An Army of Juan

It looks like my second-favorite academic, Juan Cole, is headed to chair the Middle Eastern department at Yale. It’s probably useful to note that many of the analysts and FSO’s who shape our policies toward the Middle East come from Middle Eastern Studies departments, suggesting that the Saudi investment in shaping those departments may be millions of dollars well-spent. And explaining a lot about how it is that we’re in such a hole in the Middle East.

I won’t kid myself into believing that anything I write here will have any impact on Yale’s decision, but just for the record, I’d like to go through the highlights of Juan’s and my relationship.

Juan Cole suggests the UN takes over Iraqi security (note that links to Cole’s work may or may not reflect what he wrote at the time – he tends to edit…). I reply:

Because I have one reply to Juan’s suggestion. Srebenica. Srebenica. SrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenica.

Then I supported Cole in the face of a threatened suit by MEMRI.

But as far as I am from supporting Cole – and I’m really, really far from supporting him (I have a post in the blog queue about despicable Columbia professor Joseph Massad and Cole’s support of him) – I can’t remain silent when someone, even someone I admire like MEMRI, uses the heavy hand of the law to attempt to quash what is essentially political speech.

Then I reversed field, because it turns out that it was a matter of goose and gander:

But until I do I’ll completely withdraw my support of his position. If you’re going to be a ‘playa’ and threaten to lawyer up in response to political criticism, you don’t get to go publicly wrap yourself the First Amendment when someone does it to you (as opposed to wrapping oneself in it in court, which you obviously do get to do).

And sent him this email. We had a private correspondence, which I won’t reproduce, except to note that his tone in email was more over-the-top than that on his blog.

Then came the blowup.

Cole blogged about the murder of Lt. Kylan Jones-Huffman – someone who had a significant correspondence with Prof. Cole – and failed to mention their relationship.

To me, that was unforgivable. It would be as though Omar or Mohammed from ITM were murdered and I simply did a post about the political significance of the killing, without mentioning our relationship. To me, the personal trumps the political, and to violate a personal relationship for an instrumental purpose is truly sinful and inhumane.

Then Cole did it again – his “just sayin'” passalong of the accusation that the ITM brothers were CIA plants and “outside the Iraqi mainstream” turns out to have been based on what sure as heck looks like a basic misreading of the cited information, which in fact said:

In a stunning display of support for democracy and a strong rebuttal to critics of efforts to bring democratic reform to Iraq, 87% of Iraqis indicated that they plan to vote in January elections. Expanding on the theme, 77% said that “regular, fair elections” were the most important political right for the Iraqi people and 58% felt that Iraqi-style democracy was likely to succeed.

We both kind of climbed down…

Then Cole got on the radio and demonstrated his ignorance of the history of electoral mechanics.

I’ll skip over the history in the urban East Coast, where political machines like Tammany used ties with immigrant groups to induce them to vote for candidates whose names they couldn’t read, and simply suggest that the ‘blanket’ or ‘Australian’ ballot – one that listed all the candidates for a party and allowed the voter to select one – wasn’t implemented in the US until very late in the 19th Century.

…I could recommend some history books for the Professor, if he’d like.

Cole stands tall, and tosses the ‘chickenhawk’ slur.

Here Cole talks about the jackboots of Israeli oppression (in talking about the Lebanese demonstrations). I suggest that it’s complete misreading of Western history in the face of true popular movements, and of a piece with his constant demonization of Israeli and Western governments.

Cole:

Update: Al-Jazeerah is reporting that the Lebanese Opposition is now calling for the big demonstrations at Martyrs’ Square to continue until all Syrian troops leave Lebanese soil.

You wonder what would happen if the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza tried the same thing re: Ariel Sharon’s military occupation that they face. They’d be crushed by the jackboot (with convenient allegations that they were a front for terrorism).

Me:

This is just risible.

No democratic government – no liberal government – since World War II has been able to withstand peaceful demonstrations for community or national rights. The will to oppress just isn’t deep enough.

Dan Darling got some digs in, talking about the recent Iranian elections:

Predictably enough, Juan Cole has bought into Iranian propaganda hook, line, and sinker and even manages the following:
Turnout was about 60 percent, better than expected. That is slightly bigger than the turnout in Iraq’s recent elections.

Then, my personal favorite – because it gives a clear sense of the intellectual honesty and vigor underpinning Prof. Cole’s positions (the honesty, vigor, and positions Yale will be paying him for):

It appears that he:

1. Made a gross error (link is to a grab of his site by Martin Kramer) in his post – a la Pape – blaming Islamic terrorism on Western occupation (he suggested that 9/11 was a reaction to the massacre at Jenin…which not only never happened, but didn’t happen in 2002, well after 9/11/2001);

2. When Martin Kramer gutted him on his mistakes, Cole “Winston Smithed” his mistake (changed it without note or comment) and then posted a lame apologia when he was caught out. I like the term “Winston Smithed” – or just “Winstoned” and encourage people to use it often when appropriate;
3. When Kramer busted him for doing that, he posted this request to the Kossaks:

Please do up an oppo research diary on Martin Kramer. Who is he? Where did he come from? When he was head of the Dayan Center in Tel Aviv, to whom did he report in the Israeli intelligence community? Who funded his work on Hizbullah? Was he fired from heading the Dayan Center? How does he suddenly show back up in the US after a 20-year absence with a book that blames unpreparedness for 9/11 on US professors of Middle East Studies instead of on the Israeli Mossad and the US CIA/FBI? What was his role in getting up the Iraq War and in advising the US on the wrong-headed policies that have gotten so many Americans killed? Who pays his salary, now, exactly? What are his links with AIPAC, and with the shadowy world of far-right Zionist think tanks and dummy organizations?

Basically, he asked the mob to go burn Kramer down. Note that I’m aware of Kramer’s interest in compiling a dossier of writings by Cole and others; I think there’s a big difference in compiling a catalog of someone’s work – for which they are responsible, as I’m responsible for my words here – and digging into the career of an opponent with the clear intent of unearthing damaging information.

When called on that bad behavior, he simply edited it out of existence.

I comment on the philosophical underpinnings of Cole’s work here:

If you had the academic background I did – studying political theory and history in the early 1970’s – this will be as familiar as a Led Zeppelin riff. Everything back then was viewed through the lens of colonialism – internal, external, economic, social, political. It was the aqua regia of political analysis.

And, in its moment – the postwar decades in which the old colonial order crumbled – it probably had some relevance. It probably has some utility today. But as a theoretical anchor in the modern era, it’s just silly. It’s like using epicycles to try and navigate a spaceship.

And worse, it has become the root of Bad Philosophy, which dissolves every relationship into a relationship of power – and which demands that power and violence be used to free the oppressed from the bonds of that power.

Cole then steps to the plate and demonstrates his class – again – by slandering murdered journalist Steven Vincent. Go read what Mrs. Vincent had to say:

You did not know him – you did not have that honor, and you will never have the chance, thanks to the murderous goons for whom you have appointed yourself an apologist.

You strike me as a typical professor – self-opinionated, arrogant, so sure of the rightness of your position that you won’t even begin to consider someone else’s. I would suggest that you ought to be ashamed of yourself for your breathtaking presumption in eviscerating Steven in death and disparaging Nour in life, but, like any typical professor, I have no doubt that you are utterly shameless.

I don’t think I can add much to what Mrs. Vincent had to say.

He can’t help being what he is. We can only decide whether to listen or not.

18 thoughts on “An Army of Juan”

  1. It all depends on your perspective. I am an alumnus of the U of Michigan History Department (M.A. 1971), where the loathsome Mr. Cole currently hangs his hat. I say gehst du im gesundeheight, and don’t let the door hit you in the rear on your way out.

  2. I would venture that Cole’s step up to Yale is representative of the absence of a deep pool of expert Middle Eastern scholars. This is really an area that should be federally subsidized: scholarships for students studying Persian and Arabic, increased study-abroad programs, etc. Unfortnately, even five years after 9-11, there hasn’t been much of push, either from the government or from within academia.

    Last week I went to a talk by the director of the Iranian Studies department at Stanford, and it surfaced that even though students were clamoring to get into his classes (and he was forced to eliminate small sections in favor of large lectures to accomdate the students), the program had no real funding outside of a few benevolent and wealthy Iranian-Americans. A shame.

  3. Yale? YALE?!

    The talent pool must be shallow. His writings mistake “unsubstantiated, unalloyed, earnestly portrayed sympathy” for “principled expertise.” He has the academic heft of a sitcom episode about racial reconcilation.

    Yale?

  4. I guess he’ll have to learn all those old Yalie songs, like “O Yale, Thy Ivy-Encrusted Piles Doth Pain Me Still” and “Taliban Uber Alles”.

  5. Nate,

    We are subsidizing Middle East studies right now, and have for years. The folks at National Review are constantly complaining that the money goes to people like Cole instead of pro-American scholars and students who want to enter the military or diplomatic service.

    You can’t claim that the money’s not being spent, although there are doubts about whether it’s being spent well.

    Search g**gle for “area studies” on nationalreview.com and you’ll get a bunch of their articles.

  6. Rob: I looked at the NR archive and found only one article dealing with this issue, and it focused on the 1980’s and 1990’s. Do you have links?

    Actually, I am making the specific point that not enough money is being spent on the traditional academic programs, not because I know, but because of the testimony of of Dr. Abbas Milani, a professor of Iranian Studies at Stanford (who spent time in an Iranian prison in the 1970’s before deciding to flee the Mullahs), and the political scientist Larry Diamond, who at the invitation of Condi Rice spent time in Iraq in 2004 to assist with the constitution. I think these guys, who actually have actually put boots on the ground in academica and their regions of study, might know better than some NR hacks.

  7. There is an Iraqi blogger who regularly puts the smackdown on Cole. You should all be reading iraqpundit, which is located on blogger, but this thing won’t let me post a link. Just Google Iraqpundit.

    P.S. I’m just promoting this person’s site because I’m a fan of it. Tony Badran is a big fan of it, too.

  8. Absolutely A.L.!

    Too right on this – I’m assuming you’ve read his “scholarly output”:http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=%22juan+cole%22&btnG=Search as well, and are judging him based on this.

    On the other hand – THAT’S what we love about the internet – where else can you completely dismiss thousands of hours and millions of lines, by concentrating on a few selected instances! It’s a beautiful thing!!

    We LOVE propanganda blogging!

    _Keyboard Commando proudly pointing out IOKIYAAR-isms since 2003_

  9. Cole is a creep. HR, if David Duke had an equally strong background in the same area, would you be defending Yale’s decision to hire him?

    Character counts. For Cole, it counts against him.

  10. Actually, HR, I have read some of his scholarly output (note that your GoogleScholar search includes such gems as “Why Are Arch Conservatives Ganging Up on the Middle East Studies Association?”:http://http:\\hnn.us\articles.html&ei=LsdOROmVKsX4iQGFspzqCw&sig2=zG6q3LMq3V6cMddQ977mcg ) But I’ve read several of hius works, including

    “Nationalism And The Colonial Legacy in the Middle East”:http://scholar.google.com/url?sa=U&q=http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0020743802002027 in the IJ ME Studies, and “The United States and Shi’ite Religious Factions in Post-Ba’thist Iraq”:http://www.hichemkaroui.com/September_2004/cole.pdf

    The latter is a very interesting article on the fundamentalist Shiite movement in postwar Iraq; the former is the kind of work criticized in my post on his critical-colonialism based worldview.

    So yes, I have read some of his work, and no it doesn’t influence my point at all. I’ll ask in response whether he’d be up for the job if it weren’t for his stance as a ‘public intellectual’.

    A.L.

  11. Armed Liberal -

    Is it possible to keep a record of his posts? Snapshots?

    Or would the way back machine pick up his posts pre editing?

    If not then how do you or Karmer still have the quotes of what he said? From memory?

    All of the stuff you put in here is very damning and I would think would make a professional case before any even somewhat open minded school hiring board.

    Either way it is a disgusting record and valuble dossier to keep on this third rate snake in the grass weasel.

    Your answers and explanations would be appreciated.

    Regards,

    Mike

  12. Nate,

    I’m sorry I don’t have time to post lots of links, but I suggest using g**gle rather than the poorly organized NRO archives. That will pick up blog posts as well as articles. Stanley Kurtz has complained a lot about this topic. Here is one of his articles.

    Anyway, I don’t know, and I suppose NR probably doesn’t know, if we’re spending enough on the Middle East Studies. But before we spend more, a look at how the current money is spent is worthwhile, no? My personal belief is that government subsidy to the humanities is almost guaranteed to be a total waste.

  13. That Kurtz article does paint a poor picture of academia, but I don’t know that these liberal Humanities programs are as harmful as one might think. I have a high school friend who in a move none of us say coming became a full-on Muslim after taking a class on Islam in college. (Pre 9-11) He just completed a PHD in Islamic History, and he has pretty extreme liberal views about American foreign policy. But when my friend goes abroad to Egypt, Kuwait, Pakistan, and other countries he’s been to for research, I think he just the fact that he is as an American interested in Islamic history gives our country a more positive impression among the Middle Eastern scholars he deals with. In a weird sort of way, I think the fact that Americans have so many different views is a strength that needs to be conveyed better.

    Incidentally, he also has made friends with a lot of military personel in the language classes he’s taken over the years. I visited him in Austin, TX one summer and his Persian class was full of military folks. This kind of mixing is probably good for both academia and the military, since it forces people to confront alternative views.

  14. HR, if David Duke had an equally strong background in the same area, would you be defending Yale’s decision to hire him?

    I’m afraid that someday soon, that won’t be a hypothetical question.

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