The Director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies, has resigned after fresh revelations of LSE ties to Libya emerged on Thursday morning. The LSE was already under intense fire for taking a donation of 1.5 million pounds from Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who studied at LSE and — it appears — may also have plagiarized his thesis. The straw that broke the LSE’s recalcitrant back was a WikiLeaks cable that revealed that U.S. diplomats were told by Libya’s “National Economic Development Board” that it was cooperating with “the UK government and the London School of Economics, among other UK institutions, on an exchange program to send 400 ‘future leaders’ of Libya for leadership and management training.”
First, the obvious point: this is disgusting, but the close links between Libya and the LSE were no secret. They should have been shocking — heck, they should never have been made — long before Qaddafi started killing civilians and importing mercenaries to keep his hold on power. This is the kind of moral quagmire that practicing a policy of “engagement” lands you in — even if, in reality, it came down to nothing more than LSE’s wanting the money. The next time someone starts telling me about the moral superiority of academia, I know exactly what I am going to say.
Second, and slightly less obviously, the U.S. is implicated too. The Guardian reports that Michigan State is home to a similar, if smaller, program of training future “Libyan leaders.” Musa Kusa, Libya’s foreign minister and the second most powerful man in Libya after the Qaddafi family, got his master’s degree in sociology from MSU in 1978, which is probably no coincidence. But apparently, MSU is not the only American university specializing in the instruction of future oppressors: the Guardian claims that other schools are also involved. I hope some enterprising journalists get their shoes on.
Third, this is only the tip of a massive iceberg. My friend Robin Simcox at the Centre for Social Cohesion in London has done stalwart work unearthing the extent of foreign funding in British academia. Not surprisingly, funding from the Middle East and China — especially the latter — dominates his work. But the amount of money in Britain is nothing compared with the funds sloshing around in the American academy from dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. Georgetown’s reliance on Saudi money is notorious, but it’s simply one of the crowd. I would love to be a fly on the wall at any elite U.S. university with a Middle Eastern Studies program now: administrators across the country know that what happened at LSE could happen here. And it should.
Of course, it’s not always about the money. As Michael Rubin has noted, Yale has clamped down on free speech thanks, in part, to fear of reprisals from Islamists. Sometimes, though, the problem is even more subtle. One of Yale’s 2010 World Fellows — its pallid imitation of the Rhodes Fellowship — was Lumumba Di-Aping. He had, at least in Yale’s eyes, the merits of having served his country as a diplomat at the Copenhagen climate-change conference. But his country is Sudan, a terrorist, genocidal state. Another Fellow was May Tony Akl, from Lebanon — she’s a leading figure in a party allied with Hezbollah.
They are that “next generation of global leaders” — to quote my alma mater — that sunk Sir Howard’s career. Didn’t anyone, at any of these universities, feel any disgust when they toadied up to these terrorists, dictators, murderers, and servants of criminal regimes? Apparently not. Well, now it’s time for them to reap what they have sowed.