An updated version of a sorry phenomenon

A few days ago, Scott commented on “the return of Walt and Mearsheimer.” These are the two professors, one from Harvard and one from the University of Chicago, who posit that the pro-Israel lobby has skewed American foreign policy making, and consequently jeopardized American national security. They claim that the Jewish lobby was crucial in pushing the U.S. into invading Iraq (even though Iran, not Iraq has long been Israel’s main concern); has induced the U.S. to sustain a partnership with Israel that is prompting terrorism against American interests (even though Islamic terrorists often target nations who have no “partnership” with Israel); and has badly undermined US relations with Iran for the past 15 years (even though the U.S. always has bad relations with expansionist authoritarian regimes, especially ones that are openly hostile towards us and that sponsor, and even participate in, attacks against us).
Now the Jerusalem Post has weighed in on Walt and Mearsheimer’s new book. They point to clear shortcomings in the integrity of the work, such as the authors’ attempt to fault Israel for the failure of the 2000 Camp David attempt at Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Walt and Mearsheimer apparently use selective quotations from Israel’s foreign minister that distort his actual views. At the same time, they ignore the views of senior Arafat aide Nabil Amr who wrote an open letter to Arafat, publicly assailing him for having rejected the opportunity of a deal with the Barak government. I’d mention that President Clinton also blamed Arafat, except that Walt and Mearsheimer would probably counter that Clinton is a captive of the Jewish lobby, perhaps citing Clinton’s friendship with certain Jews, or maybe a second cousin who married a Jew. As Ira Stoll noted in the New York Sun, Walt and Mearsheimer argue that Howard Dean is a supporter of Israel in part on the basis that Dean’s wife is Jewish and his children were raised Jewish as well.
Walt and Mearsheimer believe that a conspiracy theory is required to explain why, for example, the U.S. is partial to Israel instead of Iran. But shouldn’t it be sufficient simply to note that (1) Israel consistently cooperates with us; that it stands against terrorism; and that it shares nearly all of our values, including equality, democracy, and opposition to misogyny and theocratic government, while (2) Iran enforces fundamentalist Islam at home and seeks to export it overseas; denies basic rights to its own people; funds and trains and indoctrinates terrorists; and seeks the expansion of its hegemonic Islamist vision?
The answer does not necessarily consist of anti-Semitism on the part of Walt and Mearsheimer. It may simply be the case that they possess insufficient respect for the mutually held values of the U.S. and Israel, too much sympathy for anti-U.S. ideologues, and a strong propensity to favor appeasement. This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that high-profile professors have held these sorts of sentiments. Throughout the last century, there were always academics who had difficulty understanding how anything other than some insidious force could impel us to oppose the expansionist designs of fascist or communist interests. Walt and Mearsheimer appear to be an updated version of this sorry phenomenon.
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