Despite Bard College’s admittedly fading radical reputation, the school has made it its business to hire professors with conventional State Department outlooks for key social science positions. They all fit neatly into the New York Review of Books/New Republic/Atlantic Monthly constellation of received wisdom. Those who stray outside this framework of liberal pieties, like Joel Kovel, are likely to incur the wrath of President-for-life Leon Botstein, the school’s dear leader.
A friend alerted me yesterday to a blog article on the American Interest website written by Jonathan Cristol, the director of the Bard Globalization and International Affairs (BGIA) Program. A careful study of Cristol’s writings will lead you to the conclusion that the department is dedicated to promoting globalization, or what we Marxists call imperialism. On January 29th, Cristol offered this opinion on developments in Tunisia and Egypt:
Am I really arguing that these states should brutally suppress the protestors and that the United States should encourage them to do so? Not really. The optics of America supporting brutal suppression would not be good for Washington. However, if these governments wish to stay in power, the best means of doing so is to scare the people sufficiently enough to stop them from marching through the street.
Cristol puts forward the same arguments heard from John Bolton, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and all of the other cruddy right-wing pinheads who pollute the airwaves from their roost at Fox-TV or the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal:
Maybe liberty and justice are indeed for all, but these particular protests are not necessarily good for the United States. America’s love of democracy sometimes blinds us to the potential results of the democratic process (re: Gaza) and to the fact that liberty and democracy do not always go hand in hand.
What a pig.
It should be noted that Cristol got his B.A. at Bard College, proof that the school is turning out clones of board member Martin Peretz under the Botstein regime. When I was an undergraduate in the early 1960s, most students aspired to be beat poets or advertising copy writers—at worst. Now it turns out open enemies of democracy.
Cristol first came to my attention last May during the course of some research on the school in conjunction with a movie I made about going to an alumni weekend. I discovered that he was responsible for a joint studies program with the U.S. Military Academy:
In the program’s first year, Bard and West Point students took joint seminars each semester on international relations theory taught by Jonathan Cristol, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Studies at Bard College, and Scott Silverstone, Associate Professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy. The classes met jointly several times during term, with Bard students visiting West Point and cadets traveling to Annandale-on-Hudson. In the fall, Silverstone gave a well-attended public lecture at Bard entitled ‘Preventive War, American Democracy, and the Challenge of a Shifting Threat Environment.’ In May, six Bard seniors attended West Point’s Project’s Day, and presented the findings of their senior theses to West Point faculty and cadets.
Frankly, I have a different idea about what constitutes a “Threat Environment” than Cristol or Silverstone. For me, it is the Pentagon, where Silverstone once worked in the department of Naval Operations, and the ideological apparatus run by warhawk intellectuals like Jonathan Cristol or Paul Wolfowitz.
Cristol has a most interesting CV. Before coming to Bard in 2003, he was an analyst of Middle Eastern politics for the Intellibridge Corporation. I bet you can guess what kind of outfit Intellibridge is. It was founded in 1998 by David Rothkopf, formerly the managing director of Kissinger Associates and co-run by Anthony Lake, the U.S. Vice Consul in Vietnam from 1963 to 1965 and Clinton’s National Security Advisor.
Back in 2002, our friends at Counterpunch wrote about Intellibridge’s work with Enron:
In the wake of the California electricity “crisis” last year, Enron hired a Washington, D.C., consultancy, headed by a former Clinton administration official, to improve the public image of the giant energy trader. From early last summer until Enron filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 2, 2001, Intellibridge Corp. essentially served as an independent “propaganda” arm for Enron, developing a news Web site and organizing conferences, which brought regulatory, political, media and business leaders together to discuss the merits of Enron’s vision for restructuring the electric power industry across the United States.
Prior to the revelations of its off-balance-sheet partnerships last October, Enron’s biggest concern had been fallout from California and how other states may become scared to enact their own forms of electric and gas restructuring programs that possibly would benefit Enron and other non-utility energy marketing companies. Through its connections in D.C.’s closely tied political and international business world, Intellibridge landed the multi-million dollar contract with Enron.
Is there any doubt that Enron picked out exactly the right firm to advance its interests in Washington?
When Al-Quds University in Jerusalem formed a partnership with Bard College in 2008, this became a convenient defense against charges that the school was hostile to the Palestinian cause. Those who were upset with Joel Kovel’s termination were told that the ties with Al-Quds proved that Kovel’s pro-Palestinian writings were beside the point.
A deeper reading of the Al-Quds partnership will reveal that it was actually consistent with what happened to Kovel since there is ample evidence that Sari Nusseibeh, the school’s president, is a willing partner in denying the rights of the Palestinian people.
In the latest New York Review of Books, David Shulman reviews Nusseibeh’s What Is a Palestinian State Worth? The book defends a one-state solution that would leave Palestinian with civil rights, but forgo anything resembling self-determination. Shulman comments:
What this means is that Palestinians would renounce political rights—such as voting for the Knesset and serving in high government office and in the army—but receive basic civil rights: health insurance, social security, freedom of speech and movement, education, legal self-defense, and so on. They would be subjects but not citizens of the joint Israeli-Palestinian entity, which would be owned and run by the Jews. As Nusseibeh notes, there is already in place a precedent for some such arrangement: the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem have lived like this for the past forty-three years.
How remarkable that a Palestinian notable would look to the situation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem as a model for anything except second-class citizenship. Shulman, by no means a Kovel type commentator, notes:
Nusseibeh’s proposal is clearly meant to challenge the political elites on both sides to think seriously about what lies around the next turn in the road or after the next terrible explosion. Even so, it seems not a little disingenuous. Booker T. Washington famously proposed something rather like it for African-Americans—the so-called Atlanta compromise—in 1895; it was, of course, almost immediately superseded. Can one really separate political from civil rights? Is that what most Palestinians want or need?
So that’s what a Bard College globalization professor and a Palestinian hireling of the school amount to: apologists for dictatorship and dispossession. What a sad state of affairs for a school that once had a very good reputation but poor finances. It is to Leon Botstein’s everlasting shame that he has turned this upside down. With every new million dollars he raises, the school’s good name goes deeper and deeper into the sewer.