Thursday, April 6, 2006

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In the interest of promoting an open debate....

I'm not commenting on the Walt/Mearsheimer article again... just linking in the interest of promoting an open debate:


1) Josef Joffe, "Common Denominator," TNR Online, April 6, 2006:

The gravest indictment is that the screed is anti-American. For campaigning on behalf of this or that U.S. foreign policy is as American as apple pie....

The central issue raised by "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" is: Who is in, and who is out? Whose voice is legitimate, and who speaks with treasonous intent? In the end, this 83-page pamphlet reads almost everybody out of the American congregation of 298 million. Once you subtract the Daughters of the American Revolution and the descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the rest of America is hyphenated in one way or another, divided by regional, ethnic, and religious identities.

Would they all have to apply to the self-appointed guardians of the national interest for certification as true Americans? Do they have to be a Hancock or Huntington if they want to speak up? Let's say I am a Ukrainian-American. Am I automatically suspect because I plead for an American policy that would resist Russian pressure against Kiev? I certainly would want to be opposed on the basis of my analysis, and not of my presumed ethnic loyalties....

Democracy is about "We the People." In the American case, "We" are no longer white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The secret of this oldest democracy, give or take a Civil War, is the universalism that has preempted European-style religious and ideological bloodshed. In America, everybody has a share, and it's all voting stock.

2) Eliot Cohen, "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic," Washington Post, April 5, 2006:
Oddly, these international relations realists -- who in their more normal academic lives declare that state interests determine policy, and domestic politics matters little -- have discovered the one case in which domestic politics has, for decades, determined the policy of the world's greatest state. Their theories proclaim the importance of power, not ideals, yet they abhor the thought of allying with the strongest military and most vibrant economy in the Middle East. Reporting persecution, they have declared that they could not publish their work in the United States, but they have neglected to name the academic journals that turned them down [Several press reports have stated that it was The Atlantic Monthly, which is not a peer-reviewed journal -- but then again, neither is the LRB--DD]....

Mearsheimer and Walt conceive of The Lobby as a conspiracy between the Washington Times and the New York Times, the Democratic-leaning Brookings Institution and Republican-leaning American Enterprise Institute, architects of the Oslo accords and their most vigorous opponents. In this world Douglas Feith manipulates Don Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney takes orders from Richard Perle. They dwell on public figures with Jewish names and take repeated shots at conservative Christians (acceptable subjects for prejudice in intellectual circles), but they never ask why a Sen. John McCain today or, in earlier years, a rough-hewn labor leader such as George Meany declared themselves friends of Israel.

The authors dismiss or ignore past Arab threats to exterminate Israel, as well as the sewer of anti-Semitic literature that pollutes public discourse in the Arab world today. The most recent calls by Iran's fanatical -- and nuclear weapons-hungry -- president for Israel to be "wiped off the map" they brush aside as insignificant. There is nothing here about the millions of dollars that Saudi Arabia has poured into lobbying and academic institutions, or the wealth of Islamic studies programs on American campuses, though they note with suspicion some 130 Jewish studies programs on those campuses. West Bank settlements get attention; terrorist butchery of civilians on buses or in shopping malls does not. To dispute their view of Israel is not to differ about policy but to act as a foreign agent.

3) Alan Dershowitz, "Debunking the Newest – and Oldest – Jewish Conspiracy: A Reply to the Mearsheimer-Walt 'Working Paper', "Harvard Faculty Responses to Working Papers, April 5, 2006:
One of the authors of this paper has acknowledged that “none of the evidence [in their paper] represents original documentation or is derived from independent interviews” – a surprising admission, considering that professors at great universities are judged by the originality of their research. Moreover, the paper is filled with errors and distortions that should be obvious to any critical reader, all of which are directed against Israel and the Jewish Lobby. As I will show, there are at least three major types of errors: First, quotations are wrenched out of context (for example, the authors distort a Ben-Gurion quote to make him appear to favor evacuation of Arabs by “brutal compulsion,” when he actually said that, because an evacuation would require “brutal compulsion,” it should not become “part of our programme”). Second, facts are misstated (for example, that Israeli citizenship is based on “blood kinship,” thus confusing Israel’s law of citizenship with its Law of Return; fully a quarter of Israel’s citizens are not Jewish). And third, embarrassingly poor logic is employed (for example, whenever America and Israel act on a common interest, it must be the result of pressure from “the Lobby,” and that “the mere existence of the Lobby” is proof that “support for Israel is not in the American national interest”

.......crickets chirping....... [But see update below--DD]

Seriously, I ask commenters who believe that Walt and Mearsheimer are making valid points to provide links to substantive online commentary that buttresses their position. I've seen articles defending their right to say it, and articles applauding their bravery for tackling the issue. I've seen nothing that rebuts criticism made of their piece.

An no one likes a one-sided open debate.

[Yeah, but Robert Pape defended them in the Chicago Maroon, calling them "philo-Semites of the first order"!!--ed. Well, that's not really a substantive defense. Plus, while I certainly don't think they're anti-Semites, to my knowledge my Zionist overlords learned Jewish scholars have yet to award them that distinction yet. What do you get as a philo-Semite of the first order?--ed. Free parking at all kosher delis in the United States -- and you get to run Hollywood.]

UPDATE: Someone has e-mailed a few suggestions that provide a partial defense of the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis. Here they are:

1) Daniel Levy, "So Pro-Israel That It Hurts," International Herald-Tribune, April 3, 2006:

The tone of the report is harsh. It is jarring even for a self-critical Israeli. It lacks finesse and nuance when it looks at the alphabet soup of the world of American-Jewish organizations and at how the "Lobby" interacts with both the Israeli establishment and the wider right-wing echo chamber....

Here are some talking points that can already be suggested for this debate:

First, efforts to collapse the Israeli and neoconservative agendas into one have been a terrible mistake. The turmoil in Iraq and Al Qaeda's foothold there; growing Iranian leverage and the strengthening of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority are only a partial scorecard of the products of this collaboration.

Second, Israel would do well to distance itself from our "friends" on the Christian evangelical right. When one considers their support for Israel's extremists, the depiction of our prime minister's physical demise as "punishment from God" and their belief in our eventual conversion, or slaughter, this alliance is exposed as sickening irresponsibility.

Third, Israel must not be party to the bullying tactics used to silence policy debate in the United States, such as the policing of academia by groups like Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch. If nothing else, this is deeply un-Jewish. It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here, in Israel, was exported to the United States.

Fourth, the lobby denies Israel something many other countries benefit from - the excuse of external encouragement to do things that are politically tricky but nationally necessary.

2) Mark Mazower, "When vigilance undermines freedom of speech," Financial Times, April 3, 2006:
What is striking is less the substance of their argument than the outraged reaction: to all intents and purposes, discussing the US-Israel special relationship still remains taboo in the US media mainstream....

The reasons for, and high costs of, this problem warrant further consideration.

If fear of being tarred as an anti-semite – and there is no more toxic charge in American politics – blocks the way, what anti-semitism actually implies in today’s America is increasingly unclear. Over the past century, secularisation, wealth and prestige have bolstered the place of American Jewry in national life. Polls suggest that seriously anti-semitic views are now found only among a small minority of Americans. Yet, fear of anti-semitism has not vanished. Where once it was suspected – and often found – in the workplace and the domestic political arena, it is now expressed in terms of sensitivity towards criticism of the Jewish state. Often ambivalent about the methods of lobby groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), American Jews generally share the committee’s ultimate goal of maintaining a high level of US support for Israel. As Earl Raab, the veteran commentator, has noted, there is a sense that if America abandons Israel, it also may be in some way abandoning American Jewry itself. In the process, the line between anti-semitism and criticism of Israeli policy has become blurred. Defending what Bernard Rosenblatt, the distinguished interwar Zionist, predicted would be “the Little America in the East” is seen by many as synonymous with defending Jews as a whole.

A striking illustration of this occurred in the run-up to the 2004 US presidential elections. At that time Congress passed the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, in spite of strong objections from the State Department. The foreign service did not see why any one form of discrimination should be singled out for official US concern. It was equally troubled by the Act’s language, which asserts that “strong anti-Israel sentiment” or indeed “Muslim opposition to developments in Israel and the occupied territories” should count as evidence of anti-semitic attitudes....

Most sensible people of course recognise that opposition to Israeli policies is quite different from anti-semitism. For those who think they are linked, it has proved hard to fix the precise boundary between the two. The Global Anti-Semitism Act talks about a line separating the latter from “objective criticism” of Israel but does not spell out where this line lies. Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University, castigated “profoundly anti-Israel views” for being “anti-semitic in their effect if not their intent”. Others refer to “disproportionate” criticism and vilification. But none of these terms are self-evident in their application. Because the costs of stepping over the line are high, the result is that debate is put under surveillance and inhibited. I came to appreciate that this may cause serious damage to life in the classroom and to pedagogy as a whole when I served on a faculty committee looking into such matters last year.

3) William Pfaff, "Israeli lobby and U.S. foreign policy" Korea Herald, April 6, 2006:
It is a fact of democratic life in the United States that determined interest groups annex their own spheres of federal policy. Energy policy is run by the oil companies, and trade policy by manufacturers, exporters and importers, with an input from Wall Street.

U.S. Cuba policy is decided by the Cuban lobby in Florida, and policy on Armenia by Americans of Armenian descent. The Middle East, or at least its part of it, belongs to Israel.

However, in the Israeli case, the lobbying effort is linked to a foreign government, even if the lobbyists sometimes take a policy line not that of the government. Moreover, the lobbying involves issues of war and peace.

President George W. Bush said a few days ago that, in connection with the supposed threat of Iran, his concern is to protect Israel. Critics ask why Israel should not protect itself. The same has been asked about Iraq.

In this respect, the controversy over the Israeli lobby is potentially explosive. This is why denials, secrecy and efforts at intimidation are dangerous. David Levy is right when he says that Israel itself would be served "if the open and critical debate that takes place over here (in Israel) were exported over there," meaning the United States.

posted by Dan on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM


"philo-Semites of the first order"

But don't you see? There's the open debate M&W have been asking for! Where the authors (who've claimed "philo-Semite" but not "first order" for themselves) say that some of their best friends are Jewish, Pape bravely stands up to them and says that, no, some of their very bestest friends are Jewish.

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Are we to be surprised that we don't see dozens of editorials vigorously supporting Mearsheimer and Walt? Wouldn't this be vindication of their argument? Who owns the major media outlets in this country? Who sits on the editorial boards?

It's interesting what Michael Kinsley wrote about the Lobby in March of 2003 on Slate (J'Accuse, Sort Of). Michael Neuman has written an article in Counterpunch which is not the typical radioactive response that we find everywhere.

Sit back and watch Jewish influence at its best. As I’ve mentioned in another thread, Dershowitz is Caiphus, Abraham Foxman is Joseph Goebels, and the media is the Sanhedrin. Sounds like Germany in the 30s doesn't it? Have to make sure you control the discourse. If anyone speaks up, tar and feather them an anti-semite and bigot and put David Duke in the first paragraph of your editorial. Oh, let's not forget that the scholarship is illegitimate.

Welcome to the First Amendment America! It's that vigorous, open, honest debate that shows the world why we're great.

I just don't want to here any more blather. And this Joffe writing in the TNR, what is he talking about? Universalism? Israel? Jews? The tribe of all tribes? The most historically exclusive club known to man and he talks about universalism? Israel ain’t universal. It’s racist:

According to Adalah, an Arab rights organization, today there are at least 20 laws that specifically provide unequal rights and obligations based on what the Israelis call nationality, which in Israel is defined on the basis of religion. For example, 94% of the land in Israel belongs to the Jewish people alone. Arabs, who comprise 20% of the population are excluded from this land.

But I’ve diverged. The true tragedy for me is not whether or not I like Jewish people (I know Jewish people! I have Jewish friends! I even hired an Israeli, so there!) or if I support Israel. The disgrace is that these guys couldn’t get their work published in this great democracy of ours! And the day that it’s not all out in the open is the day America no longer exists.

The critics who scream out “anti-semite” and “bigot” and condemn out of hand Mearsheimer and Walt’s work as “trash” are a disgrace to American values.

I live in Bangkok so I guess it is especially important for me to see my country live up to its principles as I look from afar.

posted by: Mark E. Moran on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

You might be happy to know the David Duke PhD weighed in on Cohen's article (I won't provide the link) but here's a partial quote:

the Moose is how the allegiances have switched on attitudes toward Israel between the right and the left. Since the 1967 war, the right has generally become reliable supporters of Israel while the left has been the state's most ardent critics. Much of that attitude swing is attributable to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is no longer perceived as the "underdog" by the left while the right views her has the most ardent defender of Western values in the region.

My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

Just one question: if “The Lobby” is so far-reaching and powerful, how is it that the political geography of Israel has been shrinking?

Stay tuned for the forthcoming papers from Harvard, “How the Evil Jooooz and Neocons Were Behind the 9/11 Attacks: Islam is the Religion of Peace™” and “Bushitler and Those Damn Kikes.”

The Official Website of David Duke - No I won't link to it.

Eliot Cohen, a leading Jewish-extremist Neocon who was the first to promote what he calls “World War IV,” has launched an unbridled attack against me and against the authors of the important Harvard JFK School of Government paper, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.” All he can do, as is usually the case among the Jewish extremists, is to scream, “Anti-Semitic” at the top of his lungs.


posted by: soccer dad on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

All of the responses that call Walt and Mearsheimer "anti-semites" all leave out the fact that the article makes it very clear that "the US should continue to secure Israels survival"
A great ommision to say the least.

Your site has provided a great forum for discussing this topic w/o all the extreme rhetoric. It is important and I thank you.

posted by: centrist on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

The discussion misses the point. Support for 7 million Israelis, at the expense of support from nearly 2 billion Arabs, is, prima-facia, suspect. The onus is on supporters of Israel to explain why the US foreign policy would so brazenly defy the calculus of realism.

I have followed the press on this very closely. The reporting and editorials are telling. American newspapers (Boston Globe, NY Sun, NY Daily News) are by far the most critical. Middle Eastern news sources are supportive. European and Asian news sources are somewhere in the middle, but generally don't stoop to the ad hominem attacks that the American news sources do.

Finally - does any deny the following:

1. Israeli lobby has far greater influence than any other state on the US Congress.
2. Support for Israel has played a large part in souring relations with the Arab world.
3. Militarily, the Israeli’s bring little to table for the US, as they cannot be used in coalitions.
4. Given the costs, strategically and politically, Israel is, in effect, a strategic burden. In other words, the US would have greater flexibility in its foreign policy were it to withdraw support from Israel.

posted by: Drew Teti on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

The onus is on supporters of Israel to explain why the US foreign policy would so brazenly defy the calculus of realism.

Frankly, as an explanatory rather than a normative matter (and M&W pretend to be putting forward an explanatory claim) this is backward. The onus is on realists to explain why their theory isn't falsified by actual cases in which great powers deviate from pure security-interest reasoning.

Once it's recognized that great powers do engage in foreign policy for reasons other than pure security-maximization, one can have an open debate about the combination of ideals, ideas, and interests at play.

But scholars who refuse to accept the general truth that foreign policy has many sources are then confronted by an anomaly of their own imagining, and have to indulge in magical one-time-only variable invention, with no serious engagement with rival explanations.

What explains US support of Israel? and Is US support of Israel on net justified? are separate questions. M&W conflate them. Because they hold that it is not justified, they think it in need some some one-of-a-kind explanation. And, in turn, they take their explanation as evidence of unjustifiability.

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

The Chicago Tribune finally noticed the paper with three stories in the past two days, two by its own reporter (Ron Grossman) and one from the AP. They are covering the story about the story, not the content.,1,7426220.story,1,1248941.story,1,3181845.story

posted by: Realist on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

BTW - to the editor - There is no parking, free or otherwise, at any good kosher deli. If you can pull right up in your car and walk into a deli, it is suspect. A good deli should be in a crowded neighborhood and you have to walk to it. At some "delis", they think that lox and smoked salmon are the same thing. Lox is salt cured - not smoked. Oy vey!

posted by: Realist on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Jeff Weintraub has posted a list of rebuttals as well, at:

posted by: unnamed on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

"What explains US support of Israel? and Is US support of Israel on net justified? are separate questions. M&W conflate them. ”

Professor Levy, if this is the case, I would be curious to know your response to these questions - particularly the latter.

Is US support of Israel on net justified?

posted by: Drew Teti on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Would calling it the Likud lobby help it make rigorous "anti-semite" standard? In my mind Aipac = Likud = bad for US and Isreal. But that is just me. Im bracing for a reply. BTW, I have a jewish wife and daughter and think this is a important discussion for them the US and the world.

posted by: centrist on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Dan, I've tried to refute the three "Israel Lobby" critics you cited earlier here:

posted by: Mads Kvalsvik on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Dan, you are quoted in the Cohen article (calling the W-M paper "piss poor monocausal social science" in a blog posting), albeit anonymously. So much for your, I won't comment. Do you know why elliot didn't name you?

posted by: anon on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

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.

posted by: frustré on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

"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."

frustré: Is there any chance of you detailing those flaws at some point? Unlike the other critics (Dan included) your take on the W&M paper might actually provide a substantial addition to this debate.

posted by: Mads Kvalsvik on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Jacob Levy points out that these guys have assumed their conclusion. If in reality unqualified US support for israel is indisputably good for the USA, then we don't need to hypothesize that there is a zionist lobby persuading the US government to support israel. If the US government sees that unqualified US support of israel is good for the USA, then the US government will do it whether or not there's a zionist lobby trying to make them do it, or even if there's no zionist lobby at all and a strong arabist lobby trying to stop them.

No wait, Levy is assuming that lobbies are ineffective and that the US government does what it thinks best independent of lobbies. That might be true but there are a whole lot of professional lobbyists who are staking their careers on people believing it isn't true. (And yet, there are a whole lot of professional astrologers staking their careers on people believing in astrology too.) If lobbies work, then the question whether there's a zionist lobby strong enough to make the US government give unqualified support for israel is completely independent from the question whether it's in american interest to give unqualified support for israel.

There's a whole lot of assuming people's conclusions going on.

Daniel Drezner has also assumed his conclusion. If there is a strong zionist lobby that has a whole lot of influence over the media, that would explain a lack of popular articles supporting the claim that there is such a thing, and also would explain a rash of rebuttals. So how could the open debate happen, if they're right that there isn't an open media for it to happen in?

Perhaps it could happen in scholarly journals. Academics could present their evidence impartially, and advance their hypotheses, and discuss the results logically.

But some commenters on this blog have pointed out that M&W should expect to be punished for their publication, and that Harvard should expect to be punished for their publication. If these commenters are right (and they appear to know a lot more than I do about zionist philanthropists), then we can't expect an open discussion in US scholarly journals.

Perhaps the open discussion should be performed by european academics in european journals.

However, if the mass of commenters in the US media and in US academic publications agree with M&W and provide extensive evidence supporting their claims, then we might reasonably suppose that the claim is false. Because if it was true they couldn't get away with that.

posted by: J Thomas on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Dershowitz claims that scholars at major universities are judged by the original research and then goes on to conflate this with 'original documentation'. Yet Theda Skocpol, a hugely respected political sociologist has written that primary sources aren't everything, and indeed makes little use of them herself. Ditto Polyani. I am not comparing M&W's working paper to The Great Transformation just pointing out that integration of others research is a legitimate scholarly function. Dershowitz knows this.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

How would a smart, powerful, zionist lobby behave?

If they censor all opposition they run the risk that people will notice the censorship.

So better to censor only *well done* criticism. Allow half-baked illogical criticisms to go through. Then they can point to the incoherent antisemitic opposition as proof that they aren't censoring, while easily outarguing them.

This makes sense in game-theory terms but it isn't inevitably true. Just because I think it would be smart doesn't mean the hypothetical zionist lobby would agree with me. But if it did turn out that way, it would be smart for M&W to make lots of mistakes in their paper -- to make it publishable. Possibly historians might someday look at their changing drafts and see how they dumbed it down to get it accepted.

If what's in question is whether an open discussion is even possible, how would we test our beliefs about that?

posted by: J Thomas on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

I agree with J Thomas. A smart powerful zionist lobby would censor all coherent dissent and allow only the crankiest criticisms to come to fore. Like the Mearsheimer analysis. Smart zionists (aren't they all smart?) have tricked (and they are tricky) Meirsheimer into writing easily debunkable analysis, privileged it by prominence of Harvard imprimitur, and they need not repress support for the paper because it is utterly unsupportable. Thus the smart zionists have exerted their power by directing the discourse in setting up a straw man which works to brand any other dissedents who dare to question the zionist project (and we know truly how little of that there is, because people are scared to say such things on American College campuses). Yes, a smart zionist would direct Mearsheimer to resuscitate old anti-semitic templates, and if some don't catch on, directed Mearsheimer to further mention the Protocols of the Elders of Zion because the paper sounds quite a bit like it! Mearsheimer is a dupe of the zionists, or dare I say (dare! dare!) a "de facto agent" of the zionists!

Just kidding. My first visit. I've never read a series of posts so riddled with logical fallacies and argument by invoking censorship. The angst reads like anti-semites struggling to find an outlet in a seam of the social strictures of polite society.

posted by: Javan on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Eliott Cohen begins his criticism by calling the paper anti-semitic (thats the title), then makes the following assertion

"If by anti-Semitism one means obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews; if one accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery, of having occult powers and of participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments; if one systematically selects everything unfair, ugly or wrong about Jews as individuals or a group and equally systematically suppresses any exculpatory information -- why, yes, this paper is anti-Semitic."

This statement is a flat out lie. There is no other way to put it. The Walt paper specifically says that the Israeli lobby is not the same as the Jewish lobby, that Jews opposed the IRaq war in greater numbers than the remaining populace, and so on. Nor at any point do they make any of the outrageous suggestions that Cohen accuses them of.

And of course, the Washington Post, in a round up of their article, mentioned David Duke saying he approved of the paper. What a great way to slime the paper!!

I wish the authors had more clearly indicated that the pro-Israel lobby is not all or even mostly Jewish, that some of the most ferocious opponents of Bush happen to be Jewish (think Soros, Krugman or Franken), and also indicated other reasons the US might support Israel (the same reason the US supports Taiwan for instance). Yet with all that, they made a number of valid points that should be discussed openly without falling prey to the virus of anti-Semitism.

As to why no one has defended them -- they've been accussed of being anti-Semites, producing a new Protocols of the Elders or Zion, had approving David Duke quotes made about them and so forth. Who would want to put up with that ?

posted by: erg on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

erg, that's exactly wrong. the point is that the W-M paper questions the loyalty of anyone who is jewish and supports pro israeli policies. It's not all jews, just the ones they don't agree with. Clearly, someone like Cohen was accused of acting primarily in the interests of a foreign power.

I cannot understand why W and M did this. Why not write a paper criticizing pro Israeli policies rather than trying to source the blame for the policy? That would have been a very different paper, still controversial but much more reasonable.

posted by: anon on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

I think that frustré's comments do prefectly identify the problems with the criticisms of the paper. The irony is that these people who are accusing W-M of writing a sloppy paper have an amazingly bad job of explaining why they disagree with the paper. Though i have not read all the criticism of the paper, i think it is amazing that the four points Drew Teti references above have hardly entered into the discussion of the paper. The vast majority of discussion has been on whether it is or is not anti-semitic; which is sad and typical. in addition to those four, i would add specifically that Israel's record against the Palestinians and within international law make it particularly hypocritical to support so wildly (even if the idea behind the formation of israel may be honorable).

posted by: joe m. on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

"But there is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway U.S. policy towards Israel. The Lobby’s activities are not the sort of conspiracy depicted in anti?Semitic tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For the most part, the individuals and groups that comprise the Lobby are doing what other special interest groups do, just much better. Moreover, pro?Arab interest groups are weak to non?existent, which makes the Lobby’s task even easier. " M&W (emphasis mine)

Yet Dershowitz cannot go five pages with mentioning 'The Protocols'. And is anybody here going to deny the AIPAC does its thing much better than other lobbies? As M&W point out, only AARP has more clout as judged by Washington insiders.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

I think M&W erred in taking as a primary premise of their paper that it is not in the interest of the US to support Israel to the extent that it does. This is an arguable point, but as has been pointed out, M&W don't do a very good job of making this argument.

What would have been a better premise, I think, is that US policy regarding support of Israel has not been guided by an objective argument about the extent to which support of Israel is in the national interest. This (correct me if I'm wrong, frustré) would finesse a lot of criticism, and I think it is true and probably demonstrable.

I wasn't particularly surprised by the attacks of September 11, 2001, and a lot of my surprise was in that they hadn't occurred a lot earlier and on a broader scale (no, I'm not forgetting the 1993 attack, though I doubt most Americans remember it): it simply makes sense to attack the unprepared financial backers of an adversary rather than the vigilant adversary itself — America is Israel's weak link. I expect that a lot of people in IR, if they are honest with themselves, felt the same way.

But I suspect that the rest of the world, and in particular the Arab and Muslim worlds, are more aware of the paramount importance of American support to Israel — none of the jets or helicopters harassing the Occupied Territories were made in Israel — than are the American people. (This should be measurable.)

And this is pathological: we are unaware of the tangible reasons (I mean, aside from the reasons of our enemies hating freedom and democracy, &c. ...) that we are hated around the world.

I expect more attacks, and more extensive attacks. I think America can be defeated (or at least forced to abandon some of the niceties that we have become accustomed to, such as not having nuked anyone in sixty years and not having been a blatantly racist society in forty) in a terrorist war, and fairly easily. I don't get why it isn't fully underway yet, but I deeply fear that my disbelief won't be strained for long.

It may be that a strong argument can be made that we should be unwavering in our support of Israel, perhaps even at great cost, and that this argument could withstand a comprehensive critical analysis. I just don't think that such an argument is what guides US policy on the matter, and I am pretty certain that whatever arguments have been made on the matter have not been subjected to comprehensive critical analysis. If, as I expect, more American civilians are going to die in terrorist attacks motivated in part by our policies in the Middle East, I would like at least to have thorough confidence that such deaths would be a necessary cost for a worthy goal. Instead, some of the things we support in the Middle East seem completely reprehensible to me.

posted by: ProbStat on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

When people smear M&W as anti-semites, I suspect M&W must be on to something. If it were truly a poorly written article, it could be debunked without juvenile name calling. Also, Joffe's TNR piece was wretchedly bad. I'm surprised he didn't throw in a few "yo' momma..." insults at the end.

posted by: Dude on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

It is incredible that anyone can deny that an Israel Lobby of some type exists!!! Just do a search on the Hindustan Times website. That site speaks glowingly about the Israel Lobby. It is the "gold standard" of ethnic lobbying. Indian-Americans hope to have such an entity in place by 2015. If the lobby does not exist...someone forget to tell the Indians who are consciously trying to model it!

posted by: centrist on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

as far as i have read, critics of W&M haven't disproven their argument that the iraq war was a strategic mistake and second, that the best explanation for this irrationality is a domestic lobby pushing the perceived interests of israel. articles in the boston globe quote media hacks like dershowitz who toss out accusations of anti-semitism w/out addressing the main points.

posted by: david on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

"It is incredible that anyone can deny that an Israel Lobby of some type exists!!!"

No one does. That's your throwaway argument pleading your opponents as liars.

"Just do a search on the Hindustan Times website"

And some people complain about M's citations!

"as far as i have read, critics of W&M haven't disproven their argument that the iraq war was a strategic mistake"

Well gosh, what about M's numerous other "points". Like nukes and Iran, etc. etc.

"and second, that the best explanation for this irrationality is a domestic lobby pushing the perceived interests of israel."

Oil? There's lots of other explanation, which I guess you skip over because M has become the poster boy for muted anti-semitism.

"articles in the boston globe quote media hacks like dershowitz who toss out accusations of anti-semitism w/out addressing the main points."

Ah, the "main points". Is this the standard line for deflecting criticism of M's work.

Daniel, interesting blog. However it's been taken over by anti-semites or those in the pay of the Mullahs or Wahhabs. See ya.

posted by: Javan on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

"Daniel, interesting blog. However it's been taken over by anti-semites or those in the pay of the Mullahs or Wahhabs. See ya."

This comment is something like a very crude version of M&W's hypothesis that US foreign policy has been taken over by Zionist-sympathizers.

Not if I see you first, Javan.

posted by: ProbStat on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

I thought Mazower nailed it. Probably the most intelligent discussion of the reaction to the Harvard article yet.

posted by: Joel on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

AIPAC does its thing much better than other lobbies? As M&W point out, only AARP has more clout as judged by Washington insiders.

Not so. Most knowledgeable students of the lobbying game would award the #1 slot to the billboard lobby (OAAA), followed closely by the realtors (NAR), two organizations that are so successful in bending legislation favorable to their interests that they have been, until recently, without any real challenge or rival, let alone press scrutiny. Only now is the DOJ going after the realtors' cartel and its flagrant suppression of competition across the country. I know of no such effort to rein in the OAAA visual polluters.

As to AIPAC, I find it amusing to read about the omnipotence of an organization that could not even prevent Congress from selling to jew-hating wahabbi sheiks many billions of $$$$$ worth of the most sophisticated warning and control systems ever devised (cf 1981 AWACS deal). Not to mention that AIPAC could not prevent the Clinton White House from bringing into the Oval Office-- more times than any foreign leader on the planet, before or since!-- a gangster who had deliberately targeted for slaughter many thousands of innocent Israeli civilians and had dedicated his life to wiping Israel off the map.

Perhaps AIPAC should take a few lessons from the real estate ladies?

posted by: thibaud on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

I think that the Israel(likud) lobby exists and is the most effective of all the ethnic groups. and does not represent the best interest of either the US or Israel. If that makes me "anti-semtic" PLEASE DONT TELL MY JEWISH WIFE AND DAUGHTER or her holocaust survivor grandfather. It would devestate our family. M & W had never been called anti-semitic before and neither have I.

posted by: centrist on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Most knowledgeable students of the lobbying game would award the #1 slot to the billboard lobby (OAAA)

That's interesting, but ¿sources?. Granted I don't follow this, but common wisdom is that the AARP and NRA are the two most highly effective lobbies, with AIPAC up there (as M&S point out, with sources). Not doubting, just wondering what this unconvential ranking is based on.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Mitchell - success criteria to my mind are
1) degree of public scrutiny (zero scrutiny = highest effectiveness)
2) weakness/absence of rival policies (no rivals = highest effectiveness)
3) ability to obtain exceptional treatment

That the realtors have maintained de facto cartel pricing and a monopolization of sales data indicates a degree of power, and lack of scrutiny (tho the NYT has run a few articles in recent years, and people are beginning to wise up), that trumps anything AIPAC or the NRA have achieved. Less of an expert on the billboard industry but they too seem to be able to write relevant legislation to suit their needs with utterly no public input or countervailing policy proposals.

posted by: thibaud on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

The rationale of having placed Israel in the midst of hostile Muslims seems odd and the semi-facetious proposal of having a Jewish state in AZ or Florida wouldn't have seemed that absurd.

Of course, that's water under the bridge. What to do now?

Sam Harris' (a Semite?) wonderful book "End of Faith" addresses the increasing danger the world is in due to the continued belief in irrational faith. Although he doesn't address Israel directly, the discussion stimulates some thought.

The solution seems to be simple (if not easy.) Destroy Jerusalem and all Holy places in the Middle East and build three exact replicas of Jerusalem for each of the three Abrahamic religions. The Muslims can use Gaza and the "Jewish Jerusalem" would be built outside of the Levant. Christians can put theirs at Falwell's Liberty University (he he).

Jerusalem and the West Bank would be evacuated, buildings destroyed, and the area could be used as the Official World Nuclear Waste Dump Area.

This Solomonic solution is meant only half in jest. Only when all monotheists are forced to give up their idols and places of worship will there be any hope of peace. If they can't play nice, then we must take their toys away.

(Question: since Palestinians are technically Semites, can those who displace Palestinians be called "anti-Semitic" as well?)

posted by: grodge on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

I followed up further here.

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

For those who object to even the "idea" of a pro-Israel lobby, have you criticized AIPAC. Check out their website:

"All About AIPAC - America's Pro-Israel Lobby"

Arguing about the effectiveness of their lobbying effors is fine. Denying that such lobby exists is like denying gravity.

posted by: KXB on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

KXB: Can you point to anyone-- anyone-- who has denied that AIPAC exists or is a pro-Israel lobbying group? Many have denied The Lobby as M&W describe it, an amorpohous conglomeration that includes much more than AIPAC. But no one I know of has done what you're suggesting.

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Jacob, it appears to me that many people have denied that the zionist lobby has had a large effect. The implication appears to be that since unconditional support for Likud is obviously the right thing to do, no lobbying was necessary.

I don't want to search the old comments to find examples of this, but do you disagree?

posted by: J Thomas on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]


If you are asking for me to show some formal arrangement among various groups and individuals, stating their goal to encourage the U.S. to go to war against Iraq, then you are correct - I cannot produce one. But, such formal arrangements are not necessary when it comes to lobbying. For example, Spanish radio stations proved extremely effective at promoting and organizing rallies against proposed changes to immigration laws. Yet, I do not recall any formal arrangements among the myriad groups that are affected by immigration law.

In the case of M&W's paper, the authors argue that being Jewish does not tell us if they supported the Iraq invasion. What matters is if people believe that the interests of Israel and the U.S. are one and the same - if such a view is held, then they will lobby to promote that view. In his sloppy rebuttal, Dershowitz continually interchanges the idea of being Jewish and Israeli nationalist, despite the fact that many American Jews do not think about Israel all that much.

M&W's paper suffers from 2 major problems - the omission of oil as a factor in Bush's decision to go to war, and the fact that as realists, they do not have as solid a background in studying domestic politics. Since realists view all nations as essentially a "black box", they have tended to downplay the role of domestic politics. By putting forth their opinions on domestic politics, M&W open themselves to valid criticism that they are speaking beyond their area of expertise.

But hey, why bother with that content-focused rebuttal when you can call up David Duke for a handy quote?

posted by: KXB on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

KXB said above

For those who object to even the "idea" of a pro-Israel lobby, have you criticized AIPAC. Check out their website:
"All About AIPAC - America's Pro-Israel Lobby"
Arguing about the effectiveness of their lobbying effors is fine. Denying that such lobby exists is like denying gravity.

I deny that anyone has denied AIPAC exists. I'm not asking for evidence for M&W's "Lobby;" I'm asking for evidence that anyone has done what MXB equates to denying gravity.

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

"Mitchell - success criteria to my mind are
1) degree of public scrutiny (zero scrutiny = highest effectiveness)
2) weakness/absence of rival policies (no rivals = highest effectiveness)
3) ability to obtain exceptional treatment"

These are silly criteria. The real question is, to what extent can a lobby bend US policy away from what it otherwise would be toward what it supports?

Many lobbies (agribusiness, insurance, etc.) maintain big government subsidies or tax breaks for their sponsors. Among groups promoting foreign policies, only two stand out: the anti-Castro lobby and the Israel lobby.

The anti-Castros have managed to keep a very strict embargo against Cuba in effect for forty-odd years, and have gotten lots of funds for propaganda/silly initiatives (Bay of Pigs, e.g.) against Castro. The costs of these policies are all fairly direct and contained: we don't get to trade with Cuba, but that's it.

The Israel lobby has managed to secure $4-6 billion a year in aid (of various sources) for Israel, including $1.2 billion of annual economic aid for one of the richer nations in the world, on a per capita basis, as well as keeping Israel extremely ties in to American military technology. The cost of this is that much of the Arab and Muslim world, including countries sitting on most of the world's oil resources, are strongly hostile to us, and we have often been put in the position of supporting unpopular dictatorships in order to thwart the anti-Israel sentiments of Arab populations, who might cut off our oil supply.

It's a very lopsided comparison.

posted by: ProbStat on 04.06.06 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

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