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Old 11-29-2011, 12:06 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)

ledocs, there are two different arguments here, which are getting conflated.

One is what is the rational US policy wrt Israel. I believe that there are multiple reasonable answers to that question, as with many foreign policy questions. And I think some look quite different in retrospect, but if we want to understand why they were seen as rational at the time, you need to take seriously the mindset of those involved in the decisions.

For example, with hindsight, we might think the reaction of the British and US to various movements in the Middle East (the election of Mosaddegh in Iran, say) was counterproductive or wrong. But to insist that it was so irrational as to obviously be the result of non-realist considerations -- let alone considerations that have nothing to do with foreign policy objectives -- is clearly wrong, it ignores the real concerns about both oil and socialism/nationalizaton in the region that were primary at the time.

Similarly, if people tried to argue that the US support for the awful Saudi Arabian leadership or support for Zia in Pakistan or on and on was irrational, they fail. Now, they can certainly argue these things were or are unwise, which is what I see the essence of W&M's argument about the US's Israel policy over time, but that's quite different than the claim that it simply cannot be explained by foreign policy considerations because it is on its face irrational even given the mindset of the people making the policy.

Now, you say:

The argument is that if the Palestinian problem were mitigated to some great extent, there would be less anti-Western Islamo-terrorism...
This is an argument, sure. You might even be able to convince me. But does it show that anyone with a different view of what the US policy should be is choosing that policy despite the tradeoff of more terrorism? No. It simply means that there's no agreement on your point that there would be less terrorism as a result of the changed policy.

(My own view, for the record, is that if we could resolve the I/P dispute, through the establishment of a 2-state solution, that would take a lot of the power away from the issue and how it's used to encourage terrorism. But that wouldn't happen overnight and -- more significantly -- I don't think the US changing policy leads to a settlement of the dispute. It might make it more likely, but even that seems a bit like wishful thinking, much as I think we should give it a shot.)

I think this is mostly gobbledygook.
That's nice. I clearly don't. More significantly, I don't believe that those who make such arguments are being so irrational that they can't possibly really believe it.

Do you really think that the US undertook the war in Iraq in order to “advance democracy” and “promote stability” and to “defeat terror?”
How did you get that from my response? I didn't say anything about Iraq.

But in fact I think the underlying reasons for Iraq were mixed.

The Middle East is not important, apart from oil.
Again, if you look at policy in the '70s, I don't think the US saw its actions wrt Israel as endangering access to oil or as inconsistent with its overall strategic interests, which have to be seen in the context of the Cold War.

Also, of course, it's hardly only wrt Israel that there are motives other than strictly realist ones. Whether we should follow a realist foreign policy is a matter of debate. The question is, to the extent the US in the '70s or at any other time saw our involvement as consistent with justice or moral considerations, is that simply the result of lobbying by a particular group, or is it more complex. I suppose you can say that whatever I remember thinking as a kid in the '80s or whatever I recall friends and family thinking were just the result of AIPAC's propaganda, but that seems to me to dismiss many other reasons and influences.

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.
Correct. I am saying that in this day and age things get disseminated. After Glenn's comments in a prior discussion of Israel, I think we all know what he thinks. To suggest that he can be cowed like a politician can be, that the climate "of the US" makes his comments dangerous ignores the differences within different subcultures of the US. There are subcultures in which being perceived as an overly aggressive critic of Israel is a problem. None of them seem all that relevant to Glenn.

I am also quite tired of the overreaction to claims, whether they be of racism, sexism, anti-semitism. It's reached a point when you'd think it's worse and more worth discussion to be called such than to actually be such, and almost always the people who complain the loudest about the accusations are in contexts in which the accusation is actually a badge of honor or, at least, not particularly harmful. To Glenn's credit, he did not overreact to the use of the term. He took it seriously, because I think he's a man of good faith and really does not wish to say things that can fairly be the target of such criticism. I took his response as trying to understand Walter's POV on these things and considering whether there was more to the issue than he had assumed.

Of course, as I said before, I do agree that these kinds of terms can be overused (even in good faith), are something (NOT here, IMO) used to silence, and always become a distraction. Therefore, I think it's better to avoid them. But I do not agree that Walter's discussion was an effort to silence or inexplicable or worth criticism of the kinds he's gotten, and that's why I'm arguing.
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