Last Word on Mearsheimer/Walt

by Henry on April 17, 2006

I don’t have much more to say about the Mearsheimer/Walt controversy, but I do want to point readers to this blogpost by Jacob Levy, who has resumed occasional blogging at his old Blogspot account. Jacob’s critique seems to me to have Mearsheimer and Walt dead to rights – while I don’t believe that Mearsheimer and Walt are guilty of anti-Semitism, I do think that their argument is fundamentally flawed, as Jacob illustrates at length.

The core of the paper’s difficulty has little to do with Israel or Jews and a great deal to do with its core purpose. M&W are committed to the neorealist view that powerful states act in their security interest. They’re also, independently, committed to opposition to the Iraq War and to what they see as U.S. overreach in the Middle East; they think that the U.S. does not effectively pursue its security interests in the region. So there’s a puzzle, an anomaly—of their own making. If you are both committed to a predictive theory and committed to an interpretation of a particular case by which it falsifies your theory, then there’s a puzzle for your views, but not yet a puzzle about the world. They proceed to address this puzzle with a slippery—I do not say sloppy—ambiguity between explanatory and evaluative claims.

The mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest to bring it about.

This is, I think, the worst paragraph of political science I’ve read in many years. The best, most-justified policies don’t automatically spring into being at the end of the policy-making process. An all-things-considered judgment that X is the best policy is essentially irrelevant to one’s ability to predict whether or not X will be adopted. … The snarky way to put it is: M&W treat their say-so about strategic and moral considerations as if it was naturally entitled to such overwhelming political deference that the fact that the polity hasn’t accepted their say-so is deeply anomalous. The probably-fairer way to put it is: M&W proceed as if the political system has some very strong natural tendency to reach true beliefs and justified policies about strategy and morality—such a strong tendency that, if it fails in some case, there must be an unusual explanation, such as an unusually intense and effective Lobby that includes people willing to deliberately place the interests of a foreign power over that of their own country, and that includes powerful politicians, media figures, and so on who can make their preferred policies come about.

NB – comments that veer into general discussion of the Israel/Palestine debate will be ruthlessly expunged as soon as I see them.

{ 47 comments }

1

Farrold 04.17.06 at 2:43 am

Regarding the Middle East and policy preferences of the US polity, two facts are widely known:

1) Most of the US public is ignorant regarding foreign affairs and apathetic unless the US is at war.

2) A substantial portion of the Republican electoral base consists of fundamentalists who believe that the Rapture will be the most wonderful event of their lives, and (of course) that the Rapture will occur in conjunction with Armageddon.

Putting these together, a surprisingly large portion of the Republican electorate that cares about foreign affairs (beyond the current war) has a special, passionate, personal interest. They long for Armageddon, a war involving Israel, which must therefore continue to exist.

(I make no claim of novelty in this observation.)

2

abb1 04.17.06 at 4:38 am

Jacob Levy’s analysis may be quite correct in abstract, however it (at least in the quote above) obviously fails to find an alternative explanation for or justify the particular phenomenon M&W wrote about.

Any sane person call tell you that US unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest; it’s no more controversial than “earth isn’t flat”. Overanalyzing one out of context phrase doesn’t rebuff anything or prove anything, it sounds like another futile exercise in attacking the messenger without addressing the issue.

If you want to demonstrate that what they call “the Lobby” is a wrong explanation of the phenomenon, then provide an alternative explanation (as Mr. Chomsky does, for example); but implying as you do (at least in the quote above) that the current US-Israel policy is not absurd, not clearly absurd? – that’s just silly, sorry.

3

Brendan 04.17.06 at 4:55 am

A key test case for any neo-realist (or for that matter, vulgar Marxist, along the lines of ‘cui bono?’) analysis would see to me to be the situation in Northern Ireland. Certain after about 1975 it was not in Britain’s financial interest to hold on to Northern Ireland and yet it did so. Nor were there any particular strategic or other benefits.

It seems to me that Israel is in a very similar situation to Northern Ireland vis a vis the United States and to simply hunt around and look for ‘the answer’ as to why the US supports it and then reveal it to be ‘the lobby’ is absurdly simplistic.

4

Kevin Donoghue 04.17.06 at 5:18 am

Any sane person call tell you that US unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest; it’s no more controversial than “earth isn’t flat”.

Actually, abb1, it’s highly controversial, unless you put so much stress on the word “unconditional” that you turn it into a tautology: to support Israel to such an extent as to harm American interests is not in America’s interest. Short of that, it is easy to make a case for supporting Israel. If America wants to have the option of fighting the entire Arab world, for example, it is surely nice to know that there is a small patch of ground which can be used as a bridgehead. Old-style realists like Bonaparte would see that in a flash.

That’s Mearsheimer’s problem, actually. He is committed to the idea that America cannot dominate distant lands because of the “stopping power of water” which plays a big part in his thinking (I don’t know about Walt’s).

5

Aidan Kehoe 04.17.06 at 5:28 am

If America wants to have the option of fighting the entire Arab world, for example, …

Now that’s absurd.

6

abb1 04.17.06 at 5:30 am

Well, one of the reasons governments choose to hold on to their colonies is prestige. You don’t want to be perceived as weak, because if you are, the others will rip you into pieces (see the latest episode of The Sopranos): show weakness in N.Ireland and you’ll have problems in other places (Falklands?).

I don’t see how US-Israel fits the bill here.

7

abb1 04.17.06 at 5:41 am

If America wants to have the option of fighting the entire Arab world, for example

That’s Chomsky’s hypothesis, right? – the US needs Israel to fight Arab nationalism, right?

I don’t get it, isn’t the (easily predictable) result exactly the opposite: stronger nationalism, radicalization, higher degree of unity among Arabs?

8

Aidan Kehoe 04.17.06 at 5:45 am

Look, it’s not in the interests of the US to have majorities of every Arab country hate it. Their current hate is a result, mostly, of the current unconditional support of the US for Israel. Before that was in place, that hate didn’t exist, and indeed the US was liked in the Arab world, following the Suez crisis. Now, I don’t say that reacting more strongly than saying “tsk, tsk” when Israel uses US-supplied Apache helicopters for assasination politics, and automatic rifles against stone-throwing teenagers; when it uses US-supplied F-16s against poverty-stricken, populated areas would change that quickly, too much trust has been lost.

But with time, and done consistently–and note that Israel doesn’t need the US’s political support, and the arms and funding are guaranteed since the end of the seventies anyway, since when Egypt has got them too–the hatred for the US would abate, and with no damage to the US’ national interest.

9

Tracy W 04.17.06 at 6:10 am

The mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest to bring it about.

“The mere existance of the environmental movement suggests that unconditional support for the environment is not in American national interset. If it was, one would not need an organised special interest to bring it about. “

“The mere existance of teachers unions suggests that unconditional support for public education is not in American national interset. If it was, one would not need an organised special interest to bring it about. “

(Well, thanks to my training, I compulsively say that “unconditional support” for anything is not in the national interest. But then I am confident that if the Israeli government decided to at all costs end US support of themselves, they could come up with a way.)

10

otto 04.17.06 at 6:34 am

This phrase was in fact discussed in an earlier CT thread on M/W.
1. It’s axiomatic that looking at policy production from a pluralist standpoint that the lobby interest officials in particular issue areas can be seen as determining the result regardless of the costs imposed on wider civil society. If there was a French policy decision to raise agricultural prices (as there is almost every day!), made by decision-makers personally affiliated to the French agricultural lobby, in the context of vote- and support- seeking from French farmers, you’d be laughed off the APSA/ECPR conference schedule for suggesting that the farm lobby was not driving French policy.
2. Exactly the same applies to the Israel lobby or lobbies in the United States in relation to ME decision-making, including in relation to the Iraq war, including in relation to the upcoming conflict with Iran.
3. “M&W treat their say-so about strategic and moral considerations as if it was naturally entitled to such overwhelming political deference that the fact that the polity hasn’t accepted their say-so is deeply anomalous” To the contrary , they argue (what’s this ‘say so’) that particular actions by Israel are morally unjustified (vis racist settler colonialism in and around Jerusalem) and impose negative externalities on American politics and society.
4. They suggest that the reason that “the fact that the polity hasn’t accepted their say-so” is the massive voting-, financial- and media- campaigns by a sectional group. If JL doen’t think such a thing is possible, then it’s he who needs to take his political science general examinations one more time.
5. You dont have to be a neo-realist to believe any of this. The author’s general theoretical affiliation is a red herring here. (Except in as much as this article might suggest to them that their earlier work should take more seriously the fact that policy is driven by powerful social groups and not balance of power considerations).

11

Iron Lungfish 04.17.06 at 6:43 am

How is unconditional support for any country in America’s interest? Even America’s closest allies have a host of divergent goals and foreign policy interests which frequently clash with America’s own, and this is certainly and obviously true of Israel. And even if America’s support for Israel isn’t quite “unconditional,” it’s certainly close enough for America to have made plenty of boneheaded moves throughout the mideast while bending over backward for another government that still actively spies on and occasionally sells out the United States.

12

Kevin Donoghue 04.17.06 at 6:54 am

The authors’ general theoretical affiliation is a red herring here.

I don’t see how it can be, since it is their theory which pushes them to their conclusion. If they could accept “that policy is driven by powerful social groups and not balance of power considerations” then they wouldn’t have a puzzle to deal with. They would simply conclude that it was in the interest of a powerful group to invade Iraq, so Iraq was invaded. I suggest we just accept the fact that M & W call themselves realists (of a particular variety). So if we are to discuss their argument on their terms, we can ignore certain assumptions which normal, decent people tend to accept and which realists (of all varieties) reject.

One of these assumptions (see Aidan’s comment) is that it matters whether people love or hate America. In the world of the realists, states attack you if it is in their interest to do so. Public opinion can be manipulated if necessary. Yes, the US was liked in the Arab world, following the Suez crisis. But President Bismarck wouldn’t have set much store by that. (You can usually get a pretty good idea how a realist sees a situation by asking what President Bismarck would have said; it’s all about blood and iron.) He would have been right, since affection for America didn’t stop Egypt and Syria from trying to intimidate Israel when they thought they could get away with it in 1967. Subsequent American support for Israel didn’t unite them, as abb1 would have it; in fact it helped to divide them.

13

otto 04.17.06 at 8:53 am

The important question is, Is US policy on the ME, including the invasion of Iraq, driven by a powerful social group, i.e. the Israel lobby (lobbies etc)? That’s the only interesting question, and M/W provide alot of evidence, in line with other political science research on the role of organised sectional interests, for why this should be the case.

There is a different question, completely unimportant by comparison, which is what do M/Ws analysis tell us about M and W’s previous work, the state of realism, international relations theory etc. I dont know anyone who cares about this compared to the former question. As indicated, it is not at all “their theory which pushes them to their conclusion”, on the contrary other IR theories would push them rather more quickly to their conclusion than realism.

14

abb1 04.17.06 at 9:05 am

Kevin, I don’t think it’s true that American support for Israel divided Egypt and Syria.

Yes, the US maintains expensive client regime in Egypt, but it seems to me the American support for Israel is not a prerequisite for having a client regime in Egypt; the American support for Israel is the reason this client regime is so expensive.

And I suspect post-9/11 even Mr. Bismarck would be reluctant to make an outright claim that strong public resentment is irrelevant; we all noticed that now a few determined people not connected to any state can kill thousands and cause trillions dollars loss in the economy. Being a realist doesn’t necessarily means being stupid.

15

luc 04.17.06 at 9:12 am

I don’t see how it can be, since it is their theory which pushes them to their conclusion.

Either that, or it their conclusions that leads them to their theory. They didn’t invent their theories by eating cheese. And it is not that they have claimed that their (neo) realism is infallible and the one and only complete truth.

The first point of the quoted part of Levi is:

M&W are committed to the neorealist view that powerful states act in their security interest. They’re also, independently, committed to opposition to the Iraq War and to what they see as U.S. overreach in the Middle East;

Levy is obviously wrong here because these views aren’t independent, and this then leads to a strange and contorted discourse about the “core purpose”, different then the stated purpose, of the M&W article.

I don’t think this gets you anywhere. I could as well say that the “core purpose” of Levy is to undermine M&W because in his view supporting Israel is in the interest of the US.

The conclusions of M&W contain the point that there should be debate about this issue. Not that we should all slavishly adhere to the neo realists’ reality. Given their sometimes moral free discourse about war I would certainly not do that.

16

Kevin Donoghue 04.17.06 at 10:05 am

Otto:As indicated, it is not at all “their theory which pushes them to their conclusion”, on the contrary other IR theories would push them rather more quickly to their conclusion than realism.

That’s a fair point, I definitely shouldn’t have said that. Better to say that their theory (or at least the version Mearsheimer expounded in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics) is contradicted by the facts and that’s what they are wrestling with. Putting it another way, it is their anxiety to rescue their theory which is pushing them. Actually I think M/W are snookered: either states are not rational in pursuit of their interests, or it was in America’s interest to invade Iraq. I don’t think we can rule out the second possibility. That’s not to say that the invasion was justified, only that more bloody-minded realists than M/W could easily argue that it was. However, to make that case one would have to be prepared to argue for a prolonged military presence, irrespective of Iraqi wishes, and maybe an attack on Iran to consolidate America’s gains. To me that seems evil, but realism certainly doesn’t preclude evil behaviour.

abb1:I don’t think it’s true that American support for Israel divided Egypt and Syria.

It gave Sadat an excuse to make peace. After the 1973 war he argued that Egypt couldn’t hope to defeat Israel as long as Israel had US backing. As to the cost to America of propping up Egyptian leaders, it’s peanuts.

And I suspect post-9/11 even Mr. Bismarck would be reluctant to make an outright claim that strong public resentment is irrelevant; we all noticed that now a few determined people not connected to any state can kill thousands and cause trillions dollars loss in the economy.

After 9/11, Rumsfeld wanted to ignore Afghanistan and attack Iraq. Don’t you see a certain logic to that? Bismarck would have; OBL evidently did. Relative to America’s population and the size of the economy, 9/11 was a pinprick. If security = power, then the important thing is to control (directly or indirectly) the parts of the globe that matter.

17

abb1 04.17.06 at 10:33 am

OK, Kevin, whatever. You’re one of the smartest guys around here, and if you think the current US-Israel policy can be viewed as pragmatic, then that’s it; I must be wrong.

18

otto 04.17.06 at 10:50 am

Maybe we should have a CT seminar on M/W with M&W participating like the other CT seminars?

19

Scott Lemieux 04.17.06 at 11:22 am

“They suggest that the reason that “the fact that the polity hasn’t accepted their say-so” is the massive voting-, financial- and media- campaigns by a sectional group. If JL doen’t think such a thing is possible, then it’s he who needs to take his political science general examinations one more time.”

This is an obvious misreading of Levy’s argument. He’s not saying that it’s not theoretically possible that a sectional interest group triumph politically over a diffuse majority. What he’s saying is that M/W don’t have anything like the necessary evidence in this case. (Levy explicitly notes that some research by interest group scholars have reached conlusions congenial to M/W’s conclusions, but that others don’t, and M/W have nothing useful to say about why the latter are wrong.) Most importantly, as he points out, you can’t explain a variance with a contstant. M/W don’t have an argument about that; rather, as Levy points out they argue that the policy is irrational because is disagrees with their own normative judgments. But this is obviously beside the point; what matters for the emppirical argument is not whether M/W think the policy is irrational, but whether people with decision-making authority in the American government think it’s irrational.

20

Anthony Greco 04.17.06 at 11:34 am

I agree with some of the previous commenters that M&W’s critics have seized on some of their relatively minor misstatements, or on their theoretical orientation, as red herrings to avoid the real issues that M&W raise. You don’t have to be a realist to argue that (1) the U.S. has been a strong partisan of Israel in that country’s ongoing dispute with the Palestinians (2) the U.S. pro-Israel partisanship is neither in this country’s interest nor morally justified and (3) that partisanship can in large part be explained by the remarkable amount of influence achieved in the U.S. by that constellation of forces they have labeled, as a convenient shorthand, the “Israel Lobby.” No one seems inclined seriously to challenge the first point. The second is, indeed, arguable. But I don’t see how anyone with a pretense to objectivity can deny the third. Please: can anyone who questions the influence of the Israel Lobby tell me how he explains how the U.S. Congress, with virtual unanimity (two dissenting votes in the Senate, 20-something in the House) passed a resolution, unsought by the Administration, which in essence said that Ariel Sharon could do anything he damn well pleased to crush the Intifada, and gave no recognition whatsoever to Palestinian grievances. A resolution that appalled Israeli moderates like Shimon Peres. Such a resolution could not have approached majority support—let alone near-unanimity—in any other national parliament in the world. How do you explain it?

Also, I have to comment on Henry’s completely inadequate statement “…while I don’t believe that Walt and Mearsheimer are guilty of anti-Semitism…” The imputation of anti-semitism to W&M is an odious if all too familiar attempt to stifle debate. To even suggest that anti-semitism is a respectable explanation of W&M’s views is reprehensible.

21

abb1 04.17.06 at 12:03 pm

I think both M&W and People With Decision-Making Authority assume that the policy is rational; what M&W are saying is that you have to introduce “the Lobby” factor to explain how it becomes rational. To refute M&W’s hypothesis you have to explain why this policy is rational with the absence of “the Lobby”; it has to be something along the lines of Chomsky, Kevin Donoghue and Brendan.

But even if you can come up with a plausible explanation I don’t think it can fully explain totalitarian style of rhetoric on the issue: in the US congress one can question ‘free trade’, one can question capitalism, one can hate apple pie, but one can’t question support for Israel.

22

Jonathan Edelstein 04.17.06 at 12:16 pm

Several people on this thread (and elsewhere) have advanced the theory that American support for Israel is contrary to the national interest because it is effectively “unconditional.” This argument is hampered somewhat by the lack of clarity as to what “unconditional” means, but based on context, I’d guess that “unconditional support” means “failure to punish and/or withdraw support from Israel when it Does Bad Things.” This proposition is only partially true, and the areas in which it isn’t true suggest an alternative formulation of the United States’ interests vis-a-vis Israel.

It’s certainly true that the United States hasn’t withdrawn its support from Israel over human rights issues. This policy is morally debatable but unremarkable, given that the United States rarely concerns itself with its allies/clients’ human rights records or their participation in regional conflicts (see, e.g., Turkey vis-a-vis Cyprus, UK/Northern Ireland or Indonesia/West Papua). However, defining the proposition solely in terms of human rights isn’t the whole picture. The United States has sanctioned Israel multiple times, most recently this year, but it has done so over arms sales to undesirable end users (usually China) rather than policy toward the Palestinians.

In other words, the United States can and does punish Israel for acting against American interests, but defines these interests in terms of “controlling the flow of advanced weapons to potential enemies” rather than “advancing the cause of Palestinian statehood.” It’s possible to extrapolate this into a plausible national interest calculation: the United States has an interest in (1) having unrestricted access to the Israeli military and high-tech R & D pipeline and (2) being able to veto the use of that pipeline (and its products) by any unacceptable third party. The United States also has an interest, upon which it occasionally acts, in (3) restraining Israeli military operations enough to prevent the Palestinian conflict from spreading outside the region, but if it pushes too hard on (3), it might jeopardize (1) and (2), and American security planners could conceivably believe that (1) and (2) are more important.

I’m not saying they do think so, because I don’t have the evidence to prove it one way or another. Proving this hypothesis or ruling it out would require rigorous study. I do, however, think that Mearsheimer and Walt’s failure to discuss this possibility, and to balance the detrimental consequences of the American-Israeli alliance with the tangible benefits, points to something missing in their argument. It also suggests that they were working under at least two unexamined assumptions: that the United States realizes no tangible benefits from the alliance, and that the American national interest vis-a-vis Israel can be defined solely in terms of the global impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don’t think either of these assumptions stands up to scrutiny, and without accounting for them, Mearsheimer and Walt haven’t proven their case.

23

FTreader 04.17.06 at 12:50 pm

Re 20.

Indeed. Contrast the deafening silence in the NYT about the M&W paper (and, allegedly, its rejection by the Atlantic Monthly leaving to the LRB to publish it in the first place) to the readiness of the FT to editorialise on the topic, run articles on its op-ed page as well as many letters to the editor.

Agree or disagree with what has appeared in the FT, but isn’t it a problem when something like the M&W paper and the debate it has engendered is virtually taboo in the MSM in the States (and wasn’t that one on of the problems they touched on, by the way?). It is all well and good for us to debate it in blogland but without full and frank discussion of the US/Israel relationship in political, educational and media arenas it isn’t possible for the vast majority Americans who wish to have a view to form one based on anything like informed consent.

24

abb1 04.17.06 at 1:12 pm

It’s much more that Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it used to be an Israeli-Arab conflict and more recently it’s grown into full-blown Israeli-Islam conflict; not to mention a small matter of Israeli-UN/GA conflict (pretty much all states that experienced colonialism and imperialism). When the cost of your policy is the intense hatred by at least a quarter of the world’s population, then on the benefit’s end it better be some very amazing R & D pipeline.

25

FTreader 04.17.06 at 1:29 pm

In my posting above I mistakenly referred to a “deafening silence” in the NYT about the M&W paper. This is, of course, was incorrect. An article about it entitled “Essay Stirs Debate About Influence of a Jewish Lobby” was indeed published in the paper on April 12, 2006. It concluded with “Honestly, one of the things I found distasteful is the pose of martyrdom,” Dr. Cohen of Johns Hopkins said. “Nothing is going to happen to them, nor should it.”

Dr. Cohen had previously, as it happens, had written an article that appeared in the WaPo on April 5, 2006 in which he declaims that:“Why, yes, this paper [i.e. the W&M paper] is anti-Semitic.”

I guess W&S got off lucky.

26

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.17.06 at 1:32 pm

“Their [people in the Middle East]current hate is a result, mostly, of the current unconditional support of the US for Israel.”

That isn’t obvious at all. For example, their current hate could be because we turned back Saddam on Kuwait and then kept him contained with sanctions which he used as propaganda (starving widows etc). It could be because Saudi Arabia asked us to have some troops on their soil in response to fear of Saddam. It could be because they fear the promiscuous temptation of our culture.

27

abb1 04.17.06 at 1:56 pm

comment deleted.

28

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.17.06 at 2:05 pm

Hey if you think the parallel between Kuwait and Palestine is a good one, I really can’t be bothered to argue with you unless you can draw it out a lot better. That isn’t likely without drawing down the wrath of Henry so let us put it off to another day.

Suffice to say:

The US support for Israel has never been unconditional;

It is not debatable whether support for Israel is against the US interest;

The simultaneous existance of a lobby and an implemented policy which it generally agrees with does not prove (or in our current system even tend to strongly suggest) that lobby influence controls the outcome of the policy choice.

29

abb1 04.17.06 at 2:23 pm

comment deleted

30

Jonathan Edelstein 04.17.06 at 2:35 pm

When the cost of your policy is the intense hatred by at least a quarter of the world’s population, then on the benefit’s end it better be some very amazing R & D pipeline.

A couple of people in a position to know have told me that it is pretty amazing, but I can’t identify them, so you’re free to reject their assessment. My main point, though, is that Mearsheimer and Walt don’t even discuss the R & D benefits to the extent necessary to rule them out. They don’t engage in any real cost-benefit analysis of the American-Israeli alliance, because they seem to take it on faith that there are no tangible benefits. This is demonstrably not so. There’s plenty of room to argue that the costs outweigh the benefits, but a national-interest analysis that leaves the benefits out is neither rigorous nor complete.

Speaking of costs, BTW, I’d appreciate some empirical evidence that the United States’ Israel policy has resulted in the “intense hatred [of] at least a quarter of the world’s population,” or that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has morphed into an Israel-Islam or Israel-GA conflict. As far as I’m aware, relevant surveys suggest that the I-P conflict one of several factors that influences perceptions of the United States in the Muslim world, and not necessarily the decisive one. If anything, Iraq would seem to be the largest negative, although I’m willing to be proven wrong.

31

ftReader 04.17.06 at 2:59 pm

Henry,

Very disappointed that you saw fit to delete my posts and not because I wanted to see my name up in bright lights but rather because it seems symptomatic of how we have gotten ourselves into such a pickle on this issue.
Regards,
David

32

soru 04.17.06 at 3:06 pm

I tend to think the simplest explanation is this:

1. there is enough support and sympathy for Israelis in the USA to make it impossible to ignore genocide, ethnic cleansing, or credible accusations of those, if perpetrated on Israelis.

2. in the most benevolent possible assessment of Palestinian/Arab motives and capabilities, if they took over Israel there would be plenty of scope for such accusations.

3. Fighting a war with a large proportion of the Arab world, at a time of the latter’s choosing, is not in US’s strategic interests, to put it mildly. Especially given the quantity of high-tech weaponry Saudi Arabia has been sold by the west.

4. As long as Israel is strong, such a thing won’t happen.

One question I’ve never seen answered. It seems to me Israel’s real security needs could be met by NATO membership, and that would on the face of it be an inducement big enough to get it to concede whatever settlement withdrawls etc. are felt necessary. But I’ve never seen that seriously suggested as a possible solution.

Who vetos such discussion, the Israels, the Europeans, or the Americans?

33

abb1 04.17.06 at 3:23 pm

What’s wrong with my comment 24? I said that the resentment for the Gulf war and Iraqi sanctions can be traced to US-Israel policy as well. It’s a fact and it’s relevant.

34

rollo 04.17.06 at 4:52 pm

It’s certainly much easier to debate these things around ideas of “national interest” than around something so evanescent as moral principle. But then without moral principle national interest takes on the character of a buzzing insect hive more than the vivid aspirations of human beings.
Though you could, without an exhorbitant amount of work, make a case for the national interest being ultimately parallel to and contingent upon moral goals, even when those moral goals aren’t being fully articulated.
In fact, without that moral component, national interest seems to rest almost entirely on economic determinants. Or, in a pinch, the preservation of actual boundaries, I suppose.

.

Strict adherence to Robert’s Rules of Order has much to recommend it for the elevation of civil discourse and consequent social progress over time, but it’s useless to paramedics.
This seems apt for some reason.

35

Kieran Healy 04.17.06 at 5:07 pm

ftReader — your comments were in the moderation queue, they weren’t deleted by Henry.

36

abb1 04.17.06 at 5:51 pm

Jonathan, why not just take that whole pipe and bring it, say, to MIT by offering each one of these engineers and scientists a green card and high salary? Wouldn’t it be a much more direct and obvious way to serve American interests in this case?

37

lou reed 04.17.06 at 6:28 pm

It would clear a few things up for me if someone could make the case that feith/perle/wolfowitz etc. organised the invasion of iraq for israeli security purposes. If they thought that >

1. israel’s security is at risk from arab nations
2. invading iraq would alleviate this pressure >

then those guys are morons

as an aside, i’ve flipped through bruce lawrence’s OBL collection of public messages, and OBL is pretty clear (if you take him at face value) about what pisses him off: israeli treatment of palestinians, american sanctions on iraq, american troops in saudia, to name a few

38

Jonathan Edelstein 04.17.06 at 7:00 pm

Jonathan, why not just take that whole pipe and bring it, say, to MIT by offering each one of these engineers and scientists a green card and high salary? Wouldn’t it be a much more direct and obvious way to serve American interests in this case?

Maybe it would. There are also several reasons why it might not – for instance, the cost of paying all the engineers and rebuilding their facilities might be prohibitive as compared to letting Israel pay them and then skimming the results. (And yes, Israeli government investment in high-tech and military R & D is greater than aid received annually from the United States.)

I have no idea how the costs stack up against the benefits, though. Maybe Mearsheimer and Walt should do the math?

39

FTreader 04.18.06 at 1:37 pm

Soru,

I would argue that an Israel within pre-1967 borders would be a candidate for both NATO and EU membership.

Elegant, no?

40

soru 04.18.06 at 2:36 pm

Completely agree, especially as NATO is pretty much looking for a role these days.

I do wonder why it never gets suggested.

41

abb1 04.18.06 at 4:16 pm

Israel doesn’t normally accept any security guarantees from any third party, any state or organization. They want to be in charge of their own security, not to mention that they aren’t likely to accept any conditions that come with the membership. They always reject these propositions, as far as I know.

42

Donald Johnson 04.18.06 at 5:58 pm

That Nato membership subject to 1967 borders seems brilliant to me. Obviously someone must have thought of it before and for some reason it’s been rejected.

Kevin said somewhere above–
“It gave Sadat an excuse to make peace. After the 1973 war he argued that Egypt couldn’t hope to defeat Israel as long as Israel had US backing”

Sadat was making peace overtures in 1971, –Seymour Hersh talks about this in his Kissinger book. So does Avi Shlaim (The Iron Wall). Israel saw no reason to take Arab military power seriously post 67 and pre 73. Of course they won the latter war too, but the Arab armies performed much better and gave them a brief scare.

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Jonathan Edelstein 04.18.06 at 6:19 pm

The issue has come up for discussion a few times. My understanding is that NATO has rejected it, due to a combination of logistical reasons and reluctance to buy into a Balkan-style irredentist conflict.

But yeah, NATO and EU membership in return for the ’67 borders is a great idea.

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Henry 04.18.06 at 6:52 pm

There was discussion of the EU option by several Israeli academics, and indeed a trial balloon floated by a member of the Israeli government a few years back (albeit without any discussion of the borders issue). But yeah, I think it would be a great idea in principle (I imagine the devil would be in the details of course, but anyway). I also think it would be good for the EU – ideally, perhaps an Israel-Turkey package deal (the EU has been a Christian club for too long).

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Aidan Kehoe 04.19.06 at 2:51 am

#26:

“Their [people in the Middle East]current hate is a result, mostly, of the current unconditional support of the US for Israel.”

That isn’t obvious at all. For example, their current hate could be because we turned back Saddam on Kuwait and then kept him contained with sanctions which he used as propaganda (starving widows etc). It could be because Saudi Arabia asked us to have some troops on their soil in response to fear of Saddam. It could be because they fear the promiscuous temptation of our culture.

It predates all those things, and didn’t exist (or at least, didn’t exist with remotely the same level of vehemence) prior to explicit US support for Israel. Keep coming with the suggestions!

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Kevin Donoghue 04.19.06 at 8:05 am

Donald, I agree with you about Sadat. My point was merely that US backing for Israel made it easier for him to leave Assad in the lurch.

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Mitchell Young 04.20.06 at 1:39 pm

EU has been a Christian club for too long

Anyone who has been to Viena realizes that the concept of Europe is intimately tied to Christianity. To ‘integrate’ Turkey would destroy the very roots of the EU.

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