In the Dark


Reader (and tireless commenter) Jean Bart sends in this Michelle Goldberg story about the latest wrinkle in the Middle East Studies struggle. [Day pass/ad viewing required] If you've been following the saga of Martin Kramer, Campus Watch, and so on, the outlines of the debate will be familiar enough. This plot point involves a House bill to increase Federal oversight of University ME studies. As this oversight would only apply to programs on the public tit, I can't get as worked up about it as some of the academics quoted in the story.

As a practical matter, however, it's worth thinking about what areas of inquiry might come up in the crosshairs if Congress, with the assistance of the Ivory Towers In the Sand crowd, really starts reviewing academic work—and more important, what the tactical implications of that might be for the U.S. Think, for example, about Noah Feldman, the alarmingly youthful Islamic expert and fair-haired boy who speaks fluent Arabic, learned all of Shariah law in one weekend cram, issued his first fatwa at the age of six, unwinds by composing verses in ancient Aramaic, and so on. Feldman's seems like exactly the kind of education this house bill would tend to curtail, since his overall theories are very close to those of John Esposito, one of Kramer & Co's arch-villains. Yet Feldman is hardly an anti-American, or even anti-Bush, zealot. His book After Jihad comports easily with the Administration's ideas about democratization in the Middle East, and he worked on efforts to draft an Iraqi constitution earlier this year (though he vanished from that project pretty quickly).

It seems to me this House effort risks aggravating a real problem (insufficient understanding of the culture and politics of a region the U.S. is intimately involved in) in order to address a largely imaginary one (widespread indoctrination in anti-Americanism). It's hard enough to understand what's going on in the Middle East without more congressional micromanagement.