Ivory towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America

Publication Year



Martin S. Kramer, Ph.D. 1982

On campuses throughout the United States, thousands of professors study and teach the Middle East. They fill the pages of journals, the shelves of libraries, and the minds of students with their paradigms, theories, and predictions. In Middle East crises, the media seek their opinions. Their enterprise is deemed a national resource: the federal government subsidizes over a dozen academic centers devoted to the Middle East. Yet for the past twenty years, Middle Eastern studies in America have been factories of error. The academics, blinded by their own prejudices and enslaved to the fashions of the disciplines, have failed to anticipate or explain any of the major developments in the Middle East. Within the field, hardly a voice dares to protest, but beyond it, each debacle chips away at academic's credibility. Middle Eastern studies have failed--at a time when understanding the Middle East has become crucial to America. In this iconoclastic exposé, Martin Kramer surveys the ruins of Middle Eastern studies, to ask how and why they went wrong. Ivory Towers on Sand is the most thorough critique of Middle Eastern studies ever published in the United States--and a necessary step toward their reconstruction.


"Unquestionably, this is one of the most important books about understanding the Middle East written during the last half-century." -- Jerusalem Post

A case study in the broader trend of the universities reduced to irrelevance by the “post-modern” denial of objective truth. -- Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2001

Incisive and original...the failure Kramer documents affects Americans and Middle Easterners alike, not to mention others around the world. -- New York Post, November 5, 2001

Kramer has performed a crucial service by exposing intellectual rot in a scholarly field of capital importance to national well-being. -- Weekly Standard, November 19, 2001

Written in caustic, punchy prose...fresh, essential reading...a cluster bomb, and lots of scholars are likely to be hit. -- Philadelphia Inquirer, November 25, 2001

"Martin Kramer's new book will show, as nothing else will, what has become of Middle Eastern Studies at a highly ideological time. It will put on much of that field the cautionary warning label that the wider public needs and will savor...an antidote to the illusions and wishful thinking of a whole way of interpreting the Middle East." -Fouad Ajami

Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Washington, DC