Ever notice how well endowed The Australian's opinion page is with, ahem, Middle East experts?
One such is a gentleman by the name of Paul Monk. Here's his bio:
"Paul Monk MA PhD is a polymath and widely known as a public intellectual. After completing his PhD in International Relations, looking at cognitive and policy aspects of US counter-insurgency operations during the Cold War, he worked for a number of years in Australia's Defence Intelligence Organisation on East Asia, with a particular emphasis on the challenge of North Korea, the stagnation of Japan and the rise of China. He was head of China analysis in 1994-95 and has remained a widely consulted commentator on international affairs in the Australian media and may well be unequalled in this country for intellectual breadth and depth, but especially for his ability to rapidly apply that profound resource to challenges in the broad arena of human affairs. He has written four books including Thunder from the Silent Zone: Rethinking China (2005) and The West in a Nutshell: Foundations, Fragilities, Futures (2009)." (Our Team - van Gelder & Monk, vangeldermonk.com)
As you can see, he positively oozes Middle East expertise. And thank God for that too. Did you know, for example, that we had to wait until 2011 to find out that what we'd always assumed to be the Balfour Declaration was not in fact the Balfour Declaration. That's when Monk came along and set us straight.
For example, in the benighted pre-Monk era (November 1917 - April 2011) we used to think that this was the Balfour Declaration:
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
But, thanks to Monk's scholarly revelation, we now know that this is the real Balfour Declaration:
"1. His Majesty's government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people. 2. His Majesty's government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organisation."
(You can read all about this epic scholarly feat in my 12/4/11 post Only in The Australian.)
As I discovered, when reading Monk's latest revelation in yesterday's Australian, Like Voltaire, be candid on Islam - to whit, Mohammad was no Mr Nice Guy - Monk's intellectual breadth and depth doesn't end there:
"Karen Armstrong has portrayed Mohammed as 'a prophet for our time'. But the classic Muslim sources (Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Kathir, Waqidi, al-Tabari, going back to the 8th and 9th centuries) make clear that he was a very dubious figure even in his own time."
That's right! A dubious figure in his own time. And still, today! (Why only the other day I saw him...)
It's obvious from the above that Monk has an encyclopedic grasp of all things Middle Eastern. Nothing is beyond him. Ibn Ishaq. Tick. Ibn Kathir. Tick. Waqidi. Tick. al-Tabari. Tick. He's read em all, and in Arabic too. And some fools wonder why I read The Australian!