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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Walt and Mearsheimer's jaunt with CAIR is coming in for mixed reviews. I think the fact that liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank is panning, and the Arab press -- land of a thousand conspiracies -- is fawning tells you about all you need to know: Pronouncing Blame on the Israel Lobby

It was quite a boner.

University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer was in town yesterday to elaborate on his view that American Jewish groups are responsible for the war in Iraq, the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure and many other bad things. As evidence, he cited the influence pro-Israel groups have on "John Boner, the House majority leader."

Actually, Professor, it's "BAY-ner." But Mearsheimer quickly dispensed with Boehner (R-Ohio) and moved on to Jewish groups' nefarious sway over Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who Mearsheimer called " Von Hollen."

Such gaffes would be trivial -- if Mearsheimer weren't claiming to be an authority on Washington and how power is wielded here. But Mearsheimer, with co-author Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kennedy School, set off a furious debate this spring when they argued that "the Israel lobby" is exerting undue influence in Washington; opponents called them anti-Semitic.

Yesterday, at the invitation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), they held a forum at the National Press Club to expand on their allegations about the Israel lobby. Blurring the line between academics and activism, they accepted a button proclaiming "Fight the Israel Lobby" and won cheers from the Muslim group for their denunciation of Israel and its friends in the United States.

Whatever motivated the performance, the result wasn't exactly scholarly.

Walt singled out two Jews who worked at the Pentagon for their pro-Israel views. "People like Paul Wolfowitz or Doug Feith . . . advocate policies they think are good for Israel and the United States alike," he said. "We don't think there's anything wrong with that, but we also don't think there's anything wrong for others to point out that these individuals do have attachments that shape how they think about the Middle East."

"Attachments" sounds much better than "dual loyalties." But why single out Wolfowitz and Feith and not their non-Jewish boss, Donald Rumsfeld?

"I could have mentioned non-Jewish people like John Bolton," Walt allowed when the question was put to him...

Could've, but didn't. And that's rather the point, isn't it?

More commentary at Yourish, Captain's Quarters, LGF, Soccer Dad and Winds of Change.

Update: A reader emails:

...it really is shocking. And Milbank ain't exactly a right winger, either. He also makes a point that's so glaringly obvious, I should have noticed it myself. These two morons are political scientists specializing in international relations. As a subfield, IR is almost wholly divorced from the study of public opinion - hence its characteristicly sneering response to the meddling of unwashed masses (of any variety) in an arena best left to experts, that would function smoothly if not for the unfortunate dictates of the uneducated electorate. That much, I noticed when the article first came out. IR is divided into two groups - the theorists, who decide how things should work and then aggregate discrete events into models bearing out their claims, and the empiricists, who scrutinize the actions of the foreign policy elite to understand how and why they shape policy.

What I entirely missed, and what Milbank points out, is that listening to an IR specialist explaining the mechanics of political power and public opinion in the United States is akin to listening to a physicist explain the theory of evolution - they may be experts, but they are so far from their area of expertise, it's just absurd.




8 Comments

Who funded Walt's endowed chair for seven and a half million bucks?

Why, Jewish Harvard Law grad Robert Belfer of Enron fame.

You'd think Mr. Belfer would have some comments about the appearance of the professor he paid for with terrorist-tied CAIR? Just a short while after terrorists killed a good number of Israelis with rather indiscriminate kidnappings, murders, and unguided missiles?

Mr. Belfer, we're WAITING TO HEAR FROM YOU about the FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER you funded.

Mr. Belfer is VP of The Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Foundation Inc.,767 5th Ave., 46th Fl., New York, NY 10153. IRS filings here. Phone (212)644-2200.

Hello...Mr Belfer...WE CAN'T HEEEEEEEEEAR YOU...

I think that the IR field is all about theory. A certain amount of empiricism is always involved, as you have to support your theories. But I really think it's all theory. The major division is probably between those who emphasize quantitative approaches and formal modeling as opposed to those who don't.

And, yes, I agree that these people are probably talking outside their fields of expertise. One should ask them about their methodology. How did they come to the conclusion that the Israel lobby is particularly dangerous? What data did they use?

How do they come to the conclusion that the US wouldn't have gone to war but for the Israel lobby? Did they just confirm this opinion from interviews with like-minded Washington insiders? And how do they know that the Israel lobby is all powerful in general? Did they, for instance, posit a pattern of victories and losses that would indicate a normal level of influence? And did they then note that AIPAC's number of wins on issues (say, votes in Congress) indicated far more success than other lobbies'?

Did they explore the sources of power of the Israel lobby? When they speak of influence over legislators, how did they define or measure that influence? For instance, I remember a British professor of Middle Eastern studies mentioning how the Israel lobby had "targeted" a pro-Arab congressman who had lost an election. The way he spoke, you'd think they'd had snipers poised on nearby rooftops. Did "target" mean doing tv ads and direct-mail campaigns? Or just making a financial contribution to his opponent? Either way,the Saudis could have easily matched AIPAC dollar for dollar.

Walt and Mersheimer may in fact just be giving vent to their opinions, buttressing them with superficial knowledge and lots of anecdotes.

My impression is closer to Joanne's than to your emailer's. It's not just that Walt and Mearsheimer are out of their element in Washington -- they're ignorant of the most basic facts on *every* aspect they touch upon: diplomatic history, military history, Israeli politics and society.

For example, BTW:

“Israel had been planning to strike at Hezbollah for months,” he asserted. “Key Israelis had briefed the administration about their intentions.”

Where does this come from? Mearsheimer stammers out some nonsense about sources, but of course he's just repeating the far-left talking point of the moment. These two morons aren't even bad scholars, they're just better-credentialed-than-usual camp followers.

JSinger, Joanne have sophisticated takes on this. One of the things I like about your blog is how many of your readers are not merely indignant, but actually intelligent and with a sophisticated understanding of complex topics.

I suspect that if people with this kind of sophistication went to the learned journals and academic bookstores and started going carefully over the work of the anti-Israel experts in academia, not only the already infamous ones. but the rank-and-file signers of anti-Israel petitions tenured and not-yet-tenured, they would discover both a great deal of demonstrably bad scholarship and aome remarkably blunt Jew-hatred.

The bloggers who found all the faked and staged news photos coming out of Lebanon are real heroes. I suspect that there is more scope than you might think for people with the right kind of intellect and sophistication to comb through and expose the slanted and inferior scholarship of many anti-Israel professors.

Here are some links to the above mentioned websites (www.zombietime.com) exposing the faked, photoshopped, staged photos and fake "missle attack" on an ambulance.

The Reuters Photo Scandal
http://www.zombietime.com/reuters_photo_fraud/

The Red Cross Ambulance Incident
http://www.zombietime.com/fraud/ambulance/

milbank's misreprentation of the scholarly discussion has been appropriately exposed here:
http://www.washingtonsyndrome.com/2006/08/milbank_1.html and http://www.washingtonsyndrome.com/2006/08/milbank_vs_reality.html

Reading their actual words doesn't help sell them, I'm afraid. They just come off sounding as though they deserve the snark Milbank delivered.

Amazingly, there are people out there making a "pro-Israel" case (which W&M oppose) and many of these people make other arguements W&M also oppose. This is considered to be "undue" influence by W&M, while, presumably, if W&M could feel as though their ideas were given as much credence, that, presumably, would be "due."

W&M should spend more time making their arguments and less time whining about the unfairness of it all. The trouble is, they do about as good a job making their case in substance as they do making a case about cabals and the like, which is to say quite poorly.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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