Move Over Fukuyama: Another Academic Annoys Dani California

I disagree with this op-ed by Bernard Lewis, a professor at Princeton University. The piece, sensationalistically titled "Was Osama Right?" begins by implying that the US response to the Arab world is passive, or even wimpy:

"If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?"

I would say simultaneously occupying Iraq and Afghanistan can be called a lot of bad things, but implying wimpiness? Further, Lewis ignores the idea that Arab countries, who are both threatened by US hegemony as well as capitalism, may just actually relate (or at least they could relate more, relative to US capitalism) to Soviet socialism. For example, several Arab countries have had their own socialist movements. Even though theocracy and religious fundamentalism can clash with the secular slant of socialism, I would guess that Arab governments and citizens can nonetheless identify with socialism's sense of community and obligation to something larger than yourself, whether that be God, the proletariat, or a governing entity.

I'm annoyed that Lewis, who has written extensively on the Middle East, has yet to understand basic, elementary things about Middle Eastern culture. That is what happens when you haven't had hands on professional experience in your field since the second World War, I suppose. It is frightening that someone with so little experience in that region is so well-heeded by the Bush administration.

I certainly don't mean to slam academia and I'm not a university hater. But as someone who has a love for teaching and would love to be a professor someday, I strongly feel that professors have an obligation to their students to back up their opinions with first-hand experience. And if they don't have any of that, then maybe they should stick to the textbook lesson plan, or at least start their opinions with some sort of disclaimer.

The two academics I've slammed in this blog (
see my Fukuyama post) have both been neo-conservatives, but I really don't think the liberal side is much better. I'll never forget sitting in my Middle East Politics class at Berkeley, as our guest lecturer from the University of Haifa told us that Israelis are inherently violent and aggressive people. I can't describe how it felt to sit in that class, wholeheartedly putting my learning experience in the hands of my professors, only to get that in return.


At May 22, 2007 7:53 AM, Blogger itai said...

Who's that lecturer from Haifa?

At May 22, 2007 2:52 PM, Blogger may moon chi said...

I would also like to know the name of the guest lecturer from Haifa University, and what you and the other students' response to that racist comment was.

At May 23, 2007 9:30 AM, Blogger Dani California said...

To be honest, I don't remember his name. As for my response, I was completely frozen when I heard that. In hindsight, I wish I had said something. A few students raised their hands and angrily offered counter arguments, but I don't remember the lecturer giving any substantial response. This incident was on the extreme end, but this was pretty much the way this class went. It was taught by two extremely biased, academia-confined (at least one of them) professors who didn't really welcome student reactions to their opinions. A few students complained but nothing ever came out of it. I'm not sure what the University could have done. Irregardless of the quality of their opinions, if a university (especially one with a free-speech reputation such as UC Berkeley) over-censors their professors, may soon run out of faculty...


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