Two questions about Mearsheimer and Walt come to my mind:
1) What are they trying to do?
2) Why are they doing it?
I think that their work has less to do with its putative subject, the pro-Israel lobby, than appears. They are simply using this route — which rings bells deep in the psyche of many who are not overtly antisemitic — to damage Israel’s security by driving a wedge between her and her major ally and supporter, the US. Here’s a report of one stop on their book tour, in Berkeley, California from the Blue Truth blog. Read it and see if there is any other way to understand the thrust of their arguments.
(Walt) then goes on to say that no other democracies get the same level of support and that Israel’s treatment of its own Arab population (much less its treatment of the West Bank Arabs who are not citizens) doesn’t measure up to American values. He does go as far as to say that Israel, in its actions to defend itself, “doesn’t act any better” than its adversaries… Not a word about the fact that Israel has terrorist gangs on its borders armed with rockets, not a word about the terror war launched by Arafat in 2000, not a word about 60 years of genocidal threats against the Jewish state. Listening to Walt, one would think Israel is located in central Europe surrounded by friendly neighbors but just can’t manage to get along with them…
[Mearsheimer] is the one to present the arguments that are staples of the far left and the extreme right, that the influence of “The Lobby” is so pervasive that it was one of the main driving forces for the US invasion of Iraq, and that the policies it promotes are a major source of terrorism. He spent a lot of his time tying the 9/11 attacks to US support for Israel as well. [my emphasis. The whole article is recommended.]
Although they also say that they are not opposed to the existence of Israel, their arguments are designed to strike directly at American support for Israel. So much for what they are doing. Now, why?
Walt and Mearsheimer know full well there is no super-powerful “Jewish Lobby”, that the pro-Israel lobbyists have competing counterparts representing many other causes and countries, and that the pro-Israel lobby is not particularly remarkable in this environment. They know full well that the misrepresentations of fact, omissions, things taken out of context, logical errors, etc. in their prior paper and this book are indeed risible, the trash produced by dilettantes, not by serious researchers.
But they don’t care.
What would make them produce such garbage?
Indeed, since they would be expected to have a notion of the difference between scholarship and propaganda, why did they choose the latter? I don’t have a definite answer, but I have a guess: I think they are doing it for the money.
Although the book is definitely going to get them big bucks, I doubt that they knew this when they wrote the original article. My theory — and it is completely unsubstantiated, so far — is that a careful investigation would show that this is a project financed by Our Friends The Saudis.
Possibly they feel that their
bribery of support for Jimmy Carter was a little too obvious, so they’ve been much more careful with this one.
So come on, investigative reporters. Dig a little and prove me right!