Columbia University is boiling. Professors find swastikas and nooses on their office doors and strenuous denials not withstanding Columbia president Lee Bollinger may soon be following in the footsteps Larry Summers. Why? Because he stepped into the maelstrom that is Middle East politics on campus. First, he invited Ahmadinejad to speak and then chastised him prior to his speech.
It was a truly disastrously performance which is currently exploited by Islamist/leftist faculty members to secure tenure for two of their members. They secured one for Nadia Abu El-Haj at Barnard. Now, they are well on their way to secure another Joseph Massad at Columbia. How? With the help of a public letter signed by 109 professors. 69 professors responded with a letter expressing their support for the president. For the first time the post Sixties steady take over of the campuses by proponents of a radical leftist/Islamist anti-Semitic, anti-American relativistic agenda is seriously challenged. Why?
Because 9/11 demonstrated the vile consequences Western education has when offered to Third World students has not only to the Third World but also to the First world. Al Qaeda achieved what the Kmer Rouge failed to do. It convinced increasing number of intellectuals to challenge the academic consensus which blamed everything on Western imperialism and nothing on indigenous Third World forces.
Democracy, Capitalism and technological innovation thrive on critical thinking. In that sense far from breaking the back of Democratic Capitalism, even tenured radicals ultimately served to strengthen it by teaching students that it is good to rebel, i.e., challenge established verities. Here and there a student such as Theodore Kaczynski took the critics seriously and became a unabomber, but those instances were too few and far between to justify a costly challenge to the system.
The trouble is that the system which worked well for the developed world has been truly harmful to the developed world by misleading its best and brightest. Not all Third World tyrants were necessarily educated in the great Western universities but their educated elites did swallowed the radical critic of Democratic Capitalism whole hog and it helped them justify their mismanagement of their home countries. The same can be said of the leading Islamists, Maoists and various National liberation commanders. If the academia had a tough time turning against the Kmer Rouge, it was because Pol Pot was "one of them." He merely put to practice what he learn in the Sorbonne. Voices trying to direct attention to the phenomenon were either silenced or marginalized. Moreover, these ideas were widely distributed in the Third World.
9/11 focused attention on the effect of education on Third World students. At first, few challenged academics directing attention to the usual suspects or root causes such as poverty, hopelessness and racism. Then came the serious research and revealed that terrorists tended to be well educated young people who bought into the fashionable Post Colonial critic and became determined to punish their "oppressors" for destroying their veritable "havens" that their homelands used to be and, indeed, bring about a return to those old time paradises. Princeton University economist Alan Krueger writes:
Pakistan, and Turkey, involving about 1,000 respondents in each country. One of the questions asked was, "What about suicide bombing carried out against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq? Do you personally believe that this is justifiable or not justifiable?" Pew kindly provided me with tabulations of these data by respondents' personal characteristics.
The clear finding was that people with a higher level of education are in general more likely to say that suicide attacks against Westerners in Iraq are justified. I have also broken this pattern down by income level. There is no indication that people with higher incomes are less likely to say that suicide-bombing attacks are justified.
Another source of opinion data is the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, headquartered in Ramallah. The center collects data in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. One question, asked in December 2001 of 1,300 adults, addressed attitudes toward armed attacks on Israeli targets. Options were "strongly support," "support," "oppose," "strongly oppose," or "no opinion."
Support turned out to be stronger among those with a higher level of education. For example, while 26 percent of illiterates and 18 percent of those with only an elementary education opposed or strongly opposed armed attacks, the figure for those with a high school education was just 12 percent. The least supportive group turned out to be the unemployed, 74 percent of whom said they support or strongly back armed attacks. By comparison, the support level for merchants and professionals was 87 percent.
Clearly terrorism is being taught and, therefore, to stop it the teaching of the reasons terror is justified must stop.
How? First and foremost by challenging the scholarship of the those teaching it. Second, by making their propagators face public scrutiny. When such scrutiny leads to demands for sanctions against irresponsible professors, their colleagues often rush to their defense crying foul in the name of academic freedom. This is what is happening in Columbia and this is what happened at Harvard. We must realize that this battle has only just been joined and it is not going to be short, easy or pretty.
Still, nothing less than the survival of the developed world and the defeat of totalitarianism in the Developing world is at stake. For what 9/11 ultimately taught us is that the two are ultimately connected. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the world cannot forever continue to be half free and half slave and the young cannot forever be taught that there is no difference between the two.