Professor Cohen’s response

Professor Eliot Cohen of the School for Advanced International Studies is one of the prominent American military and foreign policy experts tarred as a member of the “Israel Lobby” in the execrable Mearhseimer-Walt paper devoted to the subject. Today’s Washington Post publishes Professor Cohen’s response: “Yes, it’s anti-Semitic.” Professor Cohen writes:

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.

Inept, even kooky academic work, then, but is it anti-Semitic? 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.

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.

If this sounds personal, it is, although I am only a footnote target for Mearsheimer and Walt. I am a public intellectual and a proud Jew; sympathetic to Israel and extensively engaged in our nation’s military affairs; vaguely conservative and occasionally hawkish. In a week my family will celebrate Passover with my oldest son — the third generation to serve as an officer in the United States Army. He will be home on leave from the bomb-strewn streets of Baghdad. The patch on his shoulder is the same flag that flies on my porch.

Something tells me that Professors Mearsheimer and Walt can’t be reached for comment.

JOHN adds: If there were a referee, he’d stop the fight. If this were a Little League baseball game, it would have been called long ago under the ten-run rule. I think we can officially proclaim this the most one-sided intellectual debate in history. Mearsheimer and Walt have been reduced to rubble, and that was by Scott’s initial post on the subject. What’s happened since is almost too painful to contemplate.

There is a lesson here, though: portions of the academic world comprise such a bubble of bigoted dissociation from reality that these two academics–presumably of normal intelligence at least–could write their paper without realizing what a laughable fantasy it was.

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