Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Academic Mercenaries

The policy debate on Iraq is turning more and more bizarre; now it is the “civil war experts” chiming in on what they think is going on in Iraq. Enter Monica Duffy Toft on today’s Op-Ed page of the Washington Post, who is described as “an associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of “The Geography of Ethnic Violence” and is finishing off a book on the termination of civil war.”

The title of her essay is “Iraq Is Gone. Now What?” The whole thesis is based on this assertion: “Most scholars and policy analysts accept that Iraq is now in a civil war.” And she concludes by saying: “Either way, what we now think of as Iraq is almost certainly as gone as what we once thought of a Yugoslavia, and for the same reasons.”

I just got off the phone with Iraq. Apparently, the place is still very much in place.

I think that Professor Duffy Toft is jumping the gun. It is a sad fact of public life that “intellectualism” is a market commodity, and that various groups of experts are constantly trying to seek out new niches for media appearances and book deals. Now, we have a whole host of “civil war” and “ethnic strife” experts stampeding towards the “Iraq Is No More” limelight. This will only further distort whatever picture emerges out of Iraq, especially at a time when supposedly straight news stories in the NYT and the WaPo melodramatically editorialize the situation in Iraq as “a catastrophe” and “a mess.”

Sadly, there is very little oversight and accountability within the ranks of irresponsible academics. Ditto for journalists with a clear and petty bias.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it isn't a civil war, what is it? Because you aren't going to sit there and tell me that the level of violence in Iraq is what would be found in a normally functioning state.
It's in the interests of the Iraqi people and in fact the whole world to have a single, functioning Iraqi political entity, even if the original was a bit of a colonial fiction, and even with a considerable degree of federalism. But there certainly is a degree of 'ethnic' or at least sectarian cleansing going on, even if sectarian divides had not been important prior to 2003. Are you quite certain that in the current militia struggles, there is no chance of Iraq getting broken into smaller pieces?

9:03 AM, November 15, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

good piece

10:38 PM, November 15, 2006

Blogger Eric Martin said...

Nibras, didn't you say last January that you thought Iraq was in a state of civil war then? What has changed over the past 11 months to make you alter that assessment?

Has the level of sectarian violence gotten better?

4:04 PM, November 25, 2006

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