Bernard Lewis & Fouad Ajami Kissed the Ring Enough Times


The White House has just released the roster of people being recognized for contributions to the arts and humanities.
George and Laura Bush plan to award each his National Humanities Medal tomorrow (Thursday) morning.
Bottoming out the list are two Bush ring-kissers and great buddies of Ahmad Chalabi: Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami.
Some things change in an election — and some just keep moving along in the same old grooves.
— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Bernard Lewis & Fouad Ajami Kissed the Ring Enough Times

  1. margaret says:

    What mediocrities in the world of Arts and Humanities. Really, the Republicans have no culture!


  2. Robert M. says:

    Gates? Why so question-mark about Gates?
    He’s a Reagan/Bush Sr man from DEEP in the CIA and most likely is strongly recommended by James Baker. Plus he’s actually from Texas. Can’t get too far of the comfort zone for the dry-drunk.
    Bush41 is TAKING OVER. When Cheney resigns for health reasons after another infarction scare in February, and Mitt Romney is nominated as VP (Karl’s choice), then we’ll know for sure that D.O.D. has finally said “it would be right” a la Dana Carvey, while Barbara says “there, there son. You’ll have your library and there will be plenty of brush to cut on the ranch.”
    Coming up to 14,000 dead or maimed good Americans sent to feed the gawping mouth of this dead New Dixiecrat strategy. And somewhere Richard Nixon smiles.


  3. theo says:

    It’s commendable sportsmanship that the worst president ever should award a medal to a namesake of the second worst.
    Congratulations to laissez-faire economist James Buchanan, whoever he is.


  4. Linda says:

    Interesting that The Hoover Institution is on the list and might be the first time this award for humanities has gone to a think tank and not to a person. That is just more old Cold War 20th century thinking to reward old friends of this administration. A lot of people think that the New American Foundation is the best in this century.


  5. Linda says:

    Interesting that The Hoover Institution is on the list and might be the first time this award has gone to a think tank and not to a person–but then, Steve, I doubt the New America Foundation would be seriously considered by this administration.


  6. Matthew says:

    Steve: be fair. Both Lewis and Ajami are great writers of fiction.


  7. Steve Clemons says:

    Dear Dan — That is an elegant and useful commentary on Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, and quite fair.
    Hat tip,
    Steve Clemons


  8. Rich says:

    Cyd Charisse. Thought she died years ago. I she another ring kisser?


  9. Carroll says:

    Let’s talk Bob Gates…
    Posted by Roger at November 8, 2006 01:09 PM
    I agree. …


  10. Roger says:

    It’s interesting that Gates would turn down DNI but accept nomination for Defense…


  11. Roger says:

    Let’s talk Bob Gates…


  12. Dan Kervick says:

    While I agree with your assessment of Ajami and Lewis as ring kissers, and am well aware of the harmful role they played in providing the intellectual context for the Iraq war and in advocating for the neoconservative cause in recent years, one has to add they both of them are responsible for some very distinguished writing and scholaraship. Ajami is a former MacArthur Prize fellowship winner, and his book *The Arab Predicament* is excellent. Adam Shatz, in a generally critical 2003 article about Ajami in The Nation, said this:
    “A year after arriving at SAIS, Ajami published his first and still best book, The Arab Predicament. An anatomy of the intellectual and political crisis that swept the Arab world following its defeat by Israel in the 1967 war, it is one of the most probing and subtle books ever written in English on the region. Ranging gracefully across political theory, literature and poetry, Ajami draws an elegant, often moving portrait of Arab intellectuals in their anguished efforts to put together a world that had come apart at the seams. The book did not offer a bold or original argument; like Isaiah Berlin’s Russian Thinkers, it provided an interpretive survey–respectful even when critical–of other people’s ideas. It was the book of a man who had grown disillusioned with Nasser, whose millenarian dream of restoring the “Arab nation” had run up against the hard fact that the “divisions of the Arab world were real, not contrived points on a map or a colonial trick.” But pan-Arabism was not the only temptation to which the intellectuals had succumbed. There was radical socialism, and the Guevarist fantasies of the Palestinian revolution. There was Islamic fundamentalism, with its romance of authenticity and its embittered rejection of the West. And then there was the search for Western patronage, the way of Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, who forgot his own world and ended up being devoured by it.”
    Both Lewis and Ajami are very lucid and elegant writers. Even though I disagree with Lewis’s political orientation and his unhappy recent interventions in politics, and what I see as his tendency to lean too heavily on cultural and psychological expalnations of events rather than political and economic interpretations, I certainly have learned a great deal from his books – which are a joy to read – and I know several historians from different parts of the political spectrum who hold his scholarship in high regard.


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