Sunday, April 02, 2006

# Posted 3:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A MODERATE RESPONE FROM PROF. DREZNER: Dan presents some sharp criticism of Walt & Mearsheimer. (Also see here.) Yet I am somewhat concerned by Dan's comment that

I completely agree with Walt and Mearsheimer that this, [i.e. the US-Israel relationship] is a topic that needs more open debate.

This statement leaves the impression that Walt and Mearsheimer's semi-conspiratorial pseudo-scholarship counts as a productive contribution to open debate, rather than muddying the waters with reckless and inflammatory accusations.
(6) opinions -- Add your opinion

Presumably, Drezner is saying so in the fervant belief (desperate hope?) that "sunlight is the best disinfectant" (Louis Brandeis).

However, one of the more elegant aspects of the Mearsheimer-Walt argument is that by criticizing it, you demonstrate its truth; by showing how factually compromised it is, you are in fact reinforcing it; by proving its wrongheadedness, you are proving its essential truth.

Together with the many whose minds have been made up, those who up until now have hesitated to crawl out of the woodwork have been given the green light. So that the conviction that "Israel is our misfortune," having been given the nudge it needs, will soon become an avalanche.

There is one thing, at least, about which Mearsheimer and Walt are absolutely right: Having done their work admirably, there is no need to debate their thesis.

No matter what Dan Drezner might mean.
I wonder if the timing of the argument is more related to the massive infusion of Arab funding into several universities.
Either they are evil minded racists, or in the pocket of rich oil sheikhs, but lets not talk about the skewed US relationship with Israel and the effect on our (in my case, United States) dangerous relationship with that country. Let stick out heads in the sand and hope the danger to US national security goes away on its own.

For a variety of reasons over the last 50 years, Israel and the United States have developed a unique relationship. Talking about it, pointing it out, is not dangerous or automatically a sign of evil intentions and should not have two scholars tarred as wild-eyed loonies.

Finally, I would like to point out that davod is guilty of exactly what barry insinuates, i.e. all criticism reinforces the thesis that to speak or write about this topic must equal racism.

What do you gentlmen think?
"For a variety of reasons over the last 50 years, Israel and the United States have developed a unique relationship. Talking about it, pointing it out, is not dangerous or automatically a sign of evil intentions and should not have two scholars tarred as wild-eyed loonies." has a flip side - calling the work bad scholarship and pointing out problems with it does not make the person criticizing Mearshimer/Walt a Zionist apologist.

As much fun as it may be to only look at the words of the zealots on the other side and avoid real debate. Of which there are two here - the basic claims addressed in the paper and the paper itself. IMO, the first is a very complex issue and the second is pretty weak.

Overall, I agree with Drezner that the paper coming from Mearshimer and Walt seems to draw most of its problems from trying to fit our actions in the Middle East into their classically realist foundations, when in fact it is the realism itself that is flawed.

There are three main foundations that I think concisely sum up most of the problems with the paper. The authors appear to assume that 1) it is the Israel Lobby primarily responsible for our ME policy, when to name one, the Oil lobby exerts far more influence 2) Israel is the root cause for our terrorism problem, when IMO it's pretty obvious that the problems run deeper, relating to political and economic repression and Israel/Palestinians is merely the convenient scapegoat used to deflect anger away from the ruling elites and of course 3) it is the Israel Lobby primarily responsible for our invasion of Iraq, when as an unabashed supporter of the Iraq war, I can point out at least 3-4 unsavory reasons Bush wanted to invade Iraq unrelated to Israel (Oil ties, assassination attempt on his father being the first to come to mind) in addition to the numerous other publically stated justifications.

They also then proceed to cherry-pick examples which prove their position while ignoring other evidence.

But overall, it pisses me off how instead of debating the issue most opponents quickly jump to the anti-Semitism claim and also how quickly people jump in to defend Mearshimer and Walt's hypothesis without actually reading the paper itself.
Well said Bishop.

I had a lot of problems with that paper, but the biggest is their description of the so-called "Lobby".

For one, it is so broad as to include anyone they disagree with about our relationship with Israel.

For two, it doesn't make a good argument why the actions of the Lobby are any different from Mearsheimer and Walt's actions and those who agree with them (call them the "anti-Lobby"). The anti-Lobby makes their case with ideas in the marketplace and with lobbying monies just like the Lobby does.

What strikes me is that if this is the best the anti-Lobby can put out in the marketplace of ideas (one might expect an academic dean at Harvard's Kennedy School to be fairly good at this, right?), it's a pretty good demonstration of why the Lobby is so effective there. The academic shortcomings of the paper have been pointed out at length.

It's my opinion that the authors knew their ideas couldn't compete. If they felt their ideas could stand up next to facts counter to their argument, they would have presented those. They know what writing a paper is all about.
I also meant to add - I think the paper should be discussed on its merits and leave anti-Semitism out of it.

I also think the headline of a previous post "Anti-Semitism at Harvard?" along with just snippets posted is leading at best, and disengenuous at worst. Please take that as it is offered - as constructive criticism from someone who enjoys your posts, David.

I have a couple of thoughts about anti-Semitism.

1) The term is really loaded, and there seems to be no consensus as to whether it only means actual hatred of Jews or includes discrimination against Jews. The term racist includes both, obviously, but it isn't so clear with anti-Semitism. I have seen this called anti-Semitic in intent vs. anti-Semitic in effect.

2) Clearly a lot of anti-Semitism is hidden behind the more politically correct "anti-Zionism". I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, as I am doing for Walt and Mearsheimer here. It is easy to tell as you read/hear more and more from them. Generally when you encounter these people on message boards they will start out by being relatively reasonable, some inflammatory article from Counterpunch or the like. Before long you are hearing about how Jews control the media and reading fabricated quotes from the Talmud or some such.
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