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More Rebuttals of “The Lobby”

Norm Geras posts a letter by Profs. Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits rebutting the Walt/Mearsheimer paper. Their first point echoes Lee Smith’s argument. Their third point is equally important:

Mearsheimer and Walt stand in a long tradition of “realist” political scientists known for naivete regarding the power and import of ideological fanaticism in international affairs. This naivete is the reason that radical Islam and the enduring crises of modernization in the region that produced it receive hardly a word in their long attack.

This actually brought to mind an important point Shalom Lappin made in response to Walt and Mearsheimer (emphases mine):

I also found the article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in the LRB to be a nuanced version of Pat Buchanan’s right wing, isolationist-inspired anti-Israel polemic. Mearsheimer and Walt are apparently members of a nascent “realist” coalition of traditional conservative political thinkers coming from the general direction of the Nixon right. I found the article striking on three counts.

First, it contains no new facts or innnovative analysis. It simply appropriates the venerable slogans, half truths, and misrepresentations of the anti-Zionist left, but it tones them down and presses them into service for a realist agenda. The seamlessness and ease with which this line can cross the political spectrum is a remarkable comment on who is pushing it and why.

The convergence of these two currents in the US (under the guise of “realism”) is disturbing. Christopher Hitchens has been talking about this rather bizarre, sleazy, and incredibly hypocritical alliance between the Left and the Scowcroft Right on Iraq and US foreign policy in the ME in particular (this is really material for another post altogether).

Also, check out Frank Fukuyama’s recent piece in The Guardian, which indirectly touches on the same point.

Back to Walt and Mearsheimer. Check out this detailed dissection by Robert Fine.

Update: Harvard has removed its logo from the Walt and Mearsheimer paper.

Update 2: What about W&M’s footnotes?

Tony Badran.

Columbia for sale

Further to Lee Smith’s guest post, here’s an article by Mohamed Eljahmi, a Libyan-American whose brother Fathi is under lock and key in Libya. Eljahmi points out that Columbia University is taking Libyan money for a conference which will involve Col. Qadhafi participating by teleconference. Among the great seats of learning with which Columbia has decided to associate itself are “Tripolis (sic) Green Book Center” (NYT article on this outfit here). Perhaps the Colonel will enlighten Columbia on his theory that the CIA created and spread AIDS.

Note that Columbia gingerly refers to Qadhafi as the “Libyan leader.” He’s paying so they can’t call him a dictator. Still on his own wesbite, Qadhafi does use his military title.

The head of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia hosting this shindig is Lisa Anderson, who gave this laughable speech at the Middle East Studies Association in 2003, who took a partly Saudi paid junket in 2004 and who is not to be confused with this Lisa Anderson (internet searches can yield odd results).

Andrew Apostolou (in clean jim jams).

A Place Called Saudi Arabia

(Double) Guest Entry by Lee Smith

I find it a little hard to believe Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s “The Israel Lobby” was written while sober. In their first sentence, the authors assert that, “For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel.”

Pretty much any American who has ever been in a motorized vehicle knows that the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy is Washington’s relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and has been so since the mid-30s. It is a vital national interest — not just because cheap fuel permits Americans to drive SUVs, but because protecting the largest known oil-reserves in the world ensures a stable world economy. Moreover, the US military counts on access to that oil in the event it has to wage war — an activity that demands a lot of oil.

Walt and Mearsheimer’s article explains how “the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics,” which I agree with, because like many Americans I’ve ridden in a car before and I believe that the ability to get people and things from one place to another is a big part of successful domestic politics. It’s not entirely clear that the authors of this really long article have ever been in a car before, because when they’re talking about domestic politics, they’re not talking about cars, or the economy or even our military, but “the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.’”

So, how much credit should these guys get for staking out a “realist” position on US Middle Eastern policy that does not account for the existence of cars, or something even bigger than a Hummer — the Arabian Peninsula? Unless they were drunk, they shouldn’t get any at all. If they were drunk, kudos to them for no spelling mistakes! — none that I could find anyway. Maybe they were smoking some ace reef because Walt and Mearsheimer see spectacular forces at work everywhere in US regional policy — and a hangover would surely explain why they totally forgot about Saudi Arabia. Ouch! But that still doesn’t make them realists, just big partiers who can type well when they’re bombed.

If you’re one of Walt or Mearsheimer’s drinking buddies, or a bartender serving them, here’s a quick quiz, with questions drawn from their article, so you know when to cut them off and send them home — but definitely not to write another article about Middle East affairs.

Discuss: “The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden.”

The first Gulf War, wherein roughly 500,000 US troops were committed to the Gulf to protect our friends in Kuwait and a country called Saudi Arabia, revealed that no matter how many arms we sold to our Gulf allies finally only real live US soldiers could protect them from predators. And yet in due course we also learned that while the Saudis could not protect their own oil, our protecting that oil further weakened the royal family and compromised their legitimacy, making them vulnerable to dangerous domestic forces — like Osama Bin Laden, for instance. Ruling over a country that cannot protect itself, or safely be protected, from foreign threats or its own citizens, a country whose wellbeing is a vital national interest makes the Saudi royal family the Liza Minnelli of “strategic burdens.”

True or False. “As for so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital US interests, except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel.”

False. Israel has a strong military and a nuclear arsenal. Remember guys, the rationale of Zionism is not to control the media and send Christian boys to die in Jewish wars, but that the Jews would not ever again have to depend on the kindness of strangers to defend them, since they did not do so very adequately in the past — hence a powerful Jewish army is trained and equipped to defend Jews. Of course Israel is concerned about the prospects of an Iranian nuclear program, but not as much as our allies in the Gulf, who have neither strong militaries nor nuclear arsenals. A nuclear Iran is a threat to that big country in the desert named Saudi Arabia and other tiny sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf, and getting Gulf oil to market is a vital US interest.

Gut-check follow-up: Discuss: “Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons — which is obviously undesirable — neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without suffering overwhelming retaliation.”

Well, but what if an Iranian nuclear weapon emboldened the IRI to close the Straits of Hormuz? (That’s a narrow body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located.) Could the US and its Gulf allies be blackmailed? Or do realists like you two believe that there is political will in Washington and other Western capitals to “retaliate overwhelmingly” against Tehran for closing shipping lanes?

True or False. “…Unwavering support for Israel … has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world.”

True. Nice work, boys — this Goldschlager’s on me. But just remember, guys, that those flames of anti-Americanism do not always issue from organic sources; often indeed they are fed by Arab regimes, including many of our allies in a place called Saudi Arabia. (What? Yes, Saudi Arabia is a dry country.) US taxpayers have spent a lot of money to protect the flow of oil over the last seven decades and ensure that the Saudi ruling family keeps collecting receipts. (Yes, just one family, Al Saud, with about 5000 princes on the pad. Yes, some of them drink when they’re not in Saudi Arabia.) Sometimes that money is used to incite anti-American sentiment and fund terror operations against Americans and US interests abroad. Think this one over in the morning: Should we stop supporting Israel because that makes us hated by Arabs, or should we put more pressure on Arab allies like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who have institutionalized anti-US incitement at home in their press, schools and mosques, while also funding it lavishly abroad? OK, OK, think about it like this: Would you bag friend A if friend B was paying everyone he knew to spit in your face and kick your ass just because you were friends with friend A? Wrong answer and you can take my number out of your Palm Pilot.

True or False: “By contrast, pro-Arab interest groups, in so far as they exist at all, are weak, which makes the Israel Lobby’s task even easier.”

True — not. Psyche. Yeah, true if you exclude the obviously limited influence that oil companies have exercised in US policymaking over the last seventy years. And it’s not just the oil companies doing Gulf bidding; virtually every American ambassador who’s served in Riyadh winds up with a nice package to keep selling the Saudi line back in Washington. Yes, you’re right, AIPAC’s annual budget is a whopping $40 million dollars — or precisely equivalent to the private donation Saudi prince Walid Bin Talal recently gave to two US universities to start up Islamic centers. What? Come on Steve, he gave half of it to Harvard! OK, give me the car keys. The keys to the car, it’s how you got here. In a car. It has four wheels and a motor. It runs on gas. Gas comes from a place called Saudi Arabia….

Gluteals and Galloway

Hitchens, in an article about Ian Fleming which has a rear view and is helpfully entitled “Bottoms Up”, cannot resist the following observation:

“SPECTRE,” I noticed recently, is an anagram of “Respect,” the name of a small British party led by a power-drunk micro-megalomaniac called George Galloway, a man with a friendly connection to Saddam Hussein.

My own encounter with the gorgeous one is here.

Andrew Apostolou (birthday suit blogger).

Responding to hatred

The London Review of Books has published an attack on Americans Jews under cover of a supposed critique of the “Israel Lobby.” The London Review of Books has previously made available the repellent views of Anatol Lieven.

Interestingly, the London Review of Books receives public assistance thanks to the Arts Council. Why are British taxpayers and punters subsidizing prejudice?

The response to this chauvinism, as to the similar bigotry that others have been on the receiving end of, will be reason and ridicule, argument and analysis. No embassies will be burned down in responding to this hated filled evacuation.

Andrew Apostolou (birthday suit blogger).

Responses

Following up once more on Andrew’s latest post, here are a few links to posts responding with “reason, ridicule, argument and analysis” to the Walt and Mearsheimer “study.”

Here are David Bernstein (Volokh Conspiracy), Dan Drezner, Haaretz’s Shmuel Rosner, and, perhaps most effectively, Martin Kramer.

Needless to say, for every thinking person there’s the inevitable ridiculous twit or two.

Tony Badran.

In effect

Thanks to Tony for drawing our attention to the Erlanger article on Hamas and the end of the peace process. One could argue that Arafat knocked the peace process on the head in 2000. One could also observe that what Erlanger meant to write was that “[T]he “peace process” is in effect dead”, not that “[T]he “peace process” is effectively dead.”

Andrew Apostolou (birthday suit copy editor).

Open door for fascists

In the wake of the defeat of fascism in Europe, one of the bodies founded to prevent future wars and to promote democratic values was the Council of Europe. Sadly, the Council of Europe has developed a habit of betraying its core values. Despite the crimes of Russian forces in Chechnya, Russia was admitted to the Council of Europe. Despite its patent lack of democracy, Azerbaijan was also allowed to enter the body. By contrast, Greece under the colonels’ junta was pressured into withdrawing from the Council of Europe in 1969.

Now the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has gone one better and has invited the elected fascists of Hamas to its April 10-13, 2006 session in Strasbourg. Hamas openly advocates terrorism, glorifies murder and advocates genocide (for example, one Hamas deputy is Mariam Farahat who told her son not to come back alive from a terrorist mission). None of that can be bleached out by Hamas’ election victory, nor will embracing Hamas lead to the two-state settlement that is the best future for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Hamas shows no signs of strategic flexibility in its desire to wipe Israel off of the map.

To make matters even more grotesque, Israeli army officers and Israeli who have fought fascism and terrorism are increasingly finding it difficult to travel to EU countries because of the threat of frivolous law suits.

Let’s see how many writs will be served on the Hamas fascists.

Andrew Apostolou (pyjama free).

Parallel Unilateralisms

To follow up on the Hamas reference in Andrew’s last post (gia sou re Andrea me tis pitzames sou!) — even though I never comment on Israeli-Palestinian matters — Steven Erlanger had an actually sober piece on Hamas and the repercussions of its electoral victory:

The “peace process” is effectively dead.

The diplomatic assumptions of recent years – a peace treaty after a negotiated territorial compromise between Israel and Palestine, or “land for peace” – are blown apart. Ariel Sharon tried to redefine the bargain as “a state for security” – in other words, an independent Palestinian state in return for dismantling all armed “terrorist” groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades. That was a commitment undertaken in the “road map” by Yasser Arafat and reconfirmed by Mahmoud Abbas.

But it seems unlikely Hamas will dismantle itself. Nor, its leaders say, will it abandon “the right of resistance to occupation.” Its religious conviction is that all of Palestine, including the current state of Israel, is Islamic “waqf” land – land belonging to the world’s Muslims that no Muslim can sell or cede.

Hamas talks of a long-term hudna, or armistice, with Israel – so long as Israel returns to its 1967 boundaries (the armistice lines of the unfinished 1948-49 war), unannexes East Jerusalem and lets all refugees and their descendants return to their pre-1948 homes. The state of Israel itself, Hamas insists, has no right to exist on Islamic waqf land.

So with Hamas, the argument has moved from nationalism and territorial compromise, which can be negotiated, to religious conviction and a temporary Israeli lease on its sovereignty.

A long, hostile quiet may be possible. Israelis and Palestinians may pursue parallel unilateralisms. But serious negotiations on a peace settlement? Very unlikely. Abbas calls for talks. But after Hamas, Israel now considers him unable to deliver the mail, let alone a realistic, permanent two-state solution.

The whole thing, I think, is pretty much on target, especially the parts about Hamas itself.

A friend of mine put it bluntly: “the US is out of the peace process.” And if further musing were in order, one may speculate that the Russians seem to think they may be able to get back in through the Syrian track, and hit several birds with one stone. But that too, if it were indeed true, is quite the shaky proposal on all levels. So I guess Erlanger’s declaration that the process is dead and that what we’ll most likely be seeing are “parallel unilateralisms,” is largely correct.

Having said that, I now return to my normal policy of not commenting on Israeli-Palestinian issues! Erin go bragh!

Tony Badran.

Not so soft bigotry

Anne Applebaum had a slightly sarcastic column in yesterday’s Washington Post about the hysterical reaction to Dubai Ports World’s attempt to invest, through acquiring a British firm, in U.S. ports. She observes that:

Britain, also like Dubai, has harbored terrorists: the London bombers, the shoe bomber, the IRA.

One could add the United States to such a list. As Britons and Irish know all too well, the United States for many years did remarkably little to prevent the financing and supply of Irish Republican terrorism, terrorism that cost many innocent British and Irish lives. Few question American investment in either Ireland or the United Kingdom, indeed in both countries the United States is one of the largest investors.

Applebaum’s sarcasm is more than justified and the column was all the more effective because of her restraint and because of the credibility she has gained from her principled opposition to torture.

The ports controversy has involved a display of not terribly soft bigotry by supposedly moderate American politicians, the sort of posturing pols who often tell us that the Bush Administration has needlessly offended foreigners and burned bridges with the rest of the world. The United States, the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment and the world’s largest foreign direct investor, has a self-evident interest in not sending out the message that globalization is a one-way street–or at least self-evident if you are neither Lou Dobbs nor a cut-price demagogue.

Andrew Apostolou (yes, we have no pyjamas).

The Brammertz Report

The new head of the UN probe into the assassination of former Lebanese PM Hariri, Serge Brammertz, has submitted his first report to the UN Security Council. The report itself can be read here (PDF).

Michael Young comments on the report in his latest op-ed in The Daily Star. Young finds the report to be quite ominous as far as the Syrians are concerned, and that it points to the fact that Brammertz won’t be distracted by scapegoats who may be offered to protect the Syrian ruling elite:

The most significant passage summing up Brammertz’s current thinking about Hariri’s murder came in paragraph 36. The commission stated its belief “that there is a layer of perpetrators between those who initially commissioned the crime and the actual perpetrators on the day of the crime, namely those who enabled the crime to occur.” This was an intriguing formulation, intimating at least three layers of involvement: those who carried out the crime itself, those who ordered it, and an intermediate layer of accomplices who oversaw implementation. This entailed far more than, let’s say, an Islamist plot, where the assassins would not require that intermediate layer, which mainly offers deniability.

If one acts on the hypothesis that Syria was behind Hariri’s elimination, then the passage does two things: it underlines that Brammertz will not be misled by efforts to find scapegoats in the intermediate layer of perpetrators (apparently the middle levels of the intelligence services), to better protect those above who may have masterminded the crime; and it means the Belgian prosecutor is wise as to what took place, and that his silence is considerably more ominous than Syria and its allies would care to admit.

Syrian officials are giddy that the latest report is more discrete, unlike the previous ones by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis.

But Druze leader Walid Jumblatt seems to share (scroll down) Young’s reading, and is quite pleased with the report, and finds that it constitutes a clear indictment of the Syrian regime:

Although Brammertz said Syria has been cooperating, Jumblatt said the fact that the report decided there is a link between all explosions that took place before and after the assassination of Hariri was an explicit indictment of the Syrian regime.

“This is very important, as it forms a clear political indictment of the Syrian regime that ruled Lebanon at the time of the assassination,” Jumblatt said.

He also said that what the report mentioned about highly professional terrorist work in Hariri’s murder was further tacit “condemnation for the Syrian regime”.

“This is a work on the level of a state, and Syria had strong hegemony over Lebanon then,” Jumblatt said.

“Brammertz is following the work of Mehlis, and if he keeps this pace up the truth will be revealed soon,” Jumblatt said, describing the report as “very positive and promising.”

Meanwhile, the French reaction was relayed by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei, who said: “We have received with interest the declaration by Damascus of its willingness to cooperate fully with the Commission, according to the conditions laid out by the Commission,” adding, “this proves that the firm stand that the international community has adopted in this matter from the start of the investigation has yielded results.” He continued, “We now expect Syria to translate this position to tangible steps by responding quickly to the commission’s demands according to international resolutions.”

Tony Badran.

Aaronovitch and Hitchens on the Balkans

Marcus at the essential Harry’s Place links to this excellent piece by David Aaronovitch on the Balkans. To accompany this piece, one can savour Hitchens who kicked off his Slob departure article with:

During the siege of Sarajevo or the mass deportations from Kosovo, the news of a sudden stoppage of the heart of Slobodan Milosevic would have occasioned a joyous holiday in many other hearts.

Andrew Apostolou (does my bandwidth look big in these pyjamas?).

Filling in for Totten

Michael Totten, like Johnny Carson, can’t be here tonight.

In the last few days, we have had some interesting departures. First, there was Milan Babic, the dentist who became an irredentist, the leader of the Croatian Serbs who topped himself. Then, there was the big Slob himself, the banker who became a butcher, who appears to have mixed his meds and departed as per his family tradition. Both were criminals. Both were apprehended and were mouldering in the Hague because one country, and one country alone, was willing to intervene to end Serb-led butchery in the Balkans. No clues as to which country this was. Ok, one clue, it wasn’t Belgium.

Andrew Apostolou (in his pyjamas)

Making blasphemy pay

David T over at Harry’s Place has a great entry on Amr Khaled, an Egyptian preacher whose views are less than pleasant. Recently our embattled allies in Denmark engaged in some dialogue with Amr Khaled. According to The New York Times:

Mr. Khaled sought to emphasize that “we are here to build bridges for dialogue,” and suggested that a continuing boycott of Danish goods in Arab countries could stop if Danes and their government reached out with initiatives like help for small businesses, or health care.

That does rather sound like, give us some cash and we will lay off. What of the alleged offence to Islam and 1.3 billion Muslims? Or is it just a tradeable? Is using an alleged act of blasphemy as a means of levering some cash out of the embattled Danes perhaps not entirely respectful to the allegedly offended religion?

By contrast, you know where you stand with the Multan District Bar Association in Pakistan (thanks to Marcus at Harry’s Place who spotted this on Tim Blair).

Andrew Apostolou (about to slip into natty jim jams).

Time for some more protests

The Saudi ambassador and his cohorts will be up in arms about this one. This is guaranteed to inflame and insult. There will be talk of insensitivity and discrimination.

Sharon Stone not only visited the place that dare not appear on Iranian maps lest it be wiped off, she said:

“I’ve always been attracted to Jews,” she says. “I like dark men who are

drawn to study, to art.”

There will now be an auto da fé of “Basic Instinct” in Damascus (with the famous scene spliced out and saved for research purposes).

On a positive note, there’s hope for Tottenham fans yet.

Andrew Apostolou (gooner who needs to change his pyjamas).

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