Foaud Ajami, a prolific writer and a scholar of the Middle East and, in particular, Arab and Islamic policies, has died.
Ajami was born into a poor Shiite Muslim family in Arnoun, Lebanon in September of 1945. He emigrated to the United States in 1963, where he attended university. He taught at Princeton and then, in 1980, became director of the Middle East Studies at the international relations graduate program, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University.
The winner of a MacArthur Prize in 1982, Ajami was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. He was an advocate of the Iraq war and an acerbic critic of U.S. President Barack Obama.
On the occasion of Israel’s 60th anniversary, Ajami rebuked his fellow Arabs for refusing to accept the existence of the Jewish State, choosing instead to inculcate their followers with the fervent desire and belief that Arab might would excise Israel from their midst like a boil. He wrote in U.S. News and World Report:
In its short history, Israel has held up a mirror for the Arabs, who have not liked what they have seen. In the first Arab-Israeli war, in 1948, the paramilitary and volunteers of the new state turned back Arab armies. Although outgunned and outnumbered, the Jews prevailed. There was the embarrassment of the numbers. The population of the new state was a mere 650,000, while that of the surrounding Arab states was approximately 40 million. No Arabs had been prepared for what had unfolded: The war was thought to be a routine endeavor, the defeat of the Jewish state preordained. There were men of public affairs in these Arab states who knew better, but they hadn’t had the courage to tell the truth to the unsuspecting crowd.
Another Middle East scholar whom the world lost far too soon, Barry Rubin, summed it up this way:
You want to know what’s wrong with the study and analysis of the Middle East in the West in a single sentence? Ok, here it is:
Edward Said is treated like a guru and hero; Fouad Ajami isn’t.
Ajami was the co-chair of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order, he is the author of seven books on the Middle East and hundreds of articles.
Like Barry Rubin, Ajami succumbed to cancer. Ajami was 68.