and potency of the Iraqi threat, some of Israel’s top security officials have played both down.” Days later, Barbara Demick filed a similar story for the LA Times. “Several high-ranking Israeli military officers have voiced doubts about American and British assessments of the threat posed by Iraq and in particular how quickly Iraq could develop nuclear weapons,” she wrote. “Israeli military specialists have been debating for several years whether Iraq or Iran poses more of a threat. Most specialists believe it is Iran.” Sharon gave an order to official Israel to pipe down, and not undercut the president. Worth remembering.
Mon, Aug 30 2004 6:15 am
Gandhi in Ramallah. With Gandhi’s grandson, Dr. Arun Gandhi, urging the Palestinians to adopt nonviolence, I recall the brilliant 1983 essay on Gandhi by the late Richard Grenier. “Both Indian leaders and the Indian people ignored Gandhi’s precepts,” he wrote. “They ignored him on sexual abstinence. They ignored his modifications of the caste system. They ignored him on the evils of modern industry, the radio, the telephone…. They ignored him, above all, in ahimsa, nonviolence. There was always a small number of exalted satyagrahi who, martyrs, would march into the constables’ truncheons, but what alarmed the British were the explosions of violence that accompanied all this alleged nonviolence.” Lesson: do violence, talk nonviolence. Well, the Palestinians don’t need a Gandhi to teach them that.
Sun, Aug 29 2004 5:37 pm 
All but Jewish. The upside of the Pentagon-Israel “espionage” media-fest is how it serves as bait for conspiracy theorists, crackpots on left and right, and closet antisemites. The case of the purported Israeli mole in the Pentagon is likely to join the cases of the purported Israeli interrogator at Abu Ghraib and the purported Israeli operatives in Iraqi Kurdistan. But on the way, a few more people will show their colors, and that’s always useful. Read Juan Cole for starters. He’s sounding more like Bobby Fischer each day. One example: “[Alleged mole Larry] Franklin has a strong Brooklyn accent and says he is ‘from the projects.’ I was told by someone at the Pentagon that he is not Jewish, despite his strong association with the predominantly Jewish neoconservatives.” They only admit their own kind, but Franklin can pass.
Sun, Aug 29 2004 2:51 pm
NPR’d again. My forebodings about the “Middle East and the West” series at National Public Radio have been borne out, now that I’ve heard parts 3 thru 6. (See earlier posting on the first three parts.) It’s the narrative of Arab nationalism as retold by Rashid Khalidi, Zach Lockman, and Roger Owen, who pop up repeatedly, and who blame America ad nauseum. The United States should have sided with revolutionary nationalism, and it would have prospered. No mention that the Soviets did just that and failed miserably. No mention of the greatest U.S. success: turning Egypt. And no alternative views—just the gauntlet of MESAns. Lazy work from NPR’s Mike Shuster, who’s done a job reminiscent of Pacifica, where he started. (Listen at main link.)
Fri, Aug 27 2004 2:05 pm
Stumped. I’d like to add a feature to this website, and need someone who knows how to make small adjustments in two existing .xsl and .css files. If that’s you, and if you can donate a bit of time, please send me an email from here (scroll down), or leave your email as a comment to this posting.
Fri, Aug 27 2004 5:40 am
Dial 911-COLE. Juan is puffed in a Detroit paper. His beginnings: “Because I was familiar with the terrain from which al Qaeda developed, people would ask [me] questions…. My answers were thought well of by my colleagues.” No doubt. So spoke Cole, two weeks after 9/11: “I’ve spent 30 years now studying Islam and this scenario does not sound to me like Islamic fundamentalism. I mean maybe it sounds a little bit like the Applegate people (a group in California who believed they were ascending UFOs for outer space) but it doesn’t sound to me like it has anything to do with Islam.” A year later, he still described Al-Qaeda as “an odd assortment of crackpots, petty thieves, obsessed graduate students, would-be mercenaries, and eccentric millionnaires.” Familiar terrain indeed.
Thu, Aug 26 2004 7:01 am 
Feeding time. I’ve done some upgrading of the news feeds (at link, scroll down). The wire service feeds have been consolidated. Under “Mideast” you’ll find several new entries. And for audiophiles, look under “Mideast” and “Iraq” for audio feeds from National Public Radio. (NPR doesn’t advertise these feeds yet, so they must be new.) One criterion for inclusion is that a feed be devoted entirely to the Middle East or part thereof—no general world news feeds. And I run the short summaries—often it’s enough to skim them to get the picture. This just may be the most comprehensive selection of Mideast-related news feeds (49 of ’em) on any single web page. Bookmark today.
Thu, Aug 26 2004 4:51 am
Tariq’s dad. I’ll let others comment on the State Department’s decision to pull Tariq Ramadan’s U.S. visa. Fifty-one years ago, the U.S. embassy in Cairo pushed to admit his dad, Said Ramadan. Said was the son-in-law of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1953, he was in Egypt (he fled the next year, ultimately to Geneva, where Tariq was born). A “Colloquium on Islamic Culture” was to meet at Princeton, and a Muslim Brother invitee asked the U.S. embassy if Said could attend too. After the colloquium, they planned to “visit Muslim leaders and university faculty members” across America. Amb. Jefferson Caffery urged that the request “be considered carefully in light of the possible effects of offending” the Brotherhood. His dispatch is here. Did Said Ramadan get a visa? The answer may be in Princeton’s archives.
Wed, Aug 25 2004 3:40 am
Pakistani honors. John Esposito’s medal (see right below) will look a lot like this, but not exactly, because he is getting the Hilal (crescent), and this is just the Sitara (star), which is lower. And here, if you are interested, is this year’s full honors list. One honor stands out: Mr. Ghouse Akbar is getting a Sitara-i-Imtiaz, for being Pakistan’s “highest taxpayer.” He’s the Pakistani franchisee for McDonald’s. No doubt it’s a great honor (though maybe he should get another accountant). But McDonald’s is at least as important to mutual understanding as the work of Professor Esposito (remember Tom Friedman’s theory, “no two countries that both have a McDonald’s have ever fought a war since they each got their McDonald’s”). So why not bump Mr. Akbar up to one of the Hilals?
Tue, Aug 24 2004 4:41 pm
Hilal to Esposito. Congrats to Professor John L. Esposito, an occasional object of scrutiny on this site. The Pakistani government has awarded him the Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam award. This is Pakistan’s highest civil award, named after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the country’s founder and first president. (Another recipient this year: Sen. John Warner.) Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf will confer the honor on Esposito in a March ceremony. The medal “comprises nine white enameled rays, each ray being divided into three parts. The nine white enameled rays are divided by narrow green enameled panels. Superimposed in the center is the effigy of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This in turn is surrounded by a black enameled ring with the name of the order.”
Tue, Aug 24 2004 7:05 am
Almog summarized. Far-left columnist Akiva Eldar, writing in Haaretz, has summarized Maj. Gen. Doron Almog’s article on Egypt and Gaza, which I ran in the summer Middle East Quarterly. This is vintage Eldar: a factual summary, prefaced by smart-aleck comments that position himself and his subject. (In this case, the preface bashes Daniel Pipes, the journal’s publisher.) Never mind: thanks to Eldar, Israeli policymakers will read Almog—as well they should.
Tue, Aug 24 2004 5:00 am
Sunnis=Protestants? Professor Juan misleads his readers with a long-discredited analogy. “Sunni Islam most resembles, it seems to me, Protestant Christianity in its authority structures.” It’s an archaic comparison, laid to rest (I had thought) by Bernard Lewis: “Some, in trying to explain the difference between Sunnis and Shi’a to Western audiences, have described them as the equivalents of Protestants and Catholics…. The absurdity of the comparison is shown by a very simple test. If the Shi’a and Sunnis are Protestants and Catholics, then which are the Protestants and which are the Catholics? The impossibility of answering this question will at once demonstrate the falsity of the comparison.” Serious scholars should discourage misleading analogies, not promote them.
Mon, Aug 23 2004 8:57 am
Arab decline. Hashem Saleh is a Syrian thinker living in Paris. A couple of weeks ago, he published this article (in Arabic) in the London-based daily Al-Sharq al-awsat, pondering the reasons for the stagnation of the Arab-Muslim world. The author opens with a quote from me, taken from this article I wrote on the same theme a few years ago. (He introduces me with a high compliment.) Saleh denounces the Islamist quest for solutions in an idealized past. It’s an interesting discussion, but it’s depressing to think that just these kinds of articles were being written a century ago. Update: The Blogger Across the Bay follows up on this posting.
Mon, Aug 23 2004 4:39 am
Comments. Since I began to fill the Sandbox back in February, people have written to suggest that I implement the comments feature here. (It is implemented at Sandstorm.) So I have done so effective today, and retroactively to Thursday. Try it out.
Sun, Aug 22 2004 6:05 pm
Wrong lesson? In June, I pointed to the upcoming article by Francis Fukuyama in The National Interest. Today it’s the subject of a piece in the New York Times, under the title “War Heats Up in the Neoconservative Fold.” I’ve never been a believer in democracy promotion in the Arab world (to the chagrin of friends, when I argued against it in fall 2002). So I’m glad Fukuyama has come around. And I agree with him: the Arabs aren’t dangerous enough to warrant the full-court-press for democracy applied to Germany and Japan. But I don’t like his notion of building a policy on carrots and consensus. Cut back on the nation-building, but why give up the quick, unilateral interventions? The U.S. does them well, it has the tools, and it gets results.
Sun, Aug 22 2004 3:31 pm
Noble illusion. Norman Podhoretz defends the democracy vision for the Middle East: “We backers of the Bush Doctrine wondered… why the political configuration of the Middle East should be eternally immune from the democratizing forces that had been sweeping the rest of the world…. Why not the Islamic world? The realist answer was that things were different there. To which our answer was that things were different everywhere.” The Middle East can’t be an exception: that’s the article of faith of the neo-conservatives and the professors of Middle Eastern studies. It derives from the same missionary idealism that has always infected the American approach to the Middle East. It’s America’s noble illusion, and it’s fading fast—until next time.
Sun, Aug 22 2004 2:43 pm
Anachronism. I’ve listened to the first three parts of the NPR series on the Middle East and the West. Yes, there is a slant: the emphases and terminology have a whiff of Arab nationalism about them. Parts 1 thru 3 take the story from the Crusades to World War I, i.e. before the emergence of an Arab national identity. Yet the narrator makes anachronistic use of the term “Arabs” to describe the armies of Saladin, the inhabitants of Egypt, and many others who never would have thought of themselves as Arabs. This is typical nationalist backward projection, and its effect is to downplay the strong Muslim self-identification on which state and society rested. Given the array of historians interviewed for this project, it’s a stunning error. Or perhaps it’s quite intentional, which would be worse.
Fri, Aug 20 2004 5:48 pm
NPR’s version. National Public Radio is in the midst of a six-part series on the Middle East and the West. Listen to the audio at this site.
Fri, Aug 20 2004 11:31 am
Over-cooked. Here’s a fresh report on the December 2003 convention of the Modern Language Association. Prof. miriam cooke (see right below) spoke on “Contesting Campus Watch” and its list of offending academics. “It’s a true badge of distinction, she says dryly, to find oneself on that list, and most of the audience members nod vigorously and grin. One woman raises her hand and asks how one might get on the list; she seems to want an email address or a convenient sign-up sheet. ‘Do something outrageous, it isn’t very hard,’ replies Cooke.” Odd… Campus Watch had dropped its list over a year earlier, in September 2002. Yet cooke has delivered her lecture two more times in the past seven months, at her own university. MLA, Duke… how cozy. If cooke means it, she should publish.
Fri, Aug 20 2004 5:29 am 
case dismissed. in academe, truth can be stranger than david lodge’s fiction. for example, miriam cooke, professor of arabic literature and culture at duke university, spells her entire name in lower case letters. i would think it troublesome enough to go through life saying “that’s cooke with an e.” why anyone would assume the additional burden of insisting on lower case is beyond my ken, but i imagine it’s a great attention-grabber and conversational ice-breaker, so maybe i’ve missed the point. (it’s also cheaper than a vanity license plate, which costs thirty bucks in north carolina and has to be all upper case.) In Any Event, Sandbox Intends To Fully Respect Professor cooke’s Right To Lower Case.
Thu, Aug 19 2004 5:20 am

Terroroloy. The leaders of Middle Eastern studies disdain “terrorology,” but other academics don’t, and the Department of Homeland Security is finding plenty of partners. The article at the link is a quick survey of the many initiatives, with additional interesting links.
Wed, Aug 18 2004 10:12 am
Iraqi Shiites. Professor Juan recommends readings on Iraq. In the Shiite department, I was surprised that he omitted the most interesting book on the subject: Faleh A. Jabar’s The Shiite Movement in Iraq. As one reviewer wrote, “Jabar’s book is invaluable for delineating the currents underlying a body politic whose views are not expressed through car bombs and mortars in Baghdad or insurgency in Karbala.” Jabar underestimated Muqtada al-Sadr, but this book is still the best guide to the complex modern history of Iraq’s Shiites. Here is more on the book, and here is more on the author (who spent much of the past year at the U.S. Institute of Peace).
Wed, Aug 18 2004 9:48 am
Tunnels to Gaza. Maj. Gen. Doron Almog was head of Israeli southern command from 2000 to 2003. After I met him last fall, he provided me with a fascinating article on smuggling from Egypt into Gaza and Israel, and its implications for Israel’s disengagement plan. I ran it in the summer Middle East Quarterly, my last issue as editor, and now it’s on the web.
Wed, Aug 18 2004 2:53 am
Sadr watch. Jeffrey White, a former Defense Department intel analyst, has done an excellent two-part appraisal of the Muqtada al-Sadr rebellion, published by The Washington Institute today. Here is part one, and here is part two. White is not optimistic, but he ends here: “The coalition and its Iraqi allies need to finish the job. This task is far broader than wresting control of the Imam Ali Mosque from his forces. It will entail breaking his hold on Sadr City and eliminating, or at least significantly curtailing, the Mahdi Army and his political organization….The burden of carrying out such a campaign, even if Iraqi forces are given a lead role, will revert to coalition forces.”
Tue, Aug 17 2004 4:48 pm
The Oracole. A participant in a Washington Post Internet chat asked blogger-professor Juan Cole this question: “If the US were to pull out of Iraq today, what would happen? What would Iraq look like in five years?” Cole’s answer: “If the U.S. abruptly withdrew, it would probably mean chaos. On the other hand, if the U.S. doesn’t withdraw, that might mean chaos, too. I’d say there is a 50/50 chance of the Iraqis tossing the U.S. out of their country within the next two years.” He has spoken.
Tue, Aug 17 2004 6:01 am
De-Saidification. Christopher Hitchens has reviewed a posthumous volume of Edward Said’s last political columns. It is a harsh verdict, presumably more credible than mine because Hitchens and Said had a famous friendship, and because Hitchens is no great friend of Israel. But the same themes are present in my Ivory Towers on Sand, particularly Said’s myopia over radical Islam and his early lionization of Yasir Arafat. Hitchens should have said some of this earlier, but at least he didn’t wait for Said to decamp before he broke with him (over Iraq). Who’s next?
Tue, Aug 17 2004 6:00 am
Fresh news. If you’re a new visitor to this site, this is just a heads-up that it also includes a remarkable range of major media news feeds on the Middle East. Just follow the link and scroll down. Example: under Israel and Palestinians, you will find not only feeds from the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, but also from the English edition of Maariv and the Palestinian Authority’s information service. (These last two don’t even offer feeds. How do I do it? Trade secret.)
Mon, Aug 16 2004 12:26 pm
Real world. I recently met Orde Kittrie, a State Department lawyer sent out to Iraq last January to find judges who were not corrupted by Saddam’s system—a daunting task. Over his career, he also had interesting missions to Russia and Pakistan. Kittrie has left Washington to join the Arizona State University law faculty, and the Arizona Republic has welcomed him with an article on his background and his move (and how he found those judges). People like Kittrie, with real experience in Iraq, are going to be filtering into academe over the next few years, as students and professors. Faculty lounge pundits, beware.
Mon, Aug 16 2004 12:10 pm
Hizbullah behaves? Daniel Sobelman, formerly of Haaretz, has published a study of the Israel-Lebanon border. Conclusion: when Hizbullah shoots, it’s only reacting to Israeli overflights and incursions. For two weeks running, Sobelman’s former colleagues at the paper have hailed his findings: first Amos Harel, today Reuven Pedatzur. (Sobelman’s original study isn’t up yet; I’ll link when it is.) I don’t doubt Sobelman’s findings, but now we need a thorough study of Hizbullah’s massive covert campaign in the West Bank and Gaza. Iran’s proxy is now running a battery of Palestinian sub-proxies. (As for Pedatzur’s final flourish—Hizbullah “is Israel’s creation” and “Hamas was also established under Israel’s aegis”—it’s the Israeli version of the claim that the U.S. created Saddam and Osama. Trite.)
Mon, Aug 16 2004 9:15 am
Oily food. I’m having an exchange with blogger Abu Aardvark at his site. Subject: New York Times, Judith Miller, and oil-for-food reporting.
Sun, Aug 15 2004 11:03 am
Islamic blues. A piece in the San Francisco Chronicle runs with the thesis that American blues music has its origins in the Arab-Islamic musical tradition, via West Africa and the Maghrib. Is the connection real, or is this another case of Islamocentrism? I’m certainly not competent to judge, and even the experts are divided, but the debate is interesting. Be sure to try the audio demonstration (click on MPEG Audio).
Sun, Aug 15 2004 9:15 am
Title VI and Tripoli. Mansour El-Kikhia, a political scientist at the U. of Texas San Antonio, has written a column against HR3077, the Title VI reform bill. El-Kikhia repeats the usual canards, but he breaks new ground in this sentence: “Title VI programs (which ensure that public funds are not used to promote racial discrimination) at all federally funded institutions [would] be tightly monitored and controlled.” El-Kikhia has confused Title VI of the Higher Education Act (the subject of HR3077) with the famous Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. It’s a bit like mistaking Tripoli in Libya (El-Khikhia’s native country) for Tripoli in Lebanon. Only someone ignorant of the Arab world could do that. And only someone ignorant of HR3077 could have written El-Kikhia’s column.
Sun, Aug 15 2004 4:00 am
Riyality check (2). The Saudi embassy seeks an apology from the New York Sun, for a Daniel Pipes column claiming that a Saudi-directed p.r. firm is pushing free speakers on universities and paying the freight. “Neither the government of Saudi Arabia nor any public relations firm compensates these individuals for their activities. These esteemed experts on Middle East issues speak their own minds and on their own behalf.” So Charles Lipson, a professor at the University of Chicago, has gone on the record, documenting in detail the approach made to him by a Chicago p.r. firm. Bottom line: he was told that “the P.R. firms would be paying all expenses, including travel and any associated honoraria, and that my speakers program would not have to pay anything at all.”
Sat, Aug 14 2004 6:15 am
Kingdom of Osama. As a counter to Khaled Abou El Fadl’s view of the forthcoming movie Kingdom of Heaven (see right below), check out the opinon of Jonathan Riley-Smith, a Cambridge historian and Britain’s leading authority on the Crusades. He says the plot “depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilised, and the Crusaders are all brutes and barbarians.” Riley-Smith’s verdict: “It’s Osama bin Laden’s version of history. It will fuel the Islamic fundamentalists.”
Sat, Aug 14 2004 6:13 am
Nice work. Khaled Abou El Fadl, the UCLA professor of Islamic law, doesn’t like the script of Kingdom of Heaven, the $130-million Crusades movie scheduled for release next year (Ridley Scott for 20th Century Fox). “I believe this movie teaches people to hate Muslims,” Abou El Fadl tells the New York Times. “There is a stereotype of the Muslim as constantly stupid, retarded, backward, unable to think in complex forms… it really misrepresents history on many levels.” Abou El Fadl might have more credibility on matters of film, had he not just surfaced as the “Islamic Technical Advisor” of the television drama series The Grid. You’re left wondering whether he isn’t jostling to position himself as Hollywood’s ultimate arbiter on what’s fair to Muslims. Very nice work if you can get it.
Fri, Aug 13 2004 5:57 am
Oh, list me! Here’s another lesson in self-promotion for all aspiring assistant profs, from one of your number, Mark LeVine (see right below). In an article in Tikkun last year, he told of how he heard “ominous words” on and off the UC Irvine campus, “that I was making enemies,” and that “I’d better be careful.” Then this: “I was subsequently added to the now (in)famous Campus Watch website, where I and my mentors and colleagues…are being targeted for intimidation.” Wait a minute, LeVine… You wrote to Campus Watch asking to be listed, as part of a “list me” protest. Campus Watch didn’t target you; you volunteered your name for the site. Why? Learn the answer in this (genuine) parody.
Fri, Aug 13 2004 4:27 am
Emerging leader. Okay, by popular demand, here is a link to the self-promotional bio of Mark LeVine (see entry right below). Don’t miss it. The best passage: “He has interviewed senior international political figures, reported from Beirut’s green line, taught Qur’an to Muslim Brothers, performed from Woodstock to Paris to Damascus Gate, lived next door to Hamas mosques, stood against bulldozers, dodged terrorist bombs, and uncovered damning files in dusty archives.” The Indiana Jones of Middle Eastern studies. Indiana LeVine. (This too: “LeVine trusts no one.” An X-Filer!) And because some daft intern at the 9/11 Commission stuck in a footnote referring to him (he even gives the page number in the op-ed cited below), there will be no end to it. Here he is on the NewsHour. A star is born.
Thu, Aug 12 2004 3:34 am
Parody prof. I was thinking of writing a parody op-ed by a typical professor of Middle Eastern studies. He would call on the United States to “declare a truce with radical Islam” and “admit US responsibility for the harm decades of support for dictatorship, corruption and war have caused ordinary Muslims.” He would propose that Washington “suspend all military and diplomatic agreements and aid…for Israel as well as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other ‘allies’ and ‘partners’.” And he would end up calling on the EU to “lead the way,” in the hope that “Kerry might listen.” I was thinking of writing such a parody, but UC Irvine Mideast professor Mark LeVine beat me to it. Only one problem: his op-ed is real.
Wed, Aug 11 2004 3:00 am
Riyality check. Want a free lecturer on Saudi Arabia on your campus? Say, Samer Shehata, the rising star at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies? No problem! You just have to plug into the right Saudi-employed public relations firm. Daniel Pipes in today’s New York Sun tells the story, with documentation from a professor at a leading research university who was offered speakers by the p.r. firm. Don’t worry, you won’t have to cover any of Professor Shehata’s expenses or pay him an honorarium. The Saudis will pick up the tab!
Tue, Aug 10 2004 9:45 am
Laqueur’s latest. I admire this new article on terrorism by that splendid generalist, Walter Laqueur (in Policy Review).
Tue, Aug 10 2004 9:43 am
Get no respect. Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October, and one alumnus, Daniel Pipes, says it should occasion introspection. He quotes from my Ivory Towers on Sand: “Harvard tolerated its Middle East center (it brought in money), but never respected it.” And Pipes shows why: Middle Eastern studies have brought too much embarrassment and scandal to Harvard. On top of that, Harvard’s disciplinary departments have always seen Middle Eastern studies as a wasteland. Last year, a Mideast prof complained that faculty development was “being reined in by academic departments.” So it’s been since day one. Half a century has passed, but celebration would be premature.
Tue, Aug 10 2004 4:49 am
The Arabists. In 1997 there were nine teachers of Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). This year there are 32. In 1999 there were 114 students in the Arabic classes at FSI. Today there are 273. Those statistics come from a June speech by Amb. W. Robert Pearson, director general of the Foreign Service and head of human resources at the State Department. The late Amb. Hume Horan (on whose passing, see down below) once described Arabists like himself as “the Pekinese orchids begot by an American superpower.” At this rate, Arabists at Foggy Bottom soon will be as plentiful as daisies. But will they be as good as Horan?
Tue, Aug 10 2004 4:45 am
Chalabi interview. The summer Middle East Quarterly was my last as editor. We’ve just posted one item from the issue: an interview with Ahmad Chalabi (conducted by my successor, Michael Rubin). Is any journal more timely?
Tue, Aug 10 2004 4:21 am
Columbia’s shame. My reportage on the funding of the Edward Said Chair at Columbia began in earnest almost a year ago in a Sandstorm entry, and has continued here in the Sandbox. For the sake of convenience, I’ve now appended all the relevant Sandbox postings to that original entry, creating a full narrative. You’ll find my continuing critique of Columbia’s policy, and information on the various donors.
Mon, Aug 9 2004 6:23 am
Why Columbia should. Harvard is returning $2.5 million to the United Arab Emirates, donated earlier to establish an Islamic studies chair. The UAE also gave $200,000 toward the new Edward Said Chair at Columbia. So will Columbia return its gift? “Why would we?” a Columbia spokesperson says. “Our gift differs in both the source and the purpose from the Harvard gift.” Nonsense. If anything, Columbia has a greater obligation to return UAE money. (1) Columbia initially concealed the gift. (2) The chair it helped to create has adequate funding from other sources. (3) It’s disgraceful that a chair named after a University Professor (Columbia’s elect) be funded even partly by the ruler of a country defined as “not free.”
Mon, Aug 9 2004 3:10 am
Abdullah vs. Arafat. My colleague Asher Susser has an acute analysis of the dressing down of Yasir Arafat by Jordan’s King Abdullah: “In the Arabic political lexicon, this is known as muzayada (outbidding), of which the Jordanians, more often than not, were the traditional victims. Now Abdullah is giving Arafat a dose of his own medicine on the question of loyalty to the cause of Palestine.”
Sun, Aug 8 2004 11:05 am
Neglected profs. Brannon Wheeler, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Washington, has a complaint about the 9/11 Commision: “It is astounding to me that the commission does not seem to have consulted any of the scholars of contemporary Islamic studies in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world in its attempt to explain Islam, Muslim religious activism or bin Laden.” First, that’s not entirely true: Gilles Kepel and Mamoun Fandy testified before the Commission. Second, American scholars before 9/11 were a part of the problem, contributing to the general complacency. What astonishes me is that the Commission report doesn’t mention that fact. But at least the Commissioners had the good sense not to give failed academics a platform for rehabilitation.
Sun, Aug 8 2004 7:00 am
Deep Esposito. Georgetown’s John Esposito criticizes the 9/11 Commission report as “lacking depth and nuance.” The Commission’s naming the enemy “Islamist terrorism,” says he, is “useful only as long as one distinguishes within Islamism—which has both mainstream (adherents) and extremists. Unless that distinction is made, the analysis is too facile.” You want facile analysis? This was Esposito’s pre-9/11 assessment: “Focusing on Osama bin Laden risks catapulting one of many sources of terrorism to center stage, distorting both the diverse international sources (state and nonstate, non-Muslim and Muslim) of terrorism as well as the significance of a single individual.” Too bad the Commission didn’t look into the role of academe—and Esposito—in making Washington complacent.
Sun, Aug 8 2004 6:59 am
Who’s in practice? The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Stanley Kurtz, a fellow critic of Title VI. But it’s not Title VI that interests the Chronicle; it’s Kurtz’s role as a leading opponent of same-sex marriage. I haven’t thought through the issue. I have thought through one argument made against Kurtz: he’s a think-tanker, not an academic. Kurtz did a Harvard Ph.D. (in social anthropology) and Columbia published it, to critical acclaim. He knows the drill. But when profs begin to lose an argument, they fall back on academic rank. “He’s not a practicing anthropologist,” huffs the head of one university department. What is a practicing anthropologist anyway? Don’t want to go there? Then deal with Kurtz’s ideas on their merits.
Sun, Aug 8 2004 5:05 am
Kramerize that syllabus. Over at Sandstorm, I recommend my online articles that are suitable for classroom use.
Fri, Aug 6 2004 8:05 pm
Said’s silence. British Museum director Neil MacGregor has quoted the late Edward Said to justify the museum’s retention of the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the Benin Bronzes. Said once wrote that “we need to concentrate on the slow working together of cultures that overlap, borrow from each other and live together.” Why, that’s precisely the mission of the British Museum, writes MacGregor, who calls it “a collection held in trust for the world.” Interesting, too, that on Said’s last visit to London, his friends feted him at the British Museum. I don’t recall that Said ever supported repatriation of museum treasures. That silence was tacit recognition of the occasional merit of imperial theft. Rest easy, museum directors: Orientalism can be sold safely in your shops.
Fri, Aug 6 2004 6:25 am
Child sacrifice. Follow-up to entry right below: When Randa Birri, the wife of Lebanon’s speaker of parliament Nabih Berri, met with Lebanese youth from abroad, she sang the praises of the “martyr” Bilal Fahs. He was the first suicide bomber sent against Israel by the Shiite Amal movement, headed by her husband. It was 1984; Fahs was 17. According to the press report, she told her foreign guests that Fahs killed a number of Israeli soldiers. No he didn’t; he killed only himself. He was sent on a hasty mission, so Nabih Berri could prove that young men would “martyr” themselves for Amal as they did for Hizbullah. I tell the story here.
Thu, Aug 5 2004 12:21 pm
Summer fun. The Lebanese foreign ministry runs a summer program for 250 young foreigners of Lebanese origin. One bus trip took them to the Israeli border. “You could see the hate,” admitted a Canadian. “People were giving the finger [to Israel] even though there weren’t even any soldiers. Our tour guide said, ‘This is Palestine, not Israel.'” Hosts on this leg: the Shiite Amal movement. In Sidon, the wife of the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament told the young tourists about Amal’s first suicide bomber: “He chose to use his body as a weapon, to defend a people who had no weapons. I’m sure that he is smiling now because his martyrdom has cleared the South that welcomes you today.” A young Brazilian was “troubled” by the suicide celebration. “In Palestine maybe it would be OK, but here, I don’t know.”
Thu, Aug 5 2004 3:45 am
Clio abuse. If historians could have their doctorates suspended, there would be a strong case against Juan Cole, for his take on the impact of nationalism on Christians in the Middle East (see right below). For historical precision, one must turn to the late Elie Kedourie. Christians and Jews, he wrote, “were considered Iraqis first—that is, as far as their duties went. When it came to their rights, they were still the second-class subject of Ottoman times—but they had, in the meanwhile, lost all the advantages of the Ottoman arrangement: communal standing and self-government.” Precisely. (From Kedourie’s essay “Minorities.” At the link: an article on Iraq’s Christians, which I ran in the Middle East Quarterly.)
Wed, Aug 4 2004 8:41 am
Cole turkey. Juan Cole outdoes himself today, with this observation (following the attacks on Iraqi Christians): “Even medieval Islamic law recognized the right of Christians, Jews and other monotheists to practice their religion and enjoy rights to their lives and property. This relative tolerance has often been enhanced in the twentieth century by the rise of nationalism, wherein Arab Christians sometimes are privileged as symbols of national authenticity, because Christianity predated Islam in the nation’s history.” Enhanced? Privileged? Iraqi nationalists perpetrated massacres against Iraq’s Christians in 1933, and against its Jews (who also predate Islam in Iraq’s history) in 1941. Islamists today are just continuing the work. Cole…incredible.
Tue, Aug 3 2004 10:52 am
Pork panacea. This one is for the political scientists. There is a high correlation among conflict, terror, and low pork consumption. Therefore…
Tue, Aug 3 2004 10:03 am
Watch out. Over at Campus Watch, they’re looking for a new director. Deadline for applications: Monday, August 9. Details.
Tue, Aug 3 2004 9:21 am
Satloff’s back. Robert Satloff is back from two years in Morocco, and has resumed his position as executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. While he was in Rabat, he was careful not to comment on Moroccan affairs. On Thursday, back in Washington, he said some interesting things about the state of play in Morocco, and also about U.S. public diplomacy in light of his personal experience. Worth reading.
Tue, Aug 3 2004 4:30 am
Schacht’s library. Joseph Schacht, scholar of Islamic law (see two entries below), built a vast personal library. On his many travels, he carried a card catalogue of his collection, as an aid to purchasing new books. A Malaysian university acquired his library after his death; here’s a detailed librarian’s report, relating that “usage is minimal.” What a pity. The same librarian also says that Schacht “was born a Jew.” This is a fairly widespread mistake in Muslim countries, perhaps since Schacht followed Ignaz Goldziher (a Jew) in calling Muslim oral tradition into question. And who but a Jew would do that?
Tue, Aug 3 2004 4:22 am
More Schacht. Have you finished reading Bernard Lewis on Joseph Schacht (right below)? A student of Schacht’s, the late Jeanette Wakin, offered another appraisal of her mentor ten years ago, on the 25th anniversary of his death. Harvard Law School published it last year, and the biographical first half of it can be downloaded here. (Harvard: Where’s the rest of it?) Wakin provided many personal details that could not have been included in a contemporary obit, especially on Schacht’s post-war years in Leiden and New York. (Note: this is a large file, over six megabytes. Downloading will take a few minutes.)
Tue, Aug 3 2004 4:19 am
Joseph Schacht. Today, August 1, marks exactly 35 years to the death of Joseph Schacht, perhaps the last truly great scholar of Islamic law. Born in Germany, he left after the Nazi rise (for moral reasons—he was not Jewish), taught at the Egyptian (now Cairo) University (where he lectured entirely in Arabic), joined the British war effort (preparing broadcasts in Arabic and Persian), and came to America, where he spent his last ten years at Columbia. He defined the field of Islamic law as it is today. Bernard Lewis wrote a major obituary of Schacht, and I have arranged to post it here. The likes of Schacht haven’t been seen since, and may never be seen again.
Sun, Aug 1 2004 5:15 am