The Said Factor

I like the thought, but I'm skeptical that Kathy G. is right to think that more widespread knowledge of Edward Said's work would have posed some kind of substantial stumbling block to the effort to sell the country on the Iraq War. The main intellectual drivers behind America's post-9/11 approach to the Middle East were, if not Said experts, at least broadly familiar with the general thrust of his work (I'd put myself in that category as well) which is precisely why you see things like The Weekly Standard publishing an Edward Said takedown piece by Stanley Kurtz on their October 8, 2001 issue.

Then they took another whack at Said in their November 12, 2001 issue. And Frank Foer offered a sweeping dismissal of Middle East Studies as a discipline in the December 3, 2001 issue of The New Republic tracing the field's flaws to none other than Said. In general, this was a period when "Arabist" became a term of disapprobation and it temporarily became conventional wisdom that foreign service professionals' judgment was mostly corrupted by excessive solicitousness of the opinions of foreign governments. Elites were generally familiar with the broad set of ideas that called the wisdom of invading Iraq into question -- from Middle East studies thinking to the realist tradition of international relations analysis to the mainstream opinion of the U.S. Army officer's corps -- it just came to be generally accepted that these strands of thought were mistaken.