A recent piece by Michael Dobbs in the Washington Post explores Campus Watch, a "Web site dedicated to revealing the alleged bias of mainstream Middle East studies programs at U.S. colleges and universities." The article declares that these "are the best of times and the worst of times for the once-neglected field of Middle East studies. Enrollments in Arabic-language courses and area studies programs have boomed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Government funding is up. Universities and colleges are recruiting Middle East experts as fast as they can. At the same time, academics who specialize in the region complain that they are under siege from conservative think tanks and self-appointed campus watchdog organizations. They say these efforts have resulted in a flood of abusive e-mail and calls for tightening congressional control over the funding of Middle East studies programs, which, they contend, could undermine academic freedoms." And who is a driving force behind this "siege?"
You guessed it, our old friend Daniel Pipes, founder of Campus Watch. In the Post piece, Pipes responds to claims by some academics that his efforts amount to a form of McCarthyism, calling it "silly," and stating that Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was "a high government official with coercive powers at his disposal. We are a tiny think tank, with few resources…We are like the toaster specialists who want to see how the toaster works." Right. How many "toaster specialists" have as much influence over U.S. toaster policy as Pipes has over U.S. foreign policy? And what exactly IS a "toaster specialist?" Does this occupation even exist? This statement makes about as much sense as Pipes' positions on the Middle East.