At Tech Central, Kling discusses “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”. John Mearsheimer (Poli Sci Chicagoboy?) and Stephen M. Walt (Kennedy School of Government, Harvard) summarize thus: “It is not surprising that Israel and its American supporters want the United States to deal with any and all threats to Israel’s security. If their efforts to shape US. policy succeed, then Israel’s enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding, and paying.” (40)
Then they conclude:
Can the Lobby’s power be curtailed? One would like to think so, given the Iraq debacle, the obvious need to rebuild America’s image in the Arab and Islamic world, and the recent revelations about AIPA officials passing US. government secrets to Israel. One might also think that Arafat’s death and the election of the more moderate Abu Mazen would cause Washington to press vigorously and evenhandedly for a peace argument.
The arena of such real politik balances is not one in which I am at all knowledgeable, so here are links & I hope others have much to say.
Meanwhile, I will note that Mearsheimer’s earlier essay, “Why We Will Soon Miss the Cold War,” was in one of our freshman rhetoric books for a while, so I actually did read it relatively closely. Given its publication (August 1990 in Atlantic Monthly), it seemed quite wise about the breakup of Yugoslavia – and other tensions that arose when the clear lines between East and West were no longer defined by American & Soviet troops, eyeing each other across the iron curtain. I enjoyed teaching it because it was remarkably clear & had a context even my freshmen could recognize. He noted:
Bipolarity, an equal balance of military power, and nuclear weapons–these, then, are the key elements of my explanation for the Long Peace.
Many thoughtful people have found the bipolar system in Europe odious and have sought to end it by dismantling the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe and diminishing Soviet military power. Many have also lamented the military equality obtaining between the superpowers; some have decried the indecisive stalemate it produced, recommending instead a search for military superiority; others have lamented the investment of hundreds of billions of dollars to deter a war that never happened, proving not that the investment, though expensive, paid off, but rather that it was wasted. As for nuclear weapons, well, they are a certifiable Bad Thing. The odium attached to these props of the postwar order has kept many in the West from recognizing a hard truth: they have kept the peace.
The remarkable lack of European deaths at war from 1945 to 1990 next to 1900 to 1945 was breathtaking. Of course, this ignored the (relative to WWI & WWII) relatively minor American losses in Korea & Vietnam as well as lives lost to the Gulag.
He saw America keeping Europe from engaging in yet more bloody wars in that lengthy period and he was clearly right. And he understood we are complex creatures driven by complex motivations:
States are not primarily motivated by the desire to achieve prosperity. Although economic calculations are hardly trivial to them, states operate in both an international political and an international economic environment, and the former dominates the latter when the two systems come into conflict. Survival in an anarchic international political system is the highest goal a state can have.
As our local economist noted my limited (naive) understanding of the human heart: I’d said, why should Yugoslavia break up – its incredible potential can only be realized after the iron curtain drops and a peaceful economy prevails? Ah, he replied in 1990, you think money drives people? I’m an economist and I know it is the heart. A middle European himself, he knew the hearts in Yugoslavia cared less about the tourist dollar than old feuds and new grievances.
Mearsheimer seemed Eurocentric, and by that he would mean Westerm Europe. He seemed often right – and was often proved right. Nonetheless, as I taught it, I often wondered how unconcerned this take was on the people on the other side of that line – the Eastern Europeans whose countries did not engage in international wars during those periods but whose lives were often stunted and harassed. (I didn’t see them as our responsibility, but seemed a factor we should keep in mind when balancing off the good & bad of those years.) If the coming down of the wall would lead to bloodshed, it would also lead to liberation. And he accepted that Americans pay this bill – what, forever? Did we always, forever, see Europe as our project, our job as protecting them? Were they really incapable of keeping the peace on their own? But, of course, the multi-polarity that bothered him was certainly likely to increase tensions. And it has. And ten years later, we are not sure how or how much the Europeans will do to keep the peace within Europe.
Now, his argument again seems to see bloodshed only in terms of battles between and not within. The fact that an Arab is a good deal more likely to get a say in the Israeli government than in that of most Arab countries can be weighed as important – or, given a focus on only the movements across borders and a blind eye to anything within, as unimportant. One of our commenters, Mark, warns of the seductions of Utopia – we are not likely to produce it for ourselves nor for others. But, there is the “more perfect union” that Americans and Brits always pragmatically work toward. We need to constantly accept it is always process and never end. Still, Mearsheimer may be right – this battle may not be in our interests but only in Israel’s.
To this reader, however, the whole “lobby” thing is a bit, well off-putting. If there is an Israel lobby, I don’t understand why people like me agree with the neo-cons. We are neither Jewish nor Evangelical, but merely think individual rights are important; we don’t see these in a Palestine protected by the UN, but we do see free press and free speech in Israel. We assume if other governments chose that path, they, too, would worry their citizens in the present and us in the future a good deal less. Maybe we are wrong, but I do think it is debateable. We tend to take the context of Abigail Adams, not a bad example of one of those people who also in the end got much right.
Yet we are told that all the Misfortunes of Sparta were occasioned by their too great Sollicitude for present tranquility, and by an excessive love of peace they neglected the means of making it sure and lasting. They ought to have reflected says Polibius that as there is nothing more desirable, or adantages than peace, when founded in justice and honour, so there is nothing more shameful and at the same time more pernicious when attained by bad measures, and purchasd at the price of liberty.
Peace isn’t an end in itself – the good life is. And the good life is one that recognizes human dignity.
(I tried to edit for better writing without changing sense – Ginny, 8:05).