Thursday, August 03, 2006

Walt & Mearsheimer Make a Comeback

This morning I listened to an interview with professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the controversial political science paper "The Israel Lobby." Brian Lehrer had them on public radio. Many Kishkushim readers will remember the active discussion we had in these pages over Walt and Mearsheimer's arguments, which, put briefly, amount to the following two propositions: 1) that the United States acts against its national interest when it sides unequivocally with Israeli policy; and 2) that it is the pro-Israel lobby (mainly AIPAC) that exercises a disproportionate amount of influence over decision-makers in the U.S. to achieve that uncritical solidarity. The theory that undergirds their arguments is what they call "realism," which is just a clever name for the basic tenets of realpolitik: states should act in the international arena only after a realistic appraisal of national interest, making sure not to allow ideology or idealism to fool politicians. Realism also holds that states normally do act out of national interest, but that occasionally, domestic opinion and special interests pressure them into acting against it.

That paper caused a stir, and for good reason, because it bore more than superficial resemblance to antisemitic theories that conceive of Jews as the "string pullers" of government. (To be fair, W&M's Jewish string-pullers are public, not secretive, but still.) But after much ado, critics were able to point out the numerous errors in factual documentation and analysis of which W&M were guilty, to the extent that "The Israel Lobby" lost all pretention to being a respectable piece of scholarly literature.

However, the relevance of their question is in the process of being resurrected by subsequent political events, namely, the unequivocal and uncritical support that the United States - and only the United States - has lent to Israel's counter-aggression. Condy and W.'s lone championing of the cause has made us examine, once again, why the U.S. has chosen to become what many perceive to be the rubber stamp for Israeli decisions. I'd like to direct our readers to two interesting articles, one that sheds light and another that makes an argument.

The first, revealing, piece, in the New York Times today, shows that Bush Senior took a much more even-handed stance in Middle Eastern affairs than his son has, and that our own Bush Junior consciously reacted against that neutrality when he took office in March 2001. (Nor has the structural similarity between W.'s pledge to support Israel and his pledge to finish the job that his father refused during the Gulf War been lost on commentators.) The article suggests that, far from it being the influence of the "Israel lobby," it is the personal attachment that W. and his 70 million evangelical zionists friends in the U.S. that initially signalled the shift from neutrality to unequivocal support. Obviously, 9/11 solidified the relationship, as Israel was seen as an ally against the war on terrorism.

The second article, in Ha'aretz, written by the left-wing journalist Tom Segev (and one of my role models), regards the role of Europe in all this business. Despite tinges of sexism in the first line of the piece - calling Miri Regev and Condy "annoying starlets"?! - he makes an argument I have been pointing toward (though not expressing as well!) in previous posts.

[As a side note, Mearsheimer came off as a real loony bin in this interview. Asked by Lehrer if the Israel lobby was more decisive than the oil lobby in influencing the U.S. to invade Iraq, he basically said yes - at least, he weaseled his way out of the question by denying the significance of the oil lobby.]


Thomas said...

For people interested in a good analysis of this topic, please check out:

According to Dr. Chomsky, the Lobby, and AIPAC in particular, are influential on American foreign policy if and when they conform to other, more powerful elements of power (i.e. military-industrial complex and petroleum producers).

It seems fairly obvious that AIPAC and Christian fundamentalists would be much less influential if Israel was located in a region of the world where the main export was bananas rather than oil.

M. Simon said...

Tom Segev is insane.

If you want to have compassion you need money. Capitalism generates it better than socialism.

Chomsky? The well known liar?

If these folks are what you are basing your analysis on then I must say you have learned well from your Arab conspiracy theory friends.

Google - Chomsky lies

If you want to get a taste. I'll give you the first.

Chomsky lies: denial of the Khmer Rouge holocaust in Cambodia.

Really, I was hoping for better here. Well no shame. We have Democrats in America. (excepting Lieberman - and a lot of Democrats have disowned him).

M. Simon said...

There are people paying muslims to cause Israel trouble.

Stop the money, stop the trouble.

Follow the Money

Coming soon to a theater near you. Regime change Syria. Regime change Iran.

It is not hatred that is the problem. It is hatred + weapons. Hatred is free. Weapons cost money.

In Europe in the 1930s the peacemakers prevailed. In the 1940s a lot of Jews died. Which was the price for peace in the 30s.

So you have to ask yourself. How many Jews will have to die for peace this time?

Hizbollah and Hamas have constructed core ideologies based upon this Islamic theology of Jew hatred, which one can glean readily from their foundational documents, and subsequent pronouncements, made ad nauseum. Hamas further demonstrates openly its adherence to a central motif of Jew-hatred in Muslim eschatology—Article 7 of the Hamas Charter concludes with a verbatim reiteration of the apocalyptic hadith alluded to earlier:

“The Last Hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: `Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him’; but the tree Gharkad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985).

Apocalyptic Muslim Jew-hatred

Sound a lot like the Austrian Corporal in the '30s no?

Wake Up!

Noah S. said...

Dr. Chomsky is no longer a respectable commentator on world affairs. Maybe he was in the '60s or '70s, but now he is an inflexible, dogmatic thinker.

Please do not use his name in the same breath as Tom Segev's, unless you are contrasting it negatively!

Thomas said...

It's interesting to see how everyone is quick to jump on the bandwagon about Dr. Chomsky, and deliver a lot of criticism, without however trying to actually contradict any of the points he raises, as for instance in the article I pointed out. If you can only say he is not a respectable source but don't try to actually deconstruct and debate his point, it is you who is the dogmatic thinker.

Noah S. said...


I wasn't taking issue with the views expressed by Chomsky in the article you linked; in fact, I agree with him there.

I was objecting to M. Simon's lumping together of the left, of which Segev and Chomsky are perceived to be part. To my mind, the former is respectable and the latter is not and I'll tell you why. I believe Segev to be an extremely sophisticated and subtle thinker who invariably sides with rational, non-redemptive politics. Chomsky, on the other hand, despite professing to be a libertarian dedicated to exposing the myths created by power, has proved to be a fairly consistent apologist for authoritarian and dogmatic leaders (e.g., Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, and of course Nasrallah). You don't have to be a right-winger to see that your Doctor Chomsky often comes off as more interested in being an iconoclast than in exposing the truth (as he so elegantly declared in the '60s).

onthesidelinesandbemused said...


Thomas is no small dogmatist either. Check out his comments on your fellow blogger John's post from July 29 ("Hizbullah Responsible for Death of UN Observers"). Your co-bloggers literally tear to shreds every one of his pathetic arguments. Follow the thread all the way down. It's quite amusing actually... Thomas: I've been checking back once in a while to see if you replied, but I think you're better off admitting defeat. No hard feelings.

Thomas said...

If you actually took the time to read the debate, and took off the blinders, you can clearly see how nobody's getting teared to shreds. I try to reply as soon as I can, but I also have other things going on. I didn't know that having a different opinion meant getting teared to shreds though, that's a new one.

Noah S. said...

Torn. But Thomas, definitely stick to your guns. If you can make a case for Chomsky being an honest thinker or for Israel being a fascist state, then we're all ears. No one is torn to shreds for having a different opinion; the tearing only happens when that opinion is expressed poorly or with unconvincing evidence. Kishkushim welcomes further comments from you, and I believe that if we all agree to use careful, non-hyperbolic language to argue our points, then the amount of disrespect and condescension that I occasionally see in this blog's marginalia will be greatly reduced.