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Mead on Mearsheimer and Walt:

I've been remiss in not linking to this review by Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs of The Israel Lobby:

Rarely in professional literature does one encounter such a gap between aspiration and performance as there is in The Israel Lobby. Mearsheimer and Walt fail to define "the lobby" in a clear way. Their accounts of the ways in which it exercises power, as well as their descriptions of the power it wields, are incoherent. Their use of evidence is uneven. At the level of geopolitics, their handling of the complex realities and crosscurrents of the Middle East fails to establish either the incontestable definition of the national interest that their argument requires or the superiority they claim for the policies they propose.

Among many good points Mead makes is that it's not at all clear why M & W themselves aren't part of "the lobby" as they describe it, given that they "describe themselves as pro-Israel, in that they believe in the state's right to exist. They admire its achievements and wish secure and prosperous lives for its citizens. They state categorically that the United States should aid Israel 'if its survival is in danger.'" Mead contends out that "the argument of The Israel Lobby actually seems to boil down to the point that the left wing of the lobby has a better grasp of both the Israeli and the U.S. national interests than the right wing of the lobby does." Or perhaps more precisely, anyone who disagrees with M & W on any specific Israel-related issue is part of "the lobby," while they are just enlightened and objective scholars.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Witness (mail):
Mead in '92: "What if the global economy stagnates -- or even shrinks? In that case, we will face a new period of international conflict: South against North, rich against poor. Russia, China, India -- these countries with their billions of people and their nuclear weapons will pose a much greater danger to the world than Germany and Japan did in the 30's."
2.14.2008 5:47pm
NattyB:
[deleted by editor]

You are being disingenuous - or more likely tongue in cheek - when you suggest that you are merely relying upon their (M &W) standard, by calling them part of the "Israel Lobby".

The Israel Lobby is AIPAC, Commentary, and a host of other entities that promote a slanted, right wing view of Israel. [Editor: if you had bothered to read the review, you would have seen that the author states that "The lobby, as they see it, includes both hard-line groups such as AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and CUFI (Christians United For Israel) and dovish groups such as the Israel Policy Forum, the Tikkun Community, and Americans for Peace Now."]
2.14.2008 6:57pm
TN DC Atty (mail):

Rarely in professional literature does one encounter such a gap between aspiration and performance as there is in The Israel Lobby.

Now, I know that's not true!
2.14.2008 6:59pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Thank you for this helpful reference. May we anticipate a followup posting referring us to Walt and Mearsheimer's response, which is inevitable?
2.14.2008 6:59pm
what about my pakistan :(:
whole lot of ad hommin' not a lot of arguin' (and i think that bernstein has a hard time staying hinged sometimes when it comes to I/P but whatevs)
2.14.2008 7:31pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
David, however, you and I both know that supporting Israel's "right to exist" is only meaningful if it is support for Israel to exist as a Jewish state. And I wonder whether M&W really believe that. As an aside, I think that is the most important issue one should look at when evaluating a candidate's position on Israel. After having reviewed Barack Obama's record on that specific issue, and having talked with people who know him and whose credentials I trust, it is clear that he does in fact believe in the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and would insist on any resolution of conflict to require the Palestinians to give up their demand for a "right to return."
2.14.2008 7:35pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
Perhaps Walt &Mearsheimer they believe they have no influence, and thus do not constitute part of any actual lobby.
2.14.2008 7:49pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
BTW, you can find M &W's reference to Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek V'Shalom and other left and far-left groups as part of the Israel lobby on page 120 of the book.
2.14.2008 8:45pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
CT,

Well, I was being generous to M&W, because the other possibility is that they're lying through their teeth about their personal views re Israel because if they were clearly anti-Israel it would discredit their book.
2.14.2008 8:46pm
garhane (mail):
I read the study and it seemed to be pretty mild, in contrast to a lot of the furious attacks on it that followed publication. Is there any literate person in North America who doubts the existence, the incredible arrogance and aggressive dishonesty of the Israeli lobby? The thing that draws attention is whether the tail wags the dog or vice versa, but it does seem to me that despite the self adulation of the Israelis who just love to make behind the hand claims for their influence, it is still just a tail behind a very shaggy dog. But really now, is it not time for the US to knock it off and tell the Israelis to cut a deal with the Arabs? It is now clear that the strategy of endless war to maintain bases in Iraq and dominate the middle east Crescent is just one more puff of smoke in the opium den. Not going to happen. Can anyone imagine what would happen in the USA if the government brought back the draft? What else is there, caqn they bribe ALL the Arab tribes? Already that hopeless deal in Iraq is coming apart.
Now that the debate on whether to tolerate the lobby much further has started in earnest, I have a question. As I read up on what this was all about, I ran across the "Jewish fingernail" (type the words in the Google search box and see what you get). And it does seem that Jewish people educated in their religion do indeed believe that they are the human beings and the rest of us are something less, like domestic animals, say a horse or a cow. Of course, you cannot make a binding contract with a domestic animal. But if they really do have this conception deep in their religious philosophy, can the conclusion be avoided they will have to lose it to join the human race. Or are we to start....or is it continue...barking and mooing?
2.14.2008 9:54pm
RKV (mail):
Israel has been the 1st or 2nd largest recipient of US foreign aid for the period 1994-2004. Only after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 did Israel come in second (2004). If that isn't the influence of the Israel lobby, the otherwise illustrious Walter Mead doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. 2% of the US population, plus their Evangelical hangers on manage to get a very large amount of our tax dollars into Israeli hands. Like it or not. Israel has a per capita GDP: $24,600 (2005) - they're not poor. Personally I think its time to shut it ALL off. We're in deficit folks. Fix that first then let's see whether we should send money to other countries. Flame on.
http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/31987.pdf
2.14.2008 10:11pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
RKV, I think Israel could do without the aid, but your stats are way out of line given the implicit aid to, e.g., South Korea of having 30K troops stationed there permanently. At a conservative estimate of 50K per soldier per year, that's 15 billion dollars.

Garhane, if you're so foolish as to take the dumb ass statement of one rabbi as reflecting the views of all "jews educated in your religion," there's not point in discussing it. I assume you're Christian. Should I presume that you and all Christians agree with Fred Phelps?
2.14.2008 10:26pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
RKV—of course there's an Israel lobby. It's not like AIPAC is trying to hide it: they dub themselves "America's Pro-Israel Lobby" on their front page. But if M&W's claim is merely that AIPAC and similar groups have a lot of influence, it's pretty trivial. But their actual claim (not that I really understand what it is) is supposed to be much broader than that.

CrazyTrain—what constitutes a violation of this right, and what are the remedies for its violation? As an individualist who believes rights belong to individual people, I have never been to keen on the idea that any state has any "rights".
2.14.2008 10:27pm
NattyB:
I stand corrected. M&W's definition of the Israel Lobby is pretty vague. I could be part of the Israel lobby under their reasoning.
2.14.2008 10:30pm
frankcross (mail):
Garhane, here's a clue. When you write:

Is there any literate person in North America who doubts the existence, the incredible arrogance and aggressive dishonesty of the Israeli lobby?

that is readily translated as "I'm a closed minded person whose opinion is not to be trusted." You may be able to make legitimate, fact-based criticisms. But after writing that, no one will give you any credibility
2.14.2008 10:38pm
RKV (mail):
Elliot, Billions of dollars is not trivial, and even less trivial when we are BORROWING the money to send to Israel. I don't know the quality of these numbers but they suggest a cost of over $20000 per Israeli, in total since 1949. http://www.washington-report.org/html/us_aid_to_israel.htm

David, Israel and every other country should pay their own way. Israel isn't the 51st state. Many won't like that kind of statement. Flame on. The kind of accounting you suggest is not reasonable. You want to attribute the cost of WW2 to the Japanese, Italians and Germans since they started the war? How about the Russians, they started on the Germany's side when they invaded Finland and Poland. And so on. Let's focus on why Americans should go in debt now to give Israel money. There just isn't a good reason for it. Sorry.
2.14.2008 11:06pm
davidbernstein (mail):
RKV,asserting that my accounting isn't reasonable without a coherent explanation isn't a good response. The U.S. gives Israel $2.8 billion or so in military aid to keep its ally safe. It gives South Korea much, much more, plus SK puts U.S. soldiers in harm's way. During the Cold War, Europe got exponentially more. The fact that aid to Europe and South Korea was filed under "defense budget" not "foreign aid" doesn't change that fact.

I already said I agree with you that Israel shouldn't get the aid. Now that we agree on that, you can focus your ire on South Korea, or one of the dozens of other countries that house U.S. troops to help protect them. Not to mention that 30K Americans already died defending a South Korean dictatorship during the Korean War.

I would wonder why certain people obssess over the $2.8 billion to Israel, but not the much greater sums spent protecting South Korea, but I think I know the answer.
2.14.2008 11:13pm
RKV (mail):
Asserting my accounting isn't reasonable is an unreasonable response = your own accounting is an assertion in itself. And quit changing the subjet. Let's cut to the chase. No matter what amount of money, we shouldn't be borrowing to give to another country. You are obsessively focused on giving the country of your co-religionists special treatment which calls into question your loyalty to the United States. Like it or not. I expected this sort of response which is why I said "Flame on." I expect you'll now call me anti-semitic. This is untrue, however, I will say that America is more important to me than Israel - by a long shot. For consistencies sake let me repeat. No direct foreign aid to other countries. None. Of course this will not satisfy you since your allegiance is not the the US.
2.14.2008 11:27pm
OrinKerr:
. . . .
, , , ,
. . . .

Hmm, still trying to figure out if Garhane is for real, or if he is a plant trying to make critics of the Israel lobby seem like lunatic anti-Semites.
2.14.2008 11:29pm
DG:
The actual loaded cost per soldier is just north of $110k/annum - salary, benefits, training, travel, basic infantry equipment (thats taken from a recent congressional hearing). That doesn't include amortizing stuff like armor (meaning tanks or APCs) or heavy weapons. The bill for South Korea is considerably higher than you are estimating.

Of course, much of the Israeli aid goes back to US defense contractors, which makes ending the aid problematic, as it keeps the production lines open for certain valuable bits of military hardware. In some cases, even if we lowered aid, we'd end up paying directly. Israeli military aid is probably more corporate welfare for US defense contractors than any Israel lobby impact at this point. All the people who make hay of the Israel lobby are fools - its actually a weak and somewhat ineffectual lobby. Look at at Saudi Arabia's lobby, big oil, defense contractors, AARP, NRA - the AIPAC is a weakling compared to any of them.
2.14.2008 11:32pm
RKV (mail):
And David, Israel is a prime beneficiary of our efforts in Iraq. That's over a trillion dollar proposition, if we want to follow your accounting logic. Israel did bomb Iraq under Hussein once, didn't it? So it just isn't $2.8 billion is it? I doubt you'll have the honesty to admit that part.
2.14.2008 11:32pm
RKV (mail):
BTW, I'd be quite happy to have the Uros and the Koreans paying 100&of their own defense costs. In fact, it would be beneficial to the Uros in particular since they now average spending something like 2% of their GDP on defense. France and England spend more others less. We're about 4% lately.
2.14.2008 11:35pm
DG:
RKV: You do realize that DB, before you commented on his disloyalty, specifically said he is against US foreign aid to Israel? Miss that one?

I am a supporter of Israel, a jew, and a zionist. I make no bones about that. I am also a veteran of the US military and put my allegiance to America ahead of all foreign attachments. The vast majority of the "disloyal" guys I served with, christians and jews, were also supporters of Israel.

I don't support foreign aid to Israel or anyone else, but I also think we should let them do what they want to defend themselves. That foreign aid gives us control and we'll lose it if we stop giving it. I think thats a good thing, but not everyone wants Israel to take off the kid gloves.
2.14.2008 11:40pm
RKV (mail):
I'd be very happy if Israel took off the gloves. Ditto Europe. They're a hell of a lot closer to Iran than we are. I guess you didn't read DB very well. He was quite happy to minimize the issue. And I'm glad you've figured out who's on first. Not everyone has, for some it's Mexico first, or Israel first. And so on. Bottom line, we are in a budget deficit. Everything should be on the table for cost cutting, except national defense, and that includes border security. Taxes are now at relatively high levels of GDP for the post WW2 period, so raising them should be out of the question. Not if we want to maintain economic growth and low unemployment. The Uros missed that connection and now the average Swede has a purchasing power parity income equivalent to the average American black.
2.15.2008 12:01am
davidbernstein (mail):
RKV is so caught up in his mental loop that he failed to notice twice that I said I don't think Israel should get the aid. Or maybe he's purposely ignoring that, so he can bait me into calling him an anti-Semite, so he can play the "see, if you criticize Israel, you're an anti-Semite." RKV, I won't call you an anti-Semite, but since you question my loyalty to America on no other apparent ground than I'm a Jew, I will see that objectively you are obviously deeply prejudiced, and should be deeply ashamed of yourself.
2.15.2008 12:02am
davidbernstein (mail):
I didn't "minimize the issue." You wrote: "Israel has been the 1st or 2nd largest recipient of US foreign aid for the period 1994-2004." I merely pointed out that this is true only if you ignore the fact that we give a lot more "foreign aid" to other countries, except that we put it into the military budget instead of the foreign aid budget, but it makes little sense to get agitated over the money to Israel and not the much, much (MUCH!) greater sums spent on South Korea.
2.15.2008 12:06am
Malvolio:
I think Israel could do without the aid, but your stats are way out of line given the implicit aid to, e.g., South Korea of having 30K troops stationed there permanently. At a conservative estimate of 50K per soldier per year, that's 15 billion dollars.
Hmmmm. Maybe it's 1.5 billion dollars. Yes, that does sound more likely.
The actual loaded cost per soldier is just north of $110k/annum - salary, benefits, training, travel, basic infantry equipment (thats taken from a recent congressional hearing). That doesn't include amortizing stuff like armor (meaning tanks or APCs) or heavy weapons. The bill for South Korea is considerably higher than you are estimating.
With or without the decimal point?
2.15.2008 12:16am
DavidBernstein (mail):
You're right, missplaced decimal. So 110K x 37K (not 30 as I said) is 4.07 billion, still more than Israel, plus soldiers in harms way if N.K. attacks. I don't mind if someone objects to U.S. aid to Israel, but something smells if he obsesses over that and pays no attention to the slightly more hidden costs of defending other U.S. allies.
2.15.2008 12:45am
pakistan:
I was always under the impression that at least for a significant portion of the time that United States aid to Israel has been an issue, that aid was pursuant to the Camp David Accords, where the United States basically bribed Egypt and Israel to make peace at the tune of a few billion a year for each country. Which kinda puts the pseudo-nexus around Carter and M&W due to the timing of their respective publishings in a strange light I guess.
2.15.2008 1:10am
David M. Nieporent (www):
For those of you wondering, Garhane trotted out that "Jews think they're better than 'us'" line last time W&M were discussed around here.
2.15.2008 4:58am
David in DC:
This is easily the best review of their book I have seen. I agree with almost everything Mead says, and he handles the question of W&M's anti-Semitism (answer: they aren't) suberbly, while taking them to task for their crude handling of a sensitive subject.

The "chip on every square" roulette analogy is spot on. I had the same critique of their paper and wish I had thought of it :-).
2.15.2008 8:19am
RKV (mail):
To some David, ANY handling of the subject of Israels influence on American politics is crude. By definition. The subject is to be suppressed and not spoken of. Accusations of antisemitism are automatic irrespective the truth or falsehood of the charge. Mexico is aiming to achieve the same status by the way. The plain fact is that our interests are not identical to those of Israel (or any other foreign country for that matter).

We need to cut spending because we are in debt and spending more than our government takes in. Taxes are already too high, and a great place to start cutting is with foreign aid. All of it. If we want something from another country we'll buy it from them. And vice versa. On top of the table and in plain view, no side deals or funny money. Israel, the Uropean countries, Korea, Japan, and far too many other countries get help from us while we go into debt. Wrong answer. They need to spend their own blood and treasure to defend themselves. In the immediate post-WW2 period and in light of Russian aggression, it made some sense to step in. That time is long gone.
2.15.2008 9:26am
Stuart M. (mail):
RKV, if you're promoting general isolationism, I suppose that's a defensible position, and you can join Pat Buchanan and a long list of historical personages in that position. But there is nothing unique about Israel in that formula, and it doesn't cast you in a good light to harp on the Israel component of American spending to defend allies.
2.15.2008 9:45am
David in DC:
RKV,

"To some David, ANY handling of the subject of Israels influence on American politics is crude."

That is certain, but it doesn't seem to be germane here since W&M's handling appeared crude to more than just that minority. I prefer not to focus on that minority and deal with real issues and real problems.

Mead is correct that this is a topic which should be discussed. He also makes very good suggestions about what questions might be examined in a good treatment of the subject, and many of them seem very basic, almost common-sensical.

(Just a minor point -- While Israel's influence does come into play, W&M's focus is about Americans' influence on American politics.)
2.15.2008 9:49am
rarango (mail):
If Mossad whacked that dude in syria the other day, I figure any aid we provide them is a good ROI.
2.15.2008 10:22am
Elliot Reed (mail):
RKV, I didn't say that billions of dollars in aid is trivial (though I can see how it wouldn't have been very hard to misread my syntax to give that interpretation). My point is that the claim, "AIPAC & similar groups have a lot of influence," is a trivial one, because it's really obvious. So is the claim that there's an Israel lobby, given that AIPAC actually brags about it. But M&W's "Israel Lobby" goes far, far beyond AIPAC and similar groups, and DavidB isn't denying that there's an Israel lobby in that sense.

So pointing out that people do, in fact, lobby the U.S. government to give Israel few-strings-attached money for arms &c., and that they're successful at getting it, doesn't contradict anything DavidB is saying. Nor does it support the existence of an "Israel Lobby" in the sense in which M&W use the term.
2.15.2008 10:38am
Yankev (mail):

And David, Israel is a prime beneficiary of our efforts in Iraq.
Interesting, given that Israel told the US that going into Iraq was a bad idea, and the removal of Saddam did indeed increase the power and prestige of Iran.


Israel did bomb Iraq under Hussein once, didn't it?
Yes, when Iraq beyond all rational dispute was about to start producing weapons grade nuclear material to produce warheads for the long range missiles it already had developed. The world -- US included -- still owes Israel its thanks for that one.

The US attacked Great Britain once, too. By your logic, I have just "proved" that the US duped Argentina into fighting the UK over the Falklands.
2.15.2008 10:51am
ejo:
it's not a new thought but why is there such focus on Israel, a country based on western ideals and an ally, as opposed to the lobbying power of the Arab/Islamic world. I have never seen an Israeli PM walking hand in hand with GB a la the Saudis. Legions of State Department bureaucrats don't end up on Israel's lobbying payroll in the same way they do on the Arab dime. which is the more insidious influence, if you are making a tally?
2.15.2008 11:17am
ejo:
would an anti-Arab lobbying study be drooled over quite as much as a good old Jewish cabal one? I think we know the answer to that question.
2.15.2008 11:30am
PLR:
I have never seen an Israeli PM walking hand in hand with GB a la the Saudis.

I bet there's a reason for that.
2.15.2008 11:50am
ejo:
you are right-the switchboards would light up with how the PM is probably slipping mind control drugs by his touch into the President.
2.15.2008 12:20pm
PLR:
you are right-the switchboards would light up with how the PM is probably slipping mind control drugs by his touch into the President.

Not the theory I had in mind.

Why Arab Men Hold Hands
2.15.2008 12:50pm
Ron Paul:
Well there is certainly a reason a "jewish cabal" idea gets sprung, perpetuated, and blown out of proportion. Its the Office of Special Plans pre Iraq war and who was involved in it. Its the connection between those people (whose job it would appear was to "sell" the iraq war) with groups like PNAC - - and the well documented refrain about a new "pearl harbor type" event acting as a catalyst for a dramatic change in foreign intervention in the middle east - -in a nutshell - its all the "bad" aspects of neo-conservatism foreign policy tossed with a few grains of conspiracy. Throw in a few Isreali spying cases involving members of AIPIAC and high level defense department employees with access to top secret information and well... can you blame anyone from thinking something ain't adding up here?

Yes, it may be paranoid. But facts are facts. And the fact of the matter is - rightly or wrongly - a trillion dollar war was ginned up - a relatively minor threat was overhyped repeatedly - U.S. Soldiers are dying and NOBODY believes EVERYBODY got it wrong; except for the 20% still supporting Bush or anyone who believes H. Clinton "wasn't voting for a war in Iraq."

Maybe now she will claim she wasn' voting to declare the Iranian revolutionary guard a terrorist organization either. We shall see.

Rinse and Repeat the whole run up to war in Iraq fiasco with Iran. Add a Joe Lieberman. And voila -conspiracy! Personally, if there is any conspiracy, it ain't Isreal bossing us around. Its the U.S. petro-dollar losing its hegemony and value and a world market in the balance. Iranian oil bourse = trading oil in euros = cut sea cables = delayed opening of Iranian oil bourse. What happens next?? Stay tuned. I hear Iranian speedboats can take out navy destroyers if they pray to allah hard enough. Right!

As always, its likely all about the benjamins. Or more precisely, what the benjamins are tied to (whether gold, or oil or whatever). Since everybody knows that stereotypes are never wrong (snark) and the jooooz are apt with money and don't mind going into the banking sector - well - I think you all get the idea of how things get outta control real fast. A bunch of coincidence and speculation does not a proof make.

All that being said, the Gaza prison state situation likely isn't endearing the Isrealis or there supporters to anyone suspicious of them in the first place. Nor does it help to have a schizophrenic U.S. foreign policy of spreading "democracy" in the middle east by propping up military dictators (Mushareff) who overthrew elected governments or simply ignoring outright the results of an election (Hamas). Democracy is only worth something when you elect non-terrorists or people who aren't religious fanatics.

But there are brown people in caves...who want to kill us...for our...freedoms! Oh how dumb the electorate must be to buy that. Support Saddam against Iran - check. Support OBL against soviets- check. Blowback sure to come? check. Blame it on our alleged "freedom." BINGO!!

It would appear that otherwise rational people who refuse to believe their own government could be so stupid in its foreign affairs and reckless with its spending need to find a scapegoat. Their patriotism and love for their country blinds them to the real problems in their midst. But what do i know...

I only write books on the subject.
2.15.2008 6:25pm