Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More Insurgent Academics!

Here’s another example of America’s incredibly left leaning professors, another one who ignores facts and remains terribly misinformed about his subject matter. Monday’s Asia Times, apparently a pretty liberal sheet overall, carried this piece by Professor Mark Levine. Mark is a professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at UC Irvine.

First a look at Mark’s evaluation of the Iraqi Constitution. Here is a brief cut and pasted look at some of his argument:

"Saturday's referendum will likely neither end the insurgency nor bring the country closer to significant democratic development. The original draft of the constitution did set important benchmarks for democracy and personal freedom for Iraqis. But these advances are overshadowed by what the constitution left out. Specifically, there are no references to three issues that are of primary concern to most Arab, and especially Sunni Iraqis: a prohibition on the long-term presence of foreign - read American - troops in the country; a firm statement emphasizing Iraqi control of production and distribution of the country's oil resources; and a commitment to rebuilding the social infrastructure that was devastated by the invasion and subsequent wholesale privatization of the country's economy under US auspices.

For most every Arab Iraqi the withdrawal of all American and other foreign troops is the sine qua non for ending the insurgency. That the constitutional negotiators couldn't include any prohibition of foreign troops, or deal straightforwardly with the other two core issues, demonstrates the continuing and largely deleterious power of the US in the country's internal affairs."

This is the heart of his message. It shows an amazing amount of ignorance for someone with a Doctorate in History. I suppose that by specializing in Middle Eastern history, Levine managed to avoid looking at very many functional constitutions. I guess those American History classes were too long ago to remember. Still someone with his credentials should know a few facts. First a constitution is not an exhaustive list of legislation. It is a foundation document on which to base specific laws. In addition the very act creating a constitution demonstrates a determination to independent sovereignty. Writing and negotiating the document demonstrates an intent to reduce the number and role of US forces.

Another fact that he seems to have misplaced, historically speaking constitutions that include sweeping socialist economic policies have not fared so well. The road to economic prosperity in the past century or so, has been liberal market economics. This requires at least a stable and relatively open rule of law. Nations with stable civil societies, democratic institutions and regulated but free markets advance and prosper fastest. Civil society is the biggest missing piece in Iraq, not a constitutionally enforced socialist economy.

Whether through further ignorance, or willful deceit, Levine next conflates a variety of factions in Iraq. Removal of American forces may be the end state desired by all Iraqis. But “every Arab” is not in the Insurgency. The Sunnis are the Sunnis and only a miniscule portion of them participate in the insurgency.

The highest estimated count of insurgents, which I dispute, but will use for argument’s sake, is 200,000. This is less than 1% of the entire population. It is in fact only about 4% of the Sunni Arab population. Far less than the number of Sunnis who turned out to vote on Saturday. It is even less than the number of Sunni Arabs who voted in January. It seems that far more of the Sunnis are interested in a political solution than in violence.

Which highlights his further ignorance in stating that American forces are the real object of the violence. By every account the leaders of the insurgency are smart and sophisticated. They must know, that without the active insurgency, American forces would have been more than halved by now. No, they are aiming there weapons at us, but it is a psychological operation against the Shiites. A play for power in the post-occupation.

Saddam’s Trial is just beginning as I write this, It’s 7 AM 19 Oct. in Baghdad right now. He’s on trial for conspiring to kill 148 men in the city of Ad Dujayl. His point man and agent in that city was one Abdullah Raweed, for 15 months after the fall of Saddam’s defeat and six months after Saddam’s arrest, Raweed continued to intimidate the Shiite majority in Ad Dujayl. When my company finally locked him up in June 2004, witness began to come forth, there fear was over. The insurgency is about continuing hat kind of intimidation.

So who is this Professor of History who has no idea of constitutional formation? Who thinks that what is wrong with Iraq is that America is removing the Socialism? In his own words:

“My research and teaching focus on the following issues: histories, theologies and political and cultural economies of the Middle East and Islam in the modern and contemporary periods, Palestine/Israel, comparative studies of imperialism and colonialism, urban planning and architecture (history and theory), critical theory, and globalization studies with a comparative focus on popular cultures and religion in Europe and the Muslim world. I have also begun a new project which studies the origins of civil societies and public spheres in the Muslim world and explores how Gramsci and Foucault grappled with specifically religious themes in their work within this framework.”

Note to the uninitiated Gramsci and Foucault pretty much stand in for Marx here.

“I am also a professional musician and have worked with artists such as Mick Jagger, Dr. John, Johnny Copeland, Albert Collins, Chuck D, Michael Franti, Ozomatli, world music artists Hassan Hakmoun, Sara Alexander and others.”

Pretty important to let people interested in your Academic credentials know all of this (it's on his UC website.)

“My scholarship, activism and music are all tied to my commitment to struggles for social justice in the United States and around the world. I am also an Advisory Board member of Occupation Watch (which was established by Global Exchange and other organizations to monitor the American occupation of Iraq and help build indigenous and autonomous civil society institutions in the country.”

Well now we know where he stands. Even as a professor he’s not particularly interested in the facts as much as pursuing an activist agenda. As we’ve seen he abuses the few facts he manages to understand. But a professor of History who thinks a constitution should be an exhaustive, explicit, rigid and socialist document, really doesn’t understand much about History. Does he? No he just wants to blame America first.

HUGE Hat Tip to John at Random Jottings for this story.

Thanks as always to Greyhawk and Co.

There's a New Trackback Party at Obligatory Anecdotes!


Anonymous Greg G said...

"...a commitment to rebuilding the social infrastructure that was devastated by the invasion and subsequent wholesale privatization of the country's economy under US auspices." You addressed the nonsense about privatization, but neglected the devastated-by-the-invasion claim. Which did more damage to the social infrastructure, the liberation of the iraqis or their brutal suppresion by the dictator Saddam Hussein?

Wed Oct 19, 02:48:00 PM 2005  
Blogger John Byrnes said...


I only had so many words I was prepared to write, and I wasn't about to debate every point Levine made. I'm not sure about your language choice. What exactly do you mean when you say "social infrastructure?"

The US invasion and occupation did do much damage the physical infrastructure. But it is a tough question as to what caused the most material damage to Iraq. Saddam, sanctions, along with a series of military actions from 1991 to present, all contributed.

Today the US is making a significant effort to rebuild Iraq. There are significant problems. Some are our fault, I'll admit. But the insurgency has seriously hampered these efforts. Without the insurgency Iraq would be far better off, materially. For instance, electrical power PRODUCTION now far exceeds pre-war levels, but insurgents continually attack the distribution grid, cheating citizens of power.

At least as serious is the disappearance of millions and millions of reconstruction dollars into the black hole of embezzlement. No, not KBR/ Halliburton, but the Iraqi tribal culture. Iraq's social and economic system is highly tribal in nature. As with the American Mafia, money is always skimmed and "kicked up" to the tribal leaders. While this appears corrupt to us, especially when it's our money, it is a deeply ingrained feature of tribal Arabic culture.

So what do you mean by "social" infrastructure? Werre you referring to the physical? Blame for that can be spread around, but Iraq's best chance of improved physical conditions is an end to the insurgency and continuing focused US material assistance.

The "social" structure is a result of regional history, and Saddam's policies. Government in the Arab world has never reaslly been responsive to the people. Rule of law was not a political concept, but a religous one. Tribal structures have remained intact as a means of local common defense. Saddam, after intitially trying to suppress tribal loyaylties, began to use them, favoring Sunni Sheiks. He used tribal conflict to keep the population in line. This too still hampers rebuilding efforts.

Wed Oct 19, 03:26:00 PM 2005  

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