Pessimistic Predictions
The Middle East Studies sector continues to deny success in Iraq.

by Jonathan Schanzer
National Review Online
January 16, 2008

When good news arrives from Iraq, most Americans celebrate. But not the Middle East studies professors who are often quoted in the mainstream press. For them, good news is bad news.

Testimony from General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, is one of an increasing number of reports that the troop surge there has led to tangible improvements — so much so that even some of the most outspoken opponents of the war acknowledge that things are looking up.

Anti-war lawmaker John Murtha, fresh from a four-day visit to Iraq, recently admitted, "I think the surge is working." Newsweek's Rod Nordland wrote that, "things do seem to have gotten better...IED attacks across the country are at their lowest point since September 2004, down 50-percent just since the surge peaked last summer." The Red Crescent Society confirms that some 28,000 Iraqi refugees who fled Iraq have recently returned. Baghdad even hosted a vintage car exhibition, according to the ash-Sharq al-Awsat website.

Yet as positive reports roll in, many of America's most prominent Middle East Studies professors are discounting the good news. After saturating the media (TV, radio, newspapers, and the Internet) with predictions that Iraq will implode, their reputations as sages and prophets can only decline if the surge succeeds. In light of this, some of them appear to be hoping for a reversal of fortune and rooting for the surge to fail. Among these are Juan Cole, Rashid Khalidi, and Fawaz Gerges.

Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, has been writing for years about the failures of Iraq on his blog, "Informed Comment." Despite the documented improvements, he wrote a recent piece at Salon.com asking, "How much longer can Iraq limp along as a failing state before it really begins to collapse?"

Even if one accepted the official Iraqi government statistics, the average number of Iraqi deaths directly attributable to political violence in the past three full months has been around 700 per month. That pace, if maintained, would work out to about 8,400 deaths a year… Perhaps only Somalia and Sudan witness killings on that scale, and no one would say that ‘good news' is coming out of either of those places.

Cole claims that, "the orgy of violence in Iraq has displaced 2 million persons abroad and another 2 million internally, and left tens of thousands dead." No mention of the some 28,000 Iraqi refugees who have returned home in the last two months, encouraged by the good news they receive from their families.

Cole concludes that, "The lack of virtually any good political news from around the country is what drives the war boosters to cite death statistics."

But, given that numerous good news stories citing other statistics and empirical data are filed from sources that would never be described as "war boosters," such as ash-Sharq al-Awsat and the BBC, it would appear that Cole is hoping for the collapse of Iraq, or simply refuses to look at new evidence that might contradict his long-standing conclusion that the sky is falling in Baghdad.

But Cole is not alone. Columbia University's Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Palestinian history and one-time Palestinian Liberation Organization spokesman, also appears to be cheering for the insurgency to prevail. Khalidi has also made a name for himself as a scholar who thinks that American foreign policy is failing — particularly regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He is only too happy to point out possible failures in other parts of the region to bolster his long-standing arguments.He recently wrote in the Washington Post:

America is the greatest power in world history. But that will make not a whit of difference to the outcome in Iraq. We will not - we cannot - force the Iraqis to do what we want, any more than the British could toward the end of their own attempt to rule Iraq, although they managed to hold on for much longer than our doomed occupation will.

Ignoring the potential impact of the good news reported in recent weeks, Khalidi continues to insist that America has, "done incalculable harm to that tragic country and to our position in the world."

Fawaz Gerges of Sarah Lawrence College also insists that there is no way for America to win. "The longer we stay in Iraq, the more we help al Qaeda spread its ideology and tactics," he said on PBS.

Gerges, a Lebanese who has appeared on Hezbollah's al-Manar television channel, insists that America will lose what he calls a "fight to subjugate... the Arab and Muslim world and control its resources."

We can count on Cole, Khalidi, Gerges, and other professors of Middle Eastern studies to continue to make dire predictions about Iraq. They have capitalized on the bad news in Iraq since 2003, and will likely continue to push that line in the face of changing data. If the surge works and America prevails, their reputations will almost certainly be damaged — and they can return to the relative obscurity from whence they came.

--Jonathan Schanzer, an adjunct scholar at www.Campus-Watch.org, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center, and editor of inFocus Quarterly.


World War IV
The Long Struggle Against Islamofacism

by Norman Podhoretz
Doubleday, $24.95

Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer

Jerusalem Post
January 4, 2008

The Domestic Front

"Norman Podhoretz's new book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, is a hate-filled, anti-American book of the first order," wrote former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer on the website antiwar.com.

According to Scheuer, who has become a poster child for criticism of the neoconservative movement, "Podhoretz hates every American who does not support the neoconservatives' views, the foreign policy they have devised, and the military and national security disasters to which they are leading America."

Scheuer's review of World War IV is hyperbolic, off-base and loaded with ad-hominem attacks on Podhoretz, the man who is commonly viewed as the godfather of the neoconservative movement. But what is striking about his anti-Podhoretz diatribe is that he attacks the aspect of the book that truly makes it worth reading.

World War IV only briefly explains the ideas that comprise the dangerous pan-Islamist worldview that drives extremists such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to wreak havoc. This is ground that has been covered by countless others. Nor does Podhoretz break new ground when he argues that World War III was against one ideological enemy (communism) and that militant Islam (the term I prefer over Islamofascism) is America's newest ideological enemy in a war that will likely be fought for decades to come.

What makes Podhoretz's book particularly interesting is that he boldly and unabashedly names and shames many of the leftist ideologues whom he identifies as undermining the war against militant Islam. While Podhoretz doesn't explicitly state it, the second half of his book makes it painfully clear that the most difficult battle in America's new, long war may actually be the battle against those who seek to weaken the resolve of the West, or even deny that a war is now under way.

There are many forces at work here. The desire for political power is, perhaps, the simplest among them to understand. For example, in an attempt to undermine current US policy, former presidential candidate John Kerry implored America to "get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, because they are a nuisance." Indeed, Kerry attempted to downplay the threat of militant Islam because it represented the cornerstone of his opponent's policies in the 2004 election.

The reasons behind the mainstream media's leftist leanings are more difficult to understand, but the anti-conservative bias of America's top newspapers and television networks is historically undeniable. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Podhoretz notes, much of the mainstream media blamed US policy for the subsequent conflagration with militant Islam, rather than those who perpetrated the attacks. Podhoretz notes, for example, that Susan Sontag of The New York Times claimed 9/11 was "undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions."

He also cites evidence that, amid the complications resulting from the Iraq war, the media have largely ignored the good news. He notes that the neutrality expected of the media has been supplanted by "virulent hostility."

"Hostility" might also be a good word to describe American leftist intellectuals' approach to the struggle with militant Islam. Podhoretz notes that the late Norman Mailer likened the twin towers of the World Trade Center to "two huge buck teeth," saying that the ruins of Ground Zero were "more beautiful than the buildings were."

While Mailer's words were merely spiteful, Noam Chomsky, the renowned linguist turned activist, has attempted to vilify America's attempts to defend itself. As Podhoretz explains, during a speech in the days after 9/11, Chomsky stated that America was readying to carry out some sort of genocide in Afghanistan. "Plans are being made," he stated, "and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next few months, very casually, with no comment, no particular thought about it."

Of course, Operation Enduring Freedom, launched at the end of 2001, was a quick war marked by minimal casualties, but Chomsky was never held to account for his irresponsible assertions.

Podhoretz points out, however, that American intellectuals are not alone in attacking America's efforts to battle the forces of militant Islam. The European Left has also gotten into the act. Dario Fo, the Italian playwright who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997, called the attacks of 9/11 "the legitimate daughter of the culture of violence, hunger and inhumane exploitation" that he pins on the United States. Acclaimed British novelist Martin Amis writes, "America, it is time you learned how implacably you are hated."

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard chimes in with his assertion that, "ultimately, they [al-Qaida] did it, but we willed it." Cambridge University Professor of Classics Mary Beard asserts that the "United States had it coming." "World bullies," she noted, "will in the end pay the price."

British professors are not the only academics vilifying America. US academics have also reportedly played a significant role. Podhoretz calls them the "guerrillas-with-tenure in the universities."

Although there is a growing body of literature on the subject, Podhoretz pinpoints only a few of the choice quotes uttered by American professors in recent years. Richard Berthold, of the University of New Mexico, reportedly stated, "Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon gets my vote." Rutgers University Prof. Barbara Foley wrote that the "ultimate cause [of 9/11] is the fascism of US foreign policy over the past many decades." Jennie Traschen, a University of Massachusetts physics professor, reportedly stated that the American flag is "a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and oppression." David C. Hendrickson, a professor of political science at Colorado College, wrote an article entitled "A Dissenter's Guide to Foreign Policy" in World Policy Journal in which he places "the things America had done under George W. Bush on a part with the 'iniquities' of the Soviet Union under Stalin."

Podhoretz could have gone on for many more pages, identifying those who have sought to undermine America's initial struggles with radical Islam. Indeed, an entire book could be written about the American academics, particularly professors of Middle Eastern studies, who have consistently downplayed the threat of militant Islam for decades.

The job of naming and shaming those who detract from America's efforts at the start of our long war is a somewhat unsavory task, but Podhoretz sees it as necessary. He laments that, "the forces promoting defeatism are more powerful than they ever were in the past."

Podhoretz openly wonders whether "Americans of this generation will turn out to be as willing and as able to bear the burden of World War IV as their forebears in World War II and then again in World War III." Defeating the forces that seek to undermine our efforts from within will likely be a critical component of any strategy for victory in World War IV.

The writer, a former US Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFocus Quarterly. He is also author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.

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