Kling Discusses Harsh Choices

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).

27 thoughts on “Kling Discusses Harsh Choices”

  1. Dan Drezner got it right when he saw this as Mearsheimer trying to explain away something that his neo-realist theory couldn’t explain. He didn’t succeed (this is garbage, and coming from two esteemed professors makes it worse), and now he’s left with an injury to his reputation and a theory with a hole in it.

    “People like you” who believe in those things and think that we can (and should) propogate those ideas to other places are Wilsonian liberals and should be listened to politely, then ignored when it comes time to take decisions (sorry).

  2. The idea that the US has no interest in fate of Israel is nonsense and ahistorical.

    The US interest began to coincide with those of Israel after Nasser took Egypt into the Soviet sphere. Until that point, the US was cool to the entire idea of Israel. The US refused to sell weapons to Israel for the first decade of its existence and we came down on the side of Egypt during the Suez canal crises. Only after Egypt and then Syria, Jordan and Iraq became Soviet clients did US policy shift firmly towards Israel. Israel became a trustworthy ally for the next 20+years in the Cold War. No Arab state can really claim that distinction.

    The fact that Israel is the areas only liberal democracy also means that the US general public will always come down on the side of Israel regardless or realpolitik considerations.

    If someone is a fan of realpolitik I would point out that one factor often overlooked is that without Israel, the dominate dynamic in the Middle-east would have been the conflict between the Soviet backed oil poor states and the American backed Oil rich states. The potential for a flash point conflict would have been huge. Israel served to keep Arabic popular attention focused on a perceived external foe and united them to a considerable extent making it difficult to turn one state against another.

  3. The Mearsheimer and Walt article is worth actually reading. I think it is mostly correct. The mammoth aid package that the USA pays to Israel is bad for both parties. Both parties would be freer to act in their own immediate interest as the situation required. The idea that a reduction of this US aid package would mean the extermination of Israel is absurd. If it were done incrementally, I think it would force the Israelis to free up their economy and liberate the creative power of their people. Those exact same people living in, say, New Jersey, would be much more productive. Their is no reason other than an outdated ideology that keeps the Israelis dependent on the USA. If the Israelis would take this step they could begin afford to pay for their own defense. We’d all be better off.

    Walt and Mearsheimer do not say we get “nothing” out of supporting Israel. They do say we get less than our money’s worth, and they make a compelling case. Moreover, the idea that a lobby with an interest in some foreign country can be very influential is nothing new nor particulalry anti-semitic. The Irish lobby prevented the USA from forming a defensive alliance with Britain that might have prevented both world wars from happening. The Armenian and Greek lobbies have prevented deeper ties between the USA and its once very loyal and valued ally, Turkey. The Cuban lobby has kept the US in a mode of blockade of Cuba, where engaging them and allowing trade and travel would probably undermine the Castro regime a lot faster. This goes on all the time. It is absolutely appropriate to ask, “what do we get out of this? What are costs and benefits?”

    My strong advice — read the article. I read it and I immediately thought “these guys are going to get villified because they had the guts to even talk about this.” That is pretty much what is happening. But it shouldn’t. If they are wrong, I’d like to see more discussion of the merits. So far, I’m not seeing it.

  4. I haven’t read the article but I generally agree with Lex’s assertions. I think US subsidies, besides costing US taxpayers, have undermined needed economic and, probably, political reform in Israel. OTOH, we subsidize lots of countries, and I think we probably get more from our spending on Israel, which after all is a strongly pro-American democracy, than we do, for example, from Egypt, where it may be that our underwiting of the unpopular authoritarian regime increases anti-American sentiment. Reducing our foreign-aid spending overall is a good idea, but that means we should defund many countries, not just Israel.

  5. Mearsheimer and Walt emphasize the size of the U.S. aid to Israel in comparison with aid to other countries; they fail to point out that much military aid to other countries has been supplied in the form of troops and equipment, rather than dollars. What would be the dollar equivalent of the divisions kept in Germany for the last 50 years? Ditto for Korea?

  6. Proper reaction to Mearshimer/Walt will have to await digestion of its 83 pages, which is going to take a while. In the meantime …
    Plenty of other people smarter than me have countered that the centerpiece of US Middle East policy has been its relationship with Saudi Arabia, not Israel. This is also the theme of the excellent The Case for Goliath, which I will review on Chicago Boyz presently (maybe I shoulda combined it with this review, heh).
    Confining myself to reacting to Kling (and the previous comments), I would first note that it is possible for US Middle East policy to have more than one centerpiece, or significant elements besides the centerpiece, and for them to change over time. The environment of WWII was not that of the Cold War, nor the Cold War that of whatever we ought to call 1989-2001 (“the Long Nineties,” perhaps?), nor the Long Nineties that of today. And it will certainly shift again within a few years.
    An optimist could argue that the Middle East has actually become steadily less dangerous over time. Consider:
    The Nazis didn’t take the place over (this book describes how easily this could have occurred).
    The Soviets didn’t take the place over.
    The Iranian regime of the mullahs is far weaker technologically than that of the Shah (they can’t keep military aircraft flying), so even though they are hostile to the West, they have been unable to project significant force against it.
    Not to overlook the obvious: Osirak.
    We chased the Taliban out of Afghanistan, and captured or killed quite a few of them.
    We ran the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, and eventually removed the Hussein regime from Iraq.
    The House of Saud hasn’t been replaced by something even worse.
    Having said all that, I’m not sure I’m that much of an optimist.
    I rather like Kling’s proposal of declaration of war, though I would refine it slightly — as I’ve said elsewhere, we don’t need a peace process, we need a war process (even more half-formed and now-outdated thoughts here). The declaration of war should take the form of “A state of war shall exist between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran as of [date] unless [condition] is in effect.”
    Lex’s typically astute comments provide some much-needed historical context, especially the bit about the Irish Lobby, which had never occurred to me.
    In general, subsidies produce unpleasant side effects, and to the extent that American “help” holds up the liberalization of Israel’s economy, it is not a good thing. A fellow student of mine at Chicago who subsequently emigrated to Israel told me that there was an “Independence Party” there some years back, and what they wanted to be independent of was US aid. I am unaware of the extent of such sentiment in Israel today, or of pro-privatization efforts.

  7. I am really sorry to see Lex and Jonathan go for this trash. It has reduced my respect for them.

    I am also sorry to have discovered that one of the authors is on the UofC faculty. At this point, I am ready to tell Alma Mater that they can run their university without my money.

    I will repeat what I wrote on Drezner’s site:

    The rule of thumb is that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it most likely is a duck.

    “Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that’s patently false.”

    What is patent about it? The learned professors have written a paper that waddles and quacks. Professional anti-Semites have acclaimed it. To me they look like ducks. If they want people who do not otherwise know them to believe that they are not anti-Semites, they had best say or do something that will counteract the powerful impression they have made.

    This article, the twaddle being pushed by Pape, and the denial of tenure to Profs. Drezner and Levy make me wonder whether the UofC poli sci department has decended into the socialism of fools.

    Finally, just ask your self what the Middle East would like if there had never been an Israel (I really think Chaim Weizmann should have asked for Tasmania instead). Would Arabs and Muslims would like the US? Would we have any interest in the Middle East other than the flow of oil? Would the realist position be go take their oil, they can’t stop US.

    Those who believe that Israel is the problem, have been inattentive. Islam has bloody borders. Muslims attack kufirs around the world. Muslims are attacking Hindus in India, Buddhists in Thailand, Catholics in the Philippines, animists in Africa, and Europeans in Europe. None of these attacks is in anyway related to Israel or the Jews.

    If Israel had never existed, Islamists would still exist and would still be attacking the United States. A realist foreign policy would always prioritize the flow of oil and would back the Sa’uds and the emirs of the Gulf, to ensure its steady flow. American policy towards Iran was driven by the Cold War, as was our involvement in the Soviet Afghan War, which lead to the mujahadeen. There would still have been a Khomeni revolution, and a state of war between the US and Iran. In order to assure the flow of oil, we still would have defended Kuwait, which would have left us in a state of war with Saddam.

    All of this would have led to a conflict between the US and the Arab/Muslim world. Islamists would still hate the US and would still have attacked.

    It has nothing to do with Israel or the Jews, those are just excuses to do what they want to do anyway, and ones that appeal to Europeans (and now American Academics) who are infected with the ancient disease.

  8. Robert, I figured a lot of people would respond this. As to how it quacks, did you read it? It doesn’t sound like you have.

    “what the Middle East would like if there had never been an Israel” We’ll never know. I think most of the Jews would have settled in the USA after WWII instead of the British mandate in Palestine. This would have made the USA a more prosperous place, among other benefits.

    “If Israel had never existed, Islamists would still exist and would still be attacking the United States.” Impossible to say what would have happened if history had taken a major detour almost 60 years ago. I think you are wrong about this, though.

    “…excuses to do what they want to do anyway…” I have no reason to think these guys don’t mean exactly what they say. Why psycho-analyze them? First you say, if it quacks like a duck it is anti-semitism. Then you say, these guys say one thing but mean something else. Which is it? I don’t assume that they, or you, or even Osama bin Laden, mean anything but what they say they mean unless I have good reason. I had Mearsheimer for two classes in college and have read virtually everything he has published since. He may be many things, but he says out loud and clearly what he thinks, and too bad if people don’t want to hear it. Intellectual dishonest is not a convincing critique. The question of whether the scale and nature of US support for Israel is in the interest of the USA is a separate question from whether some one is “against the Jews”. I have never seen any evidence that Mearsheimer is antisemitic. To the contrary.

    Friends of Israel do themselves no good when they vilify anyone who questions any aspect of the current US – Israel relationship. It is stupid to think that something this important won’t be a subject of controversy. If honest critics are vilified, that only makes them seem like they are hitting a painful nerve.

  9. Robert, I didn’t endorse the Mearsheimer piece. I pointed out that I haven’t read it. All I did was agree with Lex that US subsidies to Israel are a bad idea. I share some of your positions on Israel and Islamism but they weren’t what I was discussing.

  10. Suppose we do cancel our aid to Israel. Are you also suggesting that we cancel our aid to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which is more than our aid to Israel? Suppose we do stop all our aid to the middle eastern countries of any kind. What do you think the political fallout of that would be?

    I don’t for a minute support these two professors and their points. I would hope that by this time we would see the results of leaving the whole thing alone. Remember Saddam and his psychotic sons? and that idiot in Syria? and Khomeini? and Al Qaeda? Do you think they would just go away if we didn’t meddle in the middle east? or do you think they would have a field day doing whatever they wanted whenever they wanted because the Great Satan wasn’t interested? I would bet on the latter before I would bet on the former. Then extend their actions to the next step and you have Hitler write large in the oil states. Hitler was not stopped early enough and we had WW II as a result. This would be the same thing only with the energy supplies of the world at stake (not so much that of the US but that of the rest of the world). I am not ready to take that chance myself.

  11. My opinion has long been that Israel, for its own good, should wean itself from the US teat. Politically this will be very difficult for both Israel and the USA, but I hope it happens. I think our aid to Egypt has bought us very little. Lately it appears that we have been using some of our leverage to nudge the Egyptian regime towards democracy, or at least towards more openness, but for all I know we would have more leverage if we weren’t giving Mubarak money and he were a bit more desperate.

    I think we have been insanely deferential to Saudi Arabia, based on fundamental misunderstanding of how much power oil gives them. We saved the regime in the first Gulf War. We should own the place, yet we have let the tinpot kingdom jerk us around. Of course, now that Hussein is gone and we have an army in Iraq SA loses a lot of the strategic value it once had for us. But we still have a strong interest in preventing Saudi money from underwriting Islamism and SA itself from serving as a field of operation for AQ et al. I’m sure we could handle the situation there better than we are handling it.

  12. There any number of occasions when Israel would have benefitted from not having America’s apron strings so tightly knotted around its neck. If Israel could act without regard to US political qualms, it would in many cases have been better off. For example, it could openly declare that it has a nuclear deterrant. I think this would be a positive thing, but it would upset the US State Department. If Israel had been free to sink the ships carrying Arafat and his cronies to safety in Tunis out of Lebanon, the world would have been a better place. Israel has an excellent arms industry. They make high quality arms and they need to export to get economies of scale. They are limited in their sales due to US ties. We were able to stop them from selling to China. Good for the USA maybe but not good for Israel. Israel would also have been free to deal with terrorism with a much heavier hand, and I believe much more effectively, were it not for the USA making them pull their punches all the time, at the cost of Israeli lives.

    The dependency mentality really needs to be rethought. Israel gets benefits but it also makes sacrifices by living on someone else’s dime far more than it needs to or ought to.

    What we get or don’t get from supporting Saudi Arabia is interesting but not really directly relevant to what the USA gets or doesn’t get from what it spends on Israel.

  13. Martin Kramer wrote what I consider a very effective rebuttal of the Walt/Mearsheimer (hat tip Instapundit):


    I think our national interest includes defending what’s right, and Israel is in the right. I can only shake my head when I see suggestions that we insist that Israel come to some kind of an agreement with the Arabs. It is not up to Israel. A lasting peace could start tomorrow if the Arabs were not determined to eliminate the state of Israel. However, as the recent election showed clearly enough, they are, in fact, determined to destroy her, and will accept nothing less. If people really support that solution, with the ethnic cleansing and mass murder that will, inevitably, accompany it, let them lay their cards on the table and say so. The Palestinians have made their own position clear. Roadmaps and “peace agreements” are, at this point, moot. We can either defend Israel or not.

    The people Walt wants us to cut a deal with hate us, and they will continue to hate us if we abandon our allies. In that case, however, in addition to hating us, they will despise us as well, and rightfully so. It’s interesting that, having adopted all the rhetoric and propaganda talking points of anti-Americanism, so familiar to anyone who occasionally reads European newspapers, the Islamists who are leading the attack on Israel also commonly recite all the usual highly embellished yarns about the fate of the American Indians. One wonders, if they really believe all their own rhetoric about outside conquerors and colonialists, what legitimate claim they have to Palestine. After all, the Arabs are there as outside conquerors and colonialists. Are we to believe that, after the elapse of some convenient number of centuries, conquest by force becomes “just,” and the “bad guys” are magically transmuted into the “good guys?” I would be interested in hearing an Islamist clear up this point for me. I would also be interested in hearing why they feel they have a moral claim to rule any state with a large population of Jews given their history of gross oppression of Jewish minorities when they held the upper hand. They are fond of pointing to the Nazis, with whom they collaborated, as evidence of the corruption of the West. As they judge, so let them be judged. I’m sure the Israelis are more aware of this history than anyone, and I don’t blame them for sticking to their guns.

  14. Helian, I assume Islamists would argue that their conquests were/are legitimate because divinely sanctioned.

  15. @Jonathan

    >>”Helian, I assume Islamists would argue that their conquests were/are legitimate because divinely sanctioned.”

    No doubt you’re right, and that’s what’s so incongruous about the whole Islamist schtick these days. On the one hand, they can’t simply reject the Quran, which explicitly approves, for example, the conquest of infidel neighbors. On the other, all fanatical ideologues must have a great, evil enemy, and the most convenient one for both the Islamists and the European leftists at the moment is the US. Since the jargon and propaganda themes of anti-Americanism are already highly developed among the European leftists, the Islamists have simply taken over the package from them. Hence the thick, ugly veneer of classic leftist anti-Americanism commonly encountered over the core of religious bigotry among today’s Islamists. Unfortunately, the two ideologies conflict in many places. For example, colonialism and imperialism are leftist “evils,” but virtually every modern majority Muslim state owes its existence to colonialism and imperialism. Slavery is another good example. Islamists love to pontificate on the evils of slavery in the US before the Civil War, yet slavery is explicitly approved and condoned in the Quran.

    People who exploit religion to gain political power have never been too finicky about such logical inconsistancies. No doubt they will play on the same themes as long as the suckers keep swallowing the bait. Why reinvent the anti-American wheel if the old one works just as well?

  16. ” … did you read it? It doesn’t sound like you have.”

    No. And I haven’t read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, either. And I have no intention of so doing. Walt Mearsheimer have added nothing more to the mix than Pat Buchanan or David Duke, and I don’t read their publications either.

    “I think most of the Jews would have settled in the USA after WWII instead of the British mandate in Palestine. This would have made the USA a more prosperous place, among other benefits.”

    I guess I shall have to teach you some of the history of Israel, as you do not seem to know any. The Ottomans, who ruled the entire Levant for hundreds of years before they collapsed in the wake of the Great War, had condoned Jewish immigration to Israel and Jewish land purchases there. During their Mandate, the British curtailed emigration of Jews to Israel. Forget the movie, the real ship Exodus carrying more than 4500 refugees was seized by the British, who forcibly returned the refugees to Germany. The Jews who fought the Arabs in 1948 used Czech weapons and a couple of WWII surplus aircraft and nothing from the US.

    Without the legalistic framework of the Mandate and the UN, the British would have withdrawn from the Middle East, as they did from India and Africa in the decade after World War II. And the Arabs and the Jews would have fought, as they did on many occasions in the 1920s and 30s. The Jews would have established an independent state, as they in fact did. But Jewish refugees would not have immigrated to the United States, because the Immigration Quota Act of 1924 had sharply restricted immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe. You may recall “The Ship of Fools.” The national origins quota were not repealed until 1965.

    “If Israel had never existed, Islamists would still exist and would still be attacking the United States.” Impossible to say what would have happened if history had taken a major detour almost 60 years ago. I think you are wrong about this, though.

    You have asserted that X caused Y. I do not agree. I think that the relationship of X and Y is merely chronological and not causal, and I point out facts which support my contention. Asserting that I cannot make my argument, because of the inscrutable nature of history, and maintaining that my argument is wrong is a concession that you cannot support your argument.

    “…excuses to do what they want to do anyway…” I have no reason to think these guys don’t mean exactly what they say. Why psycho-analyze them? First you say, if it quacks like a duck it is anti-Semitism. Then you say, these guys say one thing but mean something else. Which is it? I don’t assume that they, or you, or even Osama bin Laden, mean anything but what they say they mean unless I have good reason.”

    I have not engaged in psycho-analysis. I have merely observed that islamist terrorists, blow themselves to smithereens while killing unarmed civilians (the Kamikaze aimed at Warships). This is not normal behavior. It requires explanation. Other men have had enemies, enemies that they have fought and killed. But throughout history, almost all of them have adhered to Patton’s maxim that a soldier does not want to die for his country, he wants the enemy to die for his country.

    The islamists have used many justifications for their actions. They say they are doing it because they want to destroy Israel. They say they are doing it because they want to force the United State out of Iraq. But they do not restrict themselves to Israeli and American targets. Everything is grist for their mill. Cartoons in Denmark, Christian converts in Afghanistan. The justifications do not comport with the magnitude of the attacks, nor are they logically connected to Israel or the Palestinians, who are treated with the utmost contempt by their Muslim brothers when the Media is not looking.

    What is clear to me is that islamists have adopted an ideology, a world view, that says to them the kufirs are attacking Muslims everywhere (and they include in the attacks cartoons and novels), it is the religious duty of Muslims to kill anyone who attacks Muslims (even novelists and cartoonists) and any means of doing so, even the slaughter of civilians is justified and required.

    I do not know why they have adopted such a world view. I do not think it is logical or rational. But adopt it they have. I am only trying to find a framework within which to understand what their ideology is and how it connects to their actions. My take is that they have an ideology which justifies (in transcendent moral terms) their actions, but that any set of reasonably likely facts about the world would produce the same results. For example, review the independence of India and the ethno-religious cleansing associated therewith. As I pointed out above, Muslims are attacking Hindus in India, Buddhists in Thailand, Catholics in the Philippines, animists in Africa, and Europeans in Europe. The United States could do a 180 on Israel, but the islamists would not proclaim peace and return their their vineyards, they would proclaim victory and step up their attacks.

    “I had Mearsheimer for two classes in college and have read virtually everything he has published since. He may be many things, but he says out loud and clearly what he thinks, and too bad if people don’t want to hear it.”

    So does David Duke. So What?

    “Intellectual dishonest is not a convincing critique.”

    And the above is not a reference to anything I said.

    “The question of whether the scale and nature of US support for Israel is in the interest of the USA is a separate question from whether some one is “against the Jews”.”

    In theory, you are correct. But, in fact, that is seldom true.

    “I have never seen any evidence that Mearsheimer is antisemitic. To the contrary.”

    The meme that the Jews, by covert means, control the actions of non-Jews is a staple of anti-Semitism from long ago. The Walt Mearshiemer paper has cast that meme in the form of an expose of a non-existent, non-entity, the LOBBY. To me, and to a lot of Jews, that is a classic anti-Semetic trope that no-one would use in good faith.

    However, I did not say the Mearsheimer is anti-Semetic. What I said was:

    “If they want people who do not otherwise know them to believe that they are not anti-Semites, they had best say or do something that will counteract the powerful impression they have made.”

    The ball is in their court to show their good faith.

    “Friends of Israel do themselves no good when they vilify anyone who questions any aspect of the current US – Israel relationship.”

    The attack was not just on the current Israel-US relationship. The attack was on the LOBBY. I am, in a very minor way, a member of the LOBBY. I will respond to the attack, which I believe to be twaddle, and I will not sit down and shut-up. If Walt and Mearsheimer do not like it, If you do not like it, that is just plain too bad. I just put twelve cents in to the blue pushkie on my desk.

    “It is stupid to think that something this important won’t be a subject of controversy.”

    Did I or anyone else say that there should be no discussion. No. We await the beginning of discussion, not the ginning up of shadowy conspiracies. I am convinced that the facts and the law are on the side of Israel, and that anyone who knows them will, unless he is gripped by some delusional ideology, agree with me.

    “If honest critics are vilified, that only makes them seem like they are hitting a painful nerve.”

    Who is an honest critic? How have they been vilified?

    Calling bullshit is not vilification. Pointing out that a theory is one previously advanced by bad men with evil intent, on the basis of no facts at all, is not vilification. The proponent can either prove theory true or admit error.

    And yes it is a painful nerve. In fact is a hole in my heart, where I see the 6 Million, and their deaths, and their children who were never born, and the children of those children. It hurts and it aches every day. I believe, that I, and every Jew, has a sacred duty to remember (Zachor). Our motto is “Never Again”. We will always remember, we will never let down our guard.

  17. How Palestinians are treated by other Arabs:

    Friday, 24 March 2006, 17:58 GMT

    UN fears for Palestinians in Iraq

    The UN refugee agency has said it is increasingly concerned about the worsening situation of Palestinians living in the Iraqi capital, Bagdad.

    More than 100 Palestinian families had received written death threats on Thursday and were concerned by the worsening situation, the agency said.

    There is also concern about the health of 89 Palestinians who tried to flee Iraq but were refused entry to Jordan.

    The refugees have spent a week stranded in the desert at the border crossing.

    Jennifer Pagonis, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the stranded group was “adamant they do not want to return any part of Iraq”.

  18. Who is the “Israel Lobby” they are referring to in the title? Is it American Jews or is it Israelis?

    With regard to lobbying in order to influence foreign policy, it’s never been different than any other special interest. Where are interests aren’t immediately clear, we are more easily influenced. That being said, our biggest foreign policy mistakes have by and large been due to bad judgement and poor execution on the part of elected officials and their staff (or family in JFK’s case) – not “foreign lobbies”.

  19. Perhaps we can go back to the original point of the article. The thesis of M and W is, I would submit as follows: “Israel now has a great deal of influence on US foreign policy. This is bad, because no two countries ever coincide entirely in their interests.” It seems that they have proven the first part of this statement. No one argues with them on that. What about the second part? If you are not Jewish, then you are likely to think that American policy should be determined by America, and not by other countries.

  20. Too often when discussing the Israel-Palestine problem, even in casual conversation, the other side boils it all down to the infamous “they.” It usually takes some flavor of “The arab world hates us because we support Israel, it isn’t in our our best interest, we only support Israel because of ‘them’.” This is usually followed up by one or more of the following: “‘they’ control Washington D.C.”, “they control the media”, “they control the banks”, “You know it’s true”, “You know how they are…” I’ve found this so ubiquitous that I have to believe many people on this board have had the same experience.

    When I hear the “you know how Jews are” schtick I tend to tune out. When I hear how “Jews control everything” my eyes glaze over. Reading M&W’s little paper I made it to just pg. 14 before I went catatonic.

    M&W’s thesis is more or less “our support of Israel hurts the U.S. and doesn’t make any sense. Why do we do it? Because of the unmatched power of American Jews.”

    Think I’m embellishing? Go to page 14 of the original document. Although on this board we’ve had some good conversations on monetary aid (thx Lex), it should now be noted that M&W make clear that when they refer to “support” they aren’t just talking about financial aid, they mean ALL FORMS of support, both financial, military and diplomatic.

    M&W’s take on Israel is standard fare. It has been debated ad naseum many times over. Their take on the “Israeli Lobby” is actually pretty standard fare too. It’s run of the mill “you know how they are” kind of stuff where “American Jews (pg14)… influence congress (pg17)… influence the executive (pg18)… manipulate the media (pg20)… (and) demonize palestinians (pg26).”

    There’s also the usual projection of leftist tactics onto their opponents: “Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over U.S. Middle East policy… stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite (pg24)”

    Given the paper’s own fascination with “The Lobby’s manipulation” I find this quote a bit troubling. M&W take the stance that “The Lobby” uses its “unmatched power” to influence the gov’t to do things Americans don’t want their gov’t to do and if, by chance, Americans do support these actions it’s because “The Lobby” has manipulated the media and our educational institutions to convince us so. Just like the racism charge, you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You are either wrong, or you are brainwashed.

    I thought this was worth researching further so I went googling to see what sort of polls I could find on the subject. I’ve always respected the Pew Research Center and I managed to run down a very relevant poll on their site:


    The poll looks like it was taken in 2003 just before we invaded Iraq. Go down to the section that reads “Modest Rise in Support for Israel.” It shows that 75% of the public wanted the same or stronger ties with Israel (you can infer from the accompanying paragraph that this is up from 69% in an earlier poll.) In neither polls were more than 19% of those surveyed in favor of weakening support for Israel. (Even us crazy Catholics were 71% in favor of the same or greater support of Israel and we’re all anti-semites, right Mel?)

    Are these poll results flawed? Did “The Lobby” get ahold of the numbers before they were published? If the numbers are real, is it just the result of “The Lobby” manipulating the media?

    What if in reality is there are some academics that can’t stand that they are on the wrong side of an argument? What if only 20% of the US population agrees with them and no politician in D.C. wants to listen to them? How do they explain that? Everybody else has been manipulated, right? We’ve all been taken in a giant con and only they know the truth right? Right?


    To sum it up, nothing in the paper is new and there’s not alot inside the paper that seems worth talking about. It’s not even that well written. Most of it looks lifted from The International Action Center’s website.

    To address the reality of the situation, there should be and I think there is an ongoing debate over the Israeli/Palestine problem. We as Americans have done our best to be fair in encouraging peace talks and we are finally seeing some real results with the pullout from Gaza and the plans to cut back on West Bank settlements. Maybe with time Lex’s ideas will float up and we’ll take a more Austrian approach to Foreign Aid.

    I haven’t had time to read Drezner’s take before I wrote this. Maybe I should have. I’ll try to do it tomorrow.

  21. Identity Politics: A Case Study. The discussion of Isreali interests vs. American foreign policy identifies an identity profile with a morally passionate master narrative of solidarity in the face of persecution that is able to claim further persecution when that narrative is challenged. One significant question is whether, for practical purposes, the desired end of an Israeli state has already largely been reached, or whether the assertion of on-going persecution will perpetually maintain the apparatus that pushes continued aid to Isreal.

    That summary is taken from Jeff Goldstein’s discussion of identity politics on the Protein Wisdom blog: entries on 9/15/05, 9/20/05, 12/1/05, 2/2/06, and 2/4/06.

    Last night my wife gave me a post from a Serbian student of hers, and it identifies a people that have historically suffered a lot of persecution. It reminded me of the discussion here, and I began thinking of how powerful these narratives of persecution are at mobilizing people. You’ve got Palestinians who can claim to be persecuted and you’ve got Germans after the first world war who could claim to be persecuted.

    You’ve even got Americans who can claim to be persecuted after 9/11.

    Goldstein identifies the dynamic by which a master narrative takes hold of the discussion and dominates it to the point of excluding other views as a process inimical to the ideal or notion of individual freedom. The type, here the Isreali lobby-or there the patriotic American, standing against individuals who might have dissenting views.

    Preserving the freedom of the individual is important because the individual represents the fertile ground for making peace. I think of my own daughter, who last year is a progressive voice challenging her conservative American history teacher, while this year she is a lone voice defending the nobles against the French Revolution and her communist teachers. Last year she went to a decidedly liberal UCC church, this year she’s attending mass with her French family, and when she gets home her summer job will be at a Methodist church camp, and next fall she’ll be attending a Catholic college in Irving. My mom asks whether we aren’t concerned that they’ll brain-wash her at a Catholic college, while we’re delighted that she’ll be exposed to some of the great books and have at least an exposure to a classical education. Mom remembers the reason her ancestors came over from France-to escape persecution from Catholics, and the fundamentalists she worships with are convinced that Catholics are hell-bound by definition. Back to individualism—she was able to move between a progressive and a conservative point of view because of her personal experiences with her French family. I don’t know where she’ll end up on the ideological spectrum, but I’m thrilled that she was able to viscerally experience a point of view that was unfamiliar to her. I think in the end it all comes down to interacting with individuals, and that we give up too much of our freedom to identity groups.

  22. If we cut Israels share of foreign aid we will have to cut Egypt’s as well.

    It is the price we pay to keep Egypt from starting another war. We pay Israel so they will stick to the bargain as well. We would not have to pay Israel if we cut off Egypt.

    So what will it be $4 bn a year to avoid a major ME (oil supply) war or let the parties have at it as soon as they are able (about every 10 years).

  23. Ah yes, The Israeli Palistinian Problem.

    As with most such problems one must follow the money.

    A lot of folks are paying the Palis to keep the fight going. The link discusses the German cash. It also discusses the residual love for Germany among the Arabs. Seems that a certain Austrian corporal is still held in high esteem. The Germans wish to take advantage of that.

    Which goes back to the heart question.

  24. If aid to Israel is undermining economic reforms in Israel (ever hear of finance minister Netanyahu and his policies?) it must be destroying Egypt.

    So why isn’t the Egypt lobby discussed?

    Or the fact that Saudi Arabia is part owner of our State Dept.

  25. Of course most Jews would have settled in the US post WW2. Except for one minor detail. We wouldn’t let them in.

    In some respects Israel is the direct result of Jew hatred. It was how all countries avoided the “Jewish question” post WW2.

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