The Egyptian revolution Orientalist essay contest

I think someone really needs to take up this challenge by Chris at Khowaga.us:

Introducing the Egyptian Revolution Orientalist Essay Contest!  In 500 words or less, channel your favorite Orientalist scholar and explain why the Egyptian revolution is utterly unremarkable and destined to fail. Extra points for condescending and paternalistic language!

But then again it appears Lee Smith is in town, so he's bound to win the lovely picture Chris has put up as a prize. After all in recent weeks he's given us:

Protests in Egypt | The Weekly Standard

The Mubarak regime is not as brittle as that of Tunisia’s erstwhile president-for-life, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and right now seems to be in little danger of falling.

. . .

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A question for Jeffrey Feltman

Not too long ago I wrote about Lee Smith's terrible book, The Strong Horse, which I noted is not just bad but actually hysterically racist in its essentialism. In the comments to the post, reader Lubnani alerted me that the Hudson Institute will be hosting the book's launch tomorrow. Guess who the guests are:

For over half a century, the United States has established itself as the Middle East's dominant "strong horse." Yet, with war raging in Afghanistan and Iraq — and the possibility of conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran — does America have the resolve and the resources to maintain its status?
 
Please join Hudson Visiting Fellow Lee Smith to discuss his new book, The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations (Doubleday). Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and Elliott Abrams, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy in the Bush administration, will offer commentary. Hudson Institute CEO Kenneth Weinstein will introduce the event. 

Now, I'm not surprised Abrams would endorse such a book by appearing at this event — it fits the bill perfectly. But how about a currently serving head of the State Department's Near Eastern Affairs bureau? Does he share Lee Smith's opinion that:

To be sure, a significant part of the Middle East, including Osama Bin Laden, is expressly at war with the US.

Or:

September 11 is the day we woke up to find ourselves in the middle of a clash of Arab civilizations, a war that used American citizens as yet another venue for Arabs to fight each other.

Or:

The Arabs hate us not because of what we do or who we are but because of who we are not: Arabs.

Or:

[In the Middle East] Bin Ladenism is not drawn from the extremist fringes, but represents the political and social norm.

Or:

Anti-Americanism is an Arab constant, the region's lingua franca, from Nasser to Nasrallah it has not changed in over 50 years.

These are all from Smith's book. Now here's the question:

Does Jeffrey Feltman feel these sentiments to be his own, or those of the administration he represents? Does he want his office to be associated with such spurious and incendiary material? 

I do not expect Feltman to only attend events for people or publications that he entirely agrees with. If he attends, I certainly hope he'll at least speak out on the matter. The topic of the conference — US power in the Middle East — is excellent; its title and promotional material most unfortunate.

Lee Smith's book on Arab culture

The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations.jpeg
Much fun has been made in recent years of Weekly Standard Middle East correspondent (whose work has appeared in Slate, The Nation and elsewhere) Lee Smith's tagline that he is "writing a book on Arab culture." Well, that book is now out. I've read it, and it's horrible. I did not expect much from Lee Smith, whose articles repeated neocon bromides about the region and always put partisanship above analysis. But I had never expected a book so appallingly racist, disjointed, full of factual error and borderline psychotic. Max Rodenbeck reviewed "The Strong Horse" for The National, his sentiments are mine:
For Lee Smith, none of this really counts. The Arabs, in his view, simply have the misfortune to be guided by something he identifies as the “strong horse principle”: an apparently unique, ancient system whereby one tribe, nation, or civilisation dominates the others by force, until it too is overthrown by force. The “strong horse”, he says, represents the fundamental character of the Arabic-speaking Middle East. This is a perennially violent, xenophobic place where, in his words: “Bin Ladenism is not drawn from the extremist fringe, but represents the social norm.” [. . .] Smith explains elsewhere that although Arabs constantly bicker, “Perhaps the more serious concern is that the Arabs will not fight each other, and choose instead to bind together… in order to focus their energies elsewhere, like against the United States, again.” That last word is what really gives pause. To what past event exactly is Smith referring? Might he mean that dark day when the joint Arab high command sent veiled storm troopers on black helicopters into Wyoming? Or is he just subtly reasserting his sweeping charge that the Arabs as a whole were responsible for September 11 – and hinting that they might do the same again unless America spanks them regularly? This disregard for reality appears to be prompted by two things. One is an attitude towards Arabs that may be delicately described as anachronistic and patronising. How else can one explain lapses into what sound like 19th-century depictions of barbarians? In one departure from constant praise of Bush-administration policy, for instance, Smith sneers at its naivety in thinking democracy might have flourished here when this great American gift was presented, “like an iPhone left out for the Arabs to figure out on their own.” Elsewhere Smith informs us sagely that Arab women “hold men in contempt if they are not willing to kill and die for Arab honour.” Arabs, we discover, regard any man who says he wants peace with his neighbour, “not a peace that comes through destruction and elimination, but a real peace,” as a traitor. No wonder, for this is a people so tribally ferocious, he insists, that they hate Americans, “Not because of what we do or who we are but because of what we are not: Arabs.”
I would only add that it's a great shame that a reputable publisher, Doubleday, put out this book. I don't think that would have been the case if its subject matter hadn't been Arabs.
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