Originally published at The Algemeiner under the title, "Extreme Academic Voices Oppose Trump's Iran Policy, and More," and at Campus Watch under the title, "Profs Prefer Stale Status Quo to Trump's Foreign Policy."
Sanctions relief for Iran threatens American interests.
This past January, Pennsylvania State University senior lecturer Jennifer Loewenstein went so far as to disregard proof that Iran violated the nuclear agreement: "There is no evidence whatsoever by any organization — international, UN, all of these non-Iranian, non-partisan groups that go in (and, ostensibly, monitor the Iranian program). They go in, and every single time they go in, they come out and say, 'Iran is complying 100 percent.'"
These examples illustrate a reactionary impulse common among professors of Middle East studies. In place of innovative problem-solving based on an informed imagination, they offer cliché-ridden defenses of a stale status quo.
University of Minnesota anthropology professor William Beeman shares Maloney's confidence in the Iran deal. "There's no question that Iran has complied fully with [the JCPOA]," he declared in October 2017, while warning that American withdrawal from the JCPOA would render the US an "absolutely unreliable partner in international agreements." Putting commerce above nonproliferation, he said "business with Iran is extremely lucrative," and this is "something that the US should probably think seriously about, because Iran has a booming economy."
Worse, Beeman asserted previously that "according to experts, Iran never had, nor has today, a nuclear weapons program," yet "hatred of Iran in US government circles is so ubiquitous, rationality seems never to prevail." Thus, the "Trump administration continues the tradition of the hawks in Congress to do anything and everything to antagonize Iran." It's little wonder, then, that Beeman once advocated that when Americans negotiate with the Iranian regime, our "language must be unfailingly polite and humble."
University of Michigan professor Juan Cole also expressed an abiding faith in the JCPOA, claiming in December 2017 that the deal "closed off all four major plausible paths to a nuclear weapon." Cole's clairvoyance revealed that the "Iran nuclear deal is one of the more successful such negotiations in modern history, and a model for how the UN Security Council could curb nuclear proliferation." Moreover, he maintained that the deal "has deeply disadvantaged Iran and has not affected the US at all,", ignoring the enormous sanctions relief for Iran, and the subsequent financial empowerment of Iranian proxies that threaten American interests.
These examples illustrate a reactionary impulse common among professors of Middle East studies. In place of innovative problem-solving based on an informed imagination, they offer cliché-ridden defenses of a stale status quo. Their Manichean worldview, which perceives only good versus evil in the international arena, reduces complex issues to simple morality plays. The West, Israel and the Trump administration are often conniving and evil, while their opponents are necessarily trustworthy and wholesome.
In this professorial paradise, adherence to accepted beliefs is rewarded with university sinecures, conference appearances, travel money, and access to prestigious publications. Heterodoxy, on the other hand, is intolerable and will be punished by ridicule, lower ranked jobs or professional ostracism. Little wonder, then, that established academics line up to condemn intellectual diversity. Given the enforced homogeneity of contemporary Middle East studies, their fear of rigorous competition is well-founded.
Andrew E. Harrod is a Campus Watch fellow, freelance researcher, and writer who holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter at @AEHarrod.