The pundits' war

Read Steven Heydemann's piece in the Chicago Tribune Sunday on conservative efforts to impose political constraints on federal funding for Middle Eastern studies centers. Reading this article about how threatened people have been by the often critical work of Middle Eastern scholars seemed to go hand in hand with Andrew Sullivan's posts about the al Qaeda bombings in Spain:

What the Europeans refuse to understand is that there is no proximate cause for this violence. It is structural; it is aimed at the very existence of other faiths; it wishes to purge the entire Muslim world of infidels (which means the annihilation of the Jews), and eventually to reconquer Europe. You can no more negotiate with these people than you could negotiate with Hitler. And by negotiation, I don't just mean direct talks. I mean attempts to placate by occasional withdrawal of troops from, say, Iraq or Afghanistan, or withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia or abandonment of Israel. All such tactical shifts are regarded purely as weakness. They are invitations for more massacres. How many more will die in London and Rome and Berlin and Paris before the old continent fights to defend itself?

Comparing how the Bush administration and war proponents have systematically discounted every one in this country that knows about the Middle East with a dissenting view, academics and foreign service professionals alike, to Andrew Sullivan's theories and rhetoric, which adhere pretty closely to the official line, gives you an idea of how facile much of the intellectual work justifying the global war on terror really is. In many ways, our foreign policy is being driven by ideas which have just enough validity to look really coherent in 750 words or less.

And while the right deserves blame for this specific content, this is really a larger critique about the dangers of a media and policy culture that responds to itself far too quickly to allow for the kind of critical, long term, expertise driven thought that has must be at the heart of successful foreign policy choices. Say what you will about that foreign policy culture being insular, or too attached to the status quo, etc. Smart foreign policymaking is simply too specific and complicated to be dictated by popular fashion.


Post a Comment

<< Home