One of the early lights of the national security/foreign policy blogosphere, Marc Lynch, is the latest scholar to sign up with the Center for a New American Security, the unofficial think tank of the Obama administration’s Pentagon and State Department.
Marc, a political science professor at the George Washington University, started his blog Abu Aardvark in 2002, and pioneered mixing a deeply informed view of Arab politics and media with a colloquial style. (The “Aardvark” in the title is, in part, a reference to Dave Sim’s classic independent comic book Cerebus, which — to be reductive! — is about an aardvark version of Conan the Barbarian.) Two of his frequent themes have been the liberalizing force that new Arabic-language media like the satellite channels al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya represent for a staid political culture, even if their content isn’t liberal; and the need for U.S. foreign-policy elites to understand the Arab world as their Arab interlocutors perceive it, a frequently neglected exercise that Marc shows — in at least one post per day, usually — can be as accessible as reading an Arabic newspaper. Interestingly, while other academics have suffered for their blogospheric indulgences — Dan Drezner was famously denied tenure — George Washington University had no problem hiring Marc.
Given CNAS’s continued focus on the Middle East, bringing a scholar of Arab politics like Marc on board makes sense. Another wrinkle: some on the progressive side have viewed CNAS with skepticism ever since it called for a more robust U.S. presence in Iraq in 2007 than progressives preferred. But while Marc is hardly doctrinaire, he’s always been aligned with progressives, and it’s notable that the think tank is incorporating more progressive voices as it fills the gaps left when so many of its scholars joined the Obama administration.