March 22, 2006

More Rebuttals of "The Lobby"

Norm Geras posts a letter by Profs. Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits rebutting the Walt/Mearsheimer paper. Their first point echoes Lee Smith's argument. Their third point is equally important:
Mearsheimer and Walt stand in a long tradition of "realist" political scientists known for naivete regarding the power and import of ideological fanaticism in international affairs. This naivete is the reason that radical Islam and the enduring crises of modernization in the region that produced it receive hardly a word in their long attack.
This actually brought to mind an important point Shalom Lappin made in response to Walt and Mearsheimer (emphases mine):
I also found the article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in the LRB to be a nuanced version of Pat Buchanan's right wing, isolationist-inspired anti-Israel polemic. Mearsheimer and Walt are apparently members of a nascent "realist" coalition of traditional conservative political thinkers coming from the general direction of the Nixon right. I found the article striking on three counts. First, it contains no new facts or innnovative analysis. It simply appropriates the venerable slogans, half truths, and misrepresentations of the anti-Zionist left, but it tones them down and presses them into service for a realist agenda. The seamlessness and ease with which this line can cross the political spectrum is a remarkable comment on who is pushing it and why.
The convergence of these two currents in the US (under the guise of "realism") is disturbing. Christopher Hitchens has been talking about this rather bizarre, sleazy, and incredibly hypocritical alliance between the Left and the Scowcroft Right on Iraq and US foreign policy in the ME in particular (this is really material for another post altogether).

Also, check out Frank Fukuyama's recent piece in The Guardian, which indirectly touches on the same point.

Back to Walt and Mearsheimer. Check out this detailed dissection by Robert Fine.

Update: Harvard has removed its logo from the Walt and Mearsheimer paper.

Update 2: What about W&M's footnotes?

Tony Badran.

Posted by Tony Badran at March 22, 2006 09:53 AM

"Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-Semitism. So it is with dismay that we read John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt's 'The Israel Lobby.'"

This is an attempt to make the subject off limits for future debate, and to intimidate those who raise the subject. In short, it's a cheap shot.

Posted by: markus at March 22, 2006 11:26 AM

It is peculiar to see an American accusing a Lebanese of a cheap shot in favor of Israel.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 22, 2006 01:38 PM

Michael -- I was accusing Herf and Markovits of the cheap shot, not Tony Badran.

If in fact Walt and Mearsheimer essay is as groundless as everyone seems to think it is, then these authors and others with similar views ought to be encouraged to air their views, so they can be knocked out in the ring of public opinion. Instead, they are compared to Nazis.

An analogous cheap shot would be for me to note the similarity between Charles Murray, who has published in the pages of Commentary on the genetic basis of intelligence, or Orianna Fallacci, who writes on the mortal threat of Muslims in the West, with David Duke or some other neo-nazi writing on these topics.

Posted by: markus at March 22, 2006 02:22 PM

[Michael, Herf or Markovits are Lebanese? I think it is they making the statement, not Geras.]

I thought the Herf /Markovits piece was for the most part well reasoned, especially in discussing the evolution of policy.

I am glad they used the term "Jewish Lobby" as the idea that it is taboo is strikingly uninformed as this is certainly a broad self nomination and analogous to other lobbies. It can be used perjoratively, but it is the term in common use within the lobby. There are often reasons to use the term "Pro-Israel Lobby" but there are often situations where Jewish American lobby , Jewish lobby or Jewish Diaspora lobby is more precise.

The criticsim of lobbies however does not only affect the Jewish Lobby and/or Pro-Israel lobby. Various lobby groups, especially ethnic ones, have been strongly criticized in American discourse. Certainly going back to the time of FDR individuals and groups were looked on as strongly suspect in any advocacy of their countries of origin or ethnic affinity. During World War Two the OWI secretly monitored ethnic organizatiosn of enemy, allied and neutral countries.

There is plently of archival material to show deep suspicion and criticism on the part of govenment officials, the press and others of many groups -- through current times.

I think there are double standards: there are double standards aganst the Jewish Diaspora Lobby and double standards in favor of it. It goes both ways. Some criticism of the lobby reflects Antisemitism. Some criticims does not arrise from Antismetism and used by Aantisemites. But a lot of the criticism of the lobby, just as a some of criticism of some Israeli policies, has nothing whatsoever to do with Antisemitism yet is tarred by some as such.

So I do take issue with the Herf Markovits lede. I think it actually detracts for an otherwise good response.

Posted by: Nathan at March 22, 2006 02:23 PM




Posted by: Apostolou at March 22, 2006 05:46 PM

I actually read the damn Walt and Mearsheimer article myself last night. It is a litany of charges -- 30 or 40. Almost all of them are backed by just one or two examples, some of which seem to be powerful, others less so. For example, the accusation that the NY Times is biased in reporting Middle East politics is based on a statement from a single editor.

They also go into very little detail about just who is the "Israeli lobby." This is a serious defect, given that they also note that "although neo-conservatives and other Lobby leaders were eager to invade Iraq, the broader American Jewish community was not. Just after the war started...a compilation of nationwide opinion polls...shows that Jews are less supportive of the Iraq war than the population at large, 52 per cent to 62 per cent."

Overall, the paper raises some interesting questions, but doesn't provide enough detailed or convincing answers. The authors are to be commended for their courage in exploring a subject that is usually too politically incorrect even to bring up in America.

Posted by: markus at March 23, 2006 07:09 AM
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