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Old 11-29-2011, 05:42 AM
ledocs ledocs is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: France, Earth
Posts: 1,165
Default Re: Values Added: The Whirligig of Time (Glenn Loury & Walter Russell Mead)

Stephanie said:

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.
Let’s forget the labels. The argument is that if the Palestinian problem were mitigated to some great extent, there would be less anti-Western Islamo-terrorism and there would be less anti-Western, anti-US sentiment on the “Arab street,” and that Arab and Persian regimes, whatever form they take, would, ceteris paribus, have reason to be more friendly and accommodating to US interests.

One cannot know what the effects of moderating US policy on Israel would be. But it seems safe to say that a “moderation” could not hurt in the “war against terror” on the one hand, or in general in making whatever Arab and Persian regimes exist more friendly to the US. So there was a “realist” camp that was saying, prior to the Iraq war, that the war on terror should proceed first through Jerusalem. I associate this primarily with Z. Brzezinski.

Stephanie said:

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.
I think this is mostly gobbledygook. That is why I asked, “What is the point of advancing democracy in the Middle East?” Do you really think that the US undertook the war in Iraq in order to “advance democracy” and “promote stability” and to “defeat terror?” The US has three interests in the Middle East. The first is oil. To the appetite for oil must presumably be added the appetite for petrodollars. The second is supporting Israel, for ideological reasons not having to do with oil. The third is combating anti-Western terrorism, which can be traced back to oil and to Western military presence in the region. After all, Bin Laden’s main complaint was that there were Western forces in Saudi Arabia. The “realist” argument is that the Israel-Palestinian dispute is distracting the US from its real strategic interests in the region. But that formulation can be reasonably translated into, “The Israel-Palestinian dispute is distracting the US from its real strategic interest in the region, which is in maintaining a steady flow of oil.”

The Middle East is not important, apart from oil. It just isn’t. When people talk about promoting democracy in the Middle East, you have to look behind the curtain. (I don't know what to think about Wolfowitz on this point, but it doesn't matter too much, because I do know what to think about Cheney.) When people talk about US “strategic interests” in the Middle East, e.g. when Petraeus talks about that, he is really talking about oil. It’s just code. Walt and Mearsheimer use this code. It’s understood. Why can’t we just say what we mean? Because the great US is demeaned by acknowledging in a diplomatic context that it has become so dependent upon this single resource. To this demeaning dependence is now added the fact that the US is, and has been the principal villain in destroying the planet’s ecology due to the incredibly profligate way in which its land use patterns developed and to its generally profligate habits.

Stephanie said:

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… 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”
This is all not very important. You’re saying that Glenn feels no additional constraint upon what he would say on bhtv vis-à-vis what he would say at Brown. I say that he might feel that he could say one kind of a thing as an aside in a graduate seminar, say, and another kind of thing to undergrads in the classroom, and another kind of thing to an undergrad in his office, and another kind of thing to a grad student in his office, and another kind of thing to a public conference about US-Israel relations held on the Brown campus. A constraint that he might feel, speaking hypothetically, on bhtv is that he brought Ross Levine onto bhtv, for example. So, again hypothetically, there are, in fact, “personal things” that might race through his mind on bhtv in particular when deciding whether and how to venture into contested territory having to do with possible accusations of anti-Semitism. My general point would be that, in the terms of social science, Glenn has social roles in addition to that of university professor at Brown. Some of those other roles are relevant to constraints, or to the lack thereof, that he might feel in different settings when it comes to discussing American Jews and US-Israel relations.

But I am not persuaded, in this context, by the following distinction you make:
Not because the accusation [sc. of anti-Semitism] is damaging, as because he doesn't want to make such an argument.
The reason I said that he cowered in fear is that the argument Mead makes at this point, the one about polls of US Jews, is not a good argument, for the reasons I have given, and probably for other reasons that I have not given. So one might think that Loury got distracted by the potential damage caused by the mere possibility of an accusation of anti-Semitism being made against him. And this fear and attendant distraction would perhaps be heightened by the facts that Glenn is black and that, as we know, there is a lot of tension between Jews and blacks surrounding accusations of black anti-Semitism. And we can infer that Glenn may be on bhtv in the first place because of his connection with “The New Republic.” And Glenn recently told us that he resigned his position as contributing editor to “The New Republic” because of an op-ed about Israel that Martin Peretz wrote. I don’t think Glenn wants to be accused of being an anti-Semite, and I don’t think he wants to be an anti-Semite either, I’ll agree with that. Mead had reviewed the Walt-Mearsheimer book. Glenn may not even have read it. Mead is a specialist here, Glenn is not (pace ohreally).

Last edited by ledocs; 11-29-2011 at 05:49 AM..
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