The Financial Times editorializes on the aftermath of the Walt/Mearsheimer paper.
On various counts, this is a shame and a self-inflicted wound no society built on freedom should allow. Honest and informed debate is the foundation of freedom and progress and a precondition of sound policy. It is, to say the least, odd when dissent in such a central area of policy is forced offshore or reduced to the status of samizdat. Some of Israel’s loudest cheerleaders, moreover, are often divorced by their extremism from the mainstream of American Jewish opinion and the vigorous debate that takes place inside Israel. As Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, remarked in Haaretz about the Walt-Mearsheimer controversy: “It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here were exported over there [the US].”
Nothing, moreover, is more damaging to US interests than the inability to have a proper debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how Washington should use its influence to resolve it, and how best America can advance freedom and stability in the region as a whole. Bullying Americans into a consensus on Israeli policy is bad for Israel and makes it impossible for America to articulate its own national interest.
This seems to me to draw a good and important analogy. The internal Israeli debate, for all its faults, is vigorous and real. There’s no similar debate happening in the US, nor is there likely to be one anytime soon if the response to the Mearsheimer/Walt piece tells us anything. Some of the critiques of the piece seemed to me to be useful (and indeed sound); but they’ve effectively been drowned out by diatribes like this one from the Anti-Defamation League which accuses Mearsheimer and Walt of engaging in “classical conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis.”
I’m opening this up to comments – but on the condition that these comments remain civil, respectful of opposing viewpoints and on-topic (and I’ll vigorously delete comments which fail to measure up to my doubtless idiosyncratic definitions of these terms).
Update: Matt articulates what should become known as Yglesias’ Law.
any conversation that starts with the question of America’s Israel policy all-but-inevitably turns into a conversation about Israel’s Palestinian policy.