The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State

Noah Feldman is one of the most prolific public intellectuals in the United States
today. Fluent in Arabic, with a law degree from Yale and a D.Phil in Islamic
thought from Oxford, he is a uniquely qualified participant in the battle of ideas
surrounding Islam and the Middle East. Indeed, he is one of the few academics who
had the courage to go beyond intellectual debates and offer to help solve America’s
Middle Eastern woes. At the outset of the Iraq War in 2003, many academics
with considerable knowledge and ability refused to have anything to do with the
war or its practitioners. They preferred to remain comfortably on the sidelines,
offering criticisms but very seldom solutions. There were a handful, however, who
recognised that whatever their qualms with the war, they had an obligation to help
alleviate the suffering, if not of the American administration, then at least of the
Iraqi people. Noah Feldman was one such academic. He worked for the Coalition
Provisional Authority in Baghdad and he had an advisory role in the development of
Iraq’s post-war constitution. Feldman’s return to academia after such an endeavour
should be heartening to those who argue that supporting American foreign policy
is incompatible with the leftist atmosphere on many university campuses. In an
incident that should (but almost certainly will not) help to quell the indignation
of some parts of the American right, Feldman’s return to the halls of academia after
serving in Iraq was not met with protests or black-listing. Instead he left his position
at NYU to take up a new post at Harvard.

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