Saturday, April 08, 2006

Mearsheimer/Walt Report

Today there is only one topic, the Mearsheimer/Walt report, which has attracted an awful lot of attention since it came out a couple of weeks ago. Here are links to the original report, as well as several reactions to the report. I especially recommend the London Review of Books summary version of the report, Abu Khalil's analysis of it, and Dershowitz's response:


1) This is the London Review of Books shortened version of the report. It's more or less the same as the full report, but without footnotes:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/print/mear01_.html

The Israel LobbyJohn Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt

For the past several decades, and especially since theSix-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US MiddleEastern policy has been its relationship with Israel.The combination of unwavering support for Israel andthe related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughoutthe region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion andjeopardised not only US security but that of much ofthe rest of the world. This situation has no equal inAmerican political history. Why has the US beenwilling to set aside its own security and that of manyof its allies in order to advance the interests ofanother state? One might assume that the bond betweenthe two countries was based on shared strategicinterests or compelling moral imperatives, but neitherexplanation can account for the remarkable level ofmaterial and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derivesalmost entirely from domestic politics, and especiallythe activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Otherspecial-interest groups have managed to skew foreignpolicy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as farfrom what the national interest would suggest, whilesimultaneously convincing Americans that US interestsand those of the other country – in this case, Israel– are essentially identical...



2) Full Mearsheimer / Walt Report direct link:

http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
By John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
Working Paper Number:
RWP06-011Submitted: 03/13/2006 Download Instructions

Abstract
In this paper, John J. Mearsheimer of the Universityof Chicago's Department of Political Science andStephen M.Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy Schoolof Government contend that the centerpiece of U.S.Middle East policy is its intimate relationship withIsrael. The authors argue that although oftenjustified as reflecting shared strategic interests orcompelling moral imperatives, the U.S. commitment toIsrael is due primarily to the activities of the“Israel Lobby." This paper goes on to describe thevarious activities that pro-Israel groups haveundertaken in order to shift U.S. foreign policy in apro-Israel direction.


3) Initial Reactions:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1743767,00.html

US professors accused of being liars and bigots overessay on pro-Israeli lobby
Julian Borger in Washington
Friday March 31, 2006
The Guardian

An article by two prominent American professorsarguing that the pro-Israel lobby exerts a dominantand damaging influence on US foreign policy hastriggered a furious row, pitting allegations ofanti-semitism against claims of intellectualintimidation.Stephen Walt, the academic dean of Harvard's KennedySchool of Government, and John Mearsheimer, apolitical science professor at the University ofChicago, published two versions of the essay, theIsrael Lobby, in the London Review of Books and on aHarvard website.
The pro-Israel lobby and its sway over American policyhas always been a controversial issue, but theprofessors' bluntly worded polemic created afirestorm, drawing condemnation from left and right ofthe political spectrum.

Professor Walt's fellow Harvard professor AlanDershowitz - criticised in the article as an"apologist" for Israel - denounced the authors as"liars" and "bigots" in the university newspaper, TheHarvard Crimson, and compared their arguments toneo-Nazi literature.

"Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes arepart of the most dangerous traditions of modernanti-semitism," wrote two fellow academics, JeffreyHerf and Andrei Markovits, in a letter to the LondonReview of Books. Critics also pointed out that thearticle had been praised by David Duke, a notoriousAmerican white supremacist.

Prof Mearsheimer said the storm of protest proved oneof its arguments - that the strength of the pro-Israellobby stifled debate on US foreign policy.

"We argued in the piece that the lobby goes to greatlengths to silence criticism of Israeli policy as wellas the US-Israeli relationship, and that its mosteffective weapon is the charge of anti-semitism," ProfMearsheimer told The Guardian. "Thus, we expected tobe called anti-semites, even though both of us arephilo-semites and strongly support the existence ofIsrael."

He added: "Huge numbers of people know this story tobe true but are afraid to say it because they wouldpunished by pro-Israeli forces."

Soon after the publication of the article it wasannounced that Prof Walt would step down from his jobas academic dean at the end of June. However, theKennedy School and Prof Walt's colleagues said thatthe move had long been planned.

The Kennedy school removed its cover page from theonline version of the article but said in a statement:"The only purpose of that removal was to end publicconfusion; it was not intended, contrary to someinterpretations, to send any signal that the schoolwas also 'distancing' itself from one of its seniorprofessors."

"The University of Chicago and Harvard University havebehaved admirably in difficult circumstances. We havehad the full support of our respective institutions,"Prof Mearsheimer said.

The article argues that the US has "been willing toset aside its own security and that of many of itsallies" to advance Israeli interests, largely as aresult of pressure from Jewish American groups such asthe American Israeli Political Action Committee(AIPAC) allied to pro-Zionist Christian evangelistsand influential Jewish neo-conservatives such asformer Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz, DouglasFeith and Richard Perle. It argues their combinedinfluence was critical in the decision to go to war inIraq.

Writing in the online magazine, Slate, theBritish-born journalist Christopher Hitchenscriticised the authors' "over-fondness for Jewishname-dropping" and argued that the first occasion theneo-conservatives had a significant influence onforeign policy was to press the Clinton administrationto intervene on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia andKosovo.

No AIPAC officials would comment about the controversyon the record.

Yesterday Prof Mearsheimer said: "We went out of ourway to say that the lobby is simply engaging ininterest group politics, which is as American as applepie."


4) WAR OF WORDS OVER PAPER ON ISRAEL

Scholars' critical examination of U.S.-Israelities is called shoddy and bigoted; others say harshreaction proves the study's point.

http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/03/27/israel



5) More Meirsheimer/Walt Reactions:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1744960,00.html
Editor hits back over Israel row

London Review of Books stands its ground after beingaccused of anti-Semitism in an article attackingpro-Israeli influence on US policy

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
Sunday April 2, 2006
The Observer

She is, in the words of her many admirers, the 'materfamilias of London's liberal intelligentsia'. Thisweekend, however, Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of theLondon Review of Books, is on the defensive - speakingout for the first time in an escalating transatlanticrow that has seen her respected journal accused ofpromoting anti-Semitism.The argument has erupted over a cover article in thelatest issue of the LRB by two prominent Americanacademics on the influence of the pro-Israel lobby inthe US. The article, which argues that the lobby holdsa disproportionate and damaging sway over Americanforeign policy, prompted a bitter and growingcontroversy, particularly in the US, where rival campshave exchanged claims of anti-Semitism andintellectual intimidation by those accused of beingmembers of 'the Lobby'.

The article, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, wasoriginally written for, but rejected by, the AtlanticMonthly and picked up by the LRB, when Wilmers 'becameaware of its existence'.

The article set out at exhaustive length to list everyway in which it claimed US foreign policy had beencaptured on behalf of Israel by an all-encompassinglobby of academics, campaign groups, journalists andpro-Israeli activists in government. Among thefiercest critics have been Eliot Engel, a Democraticcongressman from New York, who branded the authors'anti-Semites', and the right-wing New York Sun, whichlikened the piece to the 'rantings' of IranianPresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The article has been praised by white supremacist andformer head of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke - a movethat Wilmers admits was 'unsettling'.

'I don't want David Duke to endorse the article,' hetold The Observer from France on Friday. 'It makes mefeel uncomfortable. But when I re-read the piece, Idid not see anything that I felt should not have beensaid. Maybe it is because I am Jewish, but I think Iam very alert to anti-Semitism. And I do not thinkthat criticising US foreign policy, or Israel's way ofgoing about influencing it, is anti-Semitic. I justdon't see it.'

Harvard University, where Walt is a professor, hasalso weighed into the row, distancing itself from thereport.
It is not the first time in recent years that the LRBhas been embroiled in controversy with the US - it wasaccused of anti-Americanism in a special issuefollowing the attacks on 11 September.

President Bill Clinton's special Middle East envoy,Dennis Ross, cited by the authors as having 'closeties' to pro-Israel organisations, said the authorsdisplayed a 'woeful lack of knowledge'.

For their part, the two authors, despite the row,describe themselves as 'philo-Semites'. Wilmers saysthey are members of the Realist School of US ForeignPolicy which insists that America should be guided byits own interests and not by Israel's.

Wilmers defends the article: 'I know Israel thinks itis a monstrous presumption. But then I don't thinkthat the way that Israel behaves is terribly helpful.The article doesn't talk about a "Jewish Lobby" or a"Cabal". I feel very clear about that. We were veryconscious of that risk.'

But while Wilmers feels confident that the articleexamines legitimate concerns - in particular about thelobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee -it is not a view shared by critics of the LRB. Amongthem is Professor Alan Dershowitz, a colleague of Waltat Harvard, who is criticised in the article for beingan 'apologist' for Israel. Dershowitz denounced theauthors last week as 'liars' and 'bigots' and comparedtheir argument to neo-Nazi literature. It is a viewshared by US academics Jeffrey Herf and AndreiMarkovits, who wrote to the LRB: 'Accusations ofpowerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the mostdangerous traditions of modern anti-Semitism.'

But while some have focused on the issue ofanti-Semitism, others, following Dennis Ross's lead,have condemned the article as a shoddy piece ofpseudo-academia. It is a view endorsed by journalistChristopher Hitchens, who has accused the authors ofan exercise in Jewish 'name listing', and perhaps -most surprisingly - by Noam Chomsky, the Nobel-prizewinning academic who has written on the pro-Israelibias of the US media.
'Recognising that Mearsheimer-Walt took a courageousstand which merits praise,' he wrote for onlinemagazine ZNet last week, 'we still have to ask howconvincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion.'

Wilmers rejects the accusation by Hitchens, Ross andothers that the Mearsheimer-Walt article has donelittle more than attempt to join up a disconnectedlist of people and organisations lobbying on differentaspects of Israeli concern into a central 'IsraelLobby' - capitalised by the LRB. She admits now,however, that it would have been better to use a lowercase 'l' for the word 'lobby' - to have avoided therisk of being misunderstood.
'It is not true that the authors simply lumpedtogether a long list of people and organisations inthe same piece to make their case for an "IsraeliLobby". To say that because someone is mentioned incontext in a long piece is tainted by association withany other is wrong.'

Wilmers believes, too, that the most angrydenunciations of anti-Semitism - while designed toserve the purpose of censorship by those attempting toforestall criticism of Israel - may actually encourageanti-Semitism in the long run.

'It serves a purpose. No one wants to be thought of asanti-Semitic because it is thought of as worse thananything else, although it is not worse beinganti-Semitic than being anti-black or Islamophobic.
'Really, one of the most upsetting things is the wayit can contribute to anti-Semitism in the long runjust by making so many constant appeals and preventinguseful criticism of Israel. No one can say Israel'sposture does not contribute to anti-Semitism, yetcharges of anti-Semitism are used to justify thatpolicy.'


6) More Reactions:

http://hnn.us/roundup/archives/1/2006/3/#23364

Harvey Sicherman:
The flaws in the noisome paper aboutthe Israel LobbySource:
Foreign Policy Research (3-28-06)

[Harvey Sicherman, Ph.D., is President of the ForeignPolicy Research Institute and former aide to threeU.S. secretaries of state.]

John J. Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison DistinguishedService Professor of Political Science at theUniversity of Chicago, and Stephen M. Walt, Robert andRenee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at theJohn F. Kennedy School of Government at HarvardUniversity, have stirred great controversy with theirattack on the "Israel Lobby." One version of theirindictment was published in the London Review of Bookson March 26, 2006. The other, longer, footnotedversion appeared under the Faculty Research WorkingPapers Series of the Kennedy School....



7) Abu Khalil on Meirsheimer. This was one of the better analyses on the meaning of the report, as Abu Khalil refuses to explain away all US foreign policy on one lobby:

http://politicalissuesofinterest.blogspot.com/2006/03/asad-abukhalilon-mearsheimer-and-walt.html



8) MORE DEBATE OVER REPORT OF ISRAEL'S INFLUENCE INU.S.

By Tom Regan
Christian Science Monitor
April 6, 2006

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0406/dailyUpdate.html



9) ALAN DERSHOWITZ Response Report. This is a lengthy point by point response to Mearsheimer and Walt's report:

http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/research/working_papers/dershowitzreply.pdf

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