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Some Other Voices Heard From

Reader comment on item: Lost Diplomats Just Step on the Gas

Submitted by Laina Farhat-Holzman (United States), May 6, 2002 at 12:08

Dear Daniel: I just returned from a weekend symposium put on by the SF World Affairs Council. Presentations by Paul Wolfowitz, John Voll, Bruce Lawrence, John Burns (NY TImes), Joel Beinin, Hakan Yavuz, Barbara Metcalf, Donald Emmerson, Julia Clancy-Smith, James Gelvin, Shibley Telhami, Ambassador Barbara Bodin, Ali Gheissari, Ambassador Tom Simons, Gail Lapidus, Nazif Shahrani, Vali Reza Nasr, and Ahmad Dallal. As you can see, most of these were academics who, with few exceptions, are quite leftist. They hated Wolfowitz, don't like what they consider attacks on Islam, can't stand Sharon, deplore the violence, and dislike most US policy. There was even the Washington Bureau Chief of the Al Jezeera TV network. I was enbattled all weekend.

However, the real voices of wisdom here were Barbara Bodin (Ambassador to Yeman at the time of the Cole attack) and Simons, former ambassador to Pakistan. Also, Orville Schell, who was wonderful, measured, and worth hearing. And surprisingly, two of the academics were similarly good: Donald Emmerson (Stanford), who is a specialist in SE Asia, and the first Arab I have heard who made sense, Shibley Telhami (Brookings and U of Maryland). He is one of four people summoned to the White House for consultation. He declined to say who the other three are, but I believe one of them is Robert Kaplan.

The consensus of the presenters is that the conflict MUST be cooled off soon because the Arab world is growing more enflamed daily. They watch this stuff on satellite and it is arousing terrible and ugly emotions. I agree with your comments, but I wonder if this danger, according to these experts, is something to be considered. Hasn't the point been made that the Israelis can make mincemeat of them if they choose? Will stopping really hurt the process?

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