“I was pleased that someone was interested in my ideas,” Mr. Kramer said. He said the campaign had “pretty much” called him out of the blue, and added, “I have enjoyed watching the traffic on my web site increase.”
Mr. Kramer, like Mr. Giuliani, is a hawk. He supported the invasion of Iraq—but for tactical reasons—and believes, like the mayor, that America is engaged in a long-term global struggle with an Islamic brand of fascism.
But his philosophy about how to conduct that fight represents a sharp turn away from a key tenet of the Bush administration’s Middle East policy—the part that assumes that free elections in repressed Arab nations will give rise to governments that are kindly disposed toward the West and Israel.
Mr. Kramer’s web site promises “alternative readings of Islam and the Arab world,” and lists his lectures, commentary and analysis under categories called “sandstorm” and “sandbox.” The site’s homepage has a doctored image of an ululating woman in black headdress hoisting his staid headshot above her head, and there are several pictures of Mr. Kramer with his “mentor” Bernard Lewis, a Princeton-based Middle East scholar widely admired and cited by neoconservatives.
“I was a student of Bernard Lewis’ and in 1978, Edward Said wrote a book about Orientalism which turned the field first and foremost against my teacher,” said Mr. Kramer, referring to the book by the late Columbia University professor and Palestinian intellectual who argued that westerners had an inherent cultural bias against the Arab world. “I don’t think I could have found a position in the United States at a leading university of Middle East studies with the intellectual pedigree that I had, but I could in Tel Aviv.”
Mr. Kramer, a Washington native, ended up teaching at Tel Aviv University for 25 years, eventually returning home to visit his children as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, Georgetown and Cornell. In 2005, he retired from Tel Aviv University and moved to the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, where he is a senior fellow and colleague of prominent Israeli hawk (and democracy advocate) Natan Sharansky.
Mr. Kramer spends half the year there and divides the rest of his time between the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Olin Institute at Harvard University.
From his vantage point in Israel, Mr. Kramer has come to a position of extreme skepticism about the president’s forceful public advocacy of the spread of democracy in the Middle East.
“In Israel, there has never been great enthusiasm for the democratizing agenda,” Mr. Kramer said.
In an address to a Washington Institute for Near East Policy program in Beverly Hills on November 29, 2006, Mr. Kramer expressed disdain for the administration’s “big ideas” for changing the Middle East.
“The way to cure the Middle East was to shake it up by promoting democracy—first by forced ‘regime change’ in Iraq and then by encouraging liberals across the Middle East,” Mr. Kramer said in the lecture. “The president launched what he described as his ‘forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.’ It became known as the ‘Bush Doctrine.’”
He continued: “Now that big idea has crashed, too. It has crashed, first, as a result of the maelstrom in Iraq, and second, as a result of the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and the fact that free elections everywhere end in victory for Islamist zealots.