An ideological campaign to reshape the academic study of the Middle East in the United States has begun to bear fruit on Capitol Hill. In late 2003, the House of Representatives passed legislation which would, for the first time, mandate that university-based Middle East studies centers “foster debate on American foreign policy from diverse perspectives” if they receive federal funding under Title VI of the Higher Education Act. The new legislation, which the Senate could consider in 2004, came after conservative allegations about abuse of Title VI funding by “extreme” and “one-sided” critics of US foreign policy supposedly ensconced at area studies centers across the country. In June 2003, the Select Education Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce convened brief hearings on “International Programs in Higher Education and Questions of Bias.” There, the conservative writer Stanley Kurtz repeated charges he had leveled in the National Review: Title VI centers for the study of the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere are infested by anti-American acolytes of the late Palestinian-American scholar and cultural critic Edward Said. [1] The resulting bill, HR 3077, provides for the creation of a new International Higher Education Advisory Board with the power to “monitor, apprise and evaluate a sample of activities supported under [Title VI] in order to provide recommendations to the Secretary and the Congress for the improvement of programs under the title and to ensure programs meet the purposes of the title.” Four of the board’s seven members would be appointed by Congress and at least two of the remaining three members would represent government agencies concerned with national security.

The fate of this particular bill is uncertain, and the Senate’s crowded docket may not permit its discussion before the current session of Congress ends. But the provision in HR 3077 for an advisory board, which could be revived in subsequent draft legislation, raises the specter of an unprecedented degree of partisan political intrusion into university-based area studies. Should this advisory board come into being, Middle East studies centers seem likely to be the prime targets of its investigations.

Kurtz’s criticisms of area studies before Congress bore a remarkable resemblance to a well-publicized indictment of Middle East studies, Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle East Studies in America, penned by Martin Kramer. Kramer’s slim volume, published by the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy just after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, depicts academic Middle East studies as a cesspool of error, fuzzy thinking and anti-Americanism. Due to stifling political correctness, the book asserts, the output of scholars in the field is no longer of much use to the state or to the cause of national security.

Shortly after it appeared, Ivory Towers was favorably blurbed in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Washington Post, and prominently featured in the New York Times. It was also the inspiration for a spate of critical articles on the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the main North American professional association of Middle East specialists, in such magazines as the National Review, Commentary and The New Republic. Echoing Kramer, commentators from the right attacked MESA because its annual meetings allegedly feature too many scholarly panels on topics they deem esoteric and irrelevant, and not enough panels on al-Qaeda, Palestinian suicide bombings and “anti-American incitement.” As the motivating spirit of HR 3077 is found in the pages of Ivory Towers, and indeed Kramer specifically recommends (in the book and in subsequent columns) enhanced federal oversight of Title VI programs, the arguments of the book are worth examining in some detail.

Causing Eyes to Roll

“America’s academics,” Kramer writes, “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 the influential public. In Washington, the mere mention of academic Middle Eastern studies often causes eyes to roll.” To explain how this came about, Kramer offers his interpretation of 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, chiefly propagated by Edward Said through his 1979 book, Orientalism.

As Kramer tells the story, despite promising beginnings, things were already going poorly for Middle East studies soon after the US assumed a superpower’s role in the region during World War II. 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 self-image of 1950s America. 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 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, this crisis accounts for the success of Said’s Orientalism, and the transformation it almost single-handedly wrought in 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. Attacking established scholars and providing an alternative theory and politics, Orientalism helped the academic left — and especially the Arabs and Muslims among them — achieve intellectual and institutional hegemony in US Middle East studies. Kramer attributes what he sees as the abject failure of most scholars to resist the onslaught of Said’s ideas 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 US Middle East studies is 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 legs of the orientalist stool.” Said’s Orientalism also allegedly licensed political and ethnic tests for admission to the field: One has to be a leftist or, even better, an Arab or Muslim, whose numbers in the MESA membership rolls have increased dramatically. Despite their pretensions to intellectual superiority, however, the disciples of Said who seized control of important faculty chairs in the 1980s have failed to do any better than their discredited predecessors in predicting or explaining the dynamics of Middle Eastern politics, precisely because their predictions are driven by their radical politics and trendy post-modernist theorizing, not by careful observation of the real world.

For example, Kramer argues, 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 of Georgetown University, who understood that Said’s radical message and tone were off-putting for the American mainstream, developed an 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 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.

Most of Kramer’s jibes in Ivory Towers are aimed at university-based academics interested in theory, such as the “post-orientalist fashion designers” (as he puts it) who teach about the Middle East and Islam at New York University. But he also derides the Social Science Research Council for its alleged failure — even refusal — to use the government funding it received to support policy-relevant research, and MESA for its rejection of the terms of the National Security Education Program, which originally required recipients of its scholarship aid to undertake a period of government service. The “new mandarins” who have assumed leadership of the field have lost the confidence of 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 avows, “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.”

Think Tanks Ascendant

The self-inflicted crisis of academic Middle East studies is further manifested, Kramer argues, in the growing recourse that government and the media have to Middle East experts based at think tanks rather than at universities. The “intolerant climate” in academia — poisoned by blind obeisance to the ideas of Edward Said and his left-wing emulators — led many talented people to gravitate to the think tanks, where their work “often surpassed university-based research in clarity, style, thoroughness and cogency.”

It would seem that Kramer’s ideal model of the proper relationship between the world of scholarship and the world of policymaking, wherein scholars produce research that is directly relevant to the immediate needs of the state, comes from his own past and current institutional affiliations. After receiving his doctorate from Princeton University, 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). According to his website, he returned to the Dayan Center from the US in December 2003. 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 named after the famous Israeli general and politician, but it incorporated and superceded 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 an 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.

While in the US, Kramer has held fellowships at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank founded in 1985 which has sent a succession of associates — a well-known example being former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk — straight into the ranks of government. In the same year that Ivory Towers appeared, Kramer assumed the post of editor of Middle East Quarterly, published by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, a small think tank directed by Daniel Pipes, another hawkish commentator. Pipes established the Middle East Forum to “define and promote American interests” in the Middle East. Those interests are defined on the Forum’s website 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.”

Kramer is clearly correct to point to the greatly increased importance of think tanks in advising government and shaping public opinion about the Middle East. The leap to prominence of WINEP in the 1980s ended the status of the Middle East as a relative backwater for the Washington think tank industry, even for those institutions with the lengthiest pedigrees. Particularly following the September 11 attacks and continuing through the Iraq war, the large think tanks have significantly stepped up their Middle East-related activity. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, founded in 1910 to advance international cooperation, regularly hosts Middle East scholars as research fellows and produces an electronic newsletter called the Arab Reform Bulletin. The Council on Foreign Relations, established in 1921 as a sort of elite dinner club, publishes frequent Middle East-related articles in its influential journal Foreign Affairs and in July 2002 produced a widely read report on US public diplomacy in the Islamic world. The liberal Brookings Institution, established in 1927 with Carnegie and Rockefeller family funding, opened the Haim Saban Center for Middle East Policy, under the direction of Indyk, in May 2002. The conservative American Enterprise Institute, founded in 1943 to promote “limited government,” “free enterprise” and a “strong foreign policy and national defense,” arguably has been the most influential of the older think tanks upon the second Bush administration in matters related to the Middle East.

Other players include private contractors like the huge RAND Corporation, which entered the field after World War II to produce or fund research for the military and intelligence and other government agencies concerned with foreign policy. Still more competitors for the ear of power are based at what one observer calls “advocacy” think tanks, like the Center for Strategic and International Studies (1962), the Heritage Foundation (1973) and the Cato Institute (1977), which combine “policy research with aggressive marketing techniques.” [2]

But there can be little doubt that WINEP, a member of the “advocacy” generation, has been the most successful advocate among the smaller group of Washington outfits that concern themselves solely with the Middle East. In its annual survey of media citations of think tanks, the liberal media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting counted WINEP among its top twenty for three years running in 2000, 2001 and 2002. In each of these years, WINEP was the only institution listed that focuses on a single global region outside the US. The Middle East Institute, founded in 1946, publishes a journal and organizes conferences but exercises relatively little political clout. Organizations established more recently, like the Middle East Policy Council, also do not have a powerful audience inside the government. However, the influence of research and the merit of that research are not necessarily one and the same thing — Ivory Towers on Sand being a case in point.

Selective Indictment

Some of the criticisms of US Middle East studies which Kramer sets forth in Ivory Towers are not entirely off-base. For example, Kramer depicts modernization theory as flawed, though he ignores the Cold War context which produced it and explains its popularity in psychological terms, as the product of Americans’ missionary zeal and naïve 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 and facile, though it is worth noting that in some countries (Turkey, for example) Islamist parties did in fact evolve in a democratic and moderate direction. Kramer is 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 his book ignores the sophisticated analyses subsequently advanced by scholars, for example in Political Islam, edited by Joel Beinin and Joe Stork, Islam, Politics and Social Movements, edited by Edmund Burke III and Ira Lapidus, or Sami Zubaida’s Islam, the People and the State.

Kramer also poses legitimate questions about whether large donations to Middle East studies programs come with strings attached, visible or invisible, that might affect faculty appointments, curriculum and programming. Several US universities have in fact accepted 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 or Islamic studies. But it is not clear that these donations have exercised any untoward influence on scholarship or teaching at those institutions, and in any case American universities have also accepted, without much controversy, large donations for Jewish and Israel studies programs from people (Jews and non-Jews) strongly supportive of Israel.

Overall, Kramer’s approach is deeply flawed as a history of Middle East studies as a scholarly field. Kramer blames Edward Said and Orientalism for everything that he believes has gone wrong with Middle East studies from the late 1970s onward, 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 and developed. As Ivory Towers tells the story, every scholar in Middle East studies either slavishly embraced every pronouncement that fell from Said’s lips, or else cringed in silent terror. But, for the most part, scholars in the field did not simply swallow Said’s take on Orientalism hook, line and sinker but engaged with it critically, accepting what seemed useful and rejecting, recasting or developing other aspects. 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 is shallow and tendentious.

Kramer claims in Ivory Towers that US Middle East scholars have repeatedly made predictions that did not come true. His accusations are sometimes on target, though he is rather selective. He does not, for example, take his colleague Daniel Pipes to task for inaccurately predicting in the early 1980s that Islamist activism would decline as oil prices fell. Nor, in his writings since the Iraq war, has he faulted Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies — who is a favorite of the Bush administration — for claiming that all Iraqis would enthusiastically welcome US occupation. More broadly, Kramer’s fixation on accurate prediction as the chief (or even sole) gauge of good scholarship is itself highly questionable. 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.

Just as many 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 suggests, shape their research agendas to provide the kinds of knowledge the US government will find most useful. His book demonstrates 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, or indeed in what scholarship and intellectual life should really be about. His real complaint is that US Middle East studies has failed to produce knowledge useful to the state. Yet by ignoring larger political and institutional contexts, Kramer cannot understand or explain why so many scholars have grown less than enthusiastic about producing the kind of knowledge about the Middle East the government wants — or conversely, why it is that the government and the media now routinely turn to analysts based in think tanks, along with former military and intelligence personnel, for policy-relevant knowledge.

Untenable Stance

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 condemns as at best irrelevant and at worst pernicious, on the one hand, and on the other the purportedly hard-headed, 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 is not wrong to suggest that there has been some fashionable theory-mongering in academia, including Middle East studies. But in Ivory Towers he goes well beyond this by now banal observation, and beyond a rejection of post-structuralism, 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 seems to believe he and those who think like him possess.

This is an extraordinarily naïve 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 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 scholarly debates over the past four decades or so.

It is moreover a stance which Kramer does not maintain in practice. His assertions throughout the book are in fact based on a certain framework of interpretation, even as he insists that they are merely the product of his acute powers of observation, analysis and prediction. It is, for example, striking that at the very end of Ivory Towers Kramer explicitly lays out 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 US “plays an essentially beneficent role in the world.” He does not bother to tell readers why they should accept this vision of the US role in the world as true, nor does he even acknowledge that it may be something other than self-evidently true. The assertion nonetheless undermines his avowed epistemological stance and graphically demonstrates that it is untenable.

In Search of Heroes

“What will it take to heal Middle Eastern studies,” Kramer asks in his conclusion, “if they can be healed at all?” Here Kramer explicitly counterposes the theorizing in which too many academics have 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 continues. “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 post-modernist devotees. In the longer run, despite the resistance of the radical mandarins, “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.”

To hasten this shift, Kramer suggests that the federal government reform the process it uses to decide which Title VI-funded national resource centers, including centers for Middle East studies, receive 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 concludes, ultimately the field will have to heal itself by overcoming its irrelevance and its intolerance of intellectual and political diversity. Its new leaders will have to forge a different kind of relationship with “the world beyond the campus,” based on the aforementioned principle that “the United States plays an essentially beneficent role in the world.” Such lines are the basis of worries within and outside academic Middle East studies that HR 3077, the bill which resulted from the June 2003 hearing Kramer called for, is an attempt to stifle critical voices and diminish the autonomy of American institutions of higher education and long-established principles of academic freedom.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

These worries are heightened by other activities of Kramer’s employer, the Middle East Forum, activities which can be seen as complementary to the intellectually simplistic critique of US Middle East studies in Ivory Towers. One might even go so far as to portray Kramer and Forum director Daniel Pipes as, respectively, the “good cop” and “bad cop” of the far right end of the Middle East studies spectrum.

A year after the September 11 attacks, the Middle East Forum launched a new initiative directly targeting academic Middle East studies. This is a website called Campus Watch, ostensibly established to “review and critique Middle East studies in North America, with an aim to improving them.” Campus Watch initiated its campaign by 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 or US policy in the region; the website also cited 14 universities for similar sins. Campus Watch also invited college students and others to monitor their professors and send in classroom statements which they deemed anti-Israel or anti-American, helping Campus Watch compile “dossiers” on suspect faculty and academic institutions.

The website prompted a storm of protest: over 100 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 had been apologists for terrorism or were somehow unpatriotic. To show solidarity with their beleaguered fellow scholars, many of the protesters demanded that they too be added to Campus Watch’s blacklist. [3] 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 which stated 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 remove the web pages attacking the eight scholars as well as pages containing dossiers on individual professors. Throughout the flap, defenders of Campus Watch ridiculed critics who used the word “McCarthyism” to describe the website’s self-appointed mission to expose “the mixing of politics with scholarship.” But, speaking at right-wing activist David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend in November 2003, Pipes hinted that Campus Watch has its own trouble keeping them separate: “I flatter myself perhaps in thinking that the rather subdued academic response to the war in Iraq in March and April may have been, in part, due to our work.”

Slippery Slope?

Martin Kramer, Pipes’ partner in the campaign to reorient the politics of US Middle East and area studies in a rightward direction, mocks Middle East scholars suspicious of the advisory board which Senate passage and presidential signature of HR 3077 would create, if the bill is not amended. If they do not like outside scrutiny of their activities, he remarks, they can “get off the federal dole” and eschew Title VI monies entirely. The advisory board will not intimidate professors who disapprove of US Middle East policy, adds Kramer, because the “full range of views” the board is designed to protect “necessarily includes every view and excludes none.” Of course, one needs to accept the major premise of Ivory Towers — university students are not currently exposed to a “full range of views” — to consider such a board necessary. Moreover, in light of other hostility expressed toward academic Middle East studies since the September 11 attacks, the concerns of Middle East scholars are not so surprising.

Some right-wing critics have gone 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 have 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 the present context, “balance” and “diversity” seem to be code words for pressuring colleges and universities to muzzle critics of US 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, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) 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 seems to regard all such criticism as inherently anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, Santorum’s colleague Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) proposed the creation of a federal commission to investigate alleged anti-Semitism on campus — again defined rather broadly to include virtually all criticism of Israeli policies.

“Diversity” as defined by Kramer and his fellow conservative Stanley Kurtz, the main champion of HR 3077, ideally means inclusion of “supporters of US policy” on the faculties that are supposedly now turning American students against their own country. But Kramer and Kurtz realize the government cannot force the alleged legions of leftist professors to abandon their control of departmental hiring as they once abandoned the barricades. So, as Kurtz put it at a WINEP forum on HR 3077, the bill offers “gentle” incentives for academics to mend their wayward ways. The proposed advisory board, he hopes, will recommend funding increases for Title VI centers whose graduates go on to government service and whose outreach programs present “many viewpoints of foreign policy.” Given that the “diversity” of Title VI centers’ output is in the eye of the beholder, and given the clear predilection of the board’s proponents for anti-intellectual ways of thinking, the composition and activities of the advisory board would likely become the bone of endless contention. Should HR 3077 or something like it pass into law, the ideological battles within and about Middle East studies in the United States will have entered a new phase — but they will be far from over.


[1] See Stanley Kurtz, “Studying Title VI,” National Review Online, June 16, 2003, at and Stanley Kurtz, “Reforming the Campus,” National Review Online, October 14, 2003, at
[2] The term “think tank” seems to go back to World War II and originally referred to a “secure room or environment where defense scientists and military planners could meet to discuss strategy.” See Donald E. Abelson, “Think Tanks and US Foreign Policy: An Historical Perspective,” US Foreign Policy Agenda, November 2002, at By the end of the twentieth century, there were an estimated 2,000 organizations engaged in policy analysis based in the US, a substantial proportion of them focused on foreign policy and international relations. The 1970s also witnessed the establishment of “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. See Lisa Anderson, “The Scholar and the Practitioner: Perspectives on Social Science and Public Policy,” Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lecture, Fall 2000, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University (unpublished), p. 21.
[3] 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.

How to cite this article:

Zachary Lockman "Behind the Battles Over Middle East Studies," Middle East Report Online, January 15, 2004.

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