Martin Kramer addresses a key point of the Mearsheimer-Walt “Israel Lobby” paper on its own terms:
One of the nuttiest passages in “The Israel Lobby,” the co-production of professors Stephen Walt (Harvard) and John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago), occurs in the very first footnote. (It’s in the full version, on the website of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.)
Indeed, the mere existence of the [pro-Israel] Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about. But because Israel is a strategic and moral liability, it takes relentless political pressure to keep U.S. support intact.
Other commentators have pointed to the absurdity of this statement, since every conceivable special interest has a lobby in Washington, and they can’t all be working against the national interest. “By that standard,” writes Max Boot, “Social Security, the 2nd Amendment and Roe vs. Wade must not be ‘in the American national interest’ either, because they are all defended by even more powerful lobbies.” Caroline Glick hits even harder:
Every semi-sentient person with even an incidental knowledge of American politics knows that there is no area of human endeavor that is not represented by a lobby in the US. Walt and Mearsheimer’s asinine assertion means is that every American interest group–from the elderly to the insurance industry, from the Muslims to gun owners to organic food lovers–stands opposed to the American national interest simply by existing. Any professor who made a similar assertion about any other interest group would be imperiling his career.
You can be absolutely sure no professor will make that assertion about one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington: the higher education lobby.
Start with Harvard’s own Office of Federal Relations, conveniently described on its own website. There we learn the following: “Harvard’s federal relations teams in Cambridge and Washington, D.C. work to maintain a positive and ongoing relationship between Harvard and the Congressional and Executive branches of government.”
There you have it, Professor Walt! Evidence that federal support for Harvard is not in the American national interest! If it was, Harvard would not need federal relations “teams” operating out of Cambridge and Washington to bring it about. But because so many Harvard professors are intellectual and moral liabilities, it takes relentless political pressure to keep federal support intact.
If we accept Walt and Mearsheimer’s claim that a lobby, by definition, works against the national interest, then this must be equally true of the Harvard lobby, the University of Chicago lobby, and the entire higher ed lobby, all of which work for them. There might even be some evidence for such a determination: tuitions rise everywhere and so do taxpayer subsidies, yet nonsense pervades the faculties of America’s greatest universities. Still, it would be foolish to argue that universities are conspiring against the rest of us. It’s just the American way. And if it weren’t for lobbies (and their cousins, think tanks), Washington would be a city short on ideas. We’d be left to rely on uneven if not shoddy “scholarship” that’s dogmatic, one-dimensional and simplistic. “The Israel Lobby” is a case in point.
Kramer’s post is full of links for interested readers.