A Letter to the Ed. in today’s ProJo calls to mind another example of polemics over scholarship. William Beeman is a Professor of Anthropology and Theatre, Speech and Dance as well as the Director of Middle East Studies at Brown and a long time critic of President Bush’s policies. He has been accused of having some questionable facts at hand in the past. He predicted abject failure in Afghanistan. In the aforementioned letter, Karl F. Stephens, M.D. wrote
As Iraq gets its first free elections, I hope that Brown University Professor William Beeman and his disciples will have a chance to read “Assignment Afghanistan,” a report about post-liberation Afghanistan by Washington Post writer Pamela Constable, in the February Smithsonian magazine.
She gives a moving account of Afghanistan’s first election, describing “farmers and herders who lived hard lives on meager land” having “an almost childish excitement, a look both nervous and dignified: a feeling of hope . . . gazing down on the [ballot] as if it were a precious flower.”
And while a free and open society has attendant ills — hey, we have corruption, crooks, and ethnic differences right here in River City, folks! — the Afghanistan she describes is far different from the one predicted by Professor Beeman when he pontificated in the pages of The Journal and on the local airwaves at the time of its liberation.
One can easily forget that all the “War is not the answer” bumper stickers and posters first appeared when we entered Afghanistan — well before Iraq.
I don’t have the time to detail some of the “facts” and opinion proffered by Prof. Beeman, but suffice it to say that if his stance is the norm on the Brown faculty, perhaps another Ivy League school should join Columbia in investigating its Middle East Studies group.