An Interview with Daniel Pipes
by Mitch Rocklin and Oren Litwin
Translations of this item:
Daniel Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum and a prize-winning columnist for the New York Sun, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, and The Jerusalem Post. He received his B.A. (1971) and Ph.D. (1978) from Harvard University, both in history. He spent six years studying abroad, including three years in Egypt. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the U.S. Naval War College.
Dr. Pipes has served in various capacities in the U.S. government, including two presidentially-appointed positions, vice chairman of the Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships and member of the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Dr. Pipes frequently discusses current issues on television, appearing on such U.S. programs as ABC World News, CBS Reports, Crossfire, Good Morning America, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, O'Reilly Factor, and The Today Show. He has appeared on leading television networks around the globe, including the BBC and Al-Jazeera, and has lectured in twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes has published in such magazines as the Atlantic Monthly, Commentary, Foreign Affairs, Harper's, National Review, New Republic, and The Weekly Standard. More than a hundred newspapers have carried his articles, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. His writings have appeared on hundreds of websites and been translated into twenty seven languages. Dr. Pipes has written twelve books, edited two collections of essays, and is the joint author of eleven books. He sits on five editorial boards, has testified before many congressional committees, and worked on four presidential campaigns.
Commentator: Do you think that Iran's recent government purges and saber rattling are a true prelude to war, and if so, against whom?
DP: Well, it's an indication of the mood and the mentality of the Iranian regime. It's not clear that they'll continue this way, and it's not clear that it will take them to war, but it certainly is worrisome, yes.
Commentator: You quoted a column on your blog about the vacuum in the European leadership. Given that and given the rioting in France recently, do you think that they will be able to deal with the Islamist problem squarely?
DP: I think it's a long term issue. I'm not optimistic that the French will wake up to this, nor anyone else. We saw last year with the Van Gogh murder that it didn't really have a long-term positive effect on the Dutch, and the same goes with the London bombings. So eventually I think they will wake up, but it's still a ways off.
Commentator: What would you want to see happen in Iraq that would make you more optimistic about our chances there?
DP: I just don't see Iraq going in the direction we want it to go.
Commentator: You mentioned in your talk that the U.S. should have maintained its forces in the desert, and not entered the cities, which caused many problems. Wouldn't it then be possible that Iraq would fall into the hands of someone like a Zarqawi?
DP: Yes, it's possible, and that's why we have troops that can fix things up again. In other words, my view is that a typical Middle East state is ok, it's not a threat, or genocidal, nor would it cut off oil, or something like that. Should there evolve such a state or leadership, then we are in a good position to stop it. We do retain forces there. We don't abandon it, we just have a much less ambitious program.
Commentator: Do you think that liberal democracies can exist in the current environment in the Middle East, or will they inevitably become Islamist?
DP: At this point, democracy in the Muslim world means Islamist. There might be exceptions, but there are very few. So I believe that we want to encourage democracy, but in a slow and measured way, step by step, bottom line, taking years if not decades.
Commentator: So for example, in the case of Turkey, do you see their recent government changeover as a setback?
DP: It's a major problem. The key question now is whether the Islamists who are in power are willing to live in the Ataturk context, or if they want to overturn it, and we don't know that yet, and we won't know that for some years. There's a possibility that they're willing to live within it, but it's worrisome that they want to overturn it.
Commentator: You were talking about the emergence of a moderate Islam. How likely do you think it is that this could happen relatively soon?
DP: I think it will take a long time. Generally it takes a long time for religious transformation. Things happen faster these days than in centuries past, but still, don't look forward to a quick resolution.
Commentator: What can Europe do to preserve its culture in the face of its Muslim population?
DP: They have to appreciate their culture in historic ways. They have to believe that it's worth exerting for, and retaining. If they think that everything is all the same, then it'll change. And if they think it's worth keeping then they'll keep it. And there are signs that the Europeans want to keep Europe the way it is. But this is a struggle that's going to take place over many years, and I don't know which way it's going to go. But in general, I think the Europeans are unlikely to give in and say, "Here, we're ready to become an extension of North Africa."
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