Americans broadly agree on two facts about the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq: its brutality and the danger it poses to themselves, especially the danger of nuclear attack. Disagreement arises primarily over what to do: Take out the regime now? Give Baghdad another chance? Follow the United Nations' lead?
Visit an American university, however, and you'll often enter a topsy-turvy world in which professors consider the United States (not Iraq) the problem and oil (not nukes) the issue.
Here's a typical sampling of opinion:
Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT and far-left luminary, insists that President Bush and his advisers oppose Saddam not because of his many crimes or his reach for nuclear weapons. "We all know . . . what they're aiming at," Chomsky said in a recent interview, "Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world."
Jim Rego, visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Swarthmore College, stated at a panel discussion that, even after Sept. 11, the U.S. government is merely manufacturing another enemy "to have an identity." Rego explained his thinking with an elegance characteristic of the Left: "I think we've run out of people's butts to kick and that we essentially want to keep the butt-kicking going."
Eric Foner, professor of 19-century American history at Columbia University, states that a preemptive war against Iraq "takes us back to the notion of the rule of the jungle" and deems this "exactly the same argument" the Japanese used to justify the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Glenda Gilmore, an assistant professor of history of the American South at Yale University, tells her school paper that confrontation with Iraq represents a plot to expand American power. It is nothing less, she asserts, than "the first step in Bush's plan to transform our country into an aggressor nation that cannot tolerate opposition." She concludes by quoting the wisdom of a cartoon character: "We have met the enemy, and it is us."
Mazin Qumsiyeh, associate professor of genetics at Yale University and co-founder of "Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition," wrote in a Connecticut newspaper that "if Saddam Hussein is a dictator, [Washington] created him." He concludes that a U.S. war against Iraq would be just a diversion created by "Israeli apologists and [U.S.] government officials" who share a "tribal affiliation" (in other words, are Jewish). The only purpose of war would be to provide cover for Israel to commit what he calls "even higher atrocities" against Palestinians by removing them from the West Bank and Gaza.
Tom Nagy, associate professor of business at George Washington University, proudly informed his university newspaper about providing aid to the Saddam regime against the United States during a recent (illegal) trip to Iraq. Specifically, he offered "estimates of the number of civilians needed to act as a human shield to protect infrastructure and buildings for Iraqi citizens."
These views are unfortunately routine for the U.S. academy, which for some decades has been the major American institution most alienated from the rest of the country. As a 1978 bestseller memorably put it, "Harvard Hates America."
Of course, professors have every right to express their opinions, however cranky and mistaken. Yet the relentless opposition to their own government raises some questions:
- Why do American academics so often despise their own country while finding excuses for repressive and dangerous regimes?
- Why have university specialists proven so inept at understanding the great contemporary issues of war and peace, starting with Vietnam, then the Cold War, the Kuwait war and now the War on Terror?
- Why do professors of linguistics, chemistry, American history, genetics and business present themselves in public as authorities on the Middle East?
- What is the long-term effect of an extremist, intolerant and anti-American environment on university students?
The time has come for adult supervision of the faculty and administrators at many American campuses. Especially as we are at war, the goal must be for universities to resume their civic responsibilities.
This can be achieved if outsiders (alumni, state legislators, non-university specialists, parents of students and others) take steps to create a politically balanced atmosphere, critique failed scholarship, establish standards for media statements by faculty and broaden the range of campus discourse.