[This review by Bill Weinberg is from the WW4 Report, a good read for those interested in the “three way fight” perspective i.e. anti-state, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-totalitarian. While I don’t agree with the perspective they certainly are not useful idiots and fellow travelers, unlike most of the radical left these days.]
The Mearshimer Walt Thesis Deconstructed
By Bill Weinberg, WW4 Report
The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy is this month to be released as a book—for which authors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt are said to have received a $750,000 advance from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. On this occasion, we present again the critique we ran last year of the work as it appeared in Middle East Policy Journal, then the latest version. This time the writer, who used the pseudonym “William X,” reveals himself as WW4 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg
The lengthy essay entitled “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” first appeared in the London Review of Books in March 2006, against a backdrop of fast-escalating carnage in Iraq and renewed Israeli aggression in the Occupied Territories. It immediately sparked an outrage. Here a view long consigned to the left and right fringe—that the Israeli “tail wags the dog” of US foreign policy—was being voiced by thoroughly mainstream scholars. The authors were John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago professor and author of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, and Stephen Walt, academic dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy. An expanded version was posted on the Working Paper website of the Kennedy School.
By the end of March, Harvard had announced it was removing its logo from the study. It also appended a harshly worded disclaimer to the study, stating that it “does not necessarily” reflect the views of the university. The semi-retraction came after much protest from both the mainstream and Jewish press. Finally, the Kennedy School announced that Walt would step down as academic dean at the end of June, although he would stay on as a professor.
Yet a third version of “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” appears in the Fall 2006 issue of the journal Middle East Policy, this time with additional material addressing the criticisms. In the introduction, the authors state they are also preparing a detailed “Response to Our Critics,” adding that they have been “struck by how weak and ill-founded” many of the criticisms have been.
What Mearsheimer and Walt (hereafter M&W) refer to as “the lobby” is not only the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), but a wider ideological complex of allied organizations, prominently including the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), and the Israel on Campus Coalition
The controversy around the essay indicates how nearly all ideological struggle is narrowing to a clash of conservatisms. The opposition to M&W has come overwhelmingly from the Zionist right, which holds the upper hand in the Bush administration. M&W themselves subscribe to an American nationalist right position with overtones of xenophobia and (however much the charge has been abused) anti-Semitism. Ominously, even the anti-war “left” is increasingly lining up with the latter conservatism. There has been practically no effort to critique the essay from a position which is anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist, but also sensitive to anti-Semitism. The degree to which such perspectives have been sidelined is especially dangerous given how Israel replicates the historical cycles of Jewish scapegoating by serving as imperialism’s proxy.