Tuesday, October 09, 2007

# Posted 9:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WALT & MEARSHEIMER: IS THERE ANYTHING LEFT TO SAY? Well, they came out with a new book, so something has to be said. It would be easier to ignore them, but it is dangerous to let such misinformation go unanswered. Perhaps that is why TNR devoted its cover to a lengthy review of Walt and Mearsheimer's new book.

But lengthy reviews aren't the most effective response. Details can only persuade those willing to commit a significant amount of time to a subject. Much more important is just a few sentences that expose this pseudo-scholarship for what it is. The simple case for Walt and Mearsheimer runs as follows:
Two distinguished Harvard professors believe that the US alliance with Israel damages US security by provoking terrorists to attack us. The terrorists' anger is a result of Israel's horrific abuses of Palestinian human rights.
If that's all that most people remember about this small episode, then it is a victory for Walt and Mearsheimer. (Especially for Mearsheimer, who actually teaches at Chicago.) So how do you dismantle a perception like that? You could try to defend Israel's record on human rights, but that isn't an argument that anyone can win without writing a book of your own. At a cocktail party, it always comes out a tie. You could try to point out the many other reasons that terrorists have for resenting America, but it's pretty clear that Al Qaeda and the rest really do hate Israel.

A third strategy is to try and argue that Walt and Mearsheimer are anti-Semites. But Walt and Mearsheimer knew better than to make any statements that could easily be clealry labeled as anti-Semitic rather than anti-Zionist or anti-Israel. This issue isn't irrelevant, but it isn't a winning point in a short discussion.

I think the real way to go is to brand Walt and Mearsheimer as conspiracy theorists. It's an approach that should work because it's true and because it's a category of thinking that people understand. But the words "conspiracy theorist" aren't a magic talisman in the same manner as "tenured professor at Harvard". The former is a judgment, the latter is a fact. So you have to be able to back it up in no more than a sentence, maybe two. Here's my one sentence:
Walt and Mearsheimer say that the Jewish lobby pushed American into invading Iraq.
Here are the exact words from the Harvard working paper that started this whole fiasco:
Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element...the war was motivated in good part by adesire to make Israel more secure... (p.30)
But wait, didn't they also write in the same paper that:
It would be wrong to blame the war in Iraq on "Jewish influence." Rather, the war was due in large part to the Lobby’s influence, especially the neoconservatives within it. (pp.31-32)
Walt and Mearsheimer want to have it both ways, but they can't. A distinction between "Jewish influence" and "the Lobby" (with a capital 'L') just won't cut it. Their lobby includes everyone, from the Jewish left to the Jewish right, even Howard Dean, who isn't a Jew. As TNR observes in its review, Walt and Mearsheimer say that Dean's "unabashed" support for Israel makes sense because "Dean's wife is Jewish and his children were raised Jewish as well." [No page citation provided.]

So, getting back to the point, is it self-evidently conspiratorial to argue that the Jews and their Lobby pushed us into invading Iraq? Although I am not against sophisticated discussions of the role that lobbying groups play in American government, also you really have to say to make this point is that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are all Christians. Some folks will go on and on about Wolfowitz and the yidn at the Weekly Standard -- and I'm one of them! -- but if you really want to say that the President, Vice-President and Secretary of Defense didn't really control the government, then you're retreating into the darkest reaches of conspiracy theory, where:
Jews, operating in the shadows, manipulate gentile leaders to unknowingly advance Jewish interests. In order to believe this in the case of Iraq, the argument would have to be made that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were not merely idiots, but also uninterested in ruling.

A couple of years ago I asked Rumsfeld to comment on accusations that the Jewish lobby maneuvered the administration into war. "I suppose the implication of that is the president and the vice president and myself and Colin Powell just fell off a turnip truck to take these jobs," he said. But Mearsheimer and Walt mention Cheney and Rumsfeld only for fleeting instants in their discussion of the origins of the war.
That is another quote from TNR, whose review was written by Jeffrey Goldberg, so perhaps it suffers from an inherent lack of credibility.

It really all comes down to the "Jews in the shadows" argument. Anyone who advances that argument in American political automatically compromises their credibility. The challenge facing Walt and Mearsheimer's critics is really just to ensure that they cannot escape their own words and aren't allowed to masquerade simply as distinguished professors.

You might say that any argument about Jews' secret power is anti-Semitic. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Personally, I think it is a trope that has simply migrated to the paranoid extremes of the political spectrum, both left and right. But that isn't the point. The issue here is how to prevent pseudo-scholarship from entering the mainstream. The answer: keep it simple and keep it true. They are conspiracy theorists.

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(17) opinions -- Add your opinion

It's a "viewpoint" that's snowballing.

To the point where it's prima facie obvious to all---except, of course, those Jews, Zionists and fellow travelers, whose objections are so obviously self-interested.

So that, no, I don't believe it can be regarded any longer as "extreme." It has captured the imagination of the masses. It provides the necessary easy explanation for all our ills, all our complications.

And I believe that attempts to counter it will be futile, this because trying to counter it are themselves perceived as Jews (and their supporters) trying to use their extraordinary global power to stifle debate, distort the truth, etc., etc.

The question is: how do people, in an age of snowballing hysteria, and whose need for easy answers leads them to a perfervid belief in delusions, come to their senses?

I'm not sure that they can, not, at least, without some sort of catastrophe first occurring.

Yes, one can try to use the rational argument, the historical argument, the benefit, of hindsight the cautionary tale of precedent. One can even appeal to the world's self-interest---i.e., believing and promoting hatred of Jews is catastrophic to more than only Jews. But then, one would likely be accused of trying to use the Holocaust---once again---to defend the Jews and "stifle genuine debate".... (Lovely and elegant circularity such as it is.) We're getting to the stage, if we're not already there, where there's a general feeling that, if it's catastrophic to Jews, then maybe it's all quite worthwhile in spite of everything and anything else that might occur (though, to be fair, one might believe that there won't be any, or at least excessive, resultant suffering---and that if there is, this too ought to be blamed on the Jews).

Alas, every so often, it would seem, the lesson that there are consequences to evil is forgotten. (But then this too would be dismissed as mere manipulative rhetoric in defense of Jews and Zionists, etc.!)

Could it be that global anti-Jewish sentiment ("sentiment"!) was such a rip-roaring success the first time around, that one should devote all one's energies to it once again?
So ... have you actually read the book, or just outraged denunciations of it?

Is it your contention that the Israeli lobby does not have outsized influence on American policy in the Middle East?
Anon, your first question is a good one, snarkiness aside. So let me be clearer. In my post, I quoted from Walt and Mearsheimer's lengthy working paper produced at Harvard. That paper served as the basis for the book, which I have not yet read. My understanding is that there isn't much new in the book.

You might say, "But David! How can anyone with pretensions of being open-minded just assume that the book is the same?" Well, that is what I expect from conspiracy theorists. If the facts really say otherwise, I'll revisit my assumption.

As for your second question, I'd be interested on your thoughts of what constitutes "outsized" influence. What makes the pro-Israel lobby different from the NRA or any other big and effective lobby? One might argue credibly that lobbyists as a whole have too much influence, but that means there's nothing unusual about the specific lobby concerned with Israel.
W&M specifically say that the pro-Israel lobby is not different from other ethnic lobbies in the past, i.e. the KMT/Taiwan lobby or the AARP or the NRA. I agree with them. No idea where you got the notion that they said anything different.

"Well, that is what I expect from conspiracy theorists. If the facts really say otherwise, I'll revisit my assumption."

If you refuse to read the book, how will you ever get a chance to examine the facts?

You seem to have concluded that W&M are anti-Semites, but since this is an obviously laughable argument you have opted to find a different route to delegitimize them. I suggest honesty as the best tactic.

Also I have a hard time finding where W&M say that Howard Dean is part of the Israel lobby. What they did say is that Dean called for an more even-handed role in the Arab-Israeli dispute, he was vociferously attacked by the pro-Israel Lobby despite the fact that his substantive positions were pro-Israeli and Lobby members were prominent amongst his supporters. Where are you getting this? From TNR?

From W&M's LRB paper, which you cite:

"When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers . . . are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning – without much evidence – that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’

This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness."
Sorry, I thought you cited the LRB paper when in fact you cited the Harvard paper. Nonetheless the Dean quote is the same in both.
Actually, the second question, were one to be honest, should have been, "...outsized and pernicious influence...", since that is the thrust of the MW thesis.

But then, according to that thesis, which many enthuse is "impressively documented" (though others would qualify that as, documented "with tendentious, cherry-picked references and therefore flawed conclusions"), in addition to the Israel Lobby's manipulation of US support for Israel since---when is it they actually claim?---1948? Or the 50s? Or the early 60s? Or post-1967? Or merely post-USSR?, the IL must therefore also be responsible for:

1. Manipulating US support for the regime in Egypt.
2. Manipulating US support for the regime in Jordan.
3. Manipulating US support for a Palestinian state (albeit one that doesn't threaten the existence of the State of Israel....aye, there's the rub! But since no one in the media or political loop even wants to hint that the Palestinian goal in all this is Israel's eradication, I'll have to, similarly, honor that profound commitment to truth and objectivity).
4. (Maybe this should be #1 in the list?) Manipulating US support for a special relationship with Saudi Arabia (though indeed, some might claim that the Saudis and their lobby---the SL?---need no help from the IL to manipulate the US government to favor the House of Saud. And here, one might be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking the Oil Lobby (OL?), the network of former US ambassadors to SA, the Saudi-funded "think tanks" in academia, or the centers of Islamic worship in the US....).
5. Manipulating US support for a Lebanon free of Syrian influence.
6. Manipulating US support for Turkish entry into the EU (though this is, admittedly, a contentious issue).
7. Manipulating US support for freeing Kuwait from Saddam in 1991.
8. Manipulating US support for a unified Cyprus.
9. Manipulating US protection for the Kurds before Saddam was overthrown.
10. Manipulating US support for the protection of the victims in Darfur. (To be sure, this has not yet been all that successful; clearly, the IL has not been pouring their heart and soul into this issue, despite the assertions of some that raising the "Darfur Issue" is merely Zionist interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation, with the unabashed intention of displacing the plight of the oppressed Palestinians from the front pages.)
11. Manipulating, somehow (no doubt by sheer chicanery), the relatively seamless flow of oil from the ME to the rest of the world (one of Martin Kramer's astute observations, even if there is clearly a certain self-interest in doing this...(but wait! Can the US be said in any sense to have "self-interest" if the IL has taken control over---purported---US foreign policy!!)
12. Manipulating US support for more liberal political environments from Iran to the Morocco.

Given the fact that the US is hated for many if not all of the above, one would have to conclude that the IL is one outsized and pernicious lobby...
In an article titled "I was a fanatic ... I know their thinking" published by the Daily Mail soon after the London and Glasgow terrorist plots, Hassan Butt, a former jihadist, helps indicate why the Walt and Mearsheimer argument about US support for Israel causing terrorism against the United States is mistaken: “I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings, and 7/7 was Western foreign policy." The real cause of terrorism is to be sought in what might be called an ideologized version of Islam. Soon after 9/11, an influential group of Saudis wrote an open letter to the United States saying, "The heart of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is justice, kindness, and charity." This might be termed a non-ideological Islamic attitude toward terrorism. Bin Laden wrote in response:
As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High's Word: "We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us — till you believe in Allah alone." So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility — that is, battle — ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed, or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! Allah Almighty's Word to his Prophet recounts in summation the true relationship: "O Prophet! Wage war against the infidels and hypocrites and be ruthless. Their abode is hell — an evil fate!" Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred — directed from the Muslim to the infidel — is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them.

These quotations and paragraphs are largely drawn from Raymond Ibrahim, “The Two Faces of Al Qaeda,” The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Chronicle Review (21 September 2007).
Lobbying Degree Zero


[from the October 22, 2007 issue]

Some thougts
Steve.Schwartzberg - Has it occurred to you that there might be a difference in the motivations / political opinions between a dedicated jihadi activist like Hassan Butt claims to have been and the average man on the street in the Arab world?
These quotations and paragraphs are largely drawn from Raymond Ibrahim, “The Two Faces of Al Qaeda,”

Did you thing about this, the roots of goes back to………

"Prior to World War II British Intelligence cultivated ties with the Moslem Brotherhood through agent Freya Stark, the British adventurer and writer... The Muslim Brotherhood spread throughout the Muslim world and has evolved into something like a Muslim equivalent of the West's Masonic brotherhood. It became one of the first Islamic Fundamentalist terror organizations...

"According to CIA agent Miles Copeland... the CIA began to cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood...

"Israel, forever inclined to back divisive movements, surfaced as another supporter of Islam and began to fund the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas...


And same to the new enemy now IRAN, reading

Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States

Interestingly, these pro-Israel traitors in the White House and the mainstream media happen to have the support of Washington-based Wahhabi groups such as CAIR and other Al-Qaeda-friendly cum Saudi-funded terrorist outlets… and most importantly Saudi tyrant regime in Hejaz?

Why you may ask?
Oh all about "jihad"
first of all, they don't call it a "jewish" lobby, they call it an "israel" lobby. it is convenient for your thesis, i am sure, to fudge the two and misrepresent their argument. but in the interests of intellectual honesty, you might be advised to, uh, not.

second, as anonymous said, they SPECIFICALLY and REPEATEDLY say that the israel lobby, in its structure and working, is no different to other lobbies like the NRA or corn lobby. the only difference is that those lobbies can be honestly discussed in the US while the israel lobby cannot be because anyone daring to bring up their activities is labelled an anti-semite or a conspiracy theorist (ahem).

third, i find it laughable that you're commenting on a book you haven't read. that's just really, really funny.

fourth, please, for your readers' sake if not your own, engage the arguments and facts presented in their work. your post appears to be an exercise of finding the best way to discredit their work, rather than engaging it on its own merits. you seem to have decided that the book contains "misinformation" (without reading it) and then working out the best way to debunk said misinformation. perhaps you might be better served by telling us exactly where and what the misinformation is.

the hysteria and shrill reaction that has greeted their book has only confirmed one of their hypotheses, and that is that israel cannot be honestly and openly discussed in the US. you, and people like you, are actually doing them a favor. i'm sure your gift basket is on its way.
Why in Cold War no one talked about European Lobby or British Lobby?
USA even shared nuclear weapons still does with Trident system with Britain.

I think the Mearsheimer book is a tentative for changing the USA nature. Realpolitik all the way. Without morals and ethics.

How about substituting "American jews" for any other interest group. Would you call this argument either untrue or antisemetic?:

1)American jews are wealthier and better educated than American non-jews.

2)American jews have political positions on many issues that are quite distinct from American non-jews (abortion, for instance).

3)People who are wealthier and more educated tend to have more influence in political outcomes.


A)American jews are disproportionately influential in American politcs.

B)Political outcomes in American politics are skewed to some degree toward the opinion of jews and away from the opinion of non-jews.

Here's the thing: many people want to deny that American jews have well-funded, well-organized interest groups working for policy positions that differ significantly from the positions of the general public. I don't see how this can be argued.

It's not illegal; it's not wrong; it's just a phenomena to observe; it's politics. But no one wants to say it.
One of the things that was fascinating about their working paper was how amorphously they defined the "Lobby" (their capitalization). Their apparent definition made everyone in public life who disagreed with them on the subject a member of this supposed lobby. The issue for M & W proved to be democracy itself. To label individuals who take a position on the basis of principle as part of some ill-defined lobby is to directly question their intellectual integrity and is essentially a smear.

Another thing that struck me was the constant use of qualifications. They would write things like, "Not to be conspiratorial but". As I had emailed Mearsheimer himself, when you preface an argument in this way, it means precisely that you are implying a conspiratorial viewpoint, just as when you say "not to be offensive, but", which is invariably followed by an offensive statement. (His reply was brief and pointless, although polite). The M & W paper was filled with classic anti-semitic themes such as undue influence and dual loyalty and operated conceptually on this basis even as the authors made attempts to disassociate themselves from this charge rhetorically. The term "Lobby" naturally suggests more than just an affinity of ideas. To say that this is allegedly not what you mean begs the question why the term was employed in the first place if not to intimate the very meaning you deny.

To say that being allied to Israel is more harmful than good is nothing new and not offensive in itself wrong or right. That's been the whole Realist school in a nutshell after all. What M & W did was go radically beyond this point with a vehemence and an obsessiveness that was and continues to be strange, if not morbid. They were not content to say that their opponents were wrong. They felt compelled to frame oppostion to their views as being morally and intellectually compromised. In a democratic society that is a tricky argument to engage in without leaving yourself stained by the effort.

I also was struck how many self-described Leftists supported their arguments. This was not exactly surprising as the political left has become a dependible outlet for such sentiments. I would be curious to know how the commentators who have tried to defend M & W would describe themselves politically. I'm pretty confident I know the answer already.
If one hasn't yet lost one's appetite, here is something to chew on.
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