In November 1998, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) organized a special plenary session at its annual meeting to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism. The praise heaped on Said on this occasion for his contribution to the field of Middle East studies was in sharp contrast to the dismay or disdain with which many senior scholars in Middle East and Islamic studies had greeted his book when it first appeared in 1978. This acclaim indicated the extent to which the field had changed, with a great many scholars who were broadly sympathetic to the intellectual thrust (if not to every aspect or detail) of the critiques advanced by Said and others—and in some cases to their politics as well—now holding leadership positions within MESA and in the field as a whole.
Of course, not everyone accepted the critique of Orientalism. A good many scholars of Islam or the Middle East rejected it outright and lamented the fact that "Orientalist" had come to be widely used in a pejorative sense. Others found the whole controversy largely irrelevant to their work, continued much as they had always done, or embraced different ways of [End Page 63] making sense of things. These included non-Marxist variants of political economy, for example, John Waterbury's 1983 book, The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Economy of Two Regimes, or Alan Richards and John Waterbury's 1990 A Political Economy of the Middle East: State, Class, and Economic Development, but also one or another of the new games in town. "Rational choice theory" proliferated in American political science in this same period, sporting premises and methods that could not have been more incommensurate with those of colonial discourse analysis, postcolonial theory, poststructuralism, mainstream social science, or even plain old Marxism—though perhaps it had somewhat less impact on political science work on the Middle East than it did elsewhere.1 Nonetheless, the critique of Orientalism gradually won widespread (if never universal) acceptance among students of the Middle East and Islam, and the rejection of cultural essentialism and of the radical dichotomization of East and West that lay at its heart eventually came to be taken as plain common sense by many in the field.
Despite the widespread acceptance of this critical stance toward classical Orientalism and modernization theory, the question of how to understand and study Islam and predominantly Muslim societies continued to arouse controversy in the 1990s and into the early twenty-first century, in large measure because of developments—in the Middle East in particular and the Muslim world in general—that bore directly on contemporary intellectual, political, and policy concerns. Among other things, scholars had to grapple with the continuing importance of Islam in contemporary Middle Eastern and other predominantly Muslim societies, and more specifically with how best to explain the ability of parties, movements, and regimes that rejected secularism and instead called for the creation of what they deemed a properly Islamic society and state to win the support of, and mobilize, substantial numbers of people. In short, they had to explain the emergence and continuing strength of Islamism, the derivation of a political ideology and practice from the Islamic faith. Whole forests were sacrificed for the paper needed to produce the hundreds of books and thousands of articles and conference papers that were produced on Islam and Islamism from the 1970s onward, amidst ongoing debates about how to interpret and explain this [End Page 64] phenomenon—if indeed it could be characterized as a single phenomenon. This is not the place to attempt a comprehensive survey of this vast literature, but I want to outline at least a few key issues.
The "resurgence" of Islam did not pose any great intellectual problem to those who, like Bernard Lewis, regarded Islam as a more or less unchanging and monolithic civilization that continued to govern the minds of its adherents. In an article in the September 1990 issue of Atlantic Monthly Lewis restated, but also elaborated on, his explanation of "The Roots of Muslim Rage," which he saw as fueling Islamist movements worldwide. Part of the Muslim world, Lewis asserted, was currently going through a period in which Islam "inspired in some of its followers a mood of hatred and violence"(48). Though he began by insisting that "we [i.e., Westerners] share certain basic cultural and moral, social and political, beliefs and aspirations" (48–49) with many, perhaps even most, Muslims, this qualification disappeared as Lewis began to speak of a "struggle between these rival systems [of Christendom, today Europe, and Islam] that has now lasted for some fourteen centuries" (49). In this struggle "the Muslim"—Lewis now switched to the third-person singular form to denote all Muslims everywhere—"has suffered [three] successive stages of defeat" at the hands of the West over the past three centuries or so. First "he"—Lewis's representative Muslim now became male—lost to the advancing power of Russia and the West; then there was "the undermining of his authority in his own country, through an invasion of foreign ideas and laws and ways of life and sometimes even foreign rulers or settlers, and the enfranchisement of native non-Muslim elements" (49).
The third—the last straw—was the challenge to his mastery in his own house, from emancipated women and rebellious children. It was too much to endure, and the outbreak of rage against these alien, infidel, and incomprehensible forces that had subverted his dominance, disrupted his society, and finally violated the sanctuary of his home was inevitable.
This produced "a feeling of humiliation—a growing awareness, among the heirs of an old, proud, and long dominant civilization, of having been [End Page 65] overtaken, overborne, and overwhelmed by those whom they regarded as their inferiors" (59). Eventually, this rage came to be directed primarily against the United States. This had little to do, Lewis insisted, with U.S. support for authoritarian and oppressive regimes in the Muslim world, U.S. support for Israel, U.S. imperialism, or indeed anything else the United States had done or was now doing. It did perhaps have a bit to do with rabidly anti-American ideas derived from Marxism or romantic Third Worldism, but the main source of "Muslim rage" was simply Muslims' inability to tolerate "the domination of infidels over true believers" (53). This was the real source of the "current troubles" in such places as Eritrea, Kashmir, Chinese-ruled Sinkiang, and Kosovo.
"Islamic fundamentalism," Lewis went on, "has given an aim and a form to the otherwise aimless and formless resentment and anger of the Muslim masses at the forces which have devalued their traditional values and loyalties and, in the final analysis, robbed them of their beliefs, their aspirations, their dignity, and to an increasing extent even their livelihood" (59), channeling them against the secularism and modernity represented by the United States. "This is," Lewis summed up, "no less than a clash of civilizations—the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both" (60). Given this, there was not much the West could do other than to try to achieve a better understanding of Islamic civilization and hope that more moderate, tolerant, and open strains of Islam would eventually win out.
The Clash of Civilizations
The ongoing debates over Islam, Islamism, and terrorism in the 1990s and beyond fed into, and were often fuelled by, wider debates among scholars, journalists, and policymakers over how to think about the post-Cold War world. In "The Roots of Muslim Rage" Bernard Lewis had characterized the conflict between Islam and the West, allegedly dating back to the emergence of Islam 14 centuries ago, as a "clash of civilizations." Such images were very much in the air in the last decade of the twentieth century. In the [End Page 66] late 1980s the Communist-ruled countries of Central and Eastern Europe had broken free of Soviet control and established new, more or less capitalist, nominally democratic and pro-Western regimes, and in 1991 the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist. The end of Communist rule in Russia and elsewhere also meant the end of the Cold War, since the United States no longer had a rival for global hegemony. This led observers to seek new ways of understanding the fault lines and potential sources of conflict in the post-Cold War world, and one of those ways involved a reversion to the old but still powerful notion that the world was divided into fundamentally different and clashing civilizations. Though Bernard Lewis and others had long relied on this model, it was Samuel Huntington who in the 1990s probably did the most to generalize and popularize this conception of the world.
During the 1960s, Huntington, a prominent but controversial Harvard University professor, was a leading advocate of the U.S. war in Vietnam and a vigorous proponent of massive bombardment of the countryside; this, he predicted, would drive the peasants into government-controlled territory and deprive the communist-led insurgents of their mass base. The advice that some of his former students offered the shah of Iran in the 1970s was equally effective: drawing on Huntington's theories about social change and political order, they advised the shah to establish a political party (the only one allowed) that could be used to mediate between the masses and the state and mobilize the former to better implement the latter's programs. What followed only deepened popular alienation from, and opposition to, the shah's regime and contributed to the onset of the crisis that ultimately toppled the shah in 1979. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, by the early 1990s Huntington was the Eaton Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard and director of its John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, named for (and funded by) a right-wing industrialist.
Huntington laid out his vision of the post-Communist world in "The Clash of Civilizations?" published in the summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs, the influential journal of the Council on Foreign Relations and a key link between scholars and policymakers.2 Huntington argued starkly that in the period ahead, the fundamental sources of conflict in the world would not be "primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions [End Page 67] among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural.... [T]he principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future" (22).
During the Cold War the world had been divided along geopolitical lines, into the First, Second, and Third Worlds—that is, the West, the Communist bloc, and everyone else. But now, Huntington argued, it was more useful to see the world as divided into distinct civilizations, defined by such things as language, history, and religion but also by how people identified themselves. "The people of different civilizations," Huntington explained, "have different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy" (25). These differences, "the product of centuries," were much more deeply rooted and important than ideology, and despite facile talk of globalization, regionalism along civilizational lines was growing.
Huntington identified seven or eight major civilizations: the West (including western Europe and the United States); Slavic-Orthodox civilization, encompassing Russia and much of eastern and southeastern Europe; Islam, with its Arab, Turkic, and Malay subdivisions; Confucian civilization, meaning largely China; Japan; Hindu civilization; Latin America; and "possibly African civilizations," to which Huntington did not seem to attribute much importance. It was precisely where these civilizations rubbed up against one another, Huntington argued, that conflict was most likely: hence the turmoil and violence in the Balkans, where the West, Slavic-Orthodoxy, and Islam were all in conflict; in the Caucasus, where Orthodoxy and Islam clashed; and in South Asia, where the Hindu and Islamic civilizations contended for dominance. Huntington also predicted the emergence of a Confucian-Islamic alliance, based on common opposition to the West. In the long run, the West should maintain its economic and military superiority and perhaps try to incorporate part or all of Latin America, even as it sought to achieve a better understanding of the other civilizations with which it would have to coexist. [End Page 68]
Huntington's "clash of civilizations" thesis aroused a great deal of controversy. One of the many rebuttals came from Roy Mottahedeh, the Harvard historian of Islam. "Not only," Mottahedeh argued, "is the 'empirical' basis of [Huntington's] thesis a matter for dispute, but the theoretical structure proposed to explain the relation between 'culture' and political behavior seems to the present author very much open to question" (1996, 3). He rejected Huntington's portrait of relations between Islam and the West and his frequent use of the terms "Arabs" and "Islamic" as if they were interchangeable, and pointed out that despite Huntington's assertion that all Muslims belonged to a single civilization, Muslims in South Asia, the Arab lands, Turkey, and Indonesia all had very different political cultures. Mottahedeh showed that civilization as a category simply did not work well as an explanation either for conflict or for the identities, views, and actions of its purported members. For example, Mottahedeh noted,
[L]arge elements of Western culture introduced by colonialism, imposition or mere imitation have developed deep and authentic roots in non-Western societies, to a degree that these societies often no longer sense these elements to be alien. Nothing in the premodern Islamic tradition drives modern Muslims to give the vote to women, and many Muslim conservatives opposed the enfranchisement of women. But in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, and Iran the overwhelming majority of Islamists—advocates of the reintroduction of some measure of Islamic law—would now never raise a whisper against votes for women, who form an important part of their constituents.
Mottahedeh went on to point out that "it was once commonly said . . . that democracy could only live fully in Protestant countries. . . . It was 'self-evident' to many Protestants that Catholics were obedient to the pope and could not be true democratic participants. . . . To distrust the ability of sincere Catholics to be true democrats seems as quaint and fanciful to us at the end of the twentieth century as will seem, in a generation, our present distrust of the ability of sincere Muslims to be true democrats" (11–12).
For Mottahedeh, Huntington's thesis also ignored differences among Muslims. There was certainly a minority that sought the imposition of a [End Page 69] rigid interpretation of Islamic law and regarded the West as an alien civilization, but there were many more who did not share either the Islamists' vision or their political and social agenda. For Mottahedeh the "clash of civilizations" hypothesis seemed "far more a description (and prescription) than an explanatory system. It offers a long list of things that the West is—the bearer of individualism, liberalism, democracy, free markets, and the like—but, by and large, just tells us that the non-Western, in the great American language of the multiple-choice test, is 'none of the above'" (19). However, it was an "extraordinary assumption" that Muslims' normative religious beliefs (which were in reality quite diverse) determined the behavior of those who formally ascribed to them. As a Christian, Mottahedeh noted, "in order for me to believe that Christians when abused are supposed to turn the other cheek, I must forget the example of almost all the Christians I have ever met." Huntington's claims thus lacked any solid empirical basis and recalled the "mania for order" that had led "theorists like Arnold Toynbee to strain the evidence in order to discover lists of traits that 'essentially' characterize the units they call 'civilizations'" (20).
The End of Area Studies?
Even as Huntington and others were arguing that humanity was fundamentally divided into essentially different and clashing civilizations, a significant number of scholars, journalists, and writers were coming to the opposite conclusion. They saw the post-Cold War world as undergoing what came to be called "globalization"—an increasing degree of economic, political, and even cultural integration that was breaking down old barriers and fostering new forms of openness, exchange, and interaction. Globalization came to be one of the buzz-words of the 1990s, the subject of numerous books and scholarly and popular articles and op-ed pieces discussing whether, and if so how, the world was becoming more integrated, as well as the possible consequences of this process or set of processes.
Some of the prognoses made by enthusiasts of globalization were hardly worth the paper they were printed on: for example, that the entire world would inexorably meld into a liberal democratic capitalist utopia; that the [End Page 70] nation-state would disappear as beneficent transnational corporations assumed ever greater power; that the global spread of McDonald's would ensure world peace; or that the "digital revolution" and the Internet would somehow alleviate poverty and promote goodwill and mutual understanding everywhere. Other analyses were more sober and sought to figure out what, if anything, was actually going on. Some pointed out that overly rosy visions of the future were nothing new and no more likely to be realized now than they had been in the past. In the late-nineteenth century, for example, global economic integration reached unprecedented proportions and many were convinced that an era of permanent peace, prosperity, and social progress was at hand. Yet this era culminated in the catastrophic First World War, followed by decades that witnessed devastating warfare in many parts of the globe, genocide, new forms of tyranny, and social turmoil.
The end of the Cold War and growing interest in globalization inevitably led to a reconsideration of area studies as a framework for organizing (and funding) the production of knowledge. Area studies (including Middle East studies) had emerged during and after the Second World War in large measure as a way of providing U.S. policymakers with the kind of knowledge they needed to successfully conduct American foreign policy during the Cold War. Hence the large-scale funding that foundations, and then the taxpayers, provided to universities and other institutions to facilitate the study of "strategic" languages (including Arabic, Persian, and Turkish) but also of the politics, cultures, and histories of places that few Americans could actually locate on a map. Now, with the Cold War over and a new focus on problems and processes that seemed to transcend national and regional boundaries, some asked whether the time had come to abandon area studies, predicated as it was on the existence of distinct world areas, and instead develop new ways of producing and organizing knowledge that would help make sense of the dynamics of globalization.
It was this kind of thinking that in 1993 led the Ford and Mellon foundations to reduce funding for regionally focused research and training and instead launch a joint globalization project. A year later the president of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)—one of the midwives of area studies after the Second World War—proposed (and partially implemented) [End Page 71] the dismantling of many of its regional committees, which for decades had overseen the disbursement of funding for dissertation and postdoctoral research and had sought (with limited success) to set research agendas for their fields. Instead, the SSRC created a new dissertation research fellowship program to which graduate students planning research on any part of the world could apply, which meant that those specializing in the Middle East would be competing for all too limited funding with others specializing in East Asia or Africa or even Eastern Europe. Selection of awardees would be made not by specialists in one area studies field but by scholars drawn from a range of fields. Along similar lines, the SSRC launched new committees and projects that fostered research on broad themes of global import, for example, international migration and sexuality. Needless to say, these moves aroused considerable controversy within the SSRC and across the area studies fields.
But area studies proved more resilient than some had expected early in the 1990s. The federal funds originally allocated under Title VI of the 1958 National Defense Education Act continued to flow to area studies centers at various universities, supporting research, language training, and courses on specific world regions as well as public outreach and teacher training, and while foundation funding for area studies declined, it did not altogether cease. (In the 2000–2002 funding cycle, the 16 Middle East national resource centers received a total of $2.6 million to support language and other instruction, public outreach, and teacher training, plus another $1.5 million for what were originally called National Defense Foreign Language [NDFL] fellowships but which in the late 1970s were given the more benign name of Foreign Language and Area Studies [FLAS] fellowships.) Recognizing that "local knowledge" remained essential, the SSRC eventually created smaller (and less well-funded) "regional advisory panels" to replace the defunct regional committees.
At the same time, the growing attention at many U.S. colleges and universities to (controversial) issues of diversity and multiculturalism, a product of the continuing salience of racial and ethnic divisions and conflicts in American society, along with worries that Americans remained poorly informed about the rest of the world, the need to offer "world civilization" [End Page 72] courses, and a burgeoning "world history" movement, may also have bolstered the standing of area studies, though its relation with the expanding field of international studies on college campuses remained uncertain. Last but not least, the ongoing and often troubled involvement of the United States in many parts of the world outside the West highlighted the continuing need for people who had some solid knowledge of those places. Facile talk of globalization was all very well, but in a crunch one needed to know about the politics, histories, and cultures of specific locales, and over the previous half-century area studies had to a large extent provided the institutional framework for producing people equipped with such knowledge.
It may be too soon to tell, but from the vantage point of the first years of the twenty-first century it would seem that area studies has weathered the storms of the immediate post–Cold War period. In large part this may have been because these fields, including Middle East studies as practiced in the United States, were by the 1990s not what they had been 30 years earlier. The sharp decline (within academia, at least) of once dominant paradigms like a cultural-essentialist Orientalism and modernization theory resulted in the dissipation of the intellectual coherence that had characterized the field in its first decades. But the kind of intellectual fragmentation that had come to characterize Middle East studies was the norm across a great many other fields and disciplines and was counterbalanced, probably even outweighed, by the fact that many Middle East specialists, perhaps especially younger scholars, were now not only well versed in the theoretical and methodological issues and debates of their own disciplines but also routinely engaged with innovative work that cut across or transcended disciplinary boundaries. They could thus increasingly manage, without any great difficulty, to participate in productive scholarly conversations not only with their disciplinary colleagues (fellow historians, political scientists, anthropologists, literature specialists, etc.) but also with scholars from other disciplines interested in this part of the world and in others as well.
Moreover, because so many scholars working on the Middle East were participants in the scholarly conversations and debates that had transformed broad segments of the humanities and the social sciences in recent decades, Middle East studies had to a considerable extent overcome its [End Page 73] insular and rather backward character and was now much more open to, and engaged with, the wider intellectual world than had once been the case. The developments of the last two or three decades, including the critiques of Orientalism and modernization theory; the broad range of new work on colonialism; innovative approaches to historical, social, and cultural analysis influenced by critical anthropology; and, more broadly, heightened interaction among disciplines and fields had given many within Middle East studies a new set of common languages that facilitated productive intellectual exchange.3 This was also a much more intellectually and politically self-aware and self-critical field than was once the case. As a result, the best of the new work in this field was by the beginning of the twenty-first century very much on a par with the best produced in other area studies fields, and scholars specializing in the Middle East were being read and listened to by scholars specializing in other parts of the world as never before.4
In conjunction with a generally higher level of mastery of relevant languages and the use of innovative theoretical and methodological approaches, scholars in the field were by the late twentieth century also making use of a broader range of sources than in the past. A case in point is work on the history of the Arab provinces of the Ottoman empire. Students and scholars with a command of both Arabic and Ottoman Turkish made increasing use not only of the vast Ottoman imperial archives in Istanbul but also of local Islamic court records and family papers, along with more traditional sources like the writings of European consuls and travelers, to produce portraits of social, political, economic, and cultural life in these lands in the last four hundred years of Ottoman rule of unprecedented depth and complexity.5
These studies helped to undermine what was once conventional wisdom in late Ottoman history, that these lands were economically, socially, and culturally stagnant before Napoleon's army landed in Egypt in 1798; that they were uniformly characterized by despotism, the oppressive and retrograde imposition of Islamic law, and the rigorous segregation and subordination of non-Muslims; and that all real change was induced by contact with the West. Instead, the newer scholarship began to elucidate indigenous sources and dynamics of change while also showing how this [End Page 74] region was part of the broader sweep of world history long before the nineteenth century and the onset of westernization or modernization as conventionally understood. As a result of these scholarly advances, Ottoman historians often came to have much broader and more fully comparative perspectives than historians of early modern Europe, many of whom had only recently come to understand that they needed to overcome their own provincialism by addressing the ways in which developments in Europe were not utterly sui generis but often were bound up with larger patterns and dynamics of change that affected large stretches of Eurasia.
Scholars and the State
If the preceding assessment is accurate, it is fair to say that the changes that transformed Middle East studies in the United States over the last several decades of the twentieth century made it a more intellectually productive and interesting scholarly field. However, this development was accompanied by a growing gap between academics studying the Middle East and the officials, agencies, and institutions of the U.S. government, and a corresponding decline in the influence of university-based scholars on the shaping of foreign policy and on the media, the main purveyor of information, images, and attitudes about the region to the broad public.
For one, a good many (though by no means all) students and scholars in this field were less than happy with U.S. government policies toward the Middle East in the 1980s and beyond. Hard evidence is lacking, but it is probably safe to suggest that much of the membership of the Middle East Studies Association, the field's main professional organization, was not enthusiastic about U.S. support for Saddam Hussein's regime in its war against Iran in the 1980s, the U.S.-led Gulf War of 1991, the sanctions regime imposed on Iraq thereafter, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, or, more broadly, the extent to which successive U.S. administrations countenanced Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; its continuing implantation of Jewish settlements there; and its rejection of a Palestinian state in those territories as endorsed by virtually the entire international community. There was a widespread (though never universal) [End Page 75] sense that the policies pursued by the United States in the Middle East were hindering, rather than contributing to, peace, democracy, human rights, development, and progress in the region.
This disaffection from official policy and the premises that underpinned it did not mean that U.S.-based scholars studying the Middle East were unwilling to share their perspectives on, and try to influence, U.S. policy toward the region. In fact, many devoted a great deal of time and effort to trying to educate the broader public through informal meetings, lectures, articles, op-ed pieces, radio and television interviews, and the like, and to convey their views to elected officials; not a few were also quite willing to meet with State Department and intelligence agency personnel. It is rather that the shared vision of the world, and of the place of the United States within it, that had once linked the world of academia with the world of policymaking had faded, and many scholars no longer spoke the same language as policymakers.
Adding to this sense of distance and alienation was a new and much more critical understanding of the proper relationship between scholars and the state—not a surprising development in the aftermath of a period in which the pernicious ends to which scholarly knowledge could be put had been made all too visible, in Vietnam but elsewhere as well. In the first decades of the Cold War a good many scholars in this as in other area studies fields, especially social scientists working on contemporary issues, saw no problem with conducting research on behalf of the government and cooperating with intelligence agencies because they were all part of the good fight against Communism. By the 1980s those who were assuming the leadership in U.S. Middle East studies were by and large much more wary about their sources of funding and the ends to which their training and research, and that of their students, might be put. Fewer scholars were willing to allow what they knew about the region to be used in the service of a state about whose policies they were often at least dubious, for example, by conducting research for agencies like the CIA or by encouraging promising students to enter government service. There developed a widespread sense that to allow one's research agenda to be determined by the needs of the state or to serve potentially pernicious ends was not only a betrayal of one's [End Page 76] integrity as a scholar but might also compromise one's ability to conduct research in the Middle East, where by the 1980s real or alleged CIA connections had gotten Americans and others denounced, kidnapped, or worse.
At issue was not government funding per se: since the passage of the National Defense Education Act in 1958, a great many students and scholars working on the Middle East had happily made use of NDFL/FLAS and other government fellowships for language training, graduate study, and research. A large proportion of the budgets of the centers for Middle East studies at universities around the country also came from the federal government. But because this individual and institutional funding came through the U.S. Department of Education it was deemed ethically and politically acceptable even by those who most vociferously disagreed with U.S. government policies in the Middle East. Similarly, additional government funding for graduate student and faculty research on the Middle East first made available by the 1992 Near and Middle East Research and Training Act—originally channeled through the Social Science Research Council and later through the Council of American Overseas Research Centers—was not seen as posing a problem because the funding was allocated first through the U.S. Information Agency and then through the State Department budget.
The real issue was which part of the U.S. government was supplying the funding, for what ends, and with what conditions. As early as 1985 the Middle East Studies Association had asked "university-based international studies programs to refrain from responding to requests for research contract proposals from the Defense Academic Research Support Program [established by the Defense Department to fund academic research on issues of interest to the military] or from other intelligence entities and call[ed] upon its members to reflect carefully upon their responsibilities to the academic profession prior to seeking or accepting funding from intelligence sources."6
Some years later MESA also criticized the new National Security Education Program (NSEP), created by the National Security Education Act of 1991. The NSEP sought to bolster the teaching of "less commonly taught" languages (including Arabic, Persian, and Turkish), thereby enabling (as the [End Page 77] program's website put it) "the nation to remain integrally involved in global issues related to U.S. National Security" as well as to "develop a cadre of professionals with more than the traditional knowledge of language and culture who can use this ability to help the U.S. make sound decisions on and deal effectively with global issues related to U.S. National Security" (see the NSEP website at http://www.iie.org/programs/nsep/nsephome.htm). Unlike other programs funding research and training on the Middle East, the NSEP was housed in the Department of Defense, intelligence agency officials sat on its oversight board, and recipients of the funding it offered were required to work for a government agency involved in national security affairs after their fellowship or scholarship was completed.
In a 1993 resolution endorsed by a referendum of its membership, MESA joined with the African Studies Association and the Latin American Studies Association to "deplore the location of responsibility in the U.S. defense and intelligence community for a major foreign area research, education, and training program. . . . This connection can only increase the existing difficulties of gaining foreign governmental permissions to carry out research and to develop overseas instructional programs. It can also create dangers for students and scholars by fostering the perception of involvement in military or intelligence activities, and may limit academic freedom." MESA called on the government to establish a peer and merit review process for funding applications that would be independent of military, intelligence, and foreign policy agencies and to broaden the service requirement so that it would include a much wider range of jobs, including those outside government service.
Until its concerns were met, MESA urged that "its members and their institutions not seek or accept program or research funding from NSEA...." Three years later MESA adopted yet another resolution reiterating its rejection of NSEP because the law appropriating funding for the program now required that all fellowship recipients agree to work for the Defense Department or some intelligence agency for at least two years or else repay the cost of their fellowship (see the NSEP website, as well as the MESA resolutions site at http://w3fp.arizona.edu/mesassoc/resolutions.htm). (This last requirement was later relaxed somewhat so that recipients who [End Page 78] could not find employment with a national security agency despite a "good faith effort" to do so could fulfill the service requirement by working in higher education.) MESA would voice the same concerns about other outgrowths of the NSEP, for example, the 2002 National Flagship Language Initiative–Pilot Program (NFLI-P), launched to address what were seen as America's extraordinary deficiencies in languages critical to national security. Many (though by no means all) Middle East studies faculty adopted MESA's perspective on this issue, declining to seek NSEP funding for themselves or their institutions.
The disinclination by MESA and many of its individual and institutional members to cooperate with the government in ways that had been common in the 1950s and 1960s was certainly not shared by everyone in the field. Yet it is instructive that when in the 1980s reports surfaced of questionable links between academics and intelligence agencies, the most vocal response among scholars in the field was condemnation. A case in point is the scandal surrounding Nadav Safran, a political scientist whose first book set forth an analysis of modern Egyptian history informed by modernization theory and who by the mid-1980s was director of Harvard University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. The scandal erupted when it became known that Safran had taken $45,700 from the Central Intelligence Agency to fund a major international conference he was hosting at Harvard on "Islam and Politics in the Contemporary Muslim World"—a hot topic at the time and one of obvious interest to the CIA. Not only had Safran secretly used CIA funding for this conference, he had not told the invitees, a number of whom were coming from the Middle East, that the CIA was picking up the tab. It then came out that Safran had also received a $107,430 grant from the CIA for the research project that led to his 1985 book Saudi Arabia: The Ceaseless Request for Security. Safran's contract with the CIA stipulated that the agency had the right to review and approve the manuscript before publication and that its role in funding the book would not be disclosed. And indeed, the book as published made no mention of the fact that the research for it had been partially funded by the CIA.
When the scandal broke, about half the invitees to Safran's conference withdrew, and many of the faculty and students associated with Harvard's [End Page 79] Center for Middle Eastern Studies publicly expressed their opposition to Safran's actions. A month later the Middle East Studies Association censured Safran on the grounds that his actions had violated its 1982 resolution calling on scholars to disclose their sources of research funding. Safran intimated that his critics were motivated by anti-Semitism, but after an internal investigation at Harvard he agreed to step down as center director at the end of the academic year.7 Safran was surely not the only academic to have secretly or openly solicited or accepted funding from an intelligence agency for his research in this period, and no doubt such relationships persisted long after this scandal, but the reaction to it—unimaginable in the early decades of U.S. Middle East studies—does indicate how the relationship between academia and the state had changed.
Think Tanks and Talking Heads
But there was a price to be paid for the gap that had opened up between the world of Middle East scholarship and the world of policymaking. If many college- and university-based academics no longer entirely shared the worldview that prevailed in Washington or no longer felt the need to shape their research agenda so that it was relevant to the policies that flowed from that worldview, there were others who stood ready to meet the demand for knowledge that would serve the state. Many of these were based not in institutions of higher education but in the host of think tanks that had proliferated from the 1970s onward—privately funded institutions oriented toward the production and dissemination of knowledge designed to inform and influence public policy, for our purposes mainly the foreign policy of the United States.
Some of these institutions and organizations went back a long way. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for example, was founded in 1910 to advance international cooperation, while the Council on Foreign Relations, publisher of the influential journal Foreign Affairs, was established in 1921, originally as a sort of elite dinner club. The liberal Brookings Institution was established in 1927, supported by Carnegie and Rockefeller funding, while the conservative American Enterprise Institute was founded [End Page 80] in 1943 to promote "limited government," "free enterprise," and a "strong foreign policy and national defense." After the Second World War, contractors like the huge RAND Corporation entered the field to produce or fund research for the military and intelligence and other government agencies concerned with foreign policy. Another wave beginning in the 1960s had witnessed the establishment of a large number of what one observer called "advocacy" think tanks, like the Center for Strategic and International Studies (1962), the Heritage Foundation (1973), and the Cato Institute (1977), which combined "policy research with aggressive marketing techniques" as they struggled to secure funding and influence in an increasingly competitive marketplace. There are now also many "legacy-based" institutions, like the Carter Center in Atlanta and the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom in Washington, D.C. By the end of the twentieth century there were an estimated 2,000 organizations engaged in policy analysis based in the United States, a substantial proportion of them focused on foreign policy and international relations.8 The 1970s also witnessed the establishment of what Lisa Anderson called "a new generation of professional graduate schools of public policy," many of whose graduates went on to work for policy-oriented think tanks rather than in colleges and universities (Anderson 2000, 21).
The Middle East was a relative backwater for the think tank industry until the 1980s. The Middle East Institute, founded in 1946, published a journal and organized conferences but exercised relatively little political clout. By contrast, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), founded in 1985, quickly achieved a much higher profile and much greater influence. Describing itself as "a public educational foundation dedicated to scholarly research and informed debate on U.S. interests in the Middle East,"9 WINEP emerged as the leading pro-Israel think tank in Washington. Its founding director, Martin Indyk, had previously worked at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), founded in 1959 and by the 1970s by far the most well-funded, visible, and effective pro-Israel lobbying organization.10
Indyk and his colleagues at WINEP worked hard to strengthen Israel's standing in Washington as the key U.S. ally in the Middle East and to ensure [End Page 81] that U.S. policy in the region coincided with the policies and strategies of the Israeli government. During the late 1980s and early 1990s this meant trying to foil U.S. recognition of the PLO and U.S. pressure on Israel to halt settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza and enter serious negotiations. In the 1990s WINEP expanded its purview to encompass the entire Middle East, but its focus always remained on Israel, for which it tried to build support by arguing that Israel and the United States faced a common threat from Islamic radicalism and terrorism, defined rather broadly to encompass virtually all of Israel's enemies, state and nonstate. Various other think tanks also began or stepped up research and advocacy on Middle East issues in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These included the Haim Saban Center for Middle East Policy, launched by the Brookings Institution in 2002, and the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
During the Clinton administration a substantial number of WINEP alumni served in key foreign policy positions, including Martin Indyk himself, appointed as special assistant to the president and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council and, later, as U.S. ambassador to Israel. They and other Clinton administration officials promulgated the policy of "dual containment," whereby the United States would seek to isolate, and if possible eliminate, the governments of both Iraq and Iran, not coincidentally perceived as two of Israel's most serious enemies. By the late 1990s, however, WINEP would itself be outflanked by newer rivals that unlike WINEP openly aligned themselves with the stances of the Israeli right (or even far right) and argued for aggressive U.S. action against Israel's enemies, including the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
The policies these and other explicitly right-wing think tanks advocated during the Clinton years, when they were in the political wilderness, were initially regarded as extreme and outlandish. But many of them would eventually be adopted by the George W. Bush administration, in which their architects assumed key posts. Among them were Vice President Richard Cheney; Defense Policy Board member (and for a time chair) Richard Perle, a key advocate of war against Iraq; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of State John Bolton; and Undersecretary [End Page 82] of Defense Douglas Feith. Before assuming power these men and their colleagues had, through such right-wing organizations as the Project for a New American Century and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, called for the use of U.S. military power to dominate the world, massive increases in military spending, and unequivocal support for the policies of the Israeli right.11 After the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush openly embraced much of their agenda, tacitly supporting Israel's effort to crush the Palestinian uprising by force and in March-April 2003 invading and occupying Iraq.
The first years of the twenty-first century thus witnessed an unprecedented convergence in positions of supreme power in Washington of right-wing (and in some cases Christian fundamentalist) zealots and neo-conservative American Jews united by a common vision of securing permanent and unchallengeable U.S. global hegemony, with a strong focus on the Middle East and a close embrace of Israel, a vision to be achieved by military force if necessary. The war against Iraq was in a sense the pilot project for this radical vision. As Michael Ledeen, in 2003 "resident scholar in the Freedom Chair" at the American Enterprise Institute and long a fixture among right-wing foreign-policy activists, was reported to have put it, crudely but not inaccurately: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business" (Goldberg 2002). More specifically, a reconstructed, oil-rich Iraq was seen as a valuable new base for U.S. power in the Middle East, enabling the United States to terminate its problematic relationship with Saudi Arabia and compel the Arabs (including the Palestinians) to make peace with Israel on the latter's terms. That the vast majority of the international community, including a great many Americans, vehemently rejected the use of military force to achieve this vision made no difference whatsoever to its advocates.12
There were certainly voices raised, in academia, the think tank world, and elsewhere, in opposition to this agenda and the understanding of the world that underpinned it, as there had been voices offering alternative views about U.S. policy toward the Middle East at other critical junctures. But during the 1980s, 1990s, and early years of the twenty-first century [End Page 83] these voices received relatively little attention, and university-based scholars seemed to play a decreasing role in influencing foreign policy. Critics of U.S. foreign policy also found it difficult to make themselves heard through the mass media. It is striking that the great bulk of the "talking heads" who appeared on television to offer their opinions on the 1990–91 Gulf crisis, on the 2003 Iraq war, and on other issues relating to the Middle East and U.S. policy toward it seemed to come not from academia but from professional pundits, from people associated with think tanks or with one of the public policy schools, and from retired military personnel. Whatever their knowledge (or lack thereof) of the languages, politics, histories, and cultures of the Middle East, these people spoke the language and shared the mindset of the Washington foreign policy world in a way few university-based scholars did. They were also used to communicating their perspective in effective sound bites, whereas academics were often put off by the ignorance and political conformism of much (though by no means all) of American mass media journalism and its tendency to crudely oversimplify complex issues and transform everything (even war) into a form of entertainment.
This helped bring about a considerable narrowing of the perspectives available to the public and the consolidation of a powerful, indeed almost impenetrable, consensus about the Middle East that encompassed most of the political class and the punditocracy. Republicans and Democrats argued mainly over how best to maintain U.S. hegemony in the region, leaving very little room for those who envisioned a fundamentally different foreign policy founded on peace, democracy, human rights, mutual security, multilateral disarmament, nonintervention, and respect for international law. It is, however, worth noting that despite the virtual absence of such views in the mass media, they were embraced by a good many Americans, as evidenced by the massive demonstrations that preceded the U.S. attack on Iraq in March 2003 and the polls that indicated substantial public opposition to war, partly because of the new modes and channels of communication and organizing made possible by the Internet.
Nonetheless, in the aftermath of September 11th, critical (and even moderate) voices were largely drowned out by the right, which quickly and effectively moved to implement its global agenda by exploiting public [End Page 84] outrage against the Islamist extremists who had perpetrated the September 11th attacks. They succeeded in "selling" first military intervention in Afghanistan (justified by the fact that the Taliban regime had allowed al-Qa'ida to operate in that country and refused to hand over those responsible for organizing the September 11th attacks) and then war against Iraq, even though no one was able to produce any credible evidence that the regime of Saddam Hussein had had anything to do with the September 11th attacks or still possessed weapons of mass destruction. In this effort conservative scholars like Bernard Lewis played a significant part, graphically illustrating their continuing, even enhanced, clout in right-wing policymaking circles long after their standing in scholarly circles had declined, as well as the durability and power of some very old Orientalist notions many had mistakenly thought dead as a doornail.
Soon after September 11th Lewis was invited to meetings with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and members of the Defense Department's key Defense Policy Board, to whom he offered his understanding of the Middle East and the Muslim world and of the role the United States could and should play in them. Lewis now endorsed the use of U.S. military power to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime and assured his listeners that after that was accomplished, the United States could without any great difficulty remold Iraq into a democracy that would serve as a beacon and model for the entire region.13 His larger vision of Islamic history was laid out in his book What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response. Though the book was written before the September 11th attacks, it offered a distressed and perplexed American public an explanation for those attacks and Bush administration policymakers a rationale for their response.
As in most of his other work going back half a century, in this book Lewis painted with a very broad brush, writing of "the Islamic world" and "the West" as if they were self-evidently distinct and monolithic entities. Indeed, the book was replete with the kinds of sweeping generalizations and unsupported assertions that scholarship on Islam and the Middle East had moved away from long before in favor of careful, nuanced, fine-grained analyses well grounded in local histories and contexts. Islam as portrayed [End Page 85] by Lewis was always and everywhere introverted, uninterested in other cultures, and imbued with a sense of superiority that had been in the nineteenth century rudely challenged by the superior technology, weaponry, and ideas of the West. Virtually ignoring the impact of colonialism, various Muslim societies' complex and quite different engagements with the transformations of the modern era, and unpleasant aspects of Western history, Lewis concluded that Muslims had essentially failed to respond properly to the challenges of modernity. Instead they had remained religious, inclined to authoritarianism, and full of irrational resentment and anger. A postscript added to the book after the September 11th attacks described them as "the latest phase in a struggle [between Islam and Christendom/the West] that has been going on for more than fourteen centuries" (quoted in Cole 2002).14
In yet another book, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, written after September 11th and published early in 2003, Lewis once again rehashed the arguments and material he had used in so many of his publications. Here too his basic argument was that Islam and the Middle East had failed to modernize; hence Islamism and terrorism. Though he faulted the United States for its ties with unpleasant and undemocratic regimes in the Middle East, he also insisted that U.S. policy had been basically successful. One might reasonably conclude from Lewis's analysis that there was really not much the United States or other Western powers could do to fix the problems of the Middle East or Muslim world, since they had had so little to do with creating them in the first place. But despite the essentially pessimistic assessment of the state of the Arab and Muslim worlds manifested in these books, Lewis had by this time become a leading academic advocate of the view that by occupying and reshaping Iraq the United States could lead the Arabs toward democracy, progress, and modernity, and the book argued for a vigorous Western military response to the threat posed by "Muslim rage." Since Lewis never really engaged with his critics, he was never compelled to reconcile this apparent contradiction; nor did it much bother those in government and the media, whose favorite Middle East expert he had become. As one reviewer put it in 2003, these two books "are well on their way to becoming the standard accounts [End Page 86] of the us-and-them, war-of-the worlds, believers-and-infidels conception of the Muslim mind."15
Lewis was not alone in his views, of course, though his age, much trumpeted erudition, magisterial style, and very British air of authority enhanced his stature. There were others whose perspective on the Middle East also coincided neatly with, and bolstered, the neo-conservative foreign policy agenda in the 1990s and early 2000s. Notable among them was the Lebanese-born political scientist Fouad Ajami of the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., which boasted one of the country's premier graduate programs in foreign and military policy. Though Ajami's later scholarly work had been roundly criticized within academia because of his sweeping and questionable assertions about what he saw as the self-induced pathologies of Arab culture and politics, his Arab origins and his endorsement of the agenda of the U.S. and Israeli right opened doors in Washington and made him a media star, someone whose role it was (as the author of one magazine profile put it) "to unpack the unfathomable mysteries of the Arab and Muslim world and to help sell America's wars in the region." Ajami's pronouncements, like those of Bernard Lewis, were solicited and cited by high officials of the Bush administration. For example, in an August 2002 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars laying out the case for war against Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, Vice President Dick Cheney declared that, "as for the reaction in the Arab street, the Middle East expert Professor Fuad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are sure to erupt in joy in the same way throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans."16
Rough Politics: Blacklisting and the Silencing of Dissent
Luminaries like Ajami and Lewis were seconded by a number of less well-known but more vociferous bulldogs of the right who, in the aftermath of September 11th, seized the opportunity to try to delegitimize and silence those who disagreed with them. They were by no means the first to go after their opponents in this manner. As political divisions within the field of [End Page 87] Middle East studies had become more intense from the 1970s onward, especially over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, various unpleasant accusations about anti-Arab or anti-Israel (or even anti-Semitic) bias had been bandied about, particularly by nonacademic organizations that sought to influence the academic study of the Middle East by narrowing the range of opinions deemed legitimate.
Especially vocal and effective were organizations that defined themselves as pro-Israel, including AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), founded by the Jewish fraternal organization Bnai Brith in 1913 to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. Among other things, these organizations claimed that Saudi and other Arab money was being used to fund new positions and programs at U.S. universities and thereby insinuate an unwholesome pro-Arab bias into Middle East studies. These concerns were not inherently invalid: many colleges and universities have faced legitimate questions about whether large donations come with strings attached, visible or invisible, that might affect faculty appointments, curriculum, and programming, and several U.S. universities did in fact accept donations from wealthy Arabs, including members of some of the ruling families of the oil-rich Gulf states, to fund chairs or programs in Arab studies. But it is not clear that these donations had any untoward influence on scholarship or teaching at those institutions, and in any case American universities also accepted, without much controversy, large donations for Jewish and Israeli studies programs from people (Jews and non-Jews) strongly supportive of Israel.
Such controversies did not always involve Arabs and Jews. For example, in the 1990s Armenian Americans and others in the United States sounded the alarm when the Turkish government offered to fund new chairs in Ottoman and Turkish studies at leading American universities. Their fears seemed to be borne out when evidence surfaced that the scholar appointed to a Turkish-funded chair at Princeton University had advised the Turkish ambassador to the United States on how to combat Armenian demands that Turkey acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Armenians had been massacred in the Ottoman empire during the First World War. Bernard Lewis would also get caught up in this issue: in June 1995, following [End Page 88] lawsuits filed by Armenian and anti-racist organizations, a French court found that Lewis had denied or downplayed the Armenian genocide. Lewis was required to pay a symbolic one franc in damages.17
In the 1980s AIPAC and the ADL compiled and circulated material accusing various scholars of being anti-Israel propagandists and pro-Arab apologists, and there is evidence that efforts were also made to try to prevent otherwise qualified scholars (some of them Jews) from securing academic positions because they were deemed critical of Israeli policies. There were also claims that anti-Semitism was rampant in Middle East studies. Some of these organizations' targets, as well as other critics, responded by pointing out that these organizations defined anti-Semitism so broadly as to encompass virtually all criticism of Israel, and that in fact a good many American and Israeli Jews held views these organizations denounced as anti-Semitic. They argued that the real threat to academic freedom came from efforts by AIPAC, the ADL, and similar organizations intent on defending the official Israeli line to suppress open debate about Israeli policies and the "special relationship" between Israel and the United States by intimidating and silencing those perceived as critical of Israel. The compilation and circulation by these organizations of "blacklists" reminded many of the tactics used during the McCarthy-era anti-Communist "Red Scare" and led to the ADL and AIPAC being censured by the Middle East Studies Association.18
This does not seem to have deterred the ADL, because in 1993 a police raid on the ADL's San Francisco office revealed that with the help of a member of the San Francisco Police Department's intelligence unit who had access to police and FBI files, the ADL had for years been collecting information on Palestine solidarity groups and Jewish critics of Israel in the San Francisco area, as well as on local activists in the campaign against South Africa's apartheid regime and on many other organizations and individuals. Subsequent investigations and lawsuits revealed that some of the data on anti-apartheid organizing collected for the ADL had been made available to the South African government. Though it continued to insist it had done nothing wrong, the ADL eventually paid a substantial sum to settle a suit brought by the city of San Francisco over charges that it had [End Page 89] illegally acquired confidential government information and disbursed additional sums to settle other lawsuits (see stories and sources at www.adlwatch.org).
Edward Said, probably the most outspoken and visible advocate for the Palestinian cause in the United States, was the target of several scurrilous attacks apparently intended to besmirch his character and intimidate critics of Israel. In 1989, for example, the neo-conservative Jewish magazine Commentary published an exercise in character assassination titled "Professor of Terror." Its author, Edward Alexander, accused Said of leading a "double career as literary scholar and ideologue of terror" (Alexander 1989), because Said had allegedly defended the punishment of Palestinians who collaborated with the Israeli occupation during the first Palestinian intifada, but more broadly because for Alexander the PLO (of whose Palestine National Council Said was then a member) was nothing but a terrorist organization, so that anyone who supported it was ipso facto a terrorist or, at best, an apologist for terrorism.
This was an argument that the Israeli right and its allies in the United States propagated widely. A decade later Commentary returned to the fray by publishing an article accusing Said of lying about his own life story by claiming that he had spent his childhood in Jerusalem rather than in Cairo. The author's real goal seems to have been to undermine Said's credibility and that of the Palestinian cause as a whole, in keeping with the Israeli right's ultimately successful effort to discredit and derail Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that might have led to Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, the dismantling of Jewish settlements, and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza (see Weiner 1999).
After the September 11th attacks, some on the far-right end of the Middle East studies spectrum decided to exploit this apparently propitious moment to launch an assault on scholars in Middle East studies who did not kowtow to the views of the Bush administration and those of the Israeli right. A key figure in this campaign was Daniel Pipes, who received his Ph.D. in medieval Islamic history from Harvard in 1978 but soon began to focus on contemporary issues. In various articles and in his 1983 book, In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power, Pipes argued that the "Islamic revival" [End Page 90] of recent years was attributable largely to the vast sums expended by the Saudi and Libyan regimes, enriched by the post-1973 rise in oil prices, to disseminate and promote their versions of Islam. As a result, Pipes predicted, "current waves of Islamic activism would die along with the OPEC boom" (Pipes 1982).19 Pipes's thinking apparently evolved in the years that followed, when oil prices dropped but Islamist movements flourished, for on his own website he would later tout himself as "one of the few analysts who understood the threat of militant Islam."
Pipes taught at various universities for short stints and held minor government posts but never secured a permanent academic position; instead, he made something of himself in right-wing foreign policy circles. He served as editor of the conservative foreign policy journal Orbis and by 1990 had become director of his own small think tank, the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum (http://www.meforum.org), whose goal was to "define and promote American interests" in the Middle East. Those interests were defined as "strong ties with Israel, Turkey, and other democracies as they emerge," human rights, "a stable supply and a low price of oil," and "the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes."
In the 1990s Pipes carved out a small but moderately successful niche for himself in the world of right-wing punditry, disseminating his views through op-ed pieces, magazine articles, books, public lectures, and appearances on television and radio talk shows, as well as through his own publication, Middle East Quarterly. By the mid-1990s Pipes was arguing that militant Islam posed a grave threat to the United States and its allies, especially Israel. This threat should be met, Pipes believed, not by acknowledgement or accommodation of essentially baseless Muslim grievances but by a tough, indeed aggressive stance to undermine or eradicate the militants and the states that supposedly fostered them—the same kind of stance the Republican right believed had won the Cold War and that it now wanted to serve as the foundation for U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War world. For Pipes this also meant promoting the views and policies of the Israeli right, which rejected the kind of peace settlement (with the Palestinians but also with Syria) that most of the world (including many Israelis) regarded as reasonable and instead sought to use Israel's military [End Page 91] superiority (and if possible America's as well) to impose its terms for peace on the Arabs.
Like others on the American Jewish right, and increasingly also the non-Jewish right, Pipes argued that the interests of Israel and the United States had converged: militant Islam had replaced the Soviet Union and its allies as the gravest threat to both, and they should work together to confront this threat by all means necessary. Along the way Pipes acquired a reputation in Muslim American circles as an "Islamophobe" and "Muslim basher" whose writings and public utterances aroused fear and suspicion toward Muslims. Pipes claimed that he was not against Muslims or Islam but was only opposed to Islamism, which distorted Islam and used terrorism to attack the United States and its allies. Yet the tone and often the content of much of what he had to say could plausibly be understood as inciting suspicion and mistrust of Muslims, including Muslim Americans, and as derogatory of Islam.20
In his campaign against radical Islam—critics said Islam, period—Pipes sometimes collaborated with journalist Steven Emerson, whose main focus during the 1990s was to sound the alarm about the threat Muslim terrorists posed to the United States. By the end of that decade Emerson was describing himself as a "terrorist expert and investigator" and "Executive Director, Terrorism Newswire, Inc." Along the way, critics charged, Emerson had sounded many false alarms, made numerous errors of fact, bandied accusations about rather freely, and ceased to be regarded as credible by much of the mainstream media (see Sugg 1999). The September 11th attacks seemed to bear out Emerson's warnings, but his critics might respond that even a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day. Pipes's association with Emerson and others like him did not enhance his standing among either scholars or more balanced journalists and commentators.
A year after the September 11th attacks, Pipes and his Middle East Forum launched a new initiative directly targeting academic Middle East studies. This was a website called Campus Watch (www.campus-watch.org), ostensibly established to "review and critique Middle East studies in North America, with an aim to improving them." Campus Watch initiated its campaign against those who did not share Pipes's right-wing views by [End Page 92] attacking eight professors of Middle East or Islamic studies from institutions around the country for what Pipes deemed unacceptable views about Islam, Islamism, Palestinian rights, and/or U.S. policy in the region; the website also cited 14 universities for similar sins. Among those attacked was Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University, who was characterized as an apologist for Islamic and Palestinian terrorism, apparently because he had urged attention to the grievances that led some Muslims to perpetrate suicide bombings and many more to applaud or tolerate them, and also advocated the scholarly study of Islamism rather than blanket denunciation. Campus Watch also invited college students and others to monitor their professors and send in classroom statements that they deemed anti-Israel or anti-American, helping Campus Watch compile "dossiers" on suspect faculty and academic institutions.
The attacks prompted a storm of protest: over one hundred professors from around the country sent messages denouncing Campus Watch for its crude attempt to silence debate about the Middle East and the airing of critical views by insinuating that the scholars under attack were apologists for terrorism or were somehow unpatriotic. To show solidarity with their beleaguered fellow scholars, many of the protestors demanded that they too be added to Campus Watch's blacklist.21 Campus Watch thereupon compounded the damage it had already done by listing the names of those who had written to protest its smear campaign under a heading stating that they had done so "in defense of apologists for Palestinian violence and militant Islam."
This was of course an egregious falsehood, because those who had written Campus Watch in protest did not for a minute accept Campus Watch's original allegation that the first eight scholars it had attacked were apologists for terrorism. They had written to denounce Campus Watch for launching what they saw as a vicious attack, by means of distortion and innuendo, on respectable scholars and to uphold academic freedom, the right of free speech, and the importance to a democratic society of open discussion of issues of public concern. The protests and considerable media interest (and criticism) apparently led Campus Watch to back down and remove the web pages attacking the eight scholars as well as pages [End Page 93] containing dossiers on individual professors. But it persisted in its mission of rooting out purported anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, extremism, and apologetics for terrorism among academics.
In what may have been a reward for his vigorous advocacy of U.S. military intervention in the Muslim world and his vociferous attacks on critics of official policy, in April 2003 President Bush nominated Pipes to the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a federally funded institution dedicated to preventing, managing, and peacefully resolving international conflicts. This appointment struck many as rather ironic, not only because Pipes opposed even the Bush administration's rather half-hearted and inconsistent efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations but also because Pipes had expressed himself in favor of resolving conflicts through the use of superior military force rather than through negotiations. Muslim American groups were outraged by the appointment of someone they believed had deliberately sought to spread fear and suspicion about Islam and Muslims, but so were moderate scholars who regarded Pipes as extreme in his views as well as in how he expressed them and therefore not suitable for a position on the board of this kind of institution. The liberal Washington Post called the Pipes nomination "salt in the wound" and a "cruel joke" for U.S. Muslims and urged that it be rescinded by the White House or rejected by Congress.22 When the nomination came before a Senate committee in July 2003, a number of Democratic senators expressed opposition and the session ended without a vote; the following month President Bush bypassed Congress and installed Pipes as a member of the USIP board by means of a recess appointment, valid through the end of the current session of Congress in January 2005.
Critique from the Right
Daniel Pipes was not alone in seeing academic Middle East studies as a cesspool of error, fuzzy thinking, and anti-Americanism. Soon after the September 11th attacks, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published a book by Martin Kramer titled Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure [End Page 94] of Middle Eastern Studies in America. Whereas Pipes's Campus Watch specialized in attacking scholars and academic institutions, Kramer's book claimed to offer a detailed and comprehensive critique of U.S. Middle East studies from the right and therefore merits serious discussion.
After receiving his doctorate from Princeton University, Martin Kramer moved to Israel, where he served as a research associate at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, and then as the center's associate director (1987–1995) and director (1995–2001). The Dayan Center, which describes itself as "an interdisciplinary research center devoted to the study of the modern history and contemporary affairs of the Middle East," is of course named after the famous Israeli general and politician, but it incorporated and superseded an older institution, the Shiloah Institute, named after Reuven Shiloah, the founder of Israel's intelligence and security apparatus. Both the old and new names reflect the center's ongoing role as not merely a scholarly institution (though there have certainly been some serious scholars associated with it) but also as a key site where senior Israeli military, foreign policy, and intelligence officials can interact with academics working on policy-relevant issues.23 It would seem that the Dayan Center provided Martin Kramer with his ideal model of the proper relationship between the world of scholarship and the world of policymaking, for the main complaint Kramer voiced in Ivory Towers was that U.S.-based scholars of the Middle East had failed, or refused, to meet the U.S. government's need for useful knowledge and accurate predictions about the region.
Kramer's basic argument was that Middle East studies is, to put it simply, a miserable failure. "America's academics," he asserted, "have failed to predict or explain the major evolutions of Middle Eastern politics and society over the past two decades. Time and again, academics have been taken by surprise by their subjects; time and again, their paradigms have been swept away by events. Repeated failures have depleted the credibility of scholarship among influential public. In Washington, the mere mention of academic Middle Eastern studies often causes eyes to roll" (Kramer 2001, 2). To explain how this came about, Kramer offered his interpretation of [End Page 95] the development of Middle East studies in America, portrayed as a fall from (relative) grace largely attributable to the pernicious influence of one bad doctrine and its chief propagator, Edward W. Said.
Kramer began by briefly recounting the origins and early history of Middle East studies in the United States. Despite promising beginnings, things did not go well. Too many scholars were in the grip of overly optimistic notions like modernization theory, which posited that the entire world (including the Middle East) could and would be remade in the image of the United States of the 1950s. In the 1970s the Lebanese civil war and then the Iranian revolution shattered this illusion, revealing the field's intellectual bankruptcy and leaving it without a dominant paradigm. Even worse, scholarly standards were appallingly low, which allowed "tenured incompetents" to secure many of the all-too-scarce academic positions, breeding resentment among new graduates and graduate students. Government and foundation funding dropped, exacerbating the sense of crisis in the field.
For Kramer, it was this crisis that accounted for the success of Said's Orientalism and the transformation it almost single-handedly wrought in U.S. Middle East studies. Despite that book's grave flaws, it served perfectly as a weapon in the hands of insurgents pushing a radical political and theoretical agenda. By delegitimizing established scholars and scholarship and providing an alternative theory and politics, it helped the academic left—and especially the Arabs and Muslims among them—achieve intellectual and institutional hegemony in U.S. Middle East studies. Kramer attributed what he saw as the abject failure of most scholars to resist the onslaught of Said and his acolytes to a loss of self-confidence, stemming from the failure of the models in which they had earlier put so much faith.
The damage Orientalism wreaked on U.S. Middle East studies was considerable, in Kramer's assessment: "Orientalism made it acceptable, even expected, for scholars to spell out their own political commitments as a preface to anything they wrote or did. More than that, it enshrined an acceptable hierarchy of political commitments, with Palestine at the top, followed by the Arab nation and the Islamic world. They were the long-suffering victims of Western racism, American imperialism, and Israeli Zionism—the three [End Page 96] legs of the orientalist stool" (Kramer 2001, 37). Said's Orientalism also allegedly licensed political and ethnic tests for admission to the field: one had to be a leftist or, even better, an Arab or Muslim, whose numbers now increased dramatically. However, despite their pretensions to intellectual superiority, Said's acolytes who seized control of U.S. Middle East studies in the 1980s failed to do any better than their discredited predecessors in predicting or explaining the dynamics of Middle Eastern politics, precisely because their predictions were driven by their radical politics and trendy postmodernist theorizing, not by careful observation of the real world.
For example, Kramer argued, the Saidian left utterly failed to anticipate or account for the rise of Islamism; all they could manage were denunciations of purported American bias against Islam and Muslims. In the 1990s, liberals like John Esposito who understood that Said's message and tone were too radical and off-putting for the American mainstream developed an accessible, upbeat, softened image of Islam and Islamism, downplaying their violent and threatening dimensions. Esposito and others seized on a string of would-be "Muslim Luthers" who could be touted as the forerunners of an imminent Islamic "reformation," all the while failing to notice the ways in which authoritarian Arab states were successfully promoting secularization and blocking the Islamist challenge. Similarly, because they were convinced that the Arab regimes were fragile and lacked legitimacy and social roots, liberal and leftist scholars had grossly underestimated those regimes' durability; all the scholarly attention and foundation funding devoted to the study of "civil society" in the Arab world were thus based on vain illusions and missed what was really going on in the region. Overall, Kramer charged, U.S. Middle East scholars, misled by their political agenda and arcane theories, had failed to take the real history and culture of the region into account. As a result, their prognoses were mistaken and of decreasing interest to policymakers.
Kramer went on to attack the Social Science Research Council for its alleged failure—even refusal—to use the government funding it received to support policy-relevant research, and the Middle East Studies Association for its rejection of the National Security Education Program. The "new mandarins" who had assumed leadership of the field lost the confidence of [End Page 97] official Washington because of their haughty disdain for policymakers and their squandering of public funds on empty theorizing and worthless research projects. "In the centers of policy, defense, and intelligence," Kramer asserted, "consensus held that little could be learned from academics—not because they knew nothing, but because they deliberately withheld their knowledge from government, or organized it on the basis of arcane priorities or conflicting loyalties" (Kramer 2001, 2).
The self-inflicted crisis of academic Middle East studies was further manifested, Kramer argued, in the growing recourse that government and the media had to Middle East experts based in think tanks rather than those in academia. It was, Kramer claimed, the "intolerant climate" in academia that had led many talented people to gravitate to the think tanks, where their work "often surpassed university-based research in clarity, style, thoroughness, and cogency." Even within universities, however, Middle East studies was in decline, since all the resources invested in it over the decades had yielded little worthwhile knowledge, making deans and departments reluctant to replace retiring faculty in this field, much less hire new faculty and expand programs.
"What will it take to heal Middle Eastern studies," Kramer asked in his conclusion, "if they can be healed at all?" Here Kramer explicitly counterposed the theorizing in which too many academics had indulged to the empirical study of "the Middle East itself," while also advocating renewed attention to "the very rich patrimony of scholarly orientalism." "Orientalism had heroes," Kramer continued. "Middle Eastern studies have none, and they never will, unless and until scholars of the Middle East restore some continuity with the great tradition," a continuity ruptured by the foolish social science models of the 1950s and 1960s and then by the destruction wrought by Said and his postmodernist devotees. In the long run, despite the resistance of the radical mandarins and the inertia of the SSRC and the foundations, "breakthroughs will come from individual scholars, often laboring on the margins. As the dominant paradigms grow ever more elaborate, inefficient, and insufficient, they will begin to shift. There will be more confessions [of failure] by senior scholars, and more defections by their young protégés" (Kramer 2001, 122–24). [End Page 98]
To hasten this process, Kramer suggested that the federal government reform the process it used to decide which Title VI-funded national resource centers, including centers for Middle East studies, received funding, by including government officials in the review process and encouraging more attention to public outreach activities. More broadly, Congress should hold hearings "on the contribution of Middle Eastern studies to American public policy," with testimony not only from academics but from government officials, directors of think tanks, and others as well. While such steps might help, Kramer concluded, ultimately the field would have to heal itself by overcoming its irrelevance and its intolerance of intellectual and political diversity. Its new leaders would have to forge a different kind of relationship with "the world beyond the campus," based on the principle that "the United States plays an essentially beneficent role in the world" (Kramer 2001, 128).
In his critique, Kramer accurately depicted modernization theory as flawed, but he ignored the Cold War context that produced it and explained its popularity in psychological terms, as the product of Americans' missionary zeal and naive optimism. Some of the prognoses offered by scholars in the early and mid-1990s about the moderation and fading away of Islamism were indeed overly broad, though it is also worth noting that in some countries (Turkey, for example) Islamist parties did in fact evolve in a democratic and moderate direction. And Kramer was correct to note that both mainstream and political economy-oriented Middle East scholars generally failed to anticipate the rise of Islamist movements in the 1970s, though he ignored the sophisticated analyses subsequently advanced by scholars.
As a history of Middle East studies as a scholarly field, however, Kramer's book was deeply flawed. Kramer simplistically blamed Edward Said and Orientalism for everything he believed had gone wrong with Middle East studies from the late 1970s onward, utterly ignoring both the extensive critiques of modernization theory and Orientalism that preceded the publication of that book and the complex and often critical ways in which Said's intervention was received. As Ivory Towers tells the story, every scholar in Middle East studies either lost his or her critical faculties and slavishly embraced every pronouncement that fell from the lips of Edward [End Page 99] W. Said, or else cringed in terror and kept silent. This is clearly a caricature: many scholars in the field did not simply embrace Said's analysis of Orientalism, but engaged with it critically, accepting what seemed useful and rejecting, recasting, or developing other aspects. And Kramer's psychologizing account of why so many scholars and students in Middle East studies were receptive to critiques of the field's hitherto dominant paradigms was shallow and inadequate, as well as tendentious.
All too often Kramer resorted to cheap shots and epithets instead of serious analysis. For example, it was no doubt good fun for Kramer to characterize the scholars of the Middle East and Islam at my own institution, New York University, as "post-orientalist fashion designers," but this does not really tell us much about what actually goes on there. More broadly, as Juan Cole of the University of Michigan has shown, such right-wing attacks on Middle East scholars as "postmodernist, leftist, anti-American terrorist-coddlers" have little basis in reality. By way of example Cole pointed out that of the 14 senior professors of Middle East political science teaching at federally funded national resource centers as of early 2003, only one could plausibly be characterized as a postmodernist, few would define themselves as leftists, and none could reasonably be called anti-American (whatever that means) or apologists for terrorism (Cole 2003).
Kramer claimed in Ivory Towers that U.S. Middle East scholars repeatedly had made predictions that did not come true. In some instances his accusations were on target; in others he took quotations out of context or misconstrued them. But he was also rather selective: we do not, for example, find him taking his colleague Daniel Pipes to task for inaccurately predicting in the early 1980s that Islamist activism would decline as oil prices fell, nor is it likely that he would see fit to criticize mentors like Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami for predicting that virtually all Iraqis would welcome invading U.S. forces and happily accept American occupation. Nor has Kramer's long-time institutional base, the Dayan Center in Tel Aviv, been especially successful at predicting significant developments, for example, the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada against Israeli occupation in 1987.
More broadly, however, Kramer's fixation on accurate prediction as the chief (or even sole) gauge of good scholarship is itself highly questionable. [End Page 100] Most scholars do not in fact seek to predict the future or think they can do so; they try to interpret the past, discern and explain contemporary trends, and, at most, tentatively suggest what might happen in the future if present trends continue, which they very often do not. Of course, governments want accurate predictions in order to shape and implement effective policies, but Kramer's insistence that the primary goal of scholarship should be the satisfaction of that desire tells us a great deal about his conception of intellectual life and of the proper relationship between scholars and the state.
As I suggested earlier, Kramer's model of what U.S. Middle East studies should be seems to be based on the institution with which he was affiliated for some two decades, the Dayan Center. Just as many (though by no means all) of the Israeli scholars associated with the Dayan Center have seen themselves as producing knowledge that will serve the security and foreign policy needs of Israel, so American scholars of the Middle East should, Kramer suggested, shape their research agendas to provide the kinds of knowledge the U.S. government will find most useful. His book demonstrated no interest whatsoever in the uses to which such knowledge might be put or in the question of the responsibility of intellectuals to maintain their independence and "speak truth to power," or indeed in what scholarship and intellectual life should really be about. His real complaint was that U.S. Middle East studies had failed to produce knowledge useful to the state. Yet by ignoring larger political and institutional contexts, Kramer could not understand or explain why so many scholars had grown less than enthusiastic about producing the kind of knowledge about the Middle East the government wanted—or conversely, why it was that the government and the media now routinely turned to analysts based in think tanks, along with former military and intelligence personnel, for policy-relevant knowledge rooted in the official consensus about what constitutes America's "national interest" in the Middle East.
But there is a larger issue at stake here. At the very heart of Kramer's approach is a dubious distinction between the trendy, arcane "theorizing" of the scholarship he condemned as at best irrelevant and at worst pernicious, on the one hand, and on the other the purportedly hard-headed, [End Page 101] clear-sighted, theory-free observation of, and research on, the "real Middle East" in which he and scholars like him see themselves as engaging. Kramer was not wrong to suggest that there has been some trendy theory-mongering in academia, including Middle East studies. But he went well beyond this by now banal observation, and beyond a rejection of poststructuralism, to imply that all theories, paradigms, and models are distorting and useless because they get in the way of the direct, unmediated, accurate access to reality that he seemed to believe he and those who think like him possess.
This seems to me an extraordinarily naive and unsophisticated understanding of how knowledge is produced, one that few scholars in the humanities and social sciences have taken seriously for a long time. Even among historians, once the most positivist of scholars, few would today argue that the facts "speak for themselves" in any simple sense. Almost all would acknowledge that deciding what should be construed as significant facts for the specific project of historical reconstruction in which they are engaged, choosing which are more relevant and important to the question at hand and which less so, and crafting a story in one particular way rather than another all involve making judgments that are, at bottom, rooted in some sense of how the world works—in short, in some theory or model or paradigm or vision, whether implicit or explicit, whether consciously acknowledged or not. Kramer's inability or refusal to grasp this suggests a grave lack of self-awareness, coupled with an alarming disinterest in some of the most important debates scholars have been having over the past four decades or so.
It is moreover a stance that Kramer did not—indeed, could not—maintain in practice. His assertions throughout the book were in fact based on a certain framework of interpretation, even as he insisted that they were merely the product of his acute and hard-headed powers of observation, analysis, and prediction. It is for example striking that at the very end of Ivory Towers Kramer explicitly set forth what is obviously a political and moral judgment rooted in his own (theoretical) vision of the world: his insistence that a healthy, reconstructed Middle East studies must accept that the United States "plays an essentially beneficent role in the world." He never explained why we should accept this vision of the U.S. role in the [End Page 102] world as true, nor did he even acknowledge that it may be something other than self-evidently true. The assertion nonetheless undermined his avowed epistemological stance and graphically demonstrated its untenability.
Similarly, though this is largely implied rather than clearly asserted, Kramer seemed to regard Bernard Lewis's notion of the "return" of an ever-present, wounded, and enraged "Islam" as the best way of explaining Islamism as a sociopolitical phenomenon. Yet it should be obvious that that interpretation can hardly be taken as simple common sense, as the product of empirical observation untainted by theory. It is rather the product of a specific framework of interpretation that one may accept or reject, embrace or question, but that definitely rests upon certain assumptions about the proper category and method of analysis to be used in order to elucidate the phenomenon being studied. So while Kramer had a good time attacking others for their theorizing, he did not seem to realize that he was doing a fair bit of theorizing himself.
I have treated Ivory Towers Built on Sand here as if it were a serious intellectual exercise. Yet it was clearly written and published as a politically motivated polemic, an attack on MESA and the "Middle Eastern studies establishment" designed to further Kramer's political agenda. It is noteworthy that in the same year Ivory Towers was published, Martin Kramer assumed the post of editor of Middle East Quarterly, published by Daniel Pipes's Middle East Forum. From this perspective, Pipes's McCarthyesque assault on mainstream, liberal, and leftist scholars of Middle East studies by means of his Campus Watch website and Kramer's intellectually simplistic and tendentious critique of U.S. Middle East studies can be seen as complementary. One might even go so far as to portray Kramer and Pipes as, respectively, the "good cop" and "bad cop" of the far-right end of the Middle East studies spectrum.
The attacks Pipes and Kramer launched on MESA and Middle East studies in the United States after the September 11th attacks were quickly picked up by the conservative media, yielding a spate of articles in such magazines as National Review and on right-wing websites. Echoing Pipes and Kramer, right-wing commentators attacked MESA because its annual meeting allegedly featured too many scholarly panels on topics they deemed [End Page 103] esoteric and irrelevant, and not enough panels on al-Qa'ida, Palestinian suicide bombings, and "anti-American incitement." Such denigration of anything scholars do that does not produce knowledge immediately and directly useful to the government suggests a worrisome anti-intellectualism as well as a gross misunderstanding of the role scholars and institutions of higher education play in a democratic society. Moreover, as Juan Cole has noted, there have in fact been endless academic publications, panels, and conferences on Islamism over the past quarter-century, and insisting that MESA (which is in any case supported not by the federal government but by its members' dues) devote itself exclusively to this topic would be like "insisting that Italian historians work only on the Cosa Nostra" (Cole 2003). It is also worth noting that many Middle East scholars, including some who have been vocal critics of U.S. policy in the region, have always been quite willing to share their expertise and perspectives with government officials and agencies, and their numbers have probably grown since September 11th—though it is not clear that official Washington has been very interested in engaging with critical perspectives.
Some right-wing critics went beyond Kramer's proposals for "reform" of the Title VI program and called for federal funding of Middle East studies to be reduced or cut off. Others urged that the secretary of education use his control over Title VI funding to mandate "balance" and "diversity" in teaching about the Middle East, and particularly about the Arab-Israeli conflict. In this context "balance" and "diversity" seemed to be code words for pressuring colleges and universities to muzzle critics of U.S. and Israeli policies and promote viewpoints more congenial to those of the Bush administration and the Sharon government. This was made explicit in proposals put forward by a number of members of Congress. In April 2003, for example, Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, announced plans to introduce legislation that would cut off federal funding to American colleges and universities that were deemed to be permitting faculty, students, and student organizations to openly criticize Israel, since Santorum seemed to regard all such criticism as inherently anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, Santorum's colleague Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas proposed the creation of a federal commission to investigate [End Page 104] alleged anti-Semitism on campus—again defined rather broadly to include virtually all criticism of Israeli policies.24
This campaign to use the power of the federal government to reshape the academic study of the Middle East began to bear fruit in June 2003. Responding to conservative charges about the alleged abuse of Title VI funding by "extreme" and "one-sided" critics of U.S. foreign policy, the Select Education Subcommittee of the House of Representative's Committee on Education and the Workforce convened brief hearings on "International Programs in Higher Education and Questions of Bias," at which a conservative critic repeated allegations that Title VI–funded Middle East centers were infested by anti-American acolytes of Edward Said.25 Over the months that followed this committee formulated, and the House of Representatives passed, legislation to extend Title VI funding that for the first time mandated that programs "foster debate on American foreign policy from diverse perspectives." The bill also provided for the creation of a new International Higher Education Advisory Board with the power to monitor and evaluate federally funded area studies programs; four of the board's seven members would be appointed by congressional leaders and at least two of the remaining three members would represent national security agencies.
These provisions raised the specter of an unprecedented degree of partisan political intrusion into university-based area studies, particularly Title VI–funded Middle East studies centers, which seemed likely to be this new board's prime target for investigation. This legislation was seen by many within and outside academic Middle East studies as an attempt to stifle critical voices and a threat to the autonomy of American institutions of higher education and long-established principles of academic freedom. As of the fall of 2004 the Senate version of the bill was still languishing in committee.
How far such initiatives actually get, and their long-term consequences for the academic study of the Middle East in the United States, remain to be seen. After the September 11th attacks the Bush administration and Congress increased Title VI funding, though it remained far below the level of the late 1960s; indeed, the federal government appeared ready to throw [End Page 105] money at any program that seemed likely to increase the supply of people with a mastery of "critical languages." Yet in the fall of 2003, even as U.S. occupation forces in Iraq suffered from a desperate shortage of Arabic-speaking personnel, Congress was considering cuts in Title VI funding in order to help reduce the federal budget deficit.
All these issues were fought out in a political atmosphere made particularly tense and divisive by the deepening American involvement in the Middle East and the global "war on terror" waged by the United States across the Muslim world and beyond. Indeed, it was these factors that to a large extent propelled the right-wing offensive against even mainstream scholars of Middle East studies after September 11th and the prospect of unprecedented government scrutiny of university-based area-studies programs. In this context, it was virtually certain that the character, direction, and funding of Middle East studies in the United States would continue to arouse controversy and conflict in the years ahead.Zachary Lockman is Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. His books include Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge, 2004), Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906–1948 (University of California, 1996), and (with Joel Beinin) Workers on the Nile: Nationalism, Communism, Islam, and the Egyptian Working Class, 1882–1954 (American University in Cairo, 1987).
This article includes material published in Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (2004), and is reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press. An earlier, shorter version also appears in Middle East Report Online.
1. Rational choice theory is uninterested in such things as meaning, symbols, self-definition, and collective action and interaction; instead, its methodological starting point is the individual and his or her interests. Individuals are presumed to act rationally to achieve their preferences, given the opportunities or constraints they face, calculating the likely costs and benefits of any action before making the choices that they expect will allow them to attain what they want. With the proper (mathematical) models, therefore, one can predict what individuals (and by extension groups) are likely to do in a given situation. For a critique of this (to my mind rather impoverished) approach to understanding human social life, which had its roots in economics but has been embraced by a substantial number of political scientists and sociologists, see for example Donald P. Green and Ian Shapiro, Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory (1996); and Margaret S. Archer and Jonathan Q. Tritter, eds., Rational Choice Theory: Resisting Colonization (2000). [End Page 106]
2. Huntington expanded this article into a book from whose title the question mark disappeared: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996). In his original article Huntington quoted approvingly from Bernard Lewis's "The Roots of Muslim Rage."
3. For an overview of some of the debates, see Heilbrunn (1996), "The News from Everywhere."
4. For a useful but now somewhat dated discussion of research, trends, and issues in Arab studies, see Hisham Sharabi, ed., Theory, Politics and the Arab World: Critical Responses (1991).
5. See, for example, Beshara Doumani, Rediscovering Palestine (1995) and Dina Rizk Khoury, State and Provincial Society in the Ottoman Empire (1997). See too Ariel Salzmann (1993), "An Ancien Régime Revisited: 'Privatization' and Political Economy in the Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Empire."
6. Text of resolution made available by MESA Secretariat.
7. For details see Harvard Crimson, October 1985-January 1986. In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I was one of a group of Harvard faculty and research fellows affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies who publicly dissociated themselves from Safran's conference and insisted that neither the center nor anyone who might be seen as acting in its name should solicit or accept funding from the CIA or any other intelligence agency.
8. The term "think tank" seems to go back to the Second World War and originally referred to a "secure room or environment where defense scientists and military planners could meet to discuss strategy." See Donald E. Abelson (2002), "Think Tanks and U.S. Foreign Policy: An Historical Perspective."
10. On AIPAC see Lee O'Brien, American Jewish Organizations and Israel (1986), chap. 4, and Edward Tivnan, The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy (1987).
11. By way of example see "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," a 1996 strategy paper prepared for Benjamin Netanyahu based on ideas formulated by a group that included Richard Perle and other future Bush administration officials. http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm.
12. For a fuller discussion see Joel Beinin (2003), "Pro-Israel Hawks and the Second Gulf War."
13. See Blecher (2003), "Free People Will Set the Course of History."
14. See also Riaz Hassan, Faithlines: Muslim Conceptions of Islam and Society (2002), which offers a comparative survey of what Muslims in four different countries actually believe and thereby undermines Lewis's portrait of contemporary Islam as static and monolithic.
15. On Lewis's influence after September 11th, see Michiko Kakutani (2003), "How Books Have Shaped U.S. Policy," and Clifford Geertz (2003), "Which Way to Mecca?" See too Kenneth Pollack's 2003 review of The Crisis of Islam. Pollack, a vocal advocate of the invasion of Iraq, expressed admiration for Lewis but was exasperated by Lewis's [End Page 107] reliance on his own authority to support his broad assertions, instead of providing evidence or even detailed arguments.
16. See Adam Shatz's critical but poignant assessment of Ajami's career, "The Native Informant" (2003); for the full text of Cheney's speech see Cheney (2002).
17. On the Princeton case see Amy Magaro Rubin (1995), "Critics Accuse Turkish Government of Manipulating Scholarship"; and Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen, and Robert Jay Lifton (1995), "Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide." On the Lewis case see Le Monde, 23 June 1995, 11.
18. See the New York Times, 30 January 1985, and the MESA Newsletter 7, no. 1 (Winter 1985): 5–7.
19. The quoted passage is from Pipes (1982), "Oil Wealth and Islamic Resurgence," where the argument is put even more crudely than in In the Path of God.
21. I should note that I was one of those who wrote Campus Watch in protest and asked that my name be added to its blacklist, in solidarity with the scholars under attack.
22. See The Forward, 11 April 2003, and "Fueling a Culture Clash," Washington Post, 19 April 2003.
23. For a somewhat dated but still interesting discussion of Middle East studies in Israel, see Shukri Abed, Israeli Arabism: The Latest Incarnation of Orientalism (1986).
25. See the 2003 National Review Online articles by Stanley Kurtz.
Abed, Shukri. 1986. Israeli Arabism: The Latest Incarnation of Orientalism. Washington, D.C.: International Center for Research and Public Policy.
Abelson, Donald E. 2002. Think Tanks and U.S. Foreign Policy: An Historical Perspective. U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda (Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State). http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itps/1102/ijpe/ijpe1102.htm.
Alexander, Edward. 1989. Professor of Terror. Commentary, December, 49–50.
Anderson, Lisa. 2000. The Scholar and the Practitioner: Perspectives on Social Science and Public Policy. Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lecture, Fall, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.
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———. 2003. Why Are Arch-Conservatives Ganging Up on the Middle East Studies Association? History News Network, 20 January. http://hnn.us/articles/1218.html.
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———. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm.
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Kurtz, Stanley. 2003a. Reforming the Campus: Congress Targets Title VI. National Review Online, 14 October. http://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz200310140905.asp.
———. 2003b. Studying Title VI: Criticisms of Middle East Studies Get a Congressional Hearing. National Review Online, 16 June. http://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz061603.asp.
Lewis, Bernard. 1990. The Roots of Muslim Rage. Atlantic Monthly, September, 47–60.
———. 2003. The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. New York: Modern Library.
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Mottahedeh, Roy P. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations: An Islamicist's Critique. Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review 2: 1–26.
O'Brien, Lee. 1986. American Jewish Organizations and Israel. Washington, D.C.: Institute of Palestine Studies.
Pipes, Daniel. 1982. Oil Wealth and Islamic Resurgence. In Islamic Resurgence in the Arab World, edited by Ali E. Hillal Dessouki. New York: Praeger.
———. 1983. In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power. New York: Basic Books. [End Page 109]
Pollack, Kenneth. 2003. Review of The Crisis of Islam, by Bernard Lewis. New York Times Book Review, 6 April, 11.
Richards, Allen; and John Waterbury. 1990. A Political Economy of the Middle East: State, Class, and Economic Development. Boulder: Westview Press.
Rubin, Amy Magaro. 1995. Critics Accuse Turkish Government of Manipulating Scholarship. Chronicle of Higher Education, 27 October, 44.
Safran, Nadav. 1985. Saudi Arabia: The Ceaseless Request for Security. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Salzmann, Ariel. 1993. An Ancien Régime Revisited: "Privatization" and Political Economy in the Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Empire. Politics & Society 21: 393–423.
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Smith, Roger W.; Eric Markusen; and Robert Jay Lifton. 1995. Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide. Holocaust and Genocide Studies 9: 1–22.
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Tivnan, Edward. 1987. The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Waterbury, John. 1983. The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Economy of Two Regimes. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Weiner, Justus Reid. 1999. "My Beautiful Old House" and Other Fabrications by Edward Said. Commentary, September, 23–31.