March 20, 2006

A Place Called Saudi Arabia

(Double) Guest Entry by Lee Smith

I find it a little hard to believe Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's "The Israel Lobby" was written while sober. In their first sentence, the authors assert that, "For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel."

Pretty much any American who has ever been in a motorized vehicle knows that the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy is Washington's relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and has been so since the mid-30s. It is a vital national interest – not just because cheap fuel permits Americans to drive SUVs, but because protecting the largest known oil-reserves in the world ensures a stable world economy. Moreover, the US military counts on access to that oil in the event it has to wage war – an activity that demands a lot of oil.

Walt and Mearsheimer's article explains how "the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics," which I agree with, because like many Americans I've ridden in a car before and I believe that the ability to get people and things from one place to another is a big part of successful domestic politics. It's not entirely clear that the authors of this really long article have ever been in a car before, because when they're talking about domestic politics, they're not talking about cars, or the economy or even our military, but "the activities of the 'Israel Lobby.'"

So, how much credit should these guys get for staking out a "realist" position on US Middle Eastern policy that does not account for the existence of cars, or something even bigger than a Hummer – the Arabian Peninsula? Unless they were drunk, they shouldn't get any at all. If they were drunk, kudos to them for no spelling mistakes! – none that I could find anyway. Maybe they were smoking some ace reef because Walt and Mearsheimer see spectacular forces at work everywhere in US regional policy – and a hangover would surely explain why they totally forgot about Saudi Arabia. Ouch! But that still doesn't make them realists, just big partiers who can type well when they're bombed.

If you're one of Walt or Mearsheimer's drinking buddies, or a bartender serving them, here's a quick quiz, with questions drawn from their article, so you know when to cut them off and send them home – but definitely not to write another article about Middle East affairs.

Discuss: "The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden."

The first Gulf War, wherein roughly 500,000 US troops were committed to the Gulf to protect our friends in Kuwait and a country called Saudi Arabia, revealed that no matter how many arms we sold to our Gulf allies finally only real live US soldiers could protect them from predators. And yet in due course we also learned that while the Saudis could not protect their own oil, our protecting that oil further weakened the royal family and compromised their legitimacy, making them vulnerable to dangerous domestic forces – like Osama Bin Laden, for instance. Ruling over a country that cannot protect itself, or safely be protected, from foreign threats or its own citizens, a country whose wellbeing is a vital national interest makes the Saudi royal family the Liza Minnelli of "strategic burdens."

True or False. "As for so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital US interests, except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel."

False. Israel has a strong military and a nuclear arsenal. Remember guys, the rationale of Zionism is not to control the media and send Christian boys to die in Jewish wars, but that the Jews would not ever again have to depend on the kindness of strangers to defend them, since they did not do so very adequately in the past – hence a powerful Jewish army is trained and equipped to defend Jews. Of course Israel is concerned about the prospects of an Iranian nuclear program, but not as much as our allies in the Gulf, who have neither strong militaries nor nuclear arsenals. A nuclear Iran is a threat to that big country in the desert named Saudi Arabia and other tiny sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf, and getting Gulf oil to market is a vital US interest.

Gut-check follow-up: Discuss: "Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons – which is obviously undesirable – neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without suffering overwhelming retaliation."

Well, but what if an Iranian nuclear weapon emboldened the IRI to close the Straits of Hormuz? (That's a narrow body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located.) Could the US and its Gulf allies be blackmailed? Or do realists like you two believe that there is political will in Washington and other Western capitals to "retaliate overwhelmingly" against Tehran for closing shipping lanes?

True or False. "…Unwavering support for Israel … has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world."

True. Nice work, boys – this Goldschlager's on me. But just remember, guys, that those flames of anti-Americanism do not always issue from organic sources; often indeed they are fed by Arab regimes, including many of our allies in a place called Saudi Arabia. (What? Yes, Saudi Arabia is a dry country.) US taxpayers have spent a lot of money to protect the flow of oil over the last seven decades and ensure that the Saudi ruling family keeps collecting receipts. (Yes, just one family, Al Saud, with about 5000 princes on the pad. Yes, some of them drink when they're not in Saudi Arabia.) Sometimes that money is used to incite anti-American sentiment and fund terror operations against Americans and US interests abroad. Think this one over in the morning: Should we stop supporting Israel because that makes us hated by Arabs, or should we put more pressure on Arab allies like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who have institutionalized anti-US incitement at home in their press, schools and mosques, while also funding it lavishly abroad? OK, OK, think about it like this: Would you bag friend A if friend B was paying everyone he knew to spit in your face and kick your ass just because you were friends with friend A? Wrong answer and you can take my number out of your Palm Pilot.

True or False: "By contrast, pro-Arab interest groups, in so far as they exist at all, are weak, which makes the Israel Lobby's task even easier."

True – not. Psyche. Yeah, true if you exclude the obviously limited influence that oil companies have exercised in US policymaking over the last seventy years. And it's not just the oil companies doing Gulf bidding; virtually every American ambassador who's served in Riyadh winds up with a nice package to keep selling the Saudi line back in Washington. Yes, you're right, AIPAC's annual budget is a whopping $40 million dollars – or precisely equivalent to the private donation Saudi prince Walid Bin Talal recently gave to two US universities to start up Islamic centers. What? Come on Steve, he gave half of it to Harvard! OK, give me the car keys. The keys to the car, it's how you got here. In a car. It has four wheels and a motor. It runs on gas. Gas comes from a place called Saudi Arabia….

Posted by Tony Badran at March 20, 2006 08:11 AM

If you really believe what you have written here you have never set foot in Washington DC. BTW, I've been here 33 years.

Perhaps you can provide some artful discourse on why, at the precise moment its disgraced eminences were under indictment for espionage, the AIPAC conference was filled to the ceiling with cowering politicans.
And while you're at it, explain why the media failed to cover Bob Ney maneuvering (on the urging of AIPAC stalwart Jack Abramoff) to give the US Capitol telecomm contract to an Israeli company over an established American firm .
Or why the media sidestepped the astonishing story of how American Indian money went to a settler sniper school based in the occupied territories. Hey, no irony there. People whose land was stolen being conned into giving money to people stealing land.
The answer in all the above cases is the power of AIPAC.
Your site is a good read, but never so much so as when you get on the logical monkeybars in an attempt to turn down into up.
No one in Washington, no one, doesn't know a war story or two about the hardball Israeli lobby. Yet these Harvard profs are likened to an idiot like David Duke for telling it like it is.
That is a cheap shot. I suggest you stop insulting your readers.

Posted by: skip at March 20, 2006 09:54 AM

I'm very open to hearing serious discussions of ideas. I thought the original article was fascinating, as are the responses to it that have been linked on this blog.

Saying that the authors were drunk/stoned when they wrote it is ridiculous. If you think someone is ignorant of the facts, then say what the facts are. I agree that there are plenty of logical leaps in the article. I didn't notice them while I was reading it, and I'm glad you and others have posted in response.

But trying to discredit the authors by saying that they are drunken bigots is stupid. It's unserious, and it makes you sound like, frankly, an asshole, which I don't believe you are. Write with passion, not with venom.

Posted by: Evan at March 20, 2006 12:25 PM

If the asshole remark was addressed to me, perhaps you'd like to take it up with Lee Smith who wrote the post (note the sign in bold that reads "GUEST ENTRY BY LEE SMITH).

Posted by: Tony at March 20, 2006 12:44 PM

Anyone acquainted with the facts would not consider "the israeli lobby" a serious article because of it's many omissions, errors and half truths. Itself being disingenuous, it does not earn the right to be considered with respect. I can see why someone ignorant of 20th century history might take the article seriously and object to satirical responses. Such readers might find that the responses in this post:

help explain why that article does not deserve to be taken seriously.

Posted by: anonymous at March 20, 2006 01:53 PM

Walt and Mearsheimers article must have been published in the UK because anyone in the US who was familiar with US history would know it is complete hogwash. This is not unusual - that the uk news organs completely misunderstand US politics.

Posted by: anonymous at March 20, 2006 01:59 PM

Hey Skip, saw you at the Washington meetings. You look good in sheets. Even if you can't play basketball I'd call you the Washington Wizard because no cheap shot is below you.

Posted by: Chip at March 20, 2006 04:06 PM

Based on Skip's post, I'd have to say he must be Washington's Number One Wizard and I bet he doesn't even play basketball. No cheap shot seems to be too low for this man of the sheets. Nothing is worse than grasping politicians and "academics" willing to sell their soul and dignity for dirty Saudi Arabian money. It won't be long before the Saudi gravy train is cut off and Skip you might be going to my Lou to get your meal money.

Posted by: Chip at March 20, 2006 04:14 PM

I will note in passing:

*DAVID DUKE has endorsed the study by Walt and Mearshimer.
*The PLA and Hamas have also, and have reprinted it and are handing it out.
*The Muslim Brotherhood has also endorsed the study and has reprinted it, handed it out.

Now WHAT political position do David Duke, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood all have in common? Hmmm ....

More and more it's becoming clear, significant factions of the Academy just hate Israel beyond any reason and Larry Summer's views on this (it verges right up to in effect if not intent of anti-Semitism) are indeed likely correct.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at March 20, 2006 04:15 PM


The Saudi royal family is "the Liza Minnelli of "strategic burdens."" Fantastic!

There was very little "realist" analysis in the Meirsheimer/Walt paper.

As realists normally state, it really does boil down to guns, resources, and securing the two. These two believe that America was misdirected by NGOs, but Meirsheimer in "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" argues that it's impossible for states to be "misdirected" because national interest always prevails.

My guess is that both Meirsheimer and Walt are still wincing from their strident anti-Iraq War 2003 stance. They've been commiserating over the last few years and have come to the conclusion that "the Jews made us do it" because they can't think of any other explanation.

As you point out, Lee, they're looking to closely at a powerful lobby without looking at global "realist" factors.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at March 20, 2006 04:29 PM

It seems Daniel Drezner and I came to the same conclusion:

"After finishing the article, I began to wonder whether the paper is simple a massive exercise in explaining away a data point that realism can't cover. Most realists opposed the Iraq War, and Mearsheimer and Walt were no exception. They can and should take some normative satisfaction in being proven right by what happened after the invasion. However, I suspect as positive social scientists they are bothered by the fact that the U.S. invaded Iraq anyway when realism would have predicted otherwise.

"When realists are confronted with contradictory data, they tend to fall back on auxiliary hypotheses -- the cult of the offensive, the myth of empire -- that have very little to do with realism. Explaining away Iraq on The Lobby might have a whiff of the Paranoid Style, but it's certainly consistent with the literature."

Posted by: lebanon.profile at March 20, 2006 05:30 PM

I thought it was pretty clear that my earlier post was addressed to the author of the post. I apologize if it wasn't clear.

And Jim Rockford: 1930s Germany, Italy, and Japan spent a lot of money building up military infrastructure. Therefore, anyone who advocates funding the military is trying to conquer the planet. Discuss.

Posted by: Evan at March 20, 2006 06:13 PM

Skip, history has given us ample reason to question the motives of those bashing the Jews for insufficient loyalty to their country and an excess of loyalty to other Jews.

Posted by: Pat Curley at March 20, 2006 06:15 PM

I realize Tony removed his Update from the earlier post, but I think it's pretty important that the neo-nazis are viewing this "report" as an early Christmas present.

I don't want to link to David Duke's site - it's pretty easy to find, but his top post is about his new favorite toy, of which he writes:

"The Harvard report contains little new information. I and a few other American commentators have for years been making the same assertions as this new paper. The great thing is that now the most prestigious school of government in the United States has adopted the same position that I took even before the start of the Iraq War, that Jewish extremists have taken over America’s foreign policy, harm America’s interests on behalf of Israel, and are the driving force behind the Iraq War and America’s disastrous Mideast policy."

Little new information: Check.
David Duke thinks it's a "great thing": Check.

Thanks, Harvard. Congratulations on this groundbreaking piece. Enjoy your new fan base.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at March 20, 2006 06:32 PM

Maybe the Jew bashers ought to consider that US aid is what keeps Israel from destroying the Arabs.
If Israel really has the reputed nuclear arsenal she is supposed to have, she certainly has reason after 60 years of unrelenting war against her to wipe out her enemies and be done with them once and for all.

And considering her scientific, technical and industrial capability those puppies are probably similar in yield to US and Russian weapons. By nuke standards the big league stuff, not the Pakistani Hiroshima type firecrackers.

So maybe it's the aid that keeps Israel on the American leash and not the other way around.

Posted by: cubanbob at March 20, 2006 08:02 PM

I rolled on the floor (figuratively) as I read this post, believing it was the best writing of Michael's I'd ever read. Sorry, Michael, your stuff is also very good and I read it all the time. But this post is both right-on and hilarious.

Posted by: Tom Roland at March 20, 2006 08:32 PM

While the authors of the report can certainly be described as anti-Israel, in the larger sense I think they represent isolationist thinking, which seeks to deny any kind of American "mission" in the world beyond looking after its own self-interest. Of course, in such a complicated world, self-interest is almost impossible to define. Is it in your self-interest to allow criminals to run wild in your neighborhood, as long as they are not immediately interested in your home? Beyond that, whether the authors like it or not, America does have a mission in the world, as the world's lone superpower, which it cannot ignore, and this mission has a moral component that goes beyond strict self-interest. Can a policeman be told only to act in his own self-interest? Does America, as the world's lone superpower, really want to abandon it's moral authority in the world, in the pursuit of a probably false definition of self-interest?

Posted by: MarkC at March 20, 2006 09:37 PM

Lee Smith rings true on Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi royal family enjoys a heaven on earth. Endless wealth and total control with the biggest muscle on the block, the USA, as buddy and helper.

Total control:
A teacher is pulled out of work, mid-class, to be lashed and beaten. He made some refrence to Christianity. How would you like to work in a setting where an annoyed student could have your head on a platter?

Fifteen girl students died of smoke inhalation in a fire. The correct religion police closed the door blocking the girl's escape. The Girl*s faces were not covered.
Female faces must be covered in public.

You could wonder about this

Democracy is the antithisis of control. It is my reasonable conclusion then that the Saudis join in with Iran, Syria, Qatar and others to feed Hamas through the invisable pipeline to keep the democracy in Israel from expanding through Palistine to their fiefdoms.

Presssure from our military is mandatory in Iraq and Afghanistan, otherwise when democracy is smotherd back to Israel*s borders, then the focus will move to targets in America.

Liberals and socialists campaign for a withdrawl of troops for selfish interests related to re-gaining power.

Bright liberals who see that pulling out our military now could give huge incentive to Jihadist minorities wordldwide, must feel like traitors.

220 million Muslims in Indonesia alone, not to mention Aisa and Afica. This is not to be feared so much as it is to be simply understood.

Encouraging, that Muslims of peace, fairly silent up to now, are holding a world conference to formulate ways to stop Mullahs from twisting Muhammad*s word into a killing tool. TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at March 20, 2006 11:36 PM


Evan, if being an asshole in the pursuit of truth makes me an asshole then I'm Lee Smith. I said what the facts are: contrary to the thesis of Mr Walt and Mr Mearsheimer's article, articulated in their first paragraph, Israel is not the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy, Saudi Arabia is. Their article originates with an error and devolves into malevolence. Sorry, you were fascinated by it.

Chip – You’re militant, my brother, but I love you! Still, no cheap shots when you’re D-ing up on Skip – there’s enough to work with there without having to resort to the Wizard card, ya’ know?

Skip, Mearsheimer and Walt are not telling it like it is, or even speaking truth to power or however the youngsters put it when you moved to Washington, DC 33 years ago. They are lying. They did so in their very first sentence when they wrote that Israel is the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy. I will repeat this because maybe you are not a paranoid-nut (though congrats in any case for flying in under the AIPAC radar for 33 years -- and they still don't know you ain't toeing the party line!); peerhaps you are someone who is genuinely curious about the Middle East and US policy but just confused by all those nights spent at Politics and Prose: Saudi Arabia is the fulcrum of US Middle Eastern policy. It is a vital national interest. Indeed, after protecting the citizens of the United States, it is the vital national interest. This is a fact obvious to anyone who doesn't have their head up their ass or isn't trying to score a cheap political point that resonates only with other people who have their heads up their asses.

I'm giving the authors of "The Israel Lobby" the benefit of doubt and whimsically imagining that they could not have been sentient when they wrote a piece that is based on so patently false a premise. The fact is that the entire essay is so riddled with errors, misrepresentations of fact and basic misconceptions about Middle East politics and US foreign policy in the region that it is quite clear they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. It is a shitty and nasty little piece of work perfectly consistent with ostensibly "rational" and "balanced" anti-Semitic tracts throughout history. It was written in bad faith to serve cynical people and their immoral purposes. I wonder where we've heard this before, and again and again: The Jews control the government; The Jews made us go to war.

The one upside to Walt and Mearsheimer's garbage is that it has elicited a large number of solid, detailed replies explaining basic facts, like why Israel is our ally, to people who are genuinely curious and uninformed and want to know these things. It is important for Americans to know the real reasons for things -- neither to merely take them for granted, and certainly not to be lied to, which is precisely what "The Israel Lobby" does.

Posted by: Lee Smith at March 21, 2006 01:21 AM

I disagree with quite a lot in the Mearsheimer/Walt article. Their core premise – that pressure from AIPAC and other supporters of Israel was the driving force behind the war on Iraq – is simplistic and not well supported. They brush aside the very important issue of energy security as inconsequential when arguably US support for Israel derives far more from our need to have a stable and dependable ally in the world’s major oil producing region than from any altruistic devotion to democracy or Christian apocalyptic beliefs. All in all, a fairly weak article. Still, I find the level of vituperation directed against this piece simply ridiculous. It really makes you wonder if Mearsheimer & Walt have struck a nerve. Poster after poster repeats the same asinine accusations of “anti-semitism”. Is it really anti-Semitism to point out the fact that influential Jewish-Americans devote significant resources to influence US foreign policy in ways that benefit Israel, but may or may not always be in the best interests of the US? We can certainly point out that Cuban-Americans do the same thing, as do Armenian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Irish-Americans. Cutting off discussion by hurling accusations of racism is one of the lowest roads you can take in a debate. It is pathetic to see how so many posters who usually rail against the radical left have decided to adopt one of the radical left’s worst flaws.
Bringing up David Duke and Hamas is truly the last refuge of a man with no counterargument. I sincerely doubt that David Duke took the time to read through the article, he’s a moron responding to the red flag of “Israel” and “Jews”. In the 1990s the Iranian Mullahs were among the most outspoken critics of Saddam Hussein, were we supposed to support Saddam because the Iranians hated him?

In answer to Lee Smith, if “asshole” is another word for “intellectually dishonest”, than Lee Smith certainly qualifies as an asshole. Lee is right that is inaccurate to say that support for Israel is the “centerpiece of Middle Eastern Policy”, but rambling on about Saudi Arabia and making puerile accusations of drunkenness is hardly an effective response to the article. Lee just decided to cherry pick some of the weakest points of the article, some out of context, and start venting. The crux of the article is the questions Mearsheimer and Walt raise about the excessive influence of the Israel lobby on US foreign policy. Lee doesn’t even bother to address the main point of the article. I think another poster had it right, what we are seeing here is the pathetic attempts of people like Andrew and Lee to get their voice heard in an increasingly crowded world of commentators by screaming louder than everybody else.

Again, to any readers interested in discussing the issues – Dan Drezner has a nice reasoned take down of Walt & Mearsheimer, I recommend that over the garbage Lee Smith or Tony are spewing. Or read Haaretz, the Israeli papers are a lot more open minded than the wankers on this website.

Posted by: Vanya at March 21, 2006 10:44 AM

is simplistic and not well supported.

And yet they are very educated men.

What's your explanation as to us why two very well educated men - in prominent positions within major universities (including the preeminent academic institution in the world), would advance such simplistic and unsupported ideas?

Brainfreeze? Too much drugs in the sixties? They're just joking?

Posted by: SoCalJustice at March 21, 2006 11:49 AM

As an outsider, there seems to be some real friendship going on here. Only good friends would suggest the placement of one*s head in dark places in this free swinging way.

I was laughing so much and skipping through the drama opera quickly for the entertainment value, that the points made were completely missed.

Now, to start again at the top and try not to burst out of control this time. Priceless! TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at March 21, 2006 12:06 PM

Great analysis Michael.

All that Saudi money donated to Harvard is sure paying off

Posted by: Drew Max at March 21, 2006 12:26 PM


Near the beginning of the piece, W&M mention that contrary to popular belief, the Jews were better armed than the Arabs in the 1948 conflict. No references are given.

This is completely irrelevant to their theme and serves only to create a feeling of animosity towards Zionists / Jews. It is an unarguable fact that those 1948 Jews were a motley band up against the armies of several established countries. If they were somehow better armed, that would be an interesting piece of history. (It would also not change the moral difference between the two sides.) This argument really comes from the nether regions of revisionism and these perfessers have no business quoting it.

The piece is full of stuff like this. People are upset because of the Harvard cachet behind an article intended to stoke hatred of Israel and also Jews, by association.

Posted by: greenmamba at March 21, 2006 12:43 PM

Mr. Greenmamba,

Let me quote Mr. Drezner here - "Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false. They should be criticized for doing piss-poor, monocausal social science."

I agree with that statement.
So how does discussing the events of 1948 qualify as prima facie "anti-semitism"? You are aware that a number of Jewish Israeli historians have been questioning the "founding myth." Are they all anti-semites as well? It is unfortunately very true that the existence of groups like the Nazis, David Duke and his followers, and Hamas makes an honest discussion of Israel and its policies very difficult. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Posted by: Vanya at March 21, 2006 01:11 PM

With all of the aforesaid arguments in mind, and without splitting hairs about how well various groups were armed in 1948, what is your vision for correctly moving ahead from this point forward?

No doubt all this discussion of background provides us with some guidance for forward actions.

My commander's view may seem blunt, simplistic and heavy handed.

I say Hamas is a war-monger, promotes terrorist bombings publicly on the internet with websites encouraging children to become walking bombs for Muhammad.

That is a public declaration of war against the free-world and Israel just happens to be closest.

The West has given Hamas Chamberlainesque tolerance for too many years now. Time is running out. There are dark clouds on the U.S. economy horizon. The time to swarm Hamas hard is now, before it is too late.

Better to have Hamas in reform mode rather than re-grouped full strength when and if our collective economic pants are down.

Any contrary argument would be interesting. TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at March 21, 2006 09:10 PM

Vanya, you ask why the authors would be accused of antisemitism.

Even if you remove the agreement and praise of both Duke and Hamas for this "study," which should raise some significant red flags for anybody, you are still left with the contention of the "study" itself. The contention is not merely that AIPAC controls US foreign policy, but rather that the Jewish community does. The authors harp on and on about every area in public life where there may be prominent Jews and their influence. By the time they get to making their point about "The Lobby," which is how they supposedly refer to AIPAC, it is clear that they probably actually mean "The Jews." Somehow, these authors posit, this mass movement of US Jews has led the US on its false path in the Middle East (and resulting failures in other aspects of our foreign policy). It is Jewish papers, and Jewish media, and Jews of influence and Israel behind the scenes, and Jewish spying (yes, they even included the Franklin Affair to make a point although he is a non-Jew and the trial against the AIPAC reps has yet to take place) that have brought about America's current misfortunes in Iraq and any part of the Muslim world. Shades of David Duke or the Aryan Nation? You bet.

To be honest, reading their paper, I thought I was strolling through a bunch of neo-Nazi and pro-Palestinian websites. The information contained in the "study" was either not thoroughly researched or, if it was researched properly, singled out the worst possible interpretation - vis a vis American Jews or Israel and its history - of every historical or political issue they covered. These are prominent historians, and I am merely a layperson, but as I was reading their paper and trying to rersearch their sources, I felt a growing sense of disgust at their distortions, inaccuracies and sly attempts to tar American Jews with the blame for perceived problems with the world and America's place in it. If they were students writing a college level paper, they would get a C - with comments remarking on their mellifluous writing, flair for the dramatic and poor research.

I don't see why you defend them so vigorously, they held nothing back in attacking Jews, uh, The Lobby, and deserve no less in response. Was it antisemitism? Who knows, it might just be misguided political beliefs. But the result is no different than antisemitism because those are the forces that will benefit most from this document. If this was a better paper, at least the authors could defend themselves against attacks, but as it stands, this paper is nothing better than an ugly and hateful joke.

Posted by: TheMiddle at March 21, 2006 11:24 PM

I'm not defending W&M. I'm attacking the tone of the responses on this forum which strike me as hysterical. I see a lot of posturing and not much debate.

Here's a quote from the article:
In its basic operations, the Israel Lobby is no different from the farm lobby, steel or textile workers’ unions, or other ethnic lobbies. There is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway US policy: the Lobby’s activities are not a conspiracy of the sort depicted in tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For the most part, the individuals and groups that comprise it are only doing what other special interest groups do, but doing it very much better.
If that strikes you as anti-semitic you're probably the type who thinks Huck Finn is a racist novel, believes "niggardly" is derogatory towards African-Americans, and runs around screaming that the Sopranos perpetuates Italian-American sterotypes. I'm tired of people pushing their identity politics on me.
Furthermore, equating "pro-Palestinian" with "pro-Nazi" is a dirty rhetorical trick. You can and should take issue with the fascistic methods Palestinian leaders have used to achieve their ends, but unless you're a hardcore Jewish Nationalist or an Arab-hater you should realize that Palestinians do have some legitimate grievances.

Posted by: Vanya at March 22, 2006 07:02 AM

In one sense, the authors showed great skill. They very cleverly walked on the fine-edge of overt anti-Semitism without quite going over the ledge. Referring dismissively to such a ridiculous document as The Protocols of the Elders was an especially nice touch. It gives them a veneer of objectivity.

As evidenced by it's reception in certain quarters, however, most people can read between the lines.

Posted by: David at March 22, 2006 08:58 AM

Vanya - you are being disingenuous. The critical portion of the sentence you quote is "In basic operation..." The whole point of this abortion of a paper is to demonstrate that the "Lobby" (que scary music) is something different, and far more sinister than, all other US lobbies. So cut the nonsense.

The Walt/Mearsheimer thesis - built on a foundation of lies and half-truths - is that Jews control and manipulate the USG. Honestly, I wish those bastards were right. It would be big fun to control and manipulate the USG.

Oh, and Skip - don't know how you managed to escape the notice of our ZOG anti-dissent squad after 33 years in DC. You really must have been a total loser. Well, just so you don't feel TOO left our, we'll put you on the list and discuss your disposition at our next meeting.

Posted by: R DR at March 22, 2006 09:28 AM

Furthermore, equating "pro-Palestinian" with "pro-Nazi" is a dirty rhetorical trick. You can and should take issue with the fascistic methods Palestinian leaders have used to achieve their ends, but unless you're a hardcore Jewish Nationalist or an Arab-hater you should realize that Palestinians do have some legitimate grievances.

It's not exactly "dirty". Both governments wanted the Jews all dead. And, surprisingly, the Nazis and Palestinians have similiar grievances. They both fell into economic and social hell after being the aggressors in a war which they lost. Both blamed everyone but themselves for the problems that they got themselves into.

Posted by: Shawn at March 22, 2006 10:04 AM


First of all, I should point out that it distresses me that many pro-Palestinian sites sound no different than neo-Nazi sites, but that is a fact. In fact, as I point out, we now have two academic scholars at well respected schools who sound exactly the same, so why get so defensive about the pro-Palestinian sites?

Second, I didn't say that Palestinians shouldn't have or don't have grievances. That, however, has little to do with their representative in the US going to conferences and sitting on stages saying that Israel runs the US government or that AIPAC and American Jews control the US government. Which he does. You know who he sounds like? That's right, this "study's" authors.

Third, it's a little challenging to debate an 80 page paper where every paragraph selects some anti-Israel or anti-American-Jew or anti-AIPAC topic and colors it in the worst possible light, very often inaccurately. For example, what are we supposed to to with their attack on Israeli spying on America? First they claim that Israel spies more than other countries, then they bring up Pollard which is fine but include information that is inaccurate about what Israel supposedly did with the info he provided, then they incorporate the Franklin Affair and later add the Israeli sale of sensitive technology to China.

It would take a tremendous amount of writing and linking to provide you with refutations for all of those points, and those of us who aren't paid by some university and endowed chair, don't have the luxury to do this. If their premises are so biased and poorly researched on these inflammatory topics, then how are we supposed to address their points about AIPAC with any seriousness?

Fourth, just because they try to sneak in the point that they are not antisemitic, it is hard to walk away from reading this paper without thinking "these guys have it in for Jews." Again, if you have any doubts about this, ask Hamas or David Duke.

Fifth, since they essentially include any Jewish supporters of Israel or Jewish owned or run enterprises/organizations that support Israel or AIPAC as part of their "The Lobby," acknowledging and debating their premise confers acceptance of their premise. Why would anybody other than David Duke and his friends, or Palestinians and their friends, wish to give these guys any acceptance of their premise. If they want a debate, first get the facts right and try to be as objective about the history as possible.

Posted by: TheMiddle at March 22, 2006 10:21 AM

The "Lobby" risks great damage if its' standard response to all criticisms is to brand their critics as"anti-semites". That is a dangerous and despicable tactic,and will react on all those in the Jewish community who pursue it. Moreover the term "anti-semitism"will become devalued with such use....just as the term "fascist" has been devalued with its' use by comedians and other(see also ;soup Nazi ")and this detracts from the real meaning of a word for a frighful reality.
Better the Jewish community and the"The Lobby" look to the problems of Israel/Palestine now...the future may not be as rosy as they think .

Posted by: deblonay at March 22, 2006 06:27 PM

The Middle -- "It would take a tremendous amount of writing and linking to provide you with refutations for all of those points, and those of us who aren't paid by some university and endowed chair, don't have the luxury to do this."

Sorry, that's called rebuttal. It takes time, research skills, and the rhetorical talent. I myself am very interested in whether the accusation that Israel passed information that it got through Pollard on to Russia is true or false. Aren't you? And if I was sure that it wasn't true, as you claim to be, I would be eager to let people know, and point them the evidence.

On the other hand, I admit that using the antisemitism card in order to intimidate others into not bringing up the issue at all is QUICKER and EASIER.

Also, Middle, contrary to your final paragraph, the authors note that most American Jews DISAGREED with "the Lobby" on the need to invade Iraq. One of the shortcomings of their work, in fact, is their lack of clarity on just who makes up the Lobby.

Posted by: markus at March 23, 2006 07:28 AM

Although I am no expert, the argument that Saudi Arabia is the "centerpiece" of US ME policy seems on mark.

That aside, I think it is appropriate to address the REAL reason (IMHO) for the apparent influence of Israel on US foreign policy. Namely, the fact that an unquestionable ally was required in the region during the Cold War. The "Israel Lobby" boogeyman that is touted in the referenced piece surely exists to some extent (although I believe it exerts far less influence than say, organized labor), but it is is (was) a product of geopolitcal necessity, not some intricate conspiracy set in motion many years ago.

Posted by: Patrick at March 23, 2006 11:18 AM


I am not a political activist. I do not belong to AIPAC or any other political organization. I do not give them money and have no affiliation whatsoever with AIPAC or any other Jewish organization. I do blog on a Jewish blog, and I do support Israel. And yet, here you are making the claim that because of what I've written, "The Lobby" had better be careful not to bring up antisemitism when it was me who brought it up. Why is that, deblonay? Are you having some difficulty differentiating between Jews who are part of The Lobby and those who aren't? Not to worry, the authors of this study had the same problem.

I have news for you, the "dangerous and despicable" tactic is the manner in which they wrote their paper. Pointing that out is neither dangerous nor despicable. It's fair and just. These aren't some bloggers or web site designers on the Internet, these are respected historians from prominent universities. They want to make the case against AIPAC and Neo-Cons, let them. All day long. It's when they start manipulating the historical record to make their point and lumping as many Jews as they can corrall into this entity that supposedly drives America and harms it, that they deserve to be challenged.


Your comment is fair in the sense that I should try to do a lengthy rebuttal. I don't have the time. Sorry. There are already some rebuttals on the 'net and there will be more forthcoming, I'm sure.

With respect to Israel selling Pollard's information to Russia, nobody can prove this and the Supreme Court has just ensured that we will never know what the government really knows. But here is the Israeli spy who handled him:,7340,L-3223047,00.html and he claims that this is false because there was no information given to him by Pollard that would compromise American agents to the Russians. He also points out something that couldn't have been known when Pollard was convicted, which is that Ames was a mole who WAS sending lists to the Russians and the blame for these lists was placed on Pollard because nobody else knew about Ames at the time. Again, I have no way of verifying this...and neither do the two authors of this "study."

They are not all that unclear about who The Lobby is. They spend a total of three sentences mentioning Christian Zionists but spend numerous paragraphs and some pages detailing Jewish participation and influence. They include influence through think tanks, media, congress, the Administration, and within communities around the country. They mention briefly that 36% of American Jews feel no connection to Israel, but subsequently tout the total Jewish influence on politicians because it represents several percentage points among the voting population. They indicate that Jewish money and influence scares Congress into obeisance to The Lobby but do not say differentiate between, say, money that goes to Democrats and Republicans. Wouldn't that matter within the context of their accusations?

They also suggest that the Administration is pulled into positions it perceives as antithetical to its own goals by Jewish neo-Cons. Nowhere in the paper do they address the fact that, for example, Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and virtually the entire cabinet are non-Jews. Nope, somehow it's those sneaky and powerful Jews behind the scenes who drove policy. Tell me, Markus, does Cheney strike you as a pushover? Does Rice? Does Powell? Does the President who is the son of a former President who had little difficulty putting a ton of pressure on Israel and whose Chief of Staff is rumored to have said "Fuck the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway."

And yet, despite these strong characters in the White House, many of whom come from the oil industry and who have very strong ties to Arab leaders in countries that supply the US with oil and have made the Bushes wealthier, the "study" makes the claim that "The Lobby" manipulated this country into war.

It's called scapegoating. They do it openly and without shame and they target Jews. They do it cleverly by doing the usual dance about how people get attacked for antisemitism whenever they attack Israel or The Lobby. They do it cleverly by criticizing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Then they proceeded to outline how the Jews control the American government. Brilliant! US Jews opposed this war with about 70% in polls expressing opposition. Yet, somehow, according to these guys, a monolithic Lobby comprised primarily of Jews pushed for war successfully. Do you think there might be a bit of disconnect there? Not according to these guys. According to these guys, orders come from Israel and The Lobby implements. Tell me that doesn't smack of the Protocols. Where is Saudi Arabia in all of this? Where are the energy issues in all of this? Nope, it's Jews and Israel.

The dirty secret is that Israel was NOT interested in a war with Iraq. They didn't care about Iraq and it was not even a minor priority for them. Israel has not expressed an interest in the US fighting on its behalf (and, in fact, tried hard to be included in the coalition of 1991; this time it was understood they shouldn't ask at all). Both these claims are made by the authors.

Israel supported this war AFTER the Administration made it their cornerstone. Just as the US has been supportive of Israel at the UN and other international fora, Israel supports US positions, and, if you recall, this Administration pushed hard for this war. I know, I know, it was those Jewish neo-Cons pulling the puppet strings on Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld who have no personalities and are easily controlled by others. The Israeli government began a wholesale sales job supporting a war in Iraq after the US Administration began their campaign to convince the US population that this was critical. So instead of the cart pulling the horse, what you really have here is a loyal Israel respecting an Administration they perceived as friendly.

I don't think it would it be that hard for somebody to put together 180 citations from news articles and a few anti-Saudi books revealing the pervasive influence of Saudis and energy companies on this White House and leading up to this war. If you did that, however, would you be doing your job as a historian or would you instead be focusing on one element and painting a flawed but biased picture of what happened?

Posted by: TheMiddle at March 23, 2006 11:43 AM

Middle -- I, too, don't have much time to respond to detailed posts. But that is what is required. I do appreciate your links related to Pollard. And while I agree that Iraq certainly wasn't Israels top concern, it does not follow from this that Israel did not look POSITIVELY at the developing American plans to do this.

On to general points.
I find the FACT that support for Israel, and for the political positions of the mainstream Israeli political right wing, territorial hardliners within Israel, is NEARLY UNIVERSAL within the United States Congress, and among EVERY SINGLE serious Presidential Candidate to be INTERESTING and INTRIGUING. Mertheimer and Walt seem to be attempting to answer this question, and I think they only partially succede. The main thing I think they underestimate most egregiously are the millions upon millions of gentile American voters that identify or empathize with the Jewish state, that have little or no knowledge of the details of Palestinian grievances, and that tend to conflate all Arabs as terrorist savages.

But do I find people who would disparage me or anyone else foe even being interested in this question to be utterly reprehensible.

Posted by: markus at March 23, 2006 01:53 PM

The Israeli Lobby is a fact, but popular support for Israel is a much bigger factor in US policy than the lobby. Contrast that to a lack of popular support for Saudi Arabia. Political support for this gangster clan of Wahabi fanatics is based on decades of massive payoffs to American politicians and institutions, not to mention large investments by wealthy Americans in Saudi oil. We get most of our oil from closer sources, so we could live without their oil. But too many are hooked on Saudi money, including the Bush family and friends--and plenty of Democrats. Why else do we tolerate their smirking form of anti-terrorism and their financing of terrorist universities? US soldiers, Afghanis, and Iraqis pay the price for this addiction every time a class graduates from the madrassas.

Posted by: Gary Ogletree at March 23, 2006 03:06 PM


Nobody here, including me, is saying that AIPAC isn't an effective lobby. Of course it is. That affects politicians. Then again, so do cushy lobbying jobs once their terms are up.

Also, one should not underestimate the power of general support among the US population for Israel. I've often heard your claim that many gentiles do it out of ignorance about the nature and depth of Palestinian grievances. My experience is that the Palestinian perspective is well represented in both television and print media. In fact, this is significant enough of a perceived problem that some of the groups Walt and Mearsheimer mention in their paper as part of the NEFARIOUS "THE LOBBY," such as CAMERA, sprung up precisely because of their sense that the media was being entirely unfavorable and unreasonable with respect to Israel. Have you considered that maybe the media is fair, but along with religious reasons, maybe many of those "naive gentile supporters" of Israel actually believe stuff like, uh, how ethical it is to support another Western democracy surrounded by non-democracies? Who knows.

On the other hand, if you look at AIPAC right now, for example, they're having a very hard time getting through Congress a bill opposing US communications with a Hamas government. They just can't get enough traction in what should be a no-brainer since Hamas is considered a terror group by our government. Also, this bill is looked at unfavorably by the Israeli government. With this instance alone, a good part of Walt and Mearsheimer's "study" is rendered incorrect. After all, the Israelis aren't interested and yet here is AIPAC pushing for it. And the American politicians aren't interested and they don't seem to be afraid enough of AIPAC to sign on. Hmmm...

As for your disquiet at anybody trying to shut down your line of questioning for any reason, you are absolutely right. I don't see anybody shutting down these two VERY PROMINENT scholars who can publish openly whenever and wherever they like. If anything, I see a lot of people scrambling to debate their points. However, it is just as illegitimate as shutting down somebody's speech, to write a paper that sneakily tries to make the case that there is some massive Jewish conspiracy to manipulate the US or that brought about the Iraq war. I remember spending a lot of energy speaking against the war, and I am also a supporter of Israel. Am I part of The Lobby or not?

Posted by: TheMiddle at March 23, 2006 04:51 PM

Middle -- I disagree with Mertheimer and Walt that the Israeli lobby had much to with the decision to invade Iraq. As they admit, most Jews opposed the war.

On others matters, pertaining to Israel, you sound like you're probably a member of The Israel lobby. So what? You're an American, and these are your beliefs and values. You should have no compunctions in promoting them. Your only obligation, I think, is to rebut and attack your opponents SUBSTANTIVELY. Don't try to get them fired from their jobs, or blackballed from media.

Actually, I take that back, this is a democracy, and the sqweaky wheel gets the attention. So call for the dismissal from Harvard if you want. Just don't begrudge those of us who think you're going overboard and seek to defend the free exchange of non-PC ideas.

Regarding HR 4681, I think the main reason it hasn't gotten through Congress is that the President is so adamently against it -- since it explicitely eliminates the so-called Presidential Waiver which allows Bush to provide direct aid to the Palestinians if he judges it to be in the interest of our national security.

Posted by: markus at March 23, 2006 06:31 PM

Get these guys fired from their tenured positions at elite universities? Why surely you ascribe too much power to me and my colleagues at The Lobby. But not to worry, I'll bring it up with the overlords at the Head Office in Jerusalem and see if they wish to see it done.

No problem, it's good to be in THE LOBBY!

As for attacking them substantively, I think I have. I can add more detail, but as I noted there are plenty of people doing it already including in discussions where I've seen you post.

Posted by: TheMiddle at March 23, 2006 06:51 PM

Middle -- I was being fast and loose with the term "you". Nothin' personal.

Yup thank god for tenure and the first amendment. Meiseimer and Walt are not gonna get fired. They will be consigned to the proverbial loony bin, but thankfully, not a literal one, as with dissidents in Communist China. Still, I note that Joe Scarborough decide to have a debate on their article on his show. Alan Dershowitz in opposition, and, representing Meiseimer and Walt...DAVID DUKE himself.

Posted by: markus at March 23, 2006 07:25 PM

The CAMERA listing of errors in Mearsheimers and Waits article is the best criticism I've seen:

Posted by: webrand at March 23, 2006 08:34 PM

A couple questions from the confused for the elite.

First for one side, and then the other.

What percent of the US population is Jewish?

What percent of the active duty US military is Jewish?

What percent of the active duty US military casualties in the war on terror (Iraq, Afghanistan) have been Jewish?

What is the exact number of active duty US military personnel that are Jewish that have been killed in action in Iraq and/or Afghanistan?

Will Israel admit to war crimes against the USS Libery?

Is this 4 part series from Fox News about Israeli spy activities in the US true?

Did employees of Odigo (an Israeli owned communications company) receive prior notification of the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11?
Is this report from Haeretz true?

Why did the US Government block Checkpoint Software's (Israeli owned firewall company) purchase of Sourcewire (US owned intrusion-detection company) last week?

AIPAC officials are currently under indictment for espionage against the USA. Yet, senior white house officials and hundreds of Congressman still attend the AIPAC conference. If another country's official lobbying organization was accused of espionage against the USA would it still have Condi Rice as the main speaker at its conference? Would it still be the most highly attended Congressional event other than a joint seesion of Congress or a State of the Union speech?

Many senior US government officials who are Jewish have dual US/Israeli citizenship? Does this present a security concern or conflict of interest?

Are senior white house and other US government officials who are Saudi Arabians, British, Canadian, French or German allowed to maintain dual citizenship? Is so, how can we tell they are loyal to the USA?

What percent of total (measured in dollars)campaign contributions (for federal campaigns for Congressional and Presidential elections including contributions from both Republicans and Democrats) come from either individual Jews or Jewish controlled organizations/corporations?

When Haifa bint Faisal, wife of Saudi ambassador Bandar bin Sultan (also known as Bandar Bush) was caught sending funds to two of the 9/11 hijackers, Why wasn't she arrested and sent to Guantanomo Bay as an enemy combatant?

Did the Bin Laden family provide start-up funding for George W Bush's oil company "Arbusto"?

How much money have the Carlye Group, George HW Bush, Neil Bush and Jim Baker "made" from Saudi and UAE "business" deals in the last 40 years? Can you provide a list of other senior ex-government officials who have gotten or are getting rich off the Saudis.

Why can't the Jews and Arabs settle their differences in a Christianlike manner?

Posted by: david at March 25, 2006 07:38 PM

Michael Ledeen (neocon high priest): "Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence—our existence, not our politics—threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission."

Anyone remember the LaVon Affair, in Egypt on July 2, 1954, starring Moshe Marzouk, Shmuel Azar, Marcelle Ninio, Robert Dassa, and Meir Zafran? Ah, now those were the good old days of creative destruction!

AIPAC bought and paid for all those politicians with good hard cash, so what's the hub bub, bub?

Posted by: AbrahamKatz at March 26, 2006 02:30 AM

The author here is stating the obvious that the United States is a slave to Saudi oil money yet there are a whole bunch of idiots here who keep blowing up the power of the Israel lobby just like the Nazis did as they murdered millions of "powerful" Jews in Europe and the United States did nothing to save them despite the incredible supposed power of the Israel lobby. Israelis are constantly pressured to withdraw from parts of their homeland but the idiots on these pages and elsewhere are convinced that the Israeli lobby controls America. As Islam takes over this country these idiots will become more and more violently anti-Israel and anti-Jewish and strike out at their only diminishing hope in the war against Islamic domination, Israel.

Posted by: Gamaliel Isaac at March 26, 2006 05:41 AM

" If [Walt and Mearsheimer] were drunk, kudos to them for no spelling mistakes!"

In their discussion of Jewish philanthropists' donations to American universities, the professors “sic” a quote from the Taub Foundation’s “Fred Laffer,” who may be a laugher but whose name is spelled LAFER. Oops!

Posted by: /editor at March 26, 2006 10:39 PM


Posted by: s at April 9, 2006 07:31 PM

The analogy of friend A and friend B in this article is a little disingenuous. America's position with respect to Saudi Arabia is a bit like a hoodlum running a protection racket dealing with a resident of the neighbourhood. The hoodlum wants the resident's money (oil) and in return promises to protect the resident. The resident although helped, knows he his economic interests are directly contrary to that of the hoodlum and would like to hire someone else to safeguard his security. But he doesn't have too many options at this time. Thus he seethes and pays up the money. Lately he has been been willing to pay anyone who will fight with his "protector" the hoodlum so as to weaken the hoodlum's coercive power over him. Saudi Arabia is a client of America's protection. Don't expect Saudi Arabia to be your friend just because you incidentally guarantee its security while you seek to control it.

Posted by: Anony Mouse at September 14, 2006 12:20 AM

The analogy of friend A and friend B in this article is a little disingenuous. America's position with respect to Saudi Arabia is a bit like a hoodlum running a protection racket dealing with a resident of the neighbourhood. The hoodlum wants the resident's money (oil) and in return promises to protect the resident. The resident although helped, knows he his economic interests are directly contrary to that of the hoodlum and would like to hire someone else to safeguard his security. But he doesn't have too many options at this time. Thus he seethes and pays up the money. Lately he has been been willing to pay anyone who will fight with his "protector" the hoodlum so as to weaken the hoodlum's coercive power over him. Saudi Arabia is a client of America's protection. Don't expect Saudi Arabia to be your friend just because you incidentally guarantee its security while you seek to control it.

Posted by: Anony Mouse at September 14, 2006 12:21 AM

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Posted by: alkhaleej at March 13, 2007 03:03 AM







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