Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Milbank vs. mearsheimer

Dana Milbank turns his scornful style on John Mearsheimer to good effect in Pronouncing Blame on the Israel Lobby
Whatever motivated the performance, the result wasn't exactly scholarly.

Walt singled out two Jews who worked at the Pentagon for their pro-Israel views. "People like Paul Wolfowitz or Doug Feith . . . advocate policies they think are good for Israel and the United States alike," he said. "We don't think there's anything wrong with that, but we also don't think there's anything wrong for others to point out that these individuals do have attachments that shape how they think about the Middle East."

"Attachments" sounds much better than "dual loyalties." But why single out Wolfowitz and Feith and not their non-Jewish boss, Donald Rumsfeld?

"I could have mentioned non-Jewish people like John Bolton," Walt allowed when the question was put to him.

And that is the problem. Walt and Mearsheimer promote themselves as academics and their paper as scholarly, but the paper is just as sloppy (or selective if you prefer) as Milbank describes the charge against Wolfowitz and Feith.

Milbank's mockery continues
This line of argument could be considered a precarious one for two blue-eyed men with Germanic surnames. And, indeed, Walt seemed defensive about the charges of anti-Semitism. He cautioned that the Israel lobby "is not a cabal," that it is "not synonymous with American Jews" and that "there is nothing improper or illegitimate about its activities."

But Mearsheimer made no such distinctions as he used "Jewish activists," "major Jewish organizations" and the "Israel lobby" interchangeably. Clenching the lectern so tightly his knuckles whitened, Mearsheimer accused Israel of using the kidnapping of its soldiers by Hezbollah as a convenient excuse to attack Lebanon.

You think that "The Israel Lobby" was better in the original German maybe?

"Israel had been planning to strike at Hezbollah for months," he asserted. "Key Israelis had briefed the administration about their intentions."

A questioner asked if he had any "hard evidence" for this accusation. Mearsheimer cited the "public record" and "Israeli civilian strategists," then repeated the allegation that Israel was seeking "a cover for launching this offensive."

Actually the argument against this charge is that Israeli military planners would be neglectful if they didn't have contigency plans in effect for responding to each nearby enemy. Being prepared for conflict is essential, it doesn't mean that Israel was looking for a pretext to attack. (And of course Mearsheimer ignores six years of Hezbollah violations.)

Milbank brought up one more instance of Mearsheimer's sloppiness
As evidence that the American public does not agree with the Israel lobby, the political scientist cited a USA Today-Gallup poll showing that 38 percent of Americans disapproved of Israel's military campaign. He neglected to mention that 50 percent approved, and that Americans blamed Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and Lebanon far more than Israel for the conflict.

As noted above, this kind of selective quoting was typical of the "Israel Lobby" paper.

And who was Prof Mearsheimer addressing? Why it was the Islamic "civil rights" organization CAIR! The end of the article gives a sense of openmindedness and understanding that permeated the talk.
When the two professors finished, they were besieged by autograph- and photo-seekers and Arab television correspondents. Walt could be heard telling one that if an American criticizes Israel, "it might have some economic consequences for your business."

Before leaving for an interview with al-Jazeera, Mearsheimer accepted a button proclaiming "Walt & Mearsheimer Rock. Fight the Israel Lobby."

"I like it," he said, beaming.

I'm no fan of Milbank, but here his scorn was well placed and used to excellent effect.

Earlier this summer the Post's ombudsman Deborah Howell defended the paper's Middle East coverage. She wasn't at all bothered that a whitewash of Walt and Mearsheimer appeared at a time that Israel was fighting terorists in its north and south
Some readers didn't like The Post Magazine piece by Glenn Frankel examining the Israel lobby and felt it was poorly timed. I liked it. Production on the magazine closed June 30, before the war began. One could also say that piece couldn't have been more aptly timed.
Howell wrote. In ohter words Howell's implicitly arguing that it was pro-Israel groups (aka the Israel lobby) that led the United States to support Israel in its fight against anti-Western terrorist organizations. One would hope that it wouldn't require a lobby for the United States to see that its interstests and Israel's coincide.

Power Line and LGF have their takes.

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish observes that Mel Gibson and Jimmy Carter apparently missed the fun.

Boker Tov Boulder sees something biblical in the motivations of Walt and Mearsheimer.

Rhymes with right concludes

The association between these professors and the terrorist-supporting CAIR should be enough to discredit these pseudo-academics -- and to discredit the organizatation, which sponsored them despite their having been is creditted as
dressing up old anti-Semitism in new garments.

Mere Rhetoric points out additional inconsistencies in the original Israel Lobby paper
He might also have mentioned their intellectual dishonesty in complaining about US aid to Israel (aid that Israel was promised so that Jimmy Carter could get a Noble Prize by getting Israel to give up critical land - and security - to Egypt, which the realists supported because it moved Egypt out of the Soviet orbit) and in leaving out the part where Bush Sr. almost cut off aid to Shamir because of Israeli settlements.

and points to Jewish Current Issues critique
Neither of them mentioned the fact that George W. Bush formally endorsed a Palestinian state (assuming the Palestinians built a “practicing democracy” with leaders “not compromised by terror”), nor the fact that the U.S. -- while waiting in vain for Abbas to meet his initial Road Map obligation of “sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure” -- nevertheless (a) pressured Israel into releasing 900 prisoners to help Abbas (a step not required in the Road Map); (b) supported Sharon’s plan to simply give Abbas all of Gaza (under the mistaken assumption it would generate popular support for Abbas); (c) supported Abbas financially with tens of millions of dollars in handouts, and with pledges of billions more; (d) watched without protest as Abbas took the money and padded the public payroll with “security forces,” instead of building schools or hospitals or houses for refugees; and nevertheless (e) continually supported Abbas as a “man of peace.” ...
But Walt & Mearsheimer blame the “Israel Lobby” for giving Abbas “nothing.”

Elder of Ziyon demonstrates how Walt and Mearsheimer have cause and effect backwards.

Maryland Conservatarian confuses Walt with Nasrallah.

Walt and Mearsheimer remind Extreme Mortman of a classic SNL skit. And they remind Capatain's Quarters of a Family Circus cartoon.

Liberty and Justice emphasizes one of Milbank's points
Mearsheimer constantly singled out Jewish individuals while conveniently ignoring the fact that some of this US administration's most fervent pro-Israel members aren't Jews, but Christians.

Am Echad writes that W & M produce a worse result than anti-semitism - they produce shoddy scholarship. Instapundit has similar thoughts.

The sixth column notes that it isn't just important what Walt and Mearsheimer said but who they said it to.

The Volokh Conspiracy.David Bernstein writes that he's finding it harder to give W & M the benefit of the doubt as to whether they've crossed the line into antisemitism. Hit and Run wonders the same thing.

Other commenting include Solomonia, Blog-o-fascists.

More at Buzztracker.

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