Daniel Pipes: A Chip Off the Old Block

Historians in the News

Janet Tassel, in Harvard Magazine (Jan.-Feb. 2005):

Richard Pipes, Baird research professor of history, recounts in his recent book, Vixi, that when Daniel, his first child, was born in 1949, he felt as if he himself were being reborn. To mark the event he even quit smoking.

And, in a sense, with the birth of Daniel, Richard Pipes was indeed reborn, perhaps even cloned. Daniel '71, Ph.D. '78 (early Islamic history), is what old-timers would call a chip off the old block. Both are essentially loners, non-belongers (the subtitle of Vixi is Memoirs of a Non-Belonger), and fighters. Pipes the elder, the fiercely anti-communist cold-warrior, head of President Ford's Team B (formed to evaluate the CIA's estimates of Soviet nuclear intentions) and Soviet policy adviser to President Reagan, was cursed as a "wretched anti-Sovietist" by Pravda—and pretty well marginalized at Harvard for his politics.

In some ways Daniel, a specialist on Islam as an influence in history, is even more an outsider than his father. Founder and director of his own think tank, Middle East Forum (MEF), his current role in academe is gadfly. Though he taught world history from 1978 to 1982 at the University of Chicago, history at Harvard from 1983 to 1984, and policy strategy at the Naval War College from 1984 to 1986, he has parted ways with the academy—to the satisfaction of both, it seems. "I have the simple politics of a truck driver," he told an interviewer, "not the complex ones of an academic. My viewpoint is not congenial with institutions of higher learning." More congenial was his stint on the policy-planning staff at the State Department in 1983 and his seven years as director of a Philadelphia think tank called the Foreign Policy Research Institute, before starting Middle East Forum in 1994.

At Middle East Forum, he is publisher of Middle East Quarterly, which he says, "seeks out voices excluded from the scholarly debate, voices more aligned with the pro-American views of mainstream Americans." And he has initiated Campus Watch, a website and speakers' bureau that monitors Middle Eastern studies at North American universities—"a kind of Consumer Reports," he says, "for students, parents, alumni, and legislators" to air perceived biases and inaccuracies. This is yet another irritant to critics like Rashid Khalidi, Said professor of Arab studies and director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, who calls the Campus Watchers "intellectual thugs"; Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan, deems the project "cyberstalking." "Crude McCarthyism" and "totalitarianism" are among the less vitriolic terms used by other scholars to describe Campus Watch. In addition, Pipes is now in his final year as a director of the federally funded U.S. Institute of Peace.

The author of 12 books, Pipes churns out newspaper columns and weblogs at a dizzying rate. His website receives about 50,000 visits each week. He calls his work "applied scholarship." "Just as technology is applied science, in my case applied scholarship is applied history; having studied the history, religion, culture, and languages, I interpret what's taking place right now through these prisms." In his case, applied scholarship is the weapon for what he calls "hand-to-hand combat" with militant Islam (or radical Islam, Wahhabism, or Islamism, terms he uses interchangeably)—a "true successor," in his words, of fascism and his father's nemesis, communism....

comments powered by Disqus