Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Middle East Studies and the Military

Awhile back, I meant to respond to Martin Kramer's comments that no one in Middle East Studies today would train a career military officer, but never got around to it. I was just going to point out that two UW MES grad students I know have chosen military in history who joined the special forces, and another in Arabic who was waiting to see which branch called him first. The latter was not only an advisee of a liberal professor who even opposed the war in Afghanistan, but he was what in grade school might have been called a "teacher's pet."

Today, though, Juan Cole posted in his blog a response to liberal criticisms of his Iraq comments, and included the following: "I freely admit that September 11 had a big impact on me, and I am a hawk in the war on terror. If I had been a younger man, I would probably have joined the military on September 12. I know all about blowback and the Reagan administration policies that helped set that stage, but the practical task of keeping more buildings from being blown up is in my view a noble and heroic one and I a make no apologies for that much patriotism." Cole is a major player in the MESA scene, and currently edits the International Journal for Middle East Studies.

I don't deny that the personal views of most in the field - myself included - tilt to the left. But once again, I'm not sure I see that affecting the field's ultimate value to American society.


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