Revenge of the footnotes, cont’d

Like many other pariticipants in the public policy debate related to the war, Daniel Pipes is deemed a member of the “Israel Lobby” by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their pseudoscholarly Kennedy School paper and its London Review of Books counterpart. Pipes responds to Mearsheimer and Walt in correspondence he includes in his most recent column: “Is Campus Watch part of a conspiracy?” Pipes writes:

In their now-notorious pamphlet, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt say this about the founding of Campus Watch in 2002:

The Lobby also monitors what professors write and teach. In September 2002, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a website (Campus Watch) that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report remarks or behaviour that might be considered hostile to Israel.

A brief version of the Mearsheimer and Walt study appeared in the London Review of Books, so I replied to them in a letter to the editor of that publication on March 16, 2006, taking issue with the above quotation.

This account is inaccurate in several ways (e.g. Martin Kramer had no role in founding Campus Watch), but I write specifically to state that no ‘Lobby’ told me to start Campus Watch. Neither the Middle East Forum nor myself has ever taken orders from some mythical ‘Lobby’, and specifically I decided to establish Campus Watch on my own, without direction from any outside source. I challenge Mearsheimer and Walt to provide their information that connects this ‘Lobby’ to my decision to establish Campus Watch.

Daniel Pipes

My letter was published in the April 6 issue. Mearsheimer and Walt replied to me in a letter in the London Review of Books dated May 11:

the Israel lobby is not a secret, clandestine cabal; on the contrary, it is openly engaged in interest-group politics and there is nothing conspiratorial or illicit about its behaviour. Thus, we can easily believe that Daniel Pipes has never ‘taken orders’ from the lobby, because the Leninist caricature of the lobby depicted in his letter is one that we clearly dismissed. Readers will also note that Pipes does not deny that his organisation, Campus Watch, was created in order to monitor what academics say, write and teach, so as to discourage them from engaging in open discourse about the Middle East.

To this, I replied to the London Review of Books:

I hesitate to extend my exchange with John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, but their May 11, 2006, letter contains an erroneous passage that compels comment: …

Three responses. First, Mearsheimer and Walt unconditionally concede they have no information about the alleged “lobby” giving me orders concerning Campus Watch, confirming the falsehood of their initial claim.

Second, what they dismiss as a “Leninist caricature” of a lobby – one that strategizes and gives orders – is the only type of lobby that exists. If no one instructed me to begin Campus Watch, how could Campus Watch’s coming into existence be part of an organized campaign?

Third, my previous note strove for brevity, so I did not contest Mearsheimer and Walt’s inaccuracy about the goal of Campus Watch. I shall do so now: I deny their point that Campus Watch intends to discourage academics “from engaging in open discourse about the Middle East.” As the mission statement at explains, the project “reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them.”

Campus Watch is to Middle East studies as political analysis to politics, film criticism to movies, and consumer reports to manufacturing; we provide assessments for the public. Unlike politicians, actors, and business executives, who accept criticism with good grace, academics howl with umbrage at being judged.

Daniel Pipes
Middle East Forum

Comment: My small role in Mearsheimer and Walt’s massive account symbolizes the sloppiness of their account and discredits their conspiracy-theory vision of efforts to build a strong U.S.-Israel bond.

Pipes includes links to all the relevant items in the linked version of the column at his Daniel Pipes site. It should be noted that Pipes is a serious scholar of demented conspiracy theories, among other things, having devoted his excellent books The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy and Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where it Comes From.


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