Everyone admired George Kennan and his famous “long telegram” and, indeed, everyone wants to be the George Kennan of the post 9/11 era. One thing that’s little noted, however, about Kennan’s piercingly insightful essay on how the United States should structure its policy toward Russia was that it was written by America’s ambassador to the USSR who was, in turn, a longtime specialist on Russian and Eastern European issues, and his analysis was based on deep engagement with and knowledge of Russia and the Soviet Union. In other words, as US policymakers turned from a focus on Germany (World War II) to a focus on Russia (the Cold War) they turned to Russia experts for their insights. One might have expected something similar to happen after 9/11, but it didn’t, overwhelmingly because what longtime students of the Middle East had to say wasn’t convenient for the pre-existing political agendas of America’s bipartisan national security elite. Instead of getting analyses representing the range of views actually existing in the field, we got Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, two people ready to tell policymakers what they wanted to hear.
This is all by way of lengthy introduction to Qahwa Sada (“Black Coffee”) “a new blog-journal by Middle East experts, edited by Marc Lynch of Abu Aardvark.” Lynch and his blog have been an invaluable resource for me as I’ve tried to understand these issues and he has a great roster of contributors lined up. I expect it to become a must-read resource.