by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
Welcome to the Middle East Quarterly. We hope and trust that you will find in these pages cogent analyses written on important and interesting subjects, all presented in a clear and direct style.
Our subject matter falls into two broad categories: over there (the Middle East) and over here (the United States).
Over there means the area from Morocco to Afghanistan and from Sudan to Central Asia. Because the Arab-Israeli conflict, political conditions in Iraq and Iran, and the oil market loom so large in American life, we devote regular attention to these topics; geographically, this translates into an emphasis on the area from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. At the same time, we will cover all of the Middle East, including often-neglected areas such as North Africa. While in many ways Turkey is a European country, we see it as an integral part of the Middle East as well. Deep Middle Eastern connections to the Transcaucasus and Central Asia convince us not to neglect these regions either.
In the main, we cover the contemporary issues of the Middle East but we believe in approaching our subjects historically, for only grounding in the past can situate current events in their proper context. Politics, the passion and pitfall of Middle Eastern life, is our mainstay and, believing in the primacy of domestic politics, we devote attention to domestic politics as well as to international relations. As to the latter, security stakes loom especially large. With the end of the Cold War, the Middle East becomes the most militarized region in the world. Situated in the vortex of Europe, Africa and Asia, the persisting enmities of the region joined to new military technologies portend much trouble both within and outside the region. We concern ourselves, too, with the many cultural issues that affect Middle Eastern public life. Of these, we devote special attention to religion, Islam in particular. Finally, we plan to offer useful economic information for practitioners and analysts alike.
Over here means the United States. We concentrate on this external actor in part because we are Americans. In part, also, this emphasis reflects a belief that Washington is the outside capital that makes by far the most difference to the Middle East. Europe, Russia, South Asia, and East Asia all have significant roles, to be sure, especially in the economic realm, but—as the Kuwait Crisis and the Arab-Israeli peace process remind us—only the exertions of the United States can make a decisive difference in war and in peace. Should circumstances change, we will change with them.
We launch this journal convinced that quarterlies — the second draft of history, as it were — make a difference. Those interested in the Middle East, from policymakers to undergraduates, journalists to academic specialists, need the up-to-date information and insightful interpretations we hope to provide. Articles published here should experiment with new ideas, generate debate, establish basic lines of argument, and set the agenda for research. In the end, by bringing the best of scholarship to bear on the practical problems of statecraft, we aspire to affect the intellectual milieu in which policy is made.
Harried policymakers and their staffs often turn to quarterly journals for remedial reading and policy recommendations. In this capacity, journals help shape the stands that governments take.
But why this journal at this time? Aren't there already many quarterlies that specialize in the Middle East? There are, indeed, but their outlook differs in fundamental ways from ours. First, none of them look at the region explicitly from the viewpoint of American interests. Secondly, they reject to varying degrees the views of most Americans and the enduring policies of the U.S. government over a dozen administrations. Many even tend to sympathize with states and organizations hostile to this country.
Lest this characterization appear exaggerated, consider these points: With only one exception, every American president since 1948 has spoken forcefully about the benefits which accrue to the United States from strong and deep relations with Israel; yet, the existing quarterly journals on the Middle East routinely publish articles disparaging this tie and presenting it as a liability. Contrary to the way the vast majority of Americans think, their contents often propagate a view of Middle Eastern affairs that, among other things, sees Zionism as a racist offshoot of imperialism, blames Israel alone for the origin and persistence of the Palestinian refugee problem, portrays an independent Palestinian state as the means to ensure peace and stability, and apologizes for the long record of depredations perpetrated by terrorist organizations, including the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas.
The same divide exists with regard to other issues, too. While Americans overwhelmingly supported the war to liberate Kuwait in 1991, the journals on the Middle East just as overwhelmingly published articles that rejected that use of force. Their offerings frequently present in a benign light such hostile actors as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Syrian Ba'th regime, and other Middle East despotisms. In contrast, they emphasize and often exaggerate the faults of such friends as the governments of Turkey, Egypt, and Kuwait — not to speak of Israel. They downplay the dangers posed by fundamentalist Islam, terrorist organizations like the PKK (the Kurdish Workers Party), and state-sponsored terrorism. They argue the benefit of high-priced oil and gas coming out of the Middle East.
In contrast, the Middle East Forum, the sponsor of this journal, supports strong ties with Israel, Turkey, and other democracies as they emerge; urges strong measures to eradicate terrorism and control both conventional and unconventional arms proliferation; works for human rights throughout the region; seeks a stable supply and a low price of oil; and promotes the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes.
For these reasons, we believe that existing quarterlies specializing in the Middle East do not adequately address the most significant issues of the day from a perspective consonant with the views and interests of most Americans. Their efforts leave a large gap and we aim to fill it. By offering a forum for points of view previously excluded from the periodical literature on the Middle East, the appearance of this journal ends a de facto censorship.
Of course, that still leaves plenty of room for disagreement, and we look forward to lively debates in the pages ahead. We intend to spur discussion of controversial issues by seeking out competing points of view. And let us be clear: while we adhere to the first principles noted above, we exclude no one a priori from the Middle East Quarterly. Any lively, logical, and well-argued essay will receive serious consideration for publication.
Turning to style and presentation, we see the Middle East Quarterly as neither academic nor popular but as a scholarly effort that bridges these two worlds. Articles contain full references and do not shy away from complex arguments; at the same time, the editors strive to present a lucid and accessible text in order to reach a general as well as a specialized readership. We especially prize articles with either new information or new interpretations, with a strong preference for research inquiries and first-hand reports over statements of opinion. Authors are asked to write in such a way that everyone will find their work important, even those who disagree with their conclusions.
To sum up, by viewing the world from a mainstream American perspective, dealing with issues of current concern, and proffering policy recommendations, we seek to make the Middle East Quarterly a major source for information on current events and an important guide for policy.
In closing, we point with pride to the fact the Middle East Quarterly is a Philadelphia enterprise. The initial funding comes from our home city, both from individuals and institutions, and the editorial work takes place here. The symbolism of our Philadelphia base is particularly apt, for the home of American liberty and democracy has a message that we expect will eventually help liberate the Middle East from many of its travails. In its small way, we hope the Middle East Quarterly speeds that day.
Comment on this item
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes