WASHINGTON — A top Middle East scholar is suspending his ties with the United States Institute of Peace to protest the recent appointment of Daniel Pipes to the board of the federally funded think tank, sparking fears of a wider boycott.
Former presidential adviser William Quandt told the Forward that he is suspending work on several projects to protest President Bush’s appointment of Pipes, who has been accused by Arab groups and Middle East scholars of harboring an anti-Muslim bias. Pipes and his defenders have vehemently rejected such characterizations, but institute staffers worry that more scholars will follow Quandt’s lead, undermining the institute’s reputation for impartiality.
An outspoken critic of militant Islamist movements and American Muslim groups that he says are supportive of terrorism, Pipes was nominated to the board of the institute by Bush in April. The Senate was slow to bring the appointment up for a vote because many legislators, most of them Democrats, objected to several of Pipes’s articles on Islam. Facing a possible Senate snub, Bush two weeks ago signed a recess appointment order, sidestepping Congress. Lacking Senate confirmation, Pipes will serve only 18 months, until the end of Bush’s first term, instead of the usual four-year term.
The appointment won praise from several Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
AJCommittee executive director David Harris called Pipes “an eminently qualified scholar,” adding in a statement that Pipes’s “warnings over the years about the threats Islamic extremists post around the world had been remarkably prescient.”
While Arab groups and Democratic opponents focused much of their criticisms on Pipes’s stated views on the threat posed by Islamic forces, Quandt said that he was most disturbed by Pipes’s Campus Watch project, which seeks to monitor university scholars for signs of pro-Arab or anti-American bias.
“Campus Watch strikes me as an unusually unfortunate way of trying to bring pressure to bear on scholars with whom he perhaps disagrees,” said Quandt, a political scientist at the University of Virginia who served as chief Middle East adviser to former President Carter during the Israel-Egypt peace talks. “I think it is contrary to the academic enterprise, as it tries to stifle debate rather than encourage it.”
Quandt, who has not been targeted by Campus Watch, said he would finish one nearly completed project for the institute before suspending ties. He also said he would reconsider his boycott if he sees that Pipes is not attempting to stifle the institute’s impartiality and independence.
Pipes declined to comment.
Asked about Quandt’s decision, institute spokesman John Brinkley said that prior to the recess appointment, several Arab and Muslim scholars “suggested that they might find it difficult to continue working with us if he were confirmed or appointed. Whether they will follow through on that, I have no idea.”
Brinkley said that other than Quandt, no scholar has refused to work with the institute as a result of the Pipes appointment.
Institute staffers have been banned from talking to the press about the appointment. But, according to sources familiar with the situation, staffers fear the controversy will damage the institute’s credibility. Several institute staffers privately complained that Pipes’s ideology and academic demeanor do not jibe with the institute’s mission statement. Created by Congress, the institute’s mission is to advise the government and “to promote international peace and the resolution of conflicts among the nations and peoples of the world without recourse to violence.”