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.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Good Article.

    So many people failed to speak up to the Bush Administration before the war started.

    When the Senate voted on the bill called Authorization For War In Iraq, Clinton was one of the last to vote. I remember standing in my living room waiting to see how she voted, and hoping she’d vote NO! When I heard she had voted YES, my heart sank. I knew at that moment, we were going to war!

    As for Clinton’s claim that she didn’t think Bush would use the authority to go to war, I say Bull! If I knew he was going to use that authority to go to war, she Damn well knew it, when she cast that vote!

    But the media failed miserably too, to find the truth and inform the public. They went along with whatever they were told by the Bush Administration, and a few so called TV experts.

    A few TV people who spoke out against the war like Phil Donahue on MSNBC were actually fired, because they were speaking out.
    (Buying the War, on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS stations. A must see, check local listings)

    They all jumped on the Bush bandwagon. The press, the Democrats in DC, State Officials, and many misinformed citizens, who believed and accepted the Bush LIES!

    The few of us who were sending emails to the Whitehouse and Congress, and making phone calls to DC, and our state officials, pleading with them to stand up against this war, were ignored. I even received an INTIMIDATING email back from the Whitehouse. Telling me that my emails were in violation to Secret Service Regulations.

    And look at what this war got us. Thousands of American lives and Trillions of Dollars, to say nothing of the damage done to Iraq, the people killed there, and the terrible situation we’re left with in the Middle East. I hope this will be a huge lesson for everyone, long remembered.

    And, remember this more than anything else! The next President is going to face a devastating situation. Things will not go well when we began the pull out of Iraq, so Please, hold your fire against someone trying to make the best of this terrible mess we are in, because there is NO GOOD SOLUTION! BUT, our country can not afford to stay in this mess, we have to get out!

  2. I’m not sure about your conclusion that we cannot afford to stabilize Iraq and pursue an honorable pullout over time. Now I have no idea of the actual total costs, but the worst I have read is $3.6Trillion through 2013. What we have to realize is how big is this amount as a percentage of our total income.

    US GDP was $13.9Trillion in 2007, so divide this by $600B ($3.6T/6 years), and we get 4% of GDP per year.

    The link below shows another analysis pegging Iraqi Freedom at 2% of GDP/ year, and compares that to all other American wars and the result is that it’s has been the cheapest conflict of our history.

    If affordability is no longer the primary concern, which candidate is best to affect our objectives of stability and honorable pull out? I have no idea of what outcome awaits, but don’t we owe it to ourselves and the Iraqis to try for a desirable ending to Iraqi Freedom?