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September 19, 2006



> There are a few great blogs...

As a decided non-expert with an interest in Qaha Sada's topic, an early question is, "Is it worth my time to stop in regularly?" I recognize only one of your five great blogs (I visit different ones), and its author is controversial. I've followed certain controversies in enough depth to see numerous misrepresentations of facts, an unwillingness to admit error, and eruptions of a paranoid style of writing. Alas, when someone has developed habits like this, their value as source of insight falls pretty low.

You may be indifferent to my slice of the potential audience pie. Fair enough; market segmentation is the blessing and curse of blogging. In my estimation, you're up a notch for the inaugural post on Bahreini elections, and down one for the company you're proud to keep.

In any event, good luck with this venture.


Amac, as an aspiring expert who has seen most of the MENA(Middle East, North Africa) blogs out there, I think this site will be well worth your time. Though his expansive knowledge, keen analytical skills, and approachable writing style are indeed impressive, Marc Lynch adds the most value to the MENA blogosphere by his ability to remain faithfully objective in the interests of honest academic debate. Prof. Lynch certainly has opinions, but he's always willing to look at all sides of an issue. In that spirit, the 5 blogs Marc listed as examples are quite diverse in both perspective and politics.

I assume that you are referring to Juan Cole in your comment since he is probably the most famous MENA blogger at present and has raked up a considerable list of enemies. I am familiar with Cole and I find much if not most of the criticism of him to be unfair and given to much more misrepresentation than could be reasonably ascribed to Cole himself. Regardless of what one thinks of Cole’s positions, one cannot deny that he has considerable knowledge and experience in MENA issues, which is why he was included on that short list. If, however, one disagrees with his stances(a perfectly legitimate stance), where better a place to fairly and rationally make your case against him than a site such as Qahwa Sada that aspires to the academic ideal of searching for the truth wherever it might be found(even in China!). A site like this is actually something critics of Juan Cole(and others) should appreciate because it offers an opportunity to refute Cole's arguments in a civilized, informed manner rather than stooping to the childish name calling and baseless character assassinations that feature so highly on non-expert sites.

Again, I want to emphasize to you the broad range of experts who appear likely to contribute to this site. Any site that is willing to take submissions from such diverse personalities as Martin Kramer on the one hand and As'ad AbuKhalil on the other hand is definitely going to prompt a lot of interesting debate. This site isn't a megaphone for a particular point of view, it's a venue where any and everyone can actually learn something new and useful. I hope you do stop by, I know I will! Very much looking forward to some high quality gahway!

I have nothing to do with this site, this is just my interpretation. If I'm wrong, I'm sure Prof. Lynch will speak up.

The Lounsbury

First, Bravo aliek Bou Ardvrak.

Second, let me echo the comment by Yohan re this comment: I've followed certain controversies in enough depth to see numerous misrepresentations of facts, an unwillingness to admit error, and eruptions of a paranoid style of writing. Alas, when someone has developed habits like this, their value as source of insight falls pretty low.

This is bollocks.

Now, my politics are rather far from Cole's. He's a typical Lefty North American academic (as a financier by profession I have not much love for soft-studies academics I confess, wooly-heads too often), with typically stupid (or ill-informed shallow) opinions on matters business and economic.

Nor am I a fan of his often tedious and not-particularly enlightening commentary on American domestic politics (for all that personally I care not a fig for US domestic politics as such, only when it impacts my world outre-mer).

That being said (and as you can see I am neither an ideological nor substantive fan of the man), the characterisation supra is at best partisan politic whanking.

Cole's commentary on the MENA region is often spot on, always well informed - although yes, sometimes wrong.

He's also prickly and a bit mean. But then so am I.

He is highly critical of Israel (sometimes with good reason, sometimes a bit unfairly, but never in my opinion without at least a rational analysis), which in the United States apparently earns one Judaicist Fatwas (I am being ironic of course in terminology) and the undying hatred of a certain class of unhinged partisans.

That is not to say his Israel commentary is always (or even often) right, only that it is not unfair (it may be fair but wrong or off base) and useful in a climate which in the US seems to have developed a quite self-censoring aversion to critical comment on that matter.

His comment on American policy in region is also always rational, even if wrong sometimes - and in matters economic, always wrong - but I still find it, even as a MENA specialist who happens to be a financier, useful and even enlightening.

So, there you have it. Perhaps a damning defence, but a necessary one.

The Lounsbury
(of the Aqoul blog supra)


I swear, Yohan is not a sock puppet! But thanks, that's pretty much exactly what I'm going for here. I expect that there will be many posts and contributions with which I don't agree - and that's what will hopefully make it interesting for me and for readers. And now I officially declare an end to discussions of the merits of Juan Cole (or of Abu Aardvark, for that matter) - and ask everyone to judge Qahwa Sada on its own merits.


Speaking of one who sometimes still casts wistful looks to a dusty Arabic textbook on my shelves... I'll be sure to hang around.

This is exactly what intellectuals and specialists need to be doing today.

You might want to institute some clear posting (commenting) rules from the start, as this is an area of strong disagreements. Check out Obsidian Wings' rules (basically: no profanity, no ad hominems, participate in good faith, take the high road - or be banned).

Good luck!


"no profanity, no ad hominems, participate in good faith, take the high road"

This would preclude some of the best experts, especially Col. Lounsbury!

Robert Stevens

You are aware, everyone, that Nibras Kazimi has a blog, right?

I thought so.

Here's his latest: The Aiham Al-Samara'i jailbreak.


Another vital contribution to the collection of scattered information and research on the Middle East. I think this initiative will only grow stronger with time. Thanks for all of you behind this idea.


I'll presume to tread near our host's toes by adding another comment here.

Yohan, thank you for responding quite exactly to my general concerns. Non-experts who aren't satisfied with that answer probably aren't the sort that you and Marc Lynch are interested in reaching. I couldn't have hoped for more, except perhaps in the endorsement by abu aardvark later in the thread.

Col. Lounsbury, thanks for your kind words as well. Given the online persona you've cultivated, dialog would be unprofitable and unpleasant, so I'll pass on contesting the mild ad hominems you've tossed my way. On the other hand, and in all seriousness, I'm often delighted to read the substance of what you write at 'Aqoul and elsewhere. Your commentary on the MENA region is often spot on, always well informed - although yes, sometimes wrong.

mark safranski

Heh. The Lounsbury is a colonel only in the genteel sense once used with Southern gentlemen of a certain social stature.

But Colonel Lounsbury has a fine ring to it.


I think this is a great idea, and I hope it works out. But please stick to people who actually know what they're talking about. Your credibility will be nil if you invite contributions from ignorant, arrogant, obscene windbags like the Lounsbury. I have the greatest respect for you and for Juan Cole and Joshua Landis, but isn't it possible to also find more people who actually come from the region? How about practicing Muslims?


Anon- all I can say right now is that many invitations have been extended, including to both people from the region and practicing Muslims. But I have only so much control over who responds.


Mabhrook Marc!

Already plugged the fed into my RSS reader :)

The Lounsbury

Ahem, I'm not a colonel. Col is short for the first name.

And for Anon, eh mate, get the name right, it's "The Lounsbury." Just in the interest of basic literacy and all that.


Please make sure that this doesn't become another windbag place where either older scholars begin to dominate, and also, keep graduate students as a minimum--I want to hear from people who have gone to the Middle East, know what they are talking about, and have gone through the rigours of the doctorate, and PASSED.
A kind of junior scholars perspective-place.

mark safranski

Re: Gloria's comments

I'm all for moderating the level windbaggery but that narrow of a demographic isn't going to generate enough submissions.Or with a variety of perspectives. Much larger sites find the ( quality)submission stream to be thin at times.

Adel Iskandar

Abu Aardvark, salutations and much gratitude on the splendid idea of qahwa sada. I respect your efforts to egalitarianize the public-academic debate. We've been in need of such a publication-forum for some time. I hope this site can challenge the "cult of expertise" and drive us away from geographic, temporal and sometimes intellectual insularity. Kudos!

Donald Campers

Not sure what constitutes an expert but I read your article on Robert Vitalis and am concerned. His knowledge of the Middle East includes a stint in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) and about nil experience on the ground in the country he writes about the most: Saudi Arabia. It's amazing what passes as an expert these days, mostly people with ulterior motives.

-Donald Campers

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