The Professoriat vs the Politicos
What an interesting conversation our new friend Richard and I had in the kitchen while the other dinner guests chatted in the front room last weekend here at the house. I was bold in my opinions of what would and wouldn’t happen in the Middle East, holding forth with this patiently listening friend of friends. I knew Richard was a professor at the South Carolina university where our Floyd friend teaches, but had I known then the depth of his experience and expertise, I’d have kept my mouth shut on world events and talked instead about the merits and flaws of different kinds of firewood which I actually know something about.
Richard Collin has written widely–from spy thrillers to textbooks. Here’s an excerpt from a piece of his published online in the Globalist. Seems we’ve wrestled defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq, and our choices are now between bad or worse. He paints a clear picture of the distinctions between the voices and vision of academic experts and political pundits on very important issues facing the next administration:
We professors have a Faustian pact with civil society. In return for the right to think the unthinkable, we accept miserly salaries, minimal social status and the sullen realization that no one listens– unless there is going to be a quiz. The U.S. presence in Iraq is barely moderating a burgeoning ethnic conflict, but our departure will allow the explosion of a full-scale five-sided civil war..
While most Middle East academic specialists were privately horrified, however, there was only a limited amount of public pre-war dissent from the professoriat. In the post-9/11 furor, opposition to the war may have seemed unpatriotic.
Universities reward professors for winning grants and writing articles in peer-reviewed journals, not for irritating the politicians upon whom we depend for financing. In our desire to connect with the communities we serve, universities may have grown uncomfortable with our historic mission of speaking truth to the powerful.
…After four years of war, Middle Eastern academic specialists are still generally shunned by government and media, but this scholarly community is now speaking with unaccustomed unity, clarity and vigor, albeit mostly in academic publications. And they are painting a portrait of the Middle East that is significantly at odds with the visions of both Republican and Democratic leaders.