Interviews with Daniel Pipes
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This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas. © Copyright 2004, Regents of the University of California. Watch this interview in streaming video from UCTV: #8871: Pipes
Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Daniel Pipes, who is director of the Middle East Forum, a member of the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, and a prizewinning columnist for the New York Sun and the Jerusalem Post. The author of fourteen books, his most recent ones are Miniatures: Views of Islamic and Middle Eastern Politics and Militant Islam Reaches America.
Mr. Pipes, welcome to Berkeley.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts.
And looking back, how do you think your parents shaped your thinking about the world?
My parents were immigrants, both of them from Poland in the 1940s. They deeply appreciated the United States and what it had achieved in the 1940s, and what it offered them. Beyond that, my father was a professor of Russian history. So, an intense interest in questions related to history, politics, current affairs.
And also how ideas can change the world. Your father, Richard Pipes, we should mention to our audience, was involved in the last stages of the U.S. Cold War policy.
That's right. Most of his career was in the university, but in the early eighties he was in government. He was connected to government from 1970 on.
What led you to history?
I began, actually, as a mathematician. I did well in mathematics, enjoyed it in high school, and was very ambitious in college. I got to the point where I could get reasonably decent grades, but had no idea what I was doing, and I figured the time had come to find something else. I had traveled quite a bit, was interested in the world. I was interested in learning about the world, and history seemed to me a very useful, interesting approach to understand the world.
Why Islam? You are the author of, I believe I counted fourteen books all told, and many of the earlier ones are substantial works of history.
Islam, because I traveled in the Muslim world a bit as a college student, and I was fascinated by this religion and, in particular, by its impact on life, public life most especially. How does a religion affect the way people live? How does it shape cultures and shape societies?
One of the things that comes out -- and you've written so much that, obviously, I can only read bits and pieces -- is that there was a great misunderstanding of Islam in the West. This is a theme that recurs. Especially in the United States, where for example our emphasis on a materialist view of history made us less sensitive to the spiritual quality of Islam and the importance of ideas in that faith.
That's interestingly a problem of twenty and twenty-five years ago. I don't think it's a problem today. At the time of the Iranian Revolution, 1978, '79, and then the hostage crises in Iran, 1980, '81, it was the first time that Islam appeared on the public stage in the United States in a central way. Back then there was a tendency to dismiss the Islamic element and try and find materialist, say, economic causes. Today, especially since 9/11, one doesn't see that [view]. If anything, it's AWOL; it's just not there at all. Maybe it should be a little bit there.
There are other problems as well. It's a complicated subject. I can sympathize with the difficulty that people have when I think about, say, Buddhism or Hinduism -- subjects I don't know well, and they're vast subjects to understand.
For example, there's a reputation that Islam has of imbuing fatalism. I don't think it's accurate. An even more specific [example] is the tendency to translate the phrase la ilaha il-Allah as "There is no God but Allah," whereas I would translate it as "There is no deity but God." These are very different meanings.
What enables you to comprehend these distinctions that, at least back then, were not in the public domain? Is quite a bit of scholarship and study required?
Well, on my part it's thirty-five years of immersion in this field. I've other interests, do other things but, fundamentally, my work life has been centered around the Middle East and reading endlessly from medieval history to the current newspaper. Over a period of time like that, you get a depth that that the general public doesn't have.
At a certain point in your career, you moved away from being a traditional academic to being a commentator. You established the Middle East Forum. I read an account of how that operation started. What exactly is it? When did it start, and what was it trying to achieve?
The Middle East Forum is a think tank, a research institute, founded exactly ten years ago to the month. The goal was, as with most think tanks, to engage in a variety of activities -- publications, media work, behind the scenes [work] in Washington, consulting here and there, having student interns -- a whole range of different activities. Ours, specifically, focused on the Middle East and trying to bring to bear the fruits of scholarship for general consumption, or to put it in slightly different terms, what I've dubbed "applied scholarship" -- taking scholarship and trying to make it useful for the general public.
This is a substantial problem in the United States, because the academy often fails to move beyond its conceptual schemes to enhance public understanding. Obviously, they have the undergraduates, they have the students, they have the graduate students; but the way this seeps into the public debate is very uneven. That must have been a motivation for you to move in this direction.
The think tank is a relatively modern phenomenon. It goes back to the 1920s to the Brookings Institution. It really took off in the 1970s with the Heritage Foundation. We invented the forum. It's very much an American institution; it has now expanded to other parts of the world, but its most powerful and interesting manifestations are here. It is somewhere between the public sphere and the academy. Nearly all of its practitioners come out of the academy, but for one reason or another choose to have primarily a public audience as opposed to primarily an academic audience.
It's a successful institution in that it provides materials that are drawn upon, that are needed, not just by policymakers and journalists, but by the general public. It is striking to see how few in number the think tank specialists are compared to academics in a university, but when it comes to the area of public policy, how disproportionally large their influence is, because they're attuned. Their income [and] their positions depend upon being useful. The university doesn't require that of them. Some university academics are masters of this, but it's by no means part of the job description. It is at a think tank.
How has the web change things for you? I know that you have a website which gets a lot of hits in Middle Eastern studies and so on. Most of your current writings are up on the web. It seems the technology has taken it to a new level.
Definitely. For me, personally, it's had a profound importance. As you mentioned, my website does get a lot of readers, on the order of close to two million a year, which is really quite a number from just my personal archive. I have a mailing list of some 20,000 people who receive my writings, which, again, if one thinks of it in terms of specialist writings, is a substantial number. It has created an opportunity for me to directly reach my readers. I have a weekly column, as you indicated in the introduction, but I also have a weblog, which is a way for me, on my own, to pursue any hobbyhorse and indulge any interest I have. It's quite remarkable how I can mobilize people when there's something that upsets me or close something down, open something up, by virtue of just talking about it on my weblog. So it's a very important tool. Or put another way, our journal, the printed version of Middle East Quarterly has but a fraction of the readership that the Internet version does, to the point that what began as the whole of the journal, namely the paper [version], is now pretty much an afterthought. I like having it, I plan to continue it, but it's not where my heart and passion are anymore. It's the Internet version.
In a minute I want to talk about some of the ways that you have helped us understand militant Islam. But first, I'd like to talk about another thrust of your work, which has been highly critical of universities and academic scholarship on the Middle East. You're involved in a website forum for criticizing American universities and Middle Eastern Studies, especially. Talk a little about that. This must be also an element in your movement to the public domain.
Campus Watch is a project I started in September of 2002. It has a website, campus-watch.org. It's a compilation of what others are writing about [the Middle East], and in part (less a part), it is our own research on it, plus other features. It is a critique of Middle East Studies at North American universities, Canadian as well as American, and it is a project which seeks, by criticizing my counterparts of the university, to improve the work, the record of Middle East Studies in the United States. The intellectual foundations of this effort were laid by Martin Kramer in a book called Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in the United States, where he shows how they have just not been doing a good job, or they've not been doing a good job. We at Campus Watch are hoping that by both direct critique and answer to it, and by making the general public aware of the problems in this field, that the improvements will follow.
There seem to be two thrusts to your criticism: one is the attitudes that drive some of the academic research. That is, attitudes toward Islam and toward the Middle East that are possibly too positive -- I'm simplifying here -- that there isn't a complexity in some of the work. The other thrust of your efforts, or of this website, seems to be questioning the funding of some of the academic studies.
Question the funding is a very minor part of our work. It's mostly engagement in the battle of ideas. It's not so much [that these departments are] sympathetic to the Middle East -- no problem with that -- as [they're] sympathetic to the radical forces, anti-American forces. The general rule of thumb would seem to be, in Middle Eastern studies (and not just Middle Eastern studies, but other areas as well), that whoever is hostile to the United States deserves defending, and whoever is friendly to the United States deserves critique. And it's not just that, which is already a problem, but that it is so widespread, and there's so few voices on the other side. There is a near consensus, or there is a consensus but it's not absolute, that the opponents of the United States need defending, whether it be the Islamic Republic of Iran or militant Islam in general, or the Palestinians or the Libyan government. Whereas, the powers that are friendly to the United States, be it the Turkish government, the Israeli government, or, say, the opposition in Iran, get a lot of criticism.
Beyond that, there's an apologetic quality that difficult subjects such as jihad are not dealt with in a straightforward and reliable fashion, which is of great importance at a time like this when we're at war with people who are motivated by jihad, that have "jihad" in the title of their organizations. Another problem is that the really tough and useful subjects are not being brought up. Say, the barbarism of the Saddam Hussein regime, the biography of Osama bin Laden, the resurrection of chattel slavery in the Sudan, Muslim anti-Semitism, the suppression of Berber rights in North Africa. These are vital questions and they're not being dealt with.
There is a fine line here, and I want to raise this. On the one hand, we have the traditional notion of academic freedom, which has been important for the university. On the other hand, that freedom was questioned during the McCarthy period in ways that threatened the academic freedom and autonomy of the university. How do you answer charges that at a certain point such an endeavor crosses over, driven by patriotic good intentions, to undermine that basic principle of the university?
The key point is that Joseph McCarthy was chairman of a powerful Senate committee and he could threaten to put people in jail. We are a small think tank that engages in critique, that is taking advantage of its freedom of speech.
I find it mildly preposterous to compare us to the U.S. government. We have no powers of coercion. We're not interested in anyone losing his job. We're not interested in any form of problems for the people we're critiquing. We're engaged in intellectual debate. I find it odd that I, for one, can be dumped on in all sorts of ways, critiqued in all sorts of ways, but when I turn around and critique, this is out of bounds, this is McCarthyism. No, it's not. What I say to those I criticize is, "Get used to it. You're in the public eye. You're speaking in the media. You're writing in public. You're public figures. The materials I have are not from firsthand conversations; they're from the public record. Get used to it." Politicians and intellectuals and others in the public eye have their chance at bat and they have their chance in the outfield, too, and "Get used to it." I have no sympathy whatsoever for this bellyaching and special pleading.
Plus, there's a lot of dissimulation. I can't tell you how many people have claimed that because we have mentioned them, they were subjected to a barrage of spamming and spoofing. If it's happened, I regret it and condemn it, to be sure; but I have yet to see any proof of this. I've repeatedly asked for documentation. One professor, because I'd mentioned him in an article -- just mentioned, criticized him for going to Iraq and helping the Iraqi regime prepare to fight the United States -- he claimed because of this he had to leave the United States and go to Canada. Well, I did a little research and found that actually three weeks before he made this claim he had written, in public, on the Internet, that he was leaving the United States for job-related reasons. So it's very hard to take this seriously as an intellectual defense.
In looking at some of your work, I got the sense that often what you had written appeared to be more extreme than it actually was when you read at the text. Tell me a little about writing for public advocacy, building on a body of scholarship. It's a challenge because the kind of language and words you would use in scholarship won't get the attention of the policymaker or the cable news station in the way a more fiery discourse does -- but a fiery discourse which may not go as far as the fire seems to lead!
I've often found it to be the case that because I have a reputation, that people read into what I say. For example, just today I received a note in response to a weblog item in which I noted that ... Well, today was the day that the French Parliament passed a law banning the woman's headscarf in the French school system. And I noted that the Prime Minister of France had indicated that there was more to come and that there would be laws against -- or somehow implying, it wasn't clear -- husbands who don't allow their wives to be examined by a male doctor. I don't [know] what he had in mind. But I just noted this. And then I went on to say that while the situation in France is somewhat eccentric, still it is at the forefront of discussing and debating these issues and will probably have an influence elsewhere. I didn't endorse it. I didn't condemn it. I just noted this very interesting, to me, a very interesting fact that the prime minister of France was planning to look at the relationship between a doctor and a female patient, and a female patient's husband. This is a new area.
I got a note arguing with me for endorsing this. I put on it, "I didn't endorse this." But it's assumed that I endorsed this. I'm very careful, often, not to endorse -- just to comment and note. I do, for sure, have opinions, but not on everything. I don't have a formed opinion on this. I don't know where it's going. So I find over and over again that people read into what I say, rather than pay close attention to what I do say.
You pointed out that 9/11 changed the general perception of Islam and the threat, and in some ways was an event that helped us get over some of the obstacles to seeing what is going on in that world and to seeing the distinctions that are worth being made. I'd like for you to talk a little now about this problem of militant Islam, which is a substantive issue that you came to very early because of the scholarship you had done. I say early, I mean in the sense you were there to talk about it after 9/11 because you were building on the scholarship and also the work you had done at the Middle East Forum. Who are the militant Islamists, and what is it we need to know about them?
Militant Islam is a twentieth-century reading of Islam. It has its roots in earlier variants of Islam, but it is very much a reflection of the 1920s and '30s, a reflection of the optimism and hopes that were invested at that time in the totalitarian model, such as the fascists and Marxist Leninists. The militant Islamic thinkers took these ideas and applied them within the context of Islam. Thus, it is usefully seen as the third major totalitarian challenge. As in the prior two cases, the supporters of militant Islam, the Islamists, believe they have the unvarnished truth and no one else can compete. They're brutal towards those who would disagree with them. They seek to take power of governments. Once taking power, they impose their views on the population and aggress towards others, and ultimately see themselves engaged in a cosmic conflict with the West, the United States in particular, over the future course of the human experience.
All these ways comparable to Marxism, Leninism, and to fascism -- different in detail, of course, very different, different in being an outgrowth of the non-Western civilization, different in having a religious component to it. But very usefully seen as a totalitarian challenge, threat, much as the prior two. In that sense, World War II was ultimately about fascism. The Cold War was ultimately about Marxism-Leninism. This war is ultimately about militant Islam.
I think that focusing on terrorism is a misnomer and a euphemism, and a very superficial mistake. Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy. The enemy is militant Islam -- not Islam, the personal faith, not terrorism, the tactic, but militant Islam. I believe it's very important to see it this way. Among the benefits in seeing it this way is that you will see what the answer is. If terrorism is the problem, what is the solution? Counterterrorism? That's not a military goal. But if militant Islam is the problem, then one can formulate, as I do, that moderate Islam is the solution.
You make some very interesting points in Militant Islam Reaches America, which was published after 9/11. One of the points is that, surprisingly, the recruits, the leaders in militant Islam, are not the poor, the disenfranchised.
Again, if you look at the other totalitarian movements, you find the same thing. The cadres of the totalitarian movements are the ... I don't want to say the elite, but those with ability and potential. They're not at the bottom of society, by any means. They're not the losers. They're the winners. They get absorbed by the goals of the totalitarian ideology. They devote themselves. They're willing to give up their lives for it. That's what makes these movements so threatening -- they're not the movements of losers, but the movements of winners. And so, too, with militant Islam -- whether one looks at the nineteen suicide hijackers, or virtually the leadership of any militant Islamic group, one finds that these are affluent, educated, and privileged people.
You and others argue that they are, in essence, trying to, as you say, "navigate the shoals of modernization." In other words, their personal problem is also Islam's problem, which is the problem of confronting the West and the defeats that Islam has suffered. That is, the defeat, maybe psychological but also military, in their relative standing vis-à-vis the West.
Right. I summarize it with the term "civilizational frustration." It's not the personal circumstances that are necessarily bad; many are not. But it is a perception that the Muslim world is not doing as well as it should; that it was doing gloriously in the year 1004 and is doing badly in 2004. Finding an explanation for this and adjusting circumstances to meet that explanation is the militant Islamic project to fix the Muslim world. The way it's done is by turning to Islam, and in Islam finding the solutions to all the problems. The single phrase, a summary of militant Islam is el Islam wul hal, Islam is the solution. Whatever your question, private or public, Islam offers the answer.
Now, within Islam, help me understand the problem of its failure to modernize. As somebody who's not a specialist, I have come to the conclusion that the lack of separation of church and state is somehow key. That's an oversimplification. But help me and my audience understand why Islam has failed with regard to internal modernization.
Separation of church and state is one important aspect. But the more fundamental problem is an inability, so far, to come to terms with modernity, vis-à-vis the law of Islam. Islam, like Judaism and unlike Christianity, is a religion of laws. Christianity is ultimately a religion of faith, and doesn't have this particular set of problems. But Judaism did, and the great challenge to Judaism of the past few centuries has been how to come to terms with modern life. What to keep and what do you discard? We can see it under way all the time, whether it be female rabbis or new thoughts on circumcision, or the many other ideas that one sees about the nature of the law. Does one drive on Saturday or not? Well, in the Muslim world, there are comparable questions. And even more, because in Judaism, they are basically private, but in the Muslim world they're private and public -- they deal with justice, and military affairs, and politics. That has not been satisfactorily resolved. The relationship of the Islamic law, the Shariah, to modern life is the great challenge, and it's not been solved.
You said earlier, and I want to pick up that theme, that the key battle is the battle within Islam itself. Explain what you meant by that.
There are notions of the clash of civilizations, it's us against them. I'm saying no, it's not us against them, it's them against them. It is an intra-Muslim battle. It is a battle between those who believe in the Islamist approach, that we reject what comes from the outside world and you find in Islam the answer to everything. Admittedly ... well, I would say, they find everything in Islam, but they're bringing to it a very modern sensibility. And then there are those who are open to the outside world and wish to adjust to it and modernize, reform. And that is the key battle.
We, the West, the United States, are an auxiliary. We are helping our side. We don't know that yet. We don't realize that we are in the service of modern Islam. I'm arguing we are, because ultimately, it is not an American message of free enterprise and democracy, but rather it's a Muslim message of modernizing that we will support. We are amiss in not seeing that, ultimately, it is a modern Islamic message, anti-Islamist Islamic message that is the solution, not an American message.
Islam is a global religion, a global force, and there are states that occupy the terrain where Muslims are. You point out in one of your essays, and I want to know if you still think this is the case, that these two sides are embodied by the regime in Iran and the secular regime in Turkey. Talk a little about that. Is that still the case after the Iraq War that Turkey is a model for the course that moderation must take?
Yes, it's a very interesting case because here you have to Turkey, which is the republic founded by Kemal Ataturk in the twenties, secular, even laic, more than secular, anti-religious. And over there you have the Islamic Republic of Iran, founded almost twenty-five years ago to the day by Ayatollah Khomeini, with a militant Islamic outlook. And yet, if you look more closely at recent developments, you will see that the Prime Minister of Turkey is an Islamist, a very cautious one, but an Islamist. And you look at popular sentiment in Iran, it's wildly anti-Islamist. So the question in my mind is, who's going to get where first? Is Iran going to abandon its militant Islamic orientation? Is Turkey going to adopt it? I'm not sure, but these are the two clearest models, even though they're quite muddled in the sense that each of them has internal dynamics. But as states, each of them stands for something the way that no two other countries in the Muslim world do.
What should the role of the U.S. be in all of this? Is a campaign like the war in Iraq a positive movement towards supporting and identifying the moderates in Islam, and bolstering their position within Islam?
I didn't see the war in Iraq as related in any basic way to the issue of militant Islam, in that Saddam Hussein, for all his horrors, is not in support of militant Islam. He's not in support of anything, except his own rule -- a totalitarian thug, he stood for nothing. But that said, Iraq post-Saddam Hussein, wide open, is becoming a primary battleground for militant Islam. I believe our strategic goal must be to defeat militant Islam, to render it marginal and weak. As we did with fascism in 1945, as we did with communism in 1991, so we must do with militant Islam.
Now, mind you, in 1945 the war ended in total war; it was a total war, the destruction of Germany and Japan. 1991 was a peaceful development -- there were few deaths associated with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the socioeconomic, intellectual collapse. So these are two very different models. How this third one will develop, I don't know, but I suspect elements of each.
We had David Frum as our guest, and he emphasized the importance in Bush's speech after 9/11 in saying, "this is a war," as opposed to the way terrorism was dealt with in previous administrations, namely seeing it as criminal activity. What I get confused by in all of this is the extent to which you're talking about a global movement that is a threat. I wonder if in identifying it so closely with the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century, which achieved their power by controlling state power, it then becomes muddled. In other words, by going with your identification of all the problems, or that of the Bush administration, the question is are we building up their power as we confront the obvious realities of the threat they pose?
Let me first say that my view is quite different from the Bush administration's. And, secondly, say that I endorse David Frum's point: when the president on the 11th of September itself, that evening, addressed the nation and spoke about a war against terrorism, that was a profound shift. It had been seen as criminal. We deployed our detectives, our judges, and our jails. We did not deploy our intelligence agencies and our military forces. That started on that day. And, for example, the expeditionary force to Afghanistan showed that we were ready to use military force.
I like to say there's three different eras: One, from 1979 to the 10th of September, the era of eight hundred deaths, but the model is criminality. The second is that of post-9/11, which is the war on terror. And the third will start when it's no longer seen as a war on terror. So, first, it was police action against terror, the second is war on terror, and the third will begin when it becomes war on militant Islam.
As for our enhancing their power, I don't think so. We're defending ourselves and we're trying to defeat them. I don't think in taking them seriously we're enhancing their power.
So how, then, do we fight? What are the best ways to fight in this third phase?
It begins by understanding this is a body of ideas. Criminality and violence and war are manifestations of ideas, and we must grapple with these ideas, we must argue with these ideas, and we must understand them. Of course counter-terrorism is necessary, of course, B-52s are necessary, but there's also a more fundamental level of ideas. Of late, administration officials have begun talking about this, that the problem starts with the ideology, with the schools, with the affiliation, with ideas. That's a very positive development.
I don't have a recipe for victory. What I do have is an orientation saying, "Look at these ideas, look at militant Islam, the ideology," and once we do that then we can begin to figure out the tactics to deploy. All I'm trying to do at this point is say don't focus on terrorism, focus on an ideology.
What do we do in this middle area where we support states that, in essence, are incubators of the very totalitarian enemy that you've identified?
We have all sorts of interesting and challenging questions ahead in relations, for example, with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. We have, historically, quite good relations with the leadership. And, yet, as you point out, there's major turmoil below, large number of students are being educated in ways very hostile to ourselves. This is the sort of issue that we need to grapple with, but it's not about terrorism. This is something much deeper than terrorism. I can't give you the answer to it, but it's a top priority to reassess relations with the regime, to figure out what is most important to us, what are our priorities, and to push for them.
How does Israel fit into this equation? Does it mean that Israel is always right with regard to its policies in that region toward the Palestinians, or do we have to be nuanced in viewing different governments in Israel, different party affiliations, and so on?
It's fair to say that nobody is always right. Certainly, the Israeli government has made its share of mistakes, rather substantial ones. But the thing about Israel is that it has been targeted first and hardest by the forces of militant Islam -- well, I don't know, "first and hardest," but of Western governments, not thinking of India or Algeria or Sudan, the Israeli experience is the one most relevant to ourselves. It's also relevant in a sense that if it works in Israel, if militant Islam succeeds by dint of its campaign of violence, it is all the more likely that we will see it here. If it fails, it's less likely.
So we have a vested interest in the outcome everywhere that militant Islam loses. But in particular in Israel because Israel and the United States are often seen as similar. In the Muslim eye, it's kind of one is the cat's paw of the other. So we're associated in a way that, say, Algeria and the United States are not. So we have a vested interest in the Israelis defeating their enemy, because their enemy is related to our enemy very closely. If they don't defeat them, we will feel the sting all that much more.
You raise the example of Jewish traditionalism in talking about Islam. Is there a challenge for Israel in confronting fundamentalism within Israeli society?
There is a radical trend in Israeli Jewish politics. It has an influence in that they are a coalition government. But it's not one of the priorities that I would think that the Israeli body of politic has to face.
Your intellectual odyssey is very interesting, and this is a part of the world and a religion that is going to be of paramount concern to the United States in this century. If students were to watch this tape, how would you advise them to prepare for the future? Obviously, study Islamic history. What else?
Yes, I do think history is the way to approach it, with all due respect to the other disciplines. History is a very fine way of reading the morning newspaper. It gives you the context in which things take place. I would also say that the pre-modern history in the Muslim world has a vividness, an importance, that is quite unusual. If you go into a bookstore in Cairo, say, you will find that a significant proportion, 10%, 20% of the books come from the medieval period. Imagine that! One cannot imagine things like that here. What's called the turath, the legacy, is powerful, and it shapes minds today. So, becoming familiar with the religion, language, culture, history is vital if one wants to make a serious go at these issues. It's not enough just to read the paper.
What about this transition from the ivory tower to the bully pulpit, what advice do you have for students? I would imagine intellectual power helps a great deal, but also a kind of courage and willingness to take the bite of criticism that must come to the bully pulpit in a way that it doesn't in the university -- or maybe they're the same.
That's a temperamental matter; that depends on what each person wants to do. But I would think that the key to having a public audience is developing one's writing skills. That's what it all boils down to, is being able to write -- finding topics and then being able to write on them in a way that is of interest to a general public. The demands of a public writer are much greater than an academic writer. An academic writer will tend to get read because he has information, analyses, that are important to the selection of people who need that, whether it's well presented and timely or not. Of course, it helps, but it's not as important as in public writing, where writing is the key to a career when one is in a think tank, or a columnist, or other position, because it boils down to what you have written. What you say is less significant, ultimately, than what you write, because what you write is the finest, most complete formulation, and you go over and over and over it again. So I'd say my advice would be to write well.
Dr. Pipes, on that note I want to thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today.
And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes