OxBlog

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG OBSESSED WITH WALT & MEARSHEIMER? Could be. It's just that after five years as a graduate student in international relations, I can hardly believe that two of the most prominent scholars in the field have descended to such an embarrassing low.

Then again, at least I exonerate them on the charge of anti-Semitism. (Although Johns Hopkins prof Eliot Cohen doesn't.)
(17) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Exactly where did you exonerate them? You said "Perhaps anti-Semitism, but one can only speculate". I thought that remark was intended to leave your options open.
 
You're only angry because the truth is out there. Everyone knows the Jews run America. Now that Saudi is donating enough money to Harvard they are willing to ignore the jew gold that has led us into this Imperial disaster.
 
with exonerations like that who needs condemnations
 
I agree
 
As the comment by "david duke" attests, there is anti-Semitism alive and well today. And people whose political understanding is limited enough to blame the whole of the current Iraq debacle on "jew gold."

There are, however, many intelligent, un-bigoted (and in many cases Jewish) critics of U.S. support of Israel. I don't know whether Walt and Mersheimer are anti-Semitic or not. What I do know, though, is that Israel is not the Jewish people and the Jewish people are not Israel.

There are many valid reasons to criticize the state of Israel, most of which have to do with the state's oppression of and violence against Palenstinians. Do those reasons justify Palestinian suicide bombers who target civilians? No, of course not. But neither do suicide bombings committed by some Palestinians justify the de-humanizing and often-violent treatment of Palestinians as a whole. Cohen is wrong - dead wrong - to suggest that Israeli oppression of Palestinians gets more media play in this country than Palestinian suicide bombers. Compare the total column-inch coverage of each in the archives of any mainstream US paper and you will see that. (Keep in mind that it was a play about activist Rachel Corrie - who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while advocating for Palestinian rights - that was cancelled in New York recently. Not a play about the victims of a Palestinian suicide bomber.)

By equating criticism of Israel (especially criticism concerning the treatment of Palestinians) with anti-Semitism, Cohen and many other apologists for the state of Israel turn away from the kind of thoughtful and engaged debate necessary to sustain a healthy and functioning democracy.

Anti-semitism is abhorrent. It's also abhorrent to automatically dismiss criticism of human rights violations committed by any state or entity.
 
First of all, I would like to say I find it incredible that US tax payers welcome a lobby group that serves the interest of a foreign state. As I understand it, US tax payers pay up to USD10 million a day to Israel. Now we know where the funds for building that wall comes from. So, would somebody like to point us to that article that generated so much debate?
 
It would seem to me that anything that is critical of Zionism is branded as anti-semite, even when it is true. Why is the truth so difficult to accept? Why must this truth be kept from being said let alone to be debated?
 
Catherine, you have no sense of humor. Anyway, Corrie was crushed (possibly by a bulldozer, maybe a slab of concrete etc...) while she was guarding a weapons cache. She is still advoctating for palestinian rights, sort of. The last time I saw a picture of her it was her corpse on the top right of an article from the PA about how Americans have become Nazi's. It was nice to hear that from Paletinians because they elected a guy named Hitler.
 
Catherine M.,

There are people who will misuse the charge of "anti-Semitism". There are also many who won't.

Then there are people who will point to those who cry "anti-Semitism" and use that to avoid addressing cogent criticism based on the facts of an argument. There are also many who won't.

I don't think Walt and Mearsheimer are anti-Semitic. But I also think there are some troubling aspects to their essay.

I think your statement...

"By equating criticism of Israel (especially criticism concerning the treatment of Palestinians) with anti-Semitism, Cohen and many other apologists for the state of Israel turn away from the kind of thoughtful and engaged debate necessary to sustain a healthy and functioning democracy."

...is ironic. Did you read Cohen's piece? He doesn't equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. What he says is anti-Semitism is the charge that American Jews who are Zionists (which they point out are the majority of American Jews) and their ideological brethren ('the Lobby') are putting another country's interests before their own. Which is to say, treachery or treason. To do this, they are (with the usual disclaimers) making claims that are similar to the stereotypes of the type printed in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The above paragraph is undisputably true. I think it can be explained by something other than anti-Semitism. Some people with whom I disagree don't. But to make your point you are going to have to address what Cohen, et. al. are really saying, without the strawmen.

"Keep in mind that it was a play about activist Rachel Corrie - who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while advocating for Palestinian rights - that was cancelled in New York recently. Not a play about the victims of a Palestinian suicide bomber."

I'm not sure this makes your point. I don't think there were any plays to cancel about victims of Palestinian suicide bombers. For that matter, how many victims of Palestinian suicide bombers can you cite from memory by name. My guess is none. Frankly, I can't either, but I can name at least three people by name that were purportedly killed by the IDF.
 
"I don't think there were any plays to cancel about victims of Palestinian suicide bombers"


That doesn't make a great deal of difference - why on earth SHOULD the play have been cancelled? Any play?
 
A comment from "frustré" at Dan Drezner's site:

I have been very disappointed in the reactions of otherwise smart people to this debate. The original article was sloppy, and its conclusions are questionable. But the most prominent responses -- Dershowitz, Cohen, etc. -- offer a crash course in common logical fallacies. A small sampling:

1) Guilt by association: Support for an argument from a dislikable person does not make the argument false. (David Duke also believes that the earth revolves around the sun, presumably.) Dershowitz's response paper on the Harvard website is a particularly sharp example of this logical fallacy, devoting many pages to showing how lots of bad/extreme people agree with the authors' claims. Death penalty opponents often make the same claim, asserting that since only "bad" countries (Iran, Syria) have capital punishment, then it must be wrong.

2) Non-sequitur: Pointing out that Walt and Measheimer failed to mention other lobbies (Cuban, Saudi, etc.) or the sins of other groups (Iran, the Palestinians) in no way disputes the paper's argument that the Israeli lobby is powerful and that supporting Israel is not in our best interests. Likewise, just because I neglect to detail the (plentiful) logical flaws of Walt and Mearsheimer's article here doesn't mean my arguments against its critics are invalid. Changing the subject merely evades the original argument; it does not defeat it.

3) Straw man: Nowhere in the original article can I find accusations of "occult powers," "disloyalty, subversion, or treachery," or evidence of the authors "selecting everything that is unfair, ugly, or wrong about Jews" (Cohen, Washington Post, 5 April). These would be easy arguments to defeat, but they are not contained in the original article. In fact, the authors explicitly refuse to generalize about Jews as a group, noting that "not all Jewish-Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them" and that the Israel lobby "also includes prominent Christian evangelicals."

4) Ad hominem: The basic charge of anti-Semitism proves nothing (and, I should note, is impossible to prove). Even if the authors were anti-Semitic, it does not make their argument wrong. Name-calling is a cheap tactic, not an argument. Calling me "anti-New York" doesn't disprove my argument that the Knicks suck.

5) False choice: Questioning U.S. support for Israel is not tantamount to concluding that the U.S. "no longer ha[s] a vital interest in the continued survival of the only democracy in the Middle East" (letter, London Review of Books, 6 April). The choice is not (necessarily) between supporting Israel unconditionally and condemning it to death. The authors argue that Israel would do just fine on its own; where is the contrary evidence?

6) Reductive reasoning: Dershowitz claims that the existence of terrorism in Europe and elsewhere proves that U.S. support for Israel is not the cause of its "terrorism problem." This presumes that if one terrorist act was unrelated to Israel, then they must all be unrelated. But there is no reason to believe this -- the presence of another motive in one case does not refute the existence of anti-Israeli motives in other cases.

7) Unpleasant implication: Ruth Wisse writes in the Wall Street Journal (22 March) that the authors' argument "heaps scorn on American judgment and values." This may upset people but it does nothing to disprove the argument itself. Just because one does not like the implications of an argument does not mean it is false (see: Evolution vs. Creationism).

8) Appeal to authority: We all love Dan, but being Mearsheimer's colleague at Chicago does not strengthen his argument that the paper is "piss-poor, monocausal social science." Cohen's appeal to a phony authority here is especially awkward considering that Mearsheimer, as Chicago's preeminent IR scholar, probably had some influence over Drezner's recent tenure denial. Is there a personal motive here? I have no idea -- I don't know how Mearsheimer voted, nor do I have any reason to doubt Drezner's objectivity. But anyone citing Drezner as an authority must address this potential credibility problem.

9) Hasty generalization: neither Walt nor Mearsheimer have ever written a word about the Israeli lobby over the course of their lengthy careers, and all of a sudden they are anti-Semites? No. One data point does not demonstrate a trend.

Of course, just because these critics have employed logical fallacies does not mean their arguments are wrong, either. But it does mean that Walt and Mearsheimer's critics have not made a strong case, despite apparent presumptions to the contrary.

Sadly, for all the heated replies the article has generated, I have seen none that engage the central claim of the authors, which is that the current level of support for Israel is not in the U.S. national interest. A few, but only a few, contest the argument that U.S. politicians are deterred from altering policy toward Israel in large part due to the political influence of domestic pro-Israeli actors. Most simply scream "anti-Semitism," which is a lazy scholar's way of dodging these central questions.

It is unfortunate that instead of engaging the debate, Cohen et. al chose to smear the authors with hysterical charges that only trigger emotional responses and inhibit a reasoned discussion. They lend support to Walt and Mearsheimer's assertion that those who raise the issue are met immediately with accusations of bigotry. Dershowitz and others are famous for their diatribes, but I expected better of Eliot Cohen. Shame on him for helping to muddy the waters.
 
Dershowitz's response to W's & M's paper appears at

http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/research/working_papers/dershowitzreply.pdf
 
Better watch out for the Dersh.

BTW Oxblog, if my comments are the problem please delete them. They serve no purpose.
 
Anonymous reposted:

"Sadly, for all the heated replies the article has generated, I have seen none that engage the central claim of the authors, which is that the current level of support for Israel is not in the U.S. national interest."

The central claim of the authors is that it is 'the Lobby' that makes us act in what *they say* is not in the U.S interest.

Walt and Measheimer need to prove two things:

1) That supporting Isreal is not in the U.S. interest; and

2) That it is 'the Lobby' that is the cause of it.

They don't even prove 1). This is obvious when you realize that some of their main supporting evidence is based on dubious conclusions or is just plain wrong:

-...first Gulf War (1990?91) revealed that Israel was becoming a strategic burden. The United States could not use Israeli bases during the war without rupturing the anti?Iraq coalition, and it had to divert resources (e.g., Patriot missile batteries) to keep Tel Aviv from doing anything that might fracture the alliance against Saddam. History repeated itself in 2003: although Israel was eager for the United States to
attack Saddam, President Bush could not ask it to help without triggering Arab opposition. So Israel stayed on the sidelines again.14

-More importantly, saying that Israel and the United States are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: rather, the United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around.

Regarding the first passage, it is certainly not a "strategic burden" for the US to be denied use of bases that we wouldn't have had access to anyway if we weren't an ally. It is also not a "strategic burden" to lend them some missile batteries in exchange for their sacrificing their main strategic defense (deterrence) in the face of an unprovoked attack on their population from Saddam. (Even giving them some missile batteries for nothing would not make them a "strategic burden".)

Regarding the second assertion, it is plain false. Our biggest terrorist threat was and is al-Qaeda. We garnered their wrath firstly because we stationed soldiers in Saudi Arabia (and secondarily because we are propping up leaders in that country they don't approve of). While ObL does mention Israel in some of his various rants, it is clear what his primary complaint was and it is also clear that even if there was no Israel he would still have those complaints. We became a target of his fatwa because of our protection of an *Arab* state, which was necessary because of the realpolitik concerns for our oil supplies.

Furthermore, some of the logical fallacies do not apply. (And some most definitely do.) I won't go through them one by one, but it seems as if the author of the critique either didn't read the entire paper or didn't understand some of the points made. (Just a quick example of what I am talking about. Number 2, the non-sequitor, is not a valid critique because Walt and Mearsheimer are making *comparisons*. If they assert that 'the Lobby' is the most powerful, and they do give this as one of the reasons for singling it out, they should show that. If they say that Israel is as bad or worse than their enemies, as they do when they make the moral argument, they should prove that. It is not a logical fallacy to point out that they made an assertion without proof.)

Finally:

"Of course, just because these critics have employed logical fallacies does not mean their arguments are wrong, either. But it does mean that Walt and Mearsheimer's critics have not made a strong case, despite apparent presumptions to the contrary."

This is not necessarily true. It is pretty clear that the author of this critique cherry-picked the things that he thought would undermine the criticism of Walt and Mearsheimer's paper. However, it is a logical fallacy in itself to assume that because *some* people employed what he perceived as logical fallacies that *everyone* did so.

"Sadly, for all the heated replies the article has generated, I have seen none that engage the central claim of the authors, which is that the current level of support for Israel is not in the U.S. national interest. A few, but only a few, contest the argument that U.S. politicians are deterred from altering policy toward Israel in large part due to the political influence of domestic pro-Israeli actors. Most simply scream "anti-Semitism," which is a lazy scholar's way of dodging these central questions."

I don't think "most" have screamed anti-Semitism and I have seen points addressed that he says he hasn't seen engaged. Which is funny because while he seems to have done a pretty thorough survey of what he things are the bad arguments, he hasn't seen any of the good argument. And not seeing them he certainly hasn't addressed them.
 
David Adesnik writes:
"It's just that after five years as a graduate student in international relations, I can hardly believe that two of the most prominent scholars in the field have descended to such an embarrassing low." Indeed. I've been obsessed with this issue myself for the same reason (I'm not in IR, but I'm currently a political science grad student.) It's not too much less sad when someone _less_ prominent in the field (but nevertheless a peer, and a prof. at a prestigious university) exposes himself as daft. In today's FT, the *only* letter about this issue (as though there are no other points of view rep'd in their mailbag) is from Lord William Wallace, prof. of IR at LSE, who--among the other odd things he says--calls W's & M's article "well researched." How can an LSE IR prof. not have spotted any of the errors, big and small, that Dershowitz has now pointed out? Will he, if/when he reads Dershowitz's reply, retract his statement about the paper's being well researched? Should we hold our breath while we wait for that to happen?
 
Another FT-related matter in connection with this issue. The FT published an editorial on April 1 in which it said that Walt's position as dean was "in question." To his credit, Walt wrote in to correct them,

http://www.israpundit.com/2006/?p=745

but of course his letter (pub'd 3 days after the editorial) will be seen by a lot fewer people than saw the editorial. Now the Christian Science Monitor has a piece

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0406/dailyUpdate.html

re. reactions to W & M, including a link to the FT editorial, but with no link to Walt's letter. So CSM readers reading the editorial might get the mistaken impression that Walt's academic freedom is under threat, when Walt himself has said that it isn't.

Anyway..for a better list of reactions to W & M than CSM's, see

http://jeffweintraub.blogspot.com/2006/04/some-rebuttals-to-mearsheimer-walts.html
 
I'm a student at UChicago and I've been told my people who seem reliable sources that Mearsheimer is jewish.

So much for David Duke liking him, but I'm sure Mearsheimer is OK with that.

-Mr. Alec
 
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