I’m not sure how much there is to say is about Mark Hyman and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s outrage about the fact that a former Taliban spokesperson was accepted as a non-degree student at Yale.
Apparently, Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi received the requisite student visa from the U.S. government, and claims to have abandoned at least some of the more radical aspects of his former beliefs. He’s in a non-degree program, which means that he’s probably not taking up one of the coveted spots in its undergraduate class. And apparently he’s carrying a B+ grade point average.
Given all this, it’s hard to take seriously the idea that Yale is harboring an “evil-doer” who can’t cut it academically. Was Yale grandstanding by courting him as a potential student? Sure. Admissions decisions are often based on things that have nothing to do with how much a given student deserves to be at the university or their aptitude for academic success. After all, our current president was only admitted to Yale because his father went there, and apparently George W. Bush didn’t do as well academically there as Mr. Hashemi is doing. So it’s difficult for me to work up a hearty indignation about this particular case when so many others have gotten so much for doing so little.
On top of that, the idea that exposing minds of young adults from countries hostile to the U.S. to Western education as a way of winning hearts and minds is one the Bush administration itself has championed. Recently, Condoleezza Rice suggested the need to get more Iranian students into American universities, and proposed that we spend taxpayer money to provide scholarships for them. The fact that Mr. Hashemi is a relatively high-profile figure among those who see the U.S. as an enemy is probably a point in favor of exposing him to a Western education, not a strike against him.
Having said all that, it’s true that the Taliban hold reprehensible views, and any interaction with even former members should be done with a great deal of caution and respect for what messages it might send. On that point, ISI and Hyman are right.
But I wonder, where was the outrage when it wasn’t a private university giving a single former member of the Taliban an opportunity to take classes, but rather the Bush administration indirectly giving $43 million to the Taliban through aid packages to Afghanistan as a reward for their crackdown on poppy growing? Why is it an "outrage" that a former Taliban is taking a few classes at Yale, but it was apparently okay for the U.S. government to spend a huge amount of money in a move that served to solidify the Taliban's hold on power, and in fact reward them for certain aspects of their dispicable policies that happened to suit wishes? To paraphrase Hyman’s argument, imagine how much body armor that money could have bought for brave U.S. soldiers. Imagine how many beds in battered women’s shelters could have been provided. Or how many patients could have been admitted to drug treatment centers. Or how many intelligence agents could have been hired to follow up on indications that Osama bin Laden was planning an attack on the U.S.? How much could have been done with that money, rather than using it in a way that propped up a government that, as Colin Powell himself noted when he was announcing the gift, sponsored terrorism and systematically abused women?
If you’re outraged about the former Taliban at Yale, I understand. But if your outrage stops there, you’re a hypocrite.
And that’s The Counterpoint.
Hyman Index: 4.86