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Old 11-28-2011, 07:46 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 3,921
Default Re: Values Added: The Whirligig of Time (Glenn Loury & Walter Russell Mead)

Originally Posted by ledocs View Post
The main point of Walt/Mearsheimer is that US interests and Israel's interests do not entirely converge. The main point over which they do not converge has to be oil. I cannot imagine what else we could be talking about.
I think that's over-simplifying. Clearly, Israel and the US don't have identical interests, because they are different countries in extremely different locations who are currently involved in quite different international roles, and it would be foolish to say otherwise. But W&M talk as much or more (in the article) about the war on terror as oil, and the oil arguments seem to focus mainly on the '70s -- a time during which I think the overall US attitude toward Israel and the reasons for it were quite different from now. (I could be wrong, as I don't actually have recollection of the '70s, but I'm plenty willing to explain my reasons if you don't agree with this.)

As it is, I agree that the US's internal politics re Israel means that we act in a way that is contrary to our own interest (and according to many Israelis, contrary to Israel's), but I don't actually think that has much to do with oil or that our position wrt oil would be improved if we acted in a "realist" way. Of course, part of that question involves a determination of what that "realist" way would be, and I don't think that's so obvious as W&M might (or as Glenn may).

The goal of the Israel lobby is to portray Israel as a "strategic ally" of the United States. A subsidiary goal is to spread the idea that there is no daylight between the interests of the US's strategic ally and the US itself.
But again, one of the reasons the W&M argument is not convincing or well-made is that the "Israel Lobby" includes all groups who are vaguely pro-Israel, including the non-hardliners, including those groups who urge the kinds of actions that aren't acceptable currently in mainstream political discourse, but which I'd consider the right move. So apparently W&M think it's not just the "no daylight" position which is contrary to "realism." This is important because, again, there are many reasons to see the US's support for Israel (not the unconditional, no criticism allowed support, but support) as easily explainable by foreign policy considerations, and not just the Lobby.

Now, I am not claiming the Lobby is irrelevant. That's never been my position. But both Glenn and W&M seem to think that the US's position -- again, not just the current form its taken, but the much milder positions advocated by, say J-Street, the position that we took in past decades, so on -- as so inherently irrational that it must be solely the work of a strong lobby, a lobby that seems more magically strong than any other, given the lack of real analysis of how it works. To analyze what the US did to alienate Egypt and Arab states during the Cold War based simply on Israel and not consider whether our problems with other states in the region explain to a certain extent our relationship with Israel seems to be quite strange.

The meaning of this strategic alliance, so far as I am concerned, is that Israel will act as a military ally of the US in the case of a major military or terrorist threat to US and Western access to Middle East oil, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Israel would allow US access to its airfields in a catastrophic scenario. What else can it mean for Israel to be a "strategic ally" of the United States?
These are realist reasons for an alliance, so I guess I'm not sure what you are getting at.

What is the point of advancing democracy in the Middle East, of achieving greater stability there?
One argument is that the current situation is inherently unstable and thus threatens a disastrous instability and anti-American attitude in the future, if we can't get to a more stable and democratic situation without something akin (or worse) to the Iranian Revolution. A related argument is that over time democracy would lead to attitudes more conducive to a liberalization of society and more normal relationships with the west. The maintenance of authoritatianism means distractions by in some cases encouraging religious fundamentalism and, of course, hatred of external enemies, including the US and Israel, and in other cases encourages the growth of religious fundamentalism as a genuine opposition movement. Both probably lead to more risk of terrorism. One bad effect of a radical overthrow of government would potentially be related to oil, sure, but I don't think moderating our policy on Israel changes that.

First of all, Glenn was not talking to an audience at an Ivy League school, he was on bhtv.
To the extent anything said on bhtv is "dangerous," it's due to the personal position of the person saying it. For example, if Romney came on bhtv and said that we ought to be more critical of Israel, Obama is letting them get away with murder, that would be a real risk for him. Glenn, as a professor at Brown, is not in that kind of position. He can say what he would at Brown.

What do you think Glenn meant when he said, “[Whoa], I don’t want to be on the wrong side of that argument?”
I think he was saying he didn't want to make an argument that would be perceived as anti-semitic. Not because the accusation is damaging, as because he doesn't want to make such an argument. He later pushed back a little by saying that if it is wrong, it's wrong to make the argument. I think he took seriously Walter's objections to -- not simply the characterization of -- the argument.

Walt/Mearsheimer never said that US policy towards Israel is attributable solely to Jews.
Glenn's initial statement seemed to. He brought up W&M, to defend his initial statement of the issue, but that's actually not a good defense (problematic as the W&M argument is, IMO), precisely because W&M's "Israel Lobby" is not "Jews" but a broader set of non-unified and quite different groups. Walter should have noted this, but he didn't seem interested in doing more than criticizing W&M.

There is an Israel lobby, which would have us believe that the interests of Israel and the US converge completely.
They include moderate groups, which do not claim this, or at least claim this only by saying that an Israel who did what it should would be acting in its own best interest, as well as that of the US. To claim these groups as part of the same "Lobby" with AIPAC and the Christian Zionists makes no sense, even if the latter can reasonably be said to be part of one Lobby. But in any case, the statement Glenn made that provoked Walter's digression was much more simple.

The US should reevaluate its policy to Israel and to the Palestinian question in order better to advance its interests.
Again, this is one argument, one I happen to agree with, even if we wouldn't end up precisely at the same place. The other issue, however, is why does the US act differently than you or I or Glenn or probably even Walter would prefer? The answer to that is more complicated than "powerful Jews" or W&M's "Israel Lobby." Again, do PACs play a role? I'm certain they do. Is my opinion on these questions defined by AIPAC? No, it is not. Getting into the complexities of American opinion and how it plays out in politics on these questions could be interesting. W&M's article is not.

Well, sorry, but there is a dual loyalty problem. But of course, if Israeli and US interests are entirely convergent, the problem goes away, because loyalty to one country is the same thing as loyalty to the other.
Actually, there's no problem if the interests aren't divergent. The US and France don't always agree, and don't always share the same views of their national interests, but so long as they don't actually go beyond that, there's no conflict.

Why is there a dual loyalty problem? Because, should there ever be resurgent anti-Semitism in the US, American Jews can flee to Israel. If you don’t think that’s an important component of what animates part of the American Jewish community, you don’t know enough about the American Jewish community.
I don't see this as dual loyalty. It doesn't suggest selling out the US for Israel, being willing to do what is against the best interests of the US, which is the ugly claim.

(And yes I've heard this idea, although I think it's only part of the American Jewish community, as you said.)
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