A New U.S. Response to Upheaval in the Middle East
(Walid Phares, September 6, 2013)
About the speaker
Dr. Walid Phares, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump and Mitt Romney and is Fox News national security expert, will assess US policy towards the Greater Middle East from Afghanistan to Libya, with insights into major crises in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Gulf and Turkey.
Dr. Phares is an engaging and highly sought after Middle East expert and pacesetter, often predicting trends and situations on the ground years before they occur. He is a Fox News Expert, advisor to the US Congress and the European Parliament and served as a senior advisor on national security foreign policy to presidential candidate Mitt Romney 2012.
Dr Phares is the only expert/author who predicted the Arab Spring a year before it occurred in his pacesetting book, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East (Threshold, a division of Simon and Shuster 2010). Dr Phares holds an extensive CV and noteworthy achievements in the fields of academia, government strategies, media and publishing critical advice on combatting terrorism and countering jihadi radicalization both stateside and abroad.
Dr Phares holds a Ph.D in international relations and strategic studies from the University of Miami, and a Political Science Degree from St Joseph University and a Law degree from the Lebanese University in Beirut and a Master in International Law from Universite’ Jean Moulin in Lyons, France.
Dr Phares taught political science and Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University between 1993 and 2004. Since 2006, he has taught Global Jihadi strategies at the National Defense University in Washington DC. Dr Phares lectures on campuses nationwide and internationally, including at the US Intelligence University. He lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, American University, Columbia, University of Chicago, Pepperdine, Boston College, Brandeis, UC Berkley, University of Colorado at Boulder, Loyola New Orleans, UC Santa Barbara, and many others including Ecole Militaire of France in Paris. Dr Phares lectures also to various academic associations including the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa in Washington DC and Middle East American ethnic organizations.
After having authored six books on Middle East politics and history (in Arabic) in the 1980s, Dr Phares authored another five in English stateside since the mid 1990s. His most important volumes were published after 9/11 starting with Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and a critically acclaimed book that was ranked in the top ten books of the 2006 Foreign Affairs List. Future Jihad was read and cited by many members of Congress and the European Parliament. Dr Phares predicted the rise of jihadi urban networks and set forth strategies to counter them in the West and overseas.
Dr Phares published two more books on global strategies: The War of Ideas (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) explaining the ideological indoctrination and The Confrontation, a policy strategy book designed to isolate radicals. Media and colleagues alike rave about Phares’s hallmark book, which predicted the Arab Spring a year before it occurred: The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East (Simon and Shuster, 2010). The book was endorsed by US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and praised by many leading figures in Congress, political circles and media on both sides of the Atlantic.
Dr Walid Phares is a native of Beirut, Lebanon, and immigrated to the United States in 1990. He speaks fluent Arabic and French as well as English. Prior to moving stateside, Dr Phares was a student union leader, a lawyer, a publisher, a university professor, and founded a social-democratic party, which he represented in several political coalitions.
Phares also spoke at Westminster on the subjects of US Strategy in the Middle East till 2020: Will it Work? and Geopolitics of the Jihadi Threat: Assessment of ISIS and Iran’s Strategies.
My less than twenty minutes remarks are going to give us strategies. I think you have heard enough about theology, ideology, not enough, I think you could hear more. I wouldd like to go to the map, the geopolitical map of this war of ideas, not the military one.
The NGOs that we are working with – that is a good way to begin my remarks – are in fact doing what the U.S. government should have been doing. That is what Bob was talking about. We should not be doing the business of waging a war of ideas while billions of dollars are dedicated, earmarked by Congress, so many agencies that in principle should be the ones to counter the extremist ideas.
No War of Ideas
Now, of course, we hear that those programs exist. I have been, god, how many times advising on the issue, but I can reiterate what members of the panel have affirmed. We are not, as the United States at this point time, we are not waging the war of ideas, and if we are, we are waging it on the side of those who are opposing us. That is very simple. That is very dramatic.
These efforts are important – the efforts of these NGOs and foundations – so that we can inform the American public. This is a democracy and now we know these days on the Syria issue how important our now votes and the lawmakers assent is across the Atlantic, so lawmakers represent public opinion and the public opinion is not informed.
Misinformation, Disinformation, and No Information
The public opinion for example, continues to ask the question: what is the difference between a Shia and a Sunni? We have a problem. Or where is Syria? Or is the Middle East on the other side of the ‘Middle West’? We are at a very dramatic level of misinformation, disinformation, and no information.
I mean you are all on social media and many among you teach in undergraduate and graduate. Many among you I know and you know how problematic it is at the beginning of a semester when you teach Middle East studies. [It is] very problematic, so in a void like this, obviously the most organized, the most concentrated strategic forces in the space of the world of ideas, in the same way that most organized forces in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia have seized the moment and grabbed powers at the beginning or almost at the beginning of the Spring, of the Arab Spring. It is happening here as well.
Whenever we have a chose in foreign policy and national security, what happens? You have a debate in this building and across into the White House and in the elite media, but our public is very far away from understanding. We have probably, I calculated one million [of] over 300 million Americans who understand what we are talking about. That is all the bloggers, all the readers, all the social media, all the graduate, undergraduate studies, all workers in federal and state level dealing with these issues. That is one million people.
When we deal with a social issue, who divorced who, right? A social matter. We have 280 million people who understand what we are talking about, but when we deal with the Middle East or national security, very few [understand] and in the void comes the organized forces in the war of ideas.
Four Points for Discussion
I am going to be talking about four points. Point number one is that there is a[n] original crisis, which is the mothership, the root cause for the battle we are engaging [in] and that is the crisis of Middle Eastern studies in this country, the academic crisis. This is the genesis. This is where it all begins. Now, I will make the case.
And point number two, our talk about how we conducted foreign policy since 9/11 in terms of the war of ideas and how the fact that Middle Eastern studies were compromised; it had a major impact on the way we failed when we could have that is to say post-9/11, the Bush Administration, regardless of who was the President, but we were responding, we were trying, we were spending, we were creating, we liberated [a] couple places in the Middle East, a couple countries, yet we were not able to win the war of ideas as we were winning the war against the terrorists. That is mind-boggling.
Then, comes a third period, which I will talk about quickly. When the government, the administration that is, actually espoused the ideas of the Islamists or of Middle Eastern studies’ beliefs that [have] been influenced by the Islamists, then there is no problem. Under the Bush Administration, we were going in a direction and we had pushbacks.
Under the Obama Administration, there is no pushbacks. It is all going in one direction. That is why we are making one problem, one failure, after the other in the Middle East, one after the other. It is very bad advice, coming from those who should be the elite in thinking, who should be standing here and addressing us. And last, if we can, if we have time, a few remarks about suggestions. I am not going to be very optimistic. I will make suggestions and then I am going to conclude that we cannot do them right now.
The Crisis in Middle Eastern Studies
So the Middle East studies crisis which I have developed in a couple of books, the first book some of you are maybe familiar with, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West. And the second book’s title is relevant to our discussion, The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy.
The crisis in Middle Eastern studies basically is a crisis of what I call political penetration. Many among you are experts on this. It is really a deep influence exerted by an organized network that is basically a front or influenced or working with or partnering with the Muslim Brotherhood. I know many experts here have done a great job in exposing this, so I am not going to duplicate this, but it is important to begin where the problem has been.
Of course, there has been the influence of the Iranian lobby. In Future Jihad, I describe the general Islamist lobby as having two branches, the same branches that exist in the Middle East. One is coming from the petrodollars, inserted in our systems. Somewhere after 1973 to the oil shock into the ’80s and increasingly in the ’90s, there was a huge insertion of petrodollars, donations. Now where did they target these donations? They targeted precisely the nerve system of our academic world and that would be Middle Eastern Studies, Islamic Studies, International Relations, and Political Science dealing with that region.
I know because I have been teaching for the last twenty years on many campuses. And I know even more because I have been in a debate, including within the Arab media sphere for the last ten, twelve years. Every day I am in the Arab media debate, so I know the idea on both sides, and that is not a very comfortable position because you know that your side is losing. When you see both sides in a chess game and you see how the moves are coming and you see that on your side there are no moves or countermoves or wrong moves, you are in a bad situation.
Those funds for Middle Eastern studies from the most prominent Ivy Leagues to the smallest college in Augustine. There is a big one there. It impacted the way we teach in the classroom, and when you actually impact the classroom, you have a series of impacts that go after that. It is almost mathematical. When you impact the classroom, meaning you are compromising the understanding of the region and the various forces of the region, the ideologies of the region, you start calling the Islamists ‘revivalists’.
When I showed up in this country, I immigrated twenty-three years ago, I was at MESA, the Association of Middle East Studies of North America. It is the NRA of Middle Eastern Studies in this country. I was surprised to hear prominent speakers introduced as the Gods of Middle Eastern Studies, talking about the Islamists and the Jihadists as the ‘revivalists’, meaning almost quasi-reformers. And later on they called them reformers. This is where the problem is coming from. It is the “original sin,” quote unquote, from a theological perspective here.
So when the classroom is going to produce graduates or undergraduates to go occupy other rooms, then we are in a systemic problem. It is not what the president sees or does not see, it is the whole system that is problematic because from the classroom you go to the newsroom, the media. You know how many thousands of times you have been protesting against – why is it that The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, C-SPAN, you know the whole list, are not doing well with these issues? And these are brilliant people. They have PhDs that size.
It does not matter the size of your PhD. If one part of it is wrong, you are done. If you cannot understand that Osama bin Laden in 1998 after he did the strikes and after he declared war against the United States, and the Crusaders, and the Zionists, and the Jews, on Page 6,000 of The New York Times (which shows how important it was for them), they called them ‘Saudi dissidents’.
Now that is a classroom problem and I know why. Instead of saying this is the leader of the new jihadist movement, therefore our strategies, our ideologies, prepare yourself for a 9/11 that could come, all of The New York Times (and, of course, their brothers and sisters) have interpreted bin Laden to be as a Saudi dissident upset with the Saudi royal family. No, that was not the case. That is just a tiny, little example. There are thousands of examples, which I can give later on.