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Old 12-01-2011, 02:48 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
Did you read Mead's review of the Walt/Mearsheimer book?
Yes, and it's generally compatible with my own reaction to the W/M article and to the arguments one of them (Walt, I believe) presented during a bhtv appearance a while back.

He says that the book is not anti-Semitic but that its rhetorical style leaves it open to such a charge. And he does nothing in the review to back up this characterization.
I disagree. I think Mead is being a realist here. There are reactions to the topic in question which can genuinely be called anti-semitic, there are accusations flying around, and there are suspicions of anti-semitism that colors the debate. As a result, it behooves people, especially people who are neither anti-semitic nor Jewish, to be aware of how certain claims are more sensitive due to how they have been used by others and due to history. I don't think this is any different than what is expected with regard to other potentially sensitive topics.

Also, as I have noticed during the recent explosion of Israel talk around here, during which I've actually tried to wade in some to a topic I usually talk about only with those I know are of common mind, it's a topic where it's extremely hard to engage in communication with those who disagree with you. It is in part difficult because there are assumptions on both sides about what those who disagree with them believe, supported in part by the kind of language used and in part by familiarity with the more extreme arguments on the same side. As a result, I firmly believe that people engaging in the discussion should try to avoid the kinds of statements and arguments that are extremely likely to get misinterpreted by the other side or to simply serve as a barrier to discussion and which do nothing to further the discussion, but only to make ones own side feel happy about the rhetorical point.

Based on this, I think one does have to be careful and specific in talking about this and make sure it doesn't sound like the arguments which are problematic due to the historical context. There's an added reason, which is that when there's a longstanding assumption one probably should be extra careful to make sure he or she hasn't simply bought into such assumptions. Insist upon more evidence to counter possible prejudice. (I'm sure this is something that people not in the group may be more focused on. For example, I'm generally less concerned that my attitudes are sexist, even though I believe that cultural attitudes, including sexist ones, cross gender lines. Nonetheless, I have a resistence to the idea that I'm sexist, and thus likely in some cases more impatience with claims that a particular argument must be, if I see some merit in it.)

Anyway, if one has a good faith point to make -- one relating to AIPAC, say, or even a more general cultural one about Judaism and the US -- one can make that without resorting to the kinds of claims and language that is almost certain to be seen as signs of anti-semitism, as common anti-Jewish tropes, by many people. As Mead said, it's better to be careful to avoid this, because it ends up distracting from the discussion they want to have, about the relationship of lobbies and domestic politics on foreign policy in this area.

W&M's fault here was in not being specific in their definition of the Israel Lobby -- lumping in pro Israel groups with extremely different views and means, for example -- or in how the lobbying is said to relate to the policies (again, a problem because J-Street clearly is not getting its views heard). They were not clear on the difference between pushing a view on the topic in which "it's good for Israel as well as the US" is used as an argument -- since basically everyone says that -- and being part of this Lobby.

Going to a slightly different subject -- the reaction that many have to the idea that their language or arguments could be seen as offensive or grounded in prejudice. Mead didn't say this, but I would further add that when people get so upset by the fact that certain ways of talking about the problem that can be easily avoided result in negative assumptions that they double-down on the use of the problematic ways of talking about it, I sometimes wonder why. I don't assume anti-semitism -- I'm sure some of the people who react in this way are doing so because they are pissed that their motives could be questioned in such a way (often because they are Jewish themselves, similar to the reaction I noted above re my reaction to some claims of sexism) or because they want to make a stand against what they see as an over-used charge or simply because they want to use what they consider more vivid language. (The latter argument assumes that the language in question -- something like calling the Israelis "Nazis" for example -- is more compelling for some reason, but I think it never is. It's merely satisfying for the already convinced.)

In response to the people making the arguments referred to above, I'd note that exactly the same arguments can be made about various uses of language and examples that are often called racist or which offend people, but which some, some of whom are racist, some of whom I'm sure are not, feel compelled to employ anyway. Or probably because of that fact. I don't think going there necessarily makes one racist or anti-semitic, again, but my opinion is that there's no real good reason for it and it makes discussion more difficult. So I'm sympathetic to Mead.

On the other hand, as I said above, I think the same can be said for actually calling people racist or anti-semitic, even when it's probably true. So on the whole I think it's better not to go there. Mead was more general in his comments -- he didn't call anyone specifically an anti-semite, but described an argument as such. He only commented on Mearsheimer and the book at all when asked about him. Yet as noted above, he probably could have made his point in the diavlog without creating this distraction.

On Mearsheimer and the Atzmon book, that isn't something I'm interested in learning enough about to have an opinion I wish to defend in writing and I didn't see it as central to the diavlog. (Okay, one thing. I don't know enough to have a well-founded view of Atzmon, but based on the various things he's been quoted as saying, he sounds nothing like Wonderment to me.)

You have to be pretty tone-deaf, in my opinion, not to understand that Mead is on the hunt for anti-Semites, that you had better be very careful what you say around him as far as the Jews and Israel are concerned.
I strongly disagree. I think his review of W&M is evidence for my side of this argument, also.

(By the way, the president of Bard is Leon Botstein. I've got to think that Botstein was very instrumental in getting Mead to come to Bard. I don't know what Botstein's views on US - Israel relations are, but somehow I would not be surprised if they were very close to Mead's, because one might wonder, a priori, how Mead ended up at Bard. And I recently listened to an interview with Botstein on "Conversations with History" at the UC Berkeley website that I liked quite a bit, but Israel is not discussed there. That's all just a sidelight. And I want to make it clear that I am not on an anti-Mead crusade here. If he has published something which shows the "overwhelming evidence" that America's Jews are not driving US - Israel relations, or that they are not crucially influential in determining those relations, I am anxious to read it.)
Yes, Botstein has been president of Bard forever. Here's something on him and I/P that you might find interesting. I'm actually not sure why Botstein's views on Israel would be relevant, but I don't assume the president of a college hires people -- especially big name people -- based on them lining up with his POV, however.

On the question of dual loyalty, Victor Davis Hanson argues that there is a dual-loyalty problem for the Mexican-American immigrants to the US.
Yeah, I mentioned this was the other area in which you heard such views (and somewhat jokingly referenced Mickey Kaus). I am definitely not going to defend Hanson, however.
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