Mearsheimer and Walt’s disingenuous response

Much has been written about Mearsheimer and Walt (see my post The What and Why of Mearsheimer and Walt). What strikes me strongly is the contrast between their pretense of scholarship and their polemical anti-Israel bias and disingenuous disregard of truth and logic.

I concluded that such a political tract must have a purpose other than disinterested scholarship, and I am even more convinced of this when I consider the way they have responded to critics. Consider the following example, part of correspondence between the august professors and Maurice Ostroff. I’ve reprinted this in full with permission in order to give it the widest possible distribution.

An open follow-up to correspondence with Professors Mearsheimer and Walt

(Click here for previous correspondence)

From Maurice Ostroff

October 8, 2007

Dear Professors Mearsheimer and Walt,

In response to my letter of May 6, 2006, you replied that you were preparing a lengthy “response to critics” in which you would address many of the issues I had raised. And indeed in December you kindly sent me a copy of your 81-page paper “Setting the record straight”.

While you did address some of the minor criticisms which had been leveled against your published articles on the Israel lobby, I am disappointed that you ignored almost all the points I had raised. As my readers and I are anxious to learn your views on these matters, I would very much appreciate your considered response to the following.

1. The iraq war
You claim that were it not for the Jewish lobby, the US would almost certainly not have gone to war against Iraq in 2003 and I ask why you ignore reliable reports that PM Sharon and Israeli officials had warned the Bush administration against invading Iraq. This has been confirmed recently by Lawrence Wilkerson, a former member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff as reported by IPS.

Although you advise that you relied on Jewish newspapers like the Forward, you ignore a report in that paper confirming that prior to March 2003, PM Sharon advised Bush not to occupy Iraq and that AIPAC officials in Washington told visiting Arab intellectuals they would rather the United States deal militarily with Iran than with Iraq.

2. Your claim that US policy towards Israel contributes to America’s terrorism problem.
I still look forward to your response to my quotation by Alex Alexiev, that Riyad has been the paymaster of most of the militant Islamic movements advocating terror unrelated to Israel. And that Islamist and anti-American agendas dominate the majority of Muslim Student Associations at U.S. colleges.

3. Ehud Barak and Arafat
Referring to your use of the expression “Barak’s purportedly generous” offer at Camp David, I suggested that as scholars, the loaded word “purportedly” was inappropriate. Don’t you owe it to your readers to present them with the facts and allow them to form their own opinions as to whether the offer was generous or purportedly generous?

4. Campus Watch
You wrote about Campus Watch
“Pipes does not deny that his organization, Campus Watch, was created in order to monitor what academics say, write and teach, so as to discourage them from engaging in open discourse about the Middle East”.

As I understand that Campus Watch very much encourages open discourse, please respond to my request for explanation of your allegation that it attempts to discourage academics from doing just that.

5. Apparent bias
You have not responded to my suspicion of bias where you wrote about relations between “Tel Aviv” and Washington, rather than Jerusalem (Israel’s seat of government), and Washington.

6. Lobbies in context
6.1 The Culture of Lobbies
I wrote that of course there is a Jewish lobby, in fact there are several, some of which oppose each other. They are part of the many competing influences that are integral to the Washington scene. You did not respond to my contention that your concentrated focus on the Israel Lobby creates the completely misleading impression that it is the only influence on Congress, whereas in reality, dozens of interest groups spend billions to convince politicians to pass or oppose particular laws.

6.2. The Pharmaceutical Lobby
Since your worthy motive appears to be protecting the public from lobbies that influence congress against the interests of USA citizens, let’s look at the pharmaceutical lobby. As reported by CBS, it is responsible for millions of citizens being unable to afford much-needed prescription drugs. Due to its efforts, the cost of medications in the USA is highest in the world, while the lobby prevents importation of cheaper drugs from Canada or Mexico.

You could perform a great service to your fellow citizens if you were to apply your exceptional proven ability in marketing your Israel lobby campaign, to a similar campaign against some of the actions of this lobby.

I don’t suggest this lightly. As 60 Minutes has pointed out, pharmaceutical lobbyists outnumber congressmen by two to one and the lobby spends roughly $100 million a year in lobbying expenses. Moreover, the Medicare prescription drug bill, one of the most expensive bills ever, was written by pharmaceutical lobbyists.

Commenting on the Medicare vote which by design took place at 3 AM, U.S. Representative, Jones, R-NC was quoted as saying “I’ve been in politics for 22 years and it was the ugliest night I have ever seen in 22 years…the arm-twisting was horrible”. At an estimated cost of just under $400 billion over 10 years, it was the largest entitlement program in more than 40 years, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. said “I can tell you that when the bill passed, there were better than 1,000 pharmaceutical lobbyists working on this”.

The complete CBS report may be viewed here.

6.3. The Arab Lobby
Of course any serious study of the Jewish Lobby cannot avoid comparison with Arab influence on Washington. I cannot understand how, in the face of extensive evidence to the contrary, you conclude in “setting the record straight” that there is no well-organized and politically potent Arab Lobby and little evidence that US politicians ever feel much pressure from pro-Arab groups.

I was expecting you to address for example my comments about Prince Bandar Bin Sultan who is reported to have participated in backstage intrigues, clandestine negotiations, and billion-dollar deals, all having to do with US interests in the Middle East and who was rated by Axis Information And Analysis (AIA), as almost the most influential foreigner in the USA.

I also mentioned that AIA refers to U.S.A.-Engage as one of the largest lobbying groups, uniting 640 giants of the American economy, a tenth of the leading banks, as well as associations of industrialists and farmers. The most prominent and influential members of U.S.A.-Engage work almost permanently in the Congress and have great influence over the mass media (partly because of their advertising expenditure).

Surely you cannot be unaware of the influence of Saudi funding of programs, advocacy groups and community centers on your own turfs in academia. You must know that Harvard and Georgetown intend to rename centers after Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in return for receiving gifts of $20 million each to further Islamic studies. The gift to Georgetown is the second largest in its history and the gift to Harvard ranks among the 25 largest it has received.

It is also common knowledge that the Carter Center has received large donations from Arab sources including the late King Fahd and his nephew, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

You will recall that the Zayed Centre funded by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyanis hit the news when Harvard returned a $2.5 million gift because of the Center’s objectionable activities.

Despite being aware of the reason for Harvard’s rejection of the gift from Sheik Zayed, former President Carter was, by contrast, proud to accept a gift from him and to call him a special friend. In a speech published on the Carter Center web site, he said
“…This award has special significance for me because it is named for my personal friend, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan”.

In Craig Unger’s book, “House of Bush, House of Saud” Unger tells of Saudis investing as much as $800 billion into American Equities, not only in blue chip companies but also in companies not doing so well, but linked to powerful politicians.

He also speaks of at least $1 million donated to each presidential library, emphasizing that the Saudis give to Democrats and Republicans alike. Prince Bandar has been quite frank. “If we give to our friends after they get out of office, the people in office will get the message”.

In an interview with Sentient Times, Unger said that over the last 30 years, the Saudis spent $70 billion on propaganda, the biggest propaganda campaign in the history of the world.

Nor can the dramatic stranglehold of OPEC be ignored. This blatantly monopolistic cartel threatens not only the US, but also the world economy. With oil soaring around $80, it is mind-boggling to consider that production costs average only about $6 per barrel for non-OPEC producers; and $1.50 per barrel for OPEC producers (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists May/June 2005).

Surely, in light of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you cannot be comfortable continuing to claim that there is no well-organized, politically potent Arab Lobby.

7. Conclusion
I wholeheartedly support your call for a civilized discussion about the role of Israel in American foreign policy, though I fear that by focusing on Israel only, you are diverting attention from the serious threat of fundamentalist extremism as opposed to the moderate Muslim religion.

I will put aside, for the present, several other points that remain unanswered and I ask you to please treat this letter as intended, namely to pursue the civilized discussion you advocate.

May I look forward to your response?


Maurice Ostroff

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One Response to “Mearsheimer and Walt’s disingenuous response”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Walt and Mearsheimer are hypocrticial, do put- on- a- front and do make the claim that they support the existence of Israel. But the whole thrust of their book is to so weaken the U.S. – Israel relation that Israel is left virtually alone in the world, not only against the Islamist and Arab threats, but against the U.N. chorus of unending condemnation.
    As Mr. Ostroff points out the failure to mention the major role Saudi Arabia plays in American Middle East politics exposes the total dishonesty of the book.