Instead of providing moral clarity in a time of war, too many academics busy themselves inventing strategies to get along peaceably with genocidal terrorist groups and the governments that aid and abet them. Among the appeasers, three professors of Middle East studies stand out: the University of Minnesota's William O. Beeman; Boston University's Augustus Richard Norton; and Harvard University's Sara Roy.
William O. Beeman, professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, as well as president of the Middle East section of the American Anthropological Association, apparently thinks the bloody, belligerent Iranian regime can be placated by politeness. In a recent article (scroll down), Beeman counseled the U.S. to negotiate with Iran using "language" that is "unfailingly polite and humble."
Humbleness toward a regime hell-bent on building the bomb, funding terrorists worldwide, threatening to wipe Israel off the map, seizing U.S., British and Canadian citizens as hostages, and supplying weapons that kill American servicemen in Iraq?
"Politeness," is hardly the best tactic for dealing with opponents who clearly hold strength in the highest regard, but such is Beeman's recommendation. Unfortunately, it's advice that the Bush administration, and the State Department in particular, appear to be following, and the lack of desirable results thus far point to its ineffectiveness. The recent decision to consider classifying Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization provides hope that realism may yet prevail.
If appeasing Iran's mullahs wasn't bad enough, Boston University professor of international relations and anthropology Augustus Richard Norton wants to do the same with their proxy, Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah. Funded in part by the Iranian regime and responsible for the deaths of untold civilians, Hezbollah hardly provides the foundation for civil society.
Yet, Norton's recently published book, Hezbollah: A Short History (2007) repeats all the usual talking points aimed at softening both the group's image and the West's response. In his review of Norton's book, the Jewish Policy Center's Jonathan Schanzer elaborates:
Norton, a former observer with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, states in his prologue that he seeks to provide "a more balanced and nuanced account" of Hezb'allah, which he calls a "complex organization." Of course, there is little that is complex or nuanced about a group that receives an estimated $100 million a year from the radical Islamic regime in Iran to carry out violence, and has used violence as its raison d'être dating back to the 1980s.
Extending his regard to the new terrorist thugs on the block, Norton, along with Harvard University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies scholar Sara Roy, penned an article for the Christian Science Monitor in June titled, "Yes, You Can Work With Hamas." As they put it, "There can be no peace process with a Palestinian government that excludes Hamas." Norton and Roy assert that international recognition and diplomacy will somehow obscure the fact that Hamas is dedicated to wiping out Israel-an inconvenient fact that they simply ignore.
Roy has long been invested in forging the idea of a "New Hamas" by attempting to downplay the group's openly genocidal ambitions and picturing them instead an enlightened group of do-gooders interested only in social services and education-a sort of Salvation Army with real guns. Unfortunately, reality doesn't support this depiction, and the push for normalization of relations with Hamas favored by Roy and Norton represents nothing more than wishful thinking with lethal results.
Such willful blindness is rooted in the reflexive anti-Western nature of many of today's Middle East studies academics. Their eagerness to put the best face on groups and governments widely known for practicing the art of deadly deception parallels their instinctive distrust of their own country and, in a larger sense, the West.
But these academic appeasers are playing a dangerous game. For, as history has repeatedly proven, weakness in the face of aggression only leads to further bloodshed.
Cinnamon Stillwell is the Northern California Representative for Campus Watch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.