I am saddened to read of the whispering campaign that has targeted independent voices in Princeton's Department of Near Eastern Studies, particularly professor Michael Doran ('NES Department faces warring factions,' Dec. 8).
NES stands out among its peers because it actually — and somewhat incredibly — boasts a diversity of viewpoints on the modern Middle East. That Doran has the courage to challenge the reflexively anti-American and anti-Semitic "Said-ian" views that dominate most Near Eastern studies faculties with new ideas grounded in strategic insight and careful research proves his value. It also attracts record numbers of students at a time when Princetonians, and Americans in general, are deeply concerned about the Middle East.
In their rage at Doran's capacity for independent thought, his critics betray their effectively fundamentalist intolerance for any opinions but their own.
When senior faculty at Princeton and other universities anonymously impugn the scholarship of an outspoken and junior colleague, whispering, "we don't want him" to the 'Prince' it is worse than unprofessional. It is poisonous to the free exchange of ideas and an alarming attempt to enforce ideological conformity over the field of Near Eastern Studies through the political perversion of the tenure system. It is unworthy of Princeton.
But most disturbing is the not-so-cleverly concealed charge that Doran is tainted by his service as an adviser to the U.S. government on Middle East policy. Doran's patriotism is doubtless anathema to the whisperers arrayed against him. Yet his willingness to apply his scholarship to solving the deadly challenges facing our country and its allies in the Middle East should make us proud. It is richly in keeping with the tradition of "Princeton in the nation's service."