Richards Pipes (left), and his son, Daniel Pipes. (Image sources: Wikimedia Commons)
Two iconoclasts, the intrepid duo, are the late Baird Professor Emeritus of Harvard University, Richards Pipes, and his son, Daniel Pipes.
Whereas Richard Pipes, a “world authority” or the doyen of historians of Russia, set as his life’s priority analyzing and debunking to Western civilization the naïve romantic utopia of Bolshevism and its Soviet Pied Pipers of tyranny, Daniel Pipes, a global expert on the Middle East, similarly analyses another civilization. His mission has been, through voluminous writing and various projects in defense of Western civilization, to awaken Americans to the modern-day threats of Islamist terrorism, religious coercion and mass-immigration.
The late Richard Pipes, who died a year ago last week at the age of 94, served as a National Security Council staffer to President Ronald Reagan, and was considered by many as the architect of Reagan Doctrine. His son, Daniel Pipes founded and heads the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank, currently celebrating its 25th anniversary. He is also the publisher of the Middle East Quarterly.
Richard and Daniel Pipes are widely regarded as intrepid as neither ever joined the academic herd or became apologists of foreign or domestic leaders. They remained impartial scholars — even loners — committed to writing about facts as they discovered them. Both have often been misunderstood and maligned. Richard Pipes was labeled an “anti-Soviet hardliner” and “cold warrior,” even while his policy recommendations were realistic and, at times, even soft line.
Daniel Pipes has unjustly and incorrectly been called an “Islamophobe” while, in fact, he supports those who seek to reform Islam and encourages them as free world allies.
Richard Pipes and the Making of Reagan Doctrine. Richard Pipes, a Harvard historian and prolific writer, demonstrated in several of his books that the October 1917 Russian “Revolution” had actually been a militant coup d’état, conducted by a tightly organized group of Jacobin-like conspirators — with almost no involvement of the masses. Unfortunately, the Utopian dreams of many well-meaning communists — who envisioned a classless society with social justice — actually resulted in the tyrannical, Stalinist system that, with its genocides, gulags and official anti-Semitism under the dictator Josef Stalin, resulted in the deaths of 20 million people and rivaled the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Until 1982, the U.S. views of how to deal with the Soviet Union were embodied in a “policy of containment” by U.S. senior diplomat George Kennan. First outlined in 1947, it urged countering Soviet pressure through the “adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy.”
Richard Pipes, however, Director of Soviet and East European Studies for the National Security Council at his White House desk in 1981-82, had another vision. To him, it was necessary not just to seek co-existence with the Soviet Union but also a deep change in the Soviet system.
He wrote a memorandum to President Ronald Reagan discussing his finding of a profound economic crisis in the Soviet Union caused by Russia’s militarization and geopolitical over-expansion. “My main contribution,” he noted later, “was revealing the flaws in the détente policy and urging a policy designed to reform the Soviet Union through a strategy of economic denial.” In other words, the USSR could be changed from within by raising the costs of its aggression.
As he foresaw, Russia, with its weak economy and Reagan’s mammoth military program (similar to that of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s) and the use of economic instruments such as lowering the price of oil, as proposed by CIA Director William Casey — but above all America’s support for anti-Soviet fighters in several conflicted regions (for instance, in Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Angola), would so hurt the Russian economy, that it would encourage the rise of Soviet reformers. These would then, “…press for modest economic and political democratization,” Thus, “…the successors of Brezhnev,” Richard Pipes predicted, “are likely in time to split into ‘conservative’ and ‘reformist’ factions.”
President Ronald Reagan agreed with him. and issued a presidential directive in January 1983 under the heading “NSDD-75,” radically altering the fundamental U.S. foreign policy objectives pursued by previous administrations since the days of U.S. President Harry S. Truman.
The most prominent members of liberal-minded Russian specialists in America, particularly those associated with Columbia University, sharply disagreed with Richard’s bold and revolutionary forecast. Said Robert Legvold, professor at Columbia University in 1982, “Pipes is wrong on assuming there is a clear-cut division between two camps [in the Soviet Union]. Any U.S. policy designed to assure that some nonexistent group of moderates will come to power is a chimera.”
Pipes proved to be right.
Despised challenger, Boris Yeltsin. When other Soviet scholars finally accepted that Pipes had been right and a genuine group of reformers had arisen in the late 1980s, the leaders of Russian studies at Columbia and Princeton became entranced with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Wrote Legvold, “A key factor in the ending of the Cold War was Gorbachev’s decision that he would not use force to suppress reformist aspirations in Eastern Europe.”
This assessment, however, is not entirely correct. In dozens of interviews conducted with Alexander Yakovlev (in September 2000) and other prominent Russian democrats, for a forthcoming book, Russia’s Democratic Revolution, Yakovlev revealed that, as the eastern European pressure against the USSR in Hungary and Poland was mounting, he and a few other Soviet consultants had proposed getting rid of the Berlin wall months earlier. The Russian opposition in the Congress of People’s Deputies — led by Andrei Sakharov and Boris Yeltsin — were also demanding support for dramatic changes in Eastern Europe. President Reagan, of course, a year earlier had said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Even after Yeltsin, surrounded by radical reformers and Western donors, had become the leader of post-Soviet Russia, many of Gorbachev’s apologists continued to worship their man.
Pipes Unearths Alexander Yakovlev. If you want to understand what really happened in the Soviet Union, you must read Pipes’s final book, Alexander Yakovlev, the Man Whose Ideas Saved Russia from Communism. Then read Yakovlev’s memoirs, available in Russian: Omyt Pamiati: Ot Stolypina do Putina [Maelstrom of Memory: From Stolypin to Putin] Moscow: Vagrius, 2001.
As Richard Pipes demonstrated, the true architect of perestroika, glasnost (reduced censorship) and a “new thinking” that included disarmament and rejected the goal of a worldwide communist revolution, was not Gorbachev, who remained a reform communist. It was his chief adviser: the low-key Yakovlev, who presided over three commissions dealing with the new concepts.
As stated by the National Security archive, “Recently released documents from the Yakovlev Collection of the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) show the unprecedented scope of issues on which Alexander Yakovlev exerted influence within Soviet decision-making circles under Gorbachev. Although one usually associates Yakovlev with glasnost and democratization, it has become clear that he was also a key reformer when it came to arms control (“untying” the Soviet “package” position on nuclear arms control negotiations), and the Soviet economy.”
The scope of Yakovlev’s work and his achievements as Gorbachev’s main adviser are to this day sadly unappreciated, possibly because of Gorbachev’s apologists. There was not even a single full biography of Yakovlev until Pipes undertook the project. A true statesman, Yakovlev advised world leaders not only on foreign affairs but also domestic ones, and in addition chaired a prestigious Commission on authenticating Russian history. Possibly because Gorbachev kept him in the shadows, his preeminence took time to emerge.
Gorbachev seems to have been a centrist who swung uneasily between reformers and reactionaries and sometimes played both sides against each other. Unfortunately, the same group of experts who seem to have worshipped Gorbachev and despised Yeltsin, abandoned Yakovlev when he left Gorbachev to join Yeltsin’s camp. They continued to cling to Gorbachev even when the 1991 putschists sought to reclaim the empire and Yeltsin stopped them.
Pipes’s support of Yakovlev over Gorbachev was quite possibly the reason that Pipes had such a hard time finding a publisher.
Pipes was apparently deeply disappointed that his last book was not widely or well received or reviewed. Yet, the final message of his book is that if a man such as Yakovlev can emerge in the Kremlin, we must never give up hope on Russia. Pipes will most likely be vindicated by a new generation of scholars who, looking further into Yakovlev, will be amazed at what they find.
Daniel Pipes: Modernizing Islam Globally is the Ultimate Aim of the War on Terror. Unlike his father, who remained a renowned historian despite his stakes in the U.S. government, Daniel Pipes, a Harvard graduate, left the ivy towers of academia and shaped his life as one of activism. After the 9/11 attack on America, Daniel took to the airwaves and predicted the arrival of asymmetric warfare, including terrorist groups that might not again attack the American bastion of democracy from afar, but would seek to infiltrate all areas of our society and destroy it from within.
“The hardest thing for Westerners to understand,” wrote Daniel Pipes, “is not that a war with militant Islam is underway but that the nature of the enemy’s ultimate goal. That goal is to apply the Islamic law (the Shari’a) globally. In U.S. terms, it intends to replace the Constitution with the Qur’an.”
“This aspiration,” he continued, “is so remote and far-fetched to many non-Muslims, it elicits more guffaws than apprehension. Of course, that used to be the same reaction in Europe, and now it’s become widely accepted that, in Bernard Lewis’ words, ‘Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.'”
Backing up Daniel Pipes is the National Center for Constitutional Studies which discusses the many ways that Sharia law “rejects the fundamental premises of American society and values.
As head of his Middle East Forum, Daniel divides his work into two key subjects. First, the crucial difference between Islam, the faith, which is a venerable religion, and militant Islam, based on sharia law, which, according to him, is not. He also notes that there is a battle for the soul of Islam among Muslims themselves.
While Richard Pipes, a supporter of democratizing the totalitarian Russian regime, was often and predictably labeled as a Russophobe, his son is sometimes wrongly cast as an “Islamophobe.” Nothing could be further from the truth. He, in fact, supports moderate Muslims: “…Although the moderate Muslims appear — and in fact are-weak [as they were Yakovlev’s democrats in Russia], they have a crucial role to play, for they alone can reconcile Islam with modernity…”
Militant Islam Reaches America is one of Daniel Pipes’s most important and engaging books about some of the great issues that now confront America. In the book he reveals that militant Islam has much in common with fascism and communism and that, “Significant elements within the United States must necessarily undertake the difficult task of “…modernizing Islam globally — the ultimate aim of the war on terrorism.” How to do so seems the challenge.
Operationally, Daniel Pipes’s think tank, the Middle East Forum, sponsors several important projects, such as Campus Watch, which seeks to expose “…the politicization and biases of Middle East studies in North American universities,” as well as it providing a Campus Speakers Bureau and a Student Internship Program. Other projects include Islamist Watch, which tracks terror worldwide, and the Legal Project which seeks to protect researchers and analysts who report on “topics of terrorism, terrorist funding, and radical Islam, from lawsuits designed to silence their exercise of free speech. Some lawsuits have seemingly been undertaken to “…bankrupt, distract, intimidate, and demoralize defendants.
Blueprint for Israel Victory. While Richard Pipes’s NSDD-75 was the blueprint for American victory in the Cold War, Daniel Pipes has developed a blueprint for the Israel Victory Project (2017, today the Forum’s most high-profile campaign.) It calls for the defeat of the lost Palestinian cause to displace Israel, thereby shifting away from the thus far useless negotiations. “Conflicts generally end,” he reasons, “when one side gives up.”
Daniel Pipes argues that, ironically, the Palestinians would actually fare far better if they were defeated: they could end their fantasies of genocide and, like post-WWII Germany, finally start to build a constructive and flourishing civil society. Like his father, Daniel Pipes has encountered much resistance. His Israel Victory Project is not likely to prove an exception. A cool look at such a proposal will doubtless not be welcomed in many quarters.
He is apparently used to that. He has found himself barred from a NATO ally, Turkey, for speaking his mind. Addressing a think tank in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2017, he was asked whether Turkey — meaning its President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — was “a partner or a threat.”
“I dare not go back to Turkey,” he answered, “because I am critical, as you may have heard, of the government and, in particular, I supported the July 15th coup attempt [a position] which is absolutely an outrage in Turkey.”
“Erdoğan,” he explains elsewhere, “is an Islamist who initially played within democratic rules. As time wore on, however, he grew disdainful of those rules, specifically the electoral ones. He monopolized state media, tacitly encouraged physical attacks on opposition-party members, and stole votes.”
Daniel Pipes then reports how he turned to the Turkish Ambassador: “And so, let me ask you, Mr. Ambassador, would it be it safe for me to go to Turkey and spend some time there or just go through the airport? …Would I be safe going to Turkey?“
Kemal Ökem, replied, “If you say that you support the failed coup attempt… I would rather advise you not to go there because you be an accomplice, considered an accomplice. [laughter] … I mean, I would advise you to find good legal advice before you travel to Turkey.” [Emphasis added.]
Conclusions: To Richard Pipes, we shall be forever grateful for helping to debunk the “socialist” fantasies of many on the American left, who still often promote them, especially among the young. Radicals from the 1960s such as U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders come to mind. In tracing Yakovlev’s path from apparatchik autocrat, to supporter of reform communism, to genuine democrat, Richard Pipes envisaged that Yakovlev’s path will hopefully be followed by new generations of Russian democrats.
To Daniel Pipes, we owe a cry of alarm that still has not been appreciated. The extent of America’s infiltration by purveyors of Sharia law is still not recognized or even acknowledged. The previous U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, in fact, sought actively to snuff it. It has become even more difficult today to address such issues – as may well have been the plan from the start: to neutralize all discussion of Islam before it can even begin. Daniel Pipes has been labeled an “Islamophobe” by some ignorant Americans to whom Islamists are just another group of Lady Liberty’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Sadly, many of those masses seem to be just that. As can be seen in Europe however, a considerable number apparently are not.
In an on-line tribute to Richard Pipes on his 90th birthday, I mentioned that Richard was politely ridiculed by Soviet scholars and vilified by his American colleagues. Yet, as Yakovlev put it, “Pipes was basically right.”
On one occasion, Richard’s wife of 72 years, Daniel Pipes’s mother, Irene, tall, still-beautiful, and a prominent supporter of Polish-Jewish publications, proudly added, “Daniel is also right.”
Dr. Jiri Valenta, a non-resident senior research associate with the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, is a member the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. He and his wife, Leni, a playwriting graduate of the Yale School Drama, spent two days with the late Alexander Yakovlev in 2000 reviewing his not-yet published memoir. Richard Pipes kindly revealed that they shared their private notes with him. In 2016 the Valentas published, “How Would Yakovlev Advise Putin Today on Ukraine and ISIS.” Full disclosure: two of the Valentas’ articles have been published in Daniel Pipes’s Middle East Quarterly.