April 26, 2006

Some common sense

From the Washington Post:

No, It's Not Anti-Semitic

By Richard Cohen

During the Jim Crow era, many American communists fiercely fought racism. This is a fact. It is also a fact that segregationists and others often smeared civil rights activists by calling them communists. This technique is sometimes called guilt by association and sometimes "McCarthyism." If you think it's dead, you have not been following the controversy over a long essay about the so-called "Israel Lobby."

On April 5, for instance, The Post ran an op-ed, "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic," by Eliot A. Cohen, a professor at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a respected defense intellectual. Cohen does not much like a paper on the Israel lobby that was written by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University. He found it anti-Semitic. I did not.

But I did find Cohen's piece to be offensive. It starts by noting that the paper, titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," had been endorsed by David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan. It goes on to quote Duke, who, I am sure, has nodded his head in agreement over the years with an occasional piece of mine, as saying the paper is a "modern Declaration of American Independence." If you follow Cohen's reasoning, then you would have to conclude that David Duke and the Founding Fathers have something in common. I am not, as they say, willing to go there.

Unfortunately, Cohen's piece is not unique. The New York Sun reported on its front page of March 24 an allegation from Alan Dershowitz that some of the quotes from the Israel lobby paper "appear on hate sites." Maybe they do, but Mearsheimer and Walt took those quotes (about press coverage of Israel) from a book written by Max Frankel, a former editor of the New York Times. To associate Mearsheimer and Walt with hate groups is rank guilt by association and does not in any way rebut the argument made in their paper on the Israel lobby...

My own reading of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper found it unremarkable, a bit sloppy and one-sided (nothing here about the Arab oil lobby), but nothing that even a casual newspaper reader does not know. Its basic point -- that Israel's American supporters have immense influence over U.S. foreign policy -- is inarguable. After all, President Bush has just recently given Israel NATO-like status without so much as a murmur from Congress. "I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel," Bush said. This was the second or third time he's made this pledge, crossing a line that previous administrations would not -- in effect, promulgating a treaty seemingly on the spot. No other country gets this sort of treatment.

Israel's special place in U.S. foreign policy is deserved, in my view, and not entirely the product of lobbying. Israel has earned it, and isn't there something bracing about a special relationship that is not based on oil or markets or strategic location but on shared values? (A bit now like Britain.) But I can understand how foreign policy "realists" such as Mearsheimer and Walt might question its utility and not only think that a bit too much power is located in a specific lobby but that it is rarely even discussed...

An abridged version of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper was published by the London Review of Books and is available online at http://www.lrb.co.uk . Read it and decide for yourself whether it is anti-Semitic. Whatever the case, their argument is hardly rebutted by purple denunciations and smear tactics. Rather than being persuasive, Mearsheimer and Walt's more hysterical critics suggest by their extreme reactions that the duo is on to something. These tactics by Israel's friends sully Israel's good name more than Mearsheimer and Walt ever could.

Personally, I don't find America's special relationship with Israel all that bad for America. No matter what our relationship with Israel, we'd have lots of problems with the Arabs anyway, because they are Arabs. As I've said several times, the more America stays out of the Middle East, the more we can afford to indulge Israel. But the more we get involved on the ground in Arab countries, and thus become more dependent on not offending Arab popular prejudices, the more our soft spot for Israel becomes excessively expensive. The American Republic could afford favoring Israel, but the American Empire cannot.

Ironically, the chief cheerleaders for an American Empire have also been the chief cheerleaders for Likud, which says a lot about their strategic acumen.

Perhaps we should outsource our foreign policy-making to Israel, because Israeli governments often possess a hard-headed realism that we frequently lack. The Israeli government was a lot less enthusiastic about our Iraq Attaq than the civilians in the Pentagon. It's hard to imagine a Douglas Feith, for example, rising to such a crucial position in an Israeli government. For all his flaws (such as the tendency for massacres to happen on his watch), Ariel Sharon was a great man and a realist. Feith is a fool and a fantasist.

No, the real problem has been twofold: First, Iraq policy has been made not by Israelis but by Israeli-wannabes in Washington, not all of whom are Jewish. As Francis Fukuyama pointed out in The National Interest when Charles Krauthammer implied he was anti-Semitic:

"What I said in my critique of [Krauthammer's] speech was, of course, quite different. I said that there was a very coherent set of strategic ideas that have come out of Israel's experience dealing with the Arabs and the world community, having to do with threat perception, preemption, the relative balance of carrots and sticks to be used in dealing with the Arabs, the United Nations, and the like. Anyone who has dealt with the Arab-Israeli conflict understands these ideas, and many people (myself included) believe that they were well suited to Israel's actual situation. You do not have to he Jewish to understand or adopt these ideas as your own, which is why people like Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld share them. And it is not so hard to understand how one's experience of Arab-Israeli politics can come to color one's broader view of the world: The 1975 "Zionism is racism" resolution deeply discredited the UN, in the eyes of Jews and non-Jews alike, on issues having nothing to do with the Middle East. This is not about Judaism; it is about ideas. It would be quite disingenuous of Charles Krauthammer to assert that his view of how Israel needs to deal with the Arabs (that is, the testicular route to hearts and minds) has no impact on the way he thinks the United States should deal with them. And it is perfectly legitimate to ask whether this is the best way for the United States to proceed."

Second, you have to be very brave or very secure in your job or very Jewish to point out these facts.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

"often smeared civil rights activists by calling them communists"

But some civil-rights activists actually were communists, just as some critics of the Israeli lobby actually are anti-Jewish in general.

Anonymous said...

"nothing here about the Arab oil lobby"

I think a work comparing and contrasting the two, their different and similar practices, the relative influence of each at different times over US foreign & domestic policy, would be fascinating. While presented as natural rivals, at times their interests seem to coincide, as in pushing for unrestricted third-world immigration.