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Old 11-29-2011, 06:11 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)

I said:

The US should reevaluate its policy to Israel and to the Palestinian question in order better to advance its interests.
Stephanie replied:

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.
Do Walt and Mearsheimer claim that the Israel lobby explains everything about US policy to Israel? As I said before, the question is that of the degree to which that policy is explained by the hardline, AIPAC “Israel right or wrong” line. And, yes, of course, one would have to sort out the various factions of the lobby in an attempt to understand how and why it is that the hardline strain appears to predominate in actual influence. Maybe they have more money. Maybe they know how to use the money better. Maybe they are just more in tune with American opinion and are not really influencing anything. (But I do think that it is naïve to think that American opinion generally is determinative here. What is important is American elite opinion, the class of actual and potential political donors.)

I think the Walt/Mearsheimer article was quite important, and interesting, although the interest it held for me was primarily that it tended to confirm my own opinions. There is the following paradox. If someone attempted to prove in a rigorous way that AIPAC and its immediate allies in the lobby are driving US policy towards Israel (in the sense that this faction is a determining necessary condition for explaining the policy, not in the sense that it is a necessary and sufficient condition for explaining the policy), that person would have a very difficult time getting the work published and might well be under constant death threat. I don’t know precisely what W&M did or did not do in their book. What I do know is that it would be a monumental task to try to follow the specifically Jewish money in American politics and then to understand what effect it is having on US policy to Israel. Mead complains that W&M content themselves with anecdotal evidence. But let’s imagine a work along these lines that goes well beyond anecdote. If it makes a good case, it is ipso facto anti-Semitic, the author(s) become completely untouchable, and so on. If an academic tried to produce such a work, his career would be effectively at an end. So I think that there are several reasons why W&M’s book is not very good from a social science point of view. It is very difficult to imagine, in principle, such a work being produced and getting a hearing, if we do not prejudge what the results of such a work would be. At the anecdotal level, I have a very strong sense, an overriding sense, that the specifically Jewish “hardline” lobby has been able to enforce a political correctness that has stifled debate about what policy with respect to the Israel-Palestinian dispute would be in the US interest. And that is the main point made by Walt/Mearsheimer, and they should be applauded for having made the point. And they are being applauded by many Jews, as I pointed out earlier.

I said:

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.
Stephanie replied:

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.
I don’t understand this interchange. I think you meant to say, “There’s no problem if the interests are divergent.” But of course there is a problem when interests diverge. It’s just a question of how big a problem. When France and the US quarreled very publicly in the UN in the run-up to war in Iraq, that was a big problem in the bilateral relationship. When France and Germany quarrel about how to address the Euro crisis, that’s a problem, a problem which can either be manageable or unmanageable. Such quarrels do not constitute prima facie proof of divergent interests, but it would not be difficult to point to divergent interests, or of perceived divergent interests, as the source of these particular quarrels.

I said:

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.
Stephanie replied:

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.
Again, you are making a distinction which cannot be maintained, in my opinion. People come to convince themselves that there is no daylight between Israel’s interests and US interests, that, for example, condoning Israel’s settlement policy bears no relation to the US’s real strategic interest in the region, which is oil. Or, they say, “Yes, there is a potential problem here, but it is quite minor, and is as nothing when compared with the huge advantages conferred by having a loyal and strategic democratic ally in the region.” And a reason that people can convince themselves of this is their special relationship to the Jewish Homeland. I don’t think it’s that useful to try to figure out who is sincere on the “no daylight” claim and who is not. It is sufficient to try to point out that there is daylight.

Last edited by ledocs; 11-29-2011 at 06:27 AM..
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