Originally Posted by ledocs
Glenn's question, a perfectly reasonable one, is how can it be that the US appears to put its greatest interest in the Middle East, namely oil, at risk, by pursuing an Israel policy that does not seem consonant with this principle interest? And the next question is, insofar as there is a mystery to be explained here, does the existence of an Israel lobby, in which Jewish organizations play a large role, help to explain the apparent mystery?
I agree that this would be an interesting topic to discuss, but I'm not entirely sure what the best approach would be. Right now I'm thinking of two separate diavlogs.
One would be basically what the W&M book should have been (I've only read the article and discussions of the book, admittedly). Basically, it would be between two people who could both discuss foreign policy from a realist POV and political science relating to PACs, how policy is formed, how public opinion is formed and effects policy and could discuss these kinds of topics more broadly than I/P. For example, talk about other issues in which internal views or PACs influenced policy. A problem with the W&M article was that they didn't seem competent to or at least didn't really get into the mechanics of how the Lobby worked, how it interacted with US opinion more broadly. Also, of course, although you'd need people who could talk about what realism would demand in the way of policy, it's important to consider that reasons other than a Lobby lead to the US not acting that way. For example, the Cold War's effect on policy and theories other than realism and how they affected policy. I am less convinced than Glenn that US policy on the whole (as opposed to current insanities re Congress and Netanyahu and the apparent terror at criticizing Israel which seems new to me) is essentially irrational and can only be explained by something other than US interests. I don't think the oil point is compelling. However, I'd be open to a good discussion.
The second is the more psychological question of US attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians (and perhaps other world issues/countries), how they've changed over time, and why. What interests me here is Glenn's statement of his own views which show not just a dispassionate consideration of the I/P problem and view that the Palestinians are in the right on various points, but a broad-based identity with them that leads to a much more strongly held position than people often have wrt conflicts in other countries (at least in the US). I think Glenn's position is the reverse of how many people in the US feel about the Israelis, although I think the majority of people don't care that much about either side. I also don't think it's hard to see why this is, in part due to positive propanganda and personal experience with people, but also for many other reasons, mostly relating to the US being a military power and having various experiences with terrorism, although it's also related to the "the Israelis seem like us" thing.
What interests me is simply this identification and how it works. I think that changes how people react away from a "realism" kind of approach and the dynamic of discussions of the issue in a bunch of ways.
Every time a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama says anything that does not exhibit "unconditional support" for Israel, he gets reeled back into line by something, so what is that something? (And if you don't think that is true, just look at the debate I had with bbbeard about the speech Obama gave at the State Department in May, 2011, I think, a speech that was described breathlessly by some as worldshaking in its historical importance and anamolousness in the history of US policy towards Israel, but which was given an entirely anodyne gloss by none other than Walter Russell Mead.)
I could be wrong, but I see the dynamic you are talking about as something new and something different than the general pro-Israel POV of our elected officials. I think the latter can be explained by the fact that there's nothing to be gained on the one side and a lot on the other, and that most people don't care (circumstances in which PACs can be quite powerful and in many cases AIPAC is, IMO). But the insane reaction to Obama's speech (also defended by Israel hawk Jeffrey Goldberg, and that he's usually defined as such is why I brought him up then) seems new. I'd like to understand that aspect of it better, and I don't think assuming it's just AIPAC does that -- it ignores how intensely felt the attitude is among a much broader group. It also ignores how it's now being raised as an issue by the right mainly to court non-Jews. (Some Jews too, sure, but it's given too much play for that to be the reason.) For example, I'm hearing about slights to Israel all the time these days from FOX listeners who never cared at all about Israel in the past. There's something going on beyond AIPAC being the most powerful PAC ever.
(And I feel compelled to note again that given the way Glenn brought up the issue and the way I've heard people on the left talk about the issue, I don't think Walter is so wrong on the anti-semitism thing, which I think he brought up more carefully than he is being given credit for and did not apply to Glenn. I simply didn't interpret him to be saying, as some of you seem to think, that noting the power of AIPAC -- even if it's not actually the most powerful PAC ever -- was wrong and immoral. He was reacting to Glenn's more broadbased comment at the beginning. And one objection to people attributing the weirdo views on Israel to powerful Jews is that it seems to conflate all Jews as having the same views, when obviously many Jews -- as Walter noted -- are to the left of the average American, don't care any more than the average American, or are involved with groups that take much more balanced and criticial of Israel views, from J Street to various peace groups. And another objection -- speaking as a gentile -- is that that explanation seems to assume that non-Jews are just reacting to propaganda and not forming their beliefs with as much reason and cause as Jews do. Simply saying AIPAC is powerful or has a powerful influence on our politicians doesn't contradict that, so I don't think Walter's criticism was meant so broadly. Claiming, however, that the reason the US doesn't act like Glenn would prefer is simply
AIPAC or "powerful Jews" or a Jewish lobby (not what W&M said but how many seem to talk about it) does seem to me to be wrong or at least a grossly incomplete explanation.)