Douglas Feith’s Chilly Reception from Georgetown Faculty

Douglas Feith, a former high level official in the Bush Pentagon, has been hired at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Some of his colleagues are less than thrilled.

Douglas J. Feith’s table at the Georgetown University faculty club is shaping up as a lonely one. The move to a teaching position at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown by Mr. Feith, a former Pentagon official, set off a faculty kerfuffle, with 72 professors, administrators and graduate students signing a letter of protest, some going as far as to accuse him of war crimes.

Some critics complain about the process. (He was hired without a faculty vote.) Some complain about the war in Iraq. (Mr. Feith has been accused of promoting it with skewed intelligence.) All say the open protest is unusual at a place that embraces former officials as part of its panache. A former secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright; a former national security adviser, Anthony Lake; and a former director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, have joined the faculty without event.

But Mr. Feith, a former under secretary of defense for policy planning and analysis, is another story. “I’m not going to shake hands with the guy if he’s introduced to me,” said Mark N. Lance, a philosophy professor who teaches nonviolence in the program on Justice and Peace and who organized the protest. “And if he asks why, I’ll say because in my view you’re a war criminal and you have no place on this campus.”

This level of petulance at an institution of higher learning, let alone one’s whose raison detre is giving its students practical lessons in public policymaking from those who have been there, is disturbing.

There are certainly plenty of grounds for criticizing Feith. But a war criminal? And how one could be this hostile to Feith and yet embrace George “Slam Dunk” Tenet is beyond me.

Update: More from The Hoya, Georgetown’s school newspaper.

[A]t least 35 professors have signed a letter claiming that many experts consider Feith’s role in justifying and executing the Iraq war “constitute war crimes … which the most sympathetic would have to think a highly dubious grounds for further employment.” The letter from faculty alleges that Feith “has sought to diminish the importance of the Geneva Conventions and has defended the use of torture in a number of public writings and talks.”

A rather lame definition of “war criminal,” no?

Philosophy professor Mark Lance spearheaded the protest against Feith and said he will encourage the Faculty Senate to develop tighter controls on the appointment of faculty practitioners. “The positions reflect on the status and reputation of the university and are often effectively permanent,” he said.

But this is a two year, non-tenure track appointment. Feith is essentially a guest lecturer.

In an interview Tuesday [May 16], Feith said that he knows that his work in the administration was “highly controversial.” “That’s actually part of the reason that Bob Gallucci thought it would be a good idea that I were to come to Georgetown so that some of those controversies would be discussed in an informed and rational manner,” he said.

Feith objected to what he views as oversimplifications or exaggerations of his beliefs. “It’s remarkable how often I get criticized for views that I don’t hold,” he said. He said that he looks forward to his fall class, which will examine the Bush administration and the war on terrorism. “The university should be open to a range of ideas and I’m looking forward to engaging in discussions and debates with people about the work that I did,” he said. “I hope that’s going to be possible.”

Sounds reasonable to me.

FILED UNDER: Education, Iraq War, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. ken says:

    James,

    First, I would be curious to know your rationale for allowing any suspected war criminal to teach at any institution of higher learning.

    Second, If being a suspected war criminal is not enough to exclude him from a teaching post then shouldn’t his poor judgement exclude him? Why would we want to foist upon students someone who cannot teach them anything except the wrong thing?

  2. Steve in NY says:

    ken,

    Not that you haven’t displayed some spectacularly disjointed…um…logic on this blog before, but the leap you just made has left me dizzy:

    >>Mark N. Lance: “…in my view youâ??re a war criminal” [my emphasis]

    >>ken: “…suspected war criminal”

    Let’s try this:

    >>Steve in NY: “in my view, ken, you are a shameless provocateur”

    >>Random OTB reader: “ken is a suspected provocateur”

    Call Patrick Fitzgerald and grab the torches and pitchforks!

  3. Stevely says:

    Once again, we see the university Left displaying the open-mindedness and tolerance for which it is so well known.

  4. ken says:

    Why should an institution of higher learning tolerate mendacity in new hires?

    Feith is a liar, he is a suspected war criminal, he is man of low moral charactor and faulty judgement.

    What possible contribution could he make to a students education?

  5. Christopher says:

    Ken=Typical liberal.

  6. floyd says:

    it’s probably just a misunderstanding on the part of the professors and administrators. since, due to poor spelling they thought “feith” was “faith”; and he scared the crap out of them.[well a small portion of it at least][lol]

  7. floyd says:

    ken;without mendacity no professor could ever get published.

  8. steve says:

    Well it’s clear Tommy Franks wasn’t
    consulted on the appointment.

  9. mark lance says:

    The primary, fundamental war crime under international law is lauching an illegal war. Feith was centrally involved in this one. He fabricated intelligence to justify a war that he and everyone else knew to be illegal. He also signed off on pentagon memos endorsing acts that are torture under the geneva conventions. That too is a war crime.

    So he is a war criminal.

    The appointment is technically for 2 years, but there is no guarantee he is leaving after that. These positions tend to go as long as the former government hack wants them. (Albright, who has vastly more academic qualifications than the recent crowd, has never come up for tenure, and has been at GU for well over a decade.)

    And yes, I was outraged at Tenet also, but there wasn’t enough other people willing to make a fuss to make it worth pushing. In this case, nearly the entire SFS faculty opposed the appointment.

    Mark Lance