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Old 12-30-2011, 11:43 AM
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
you now speak of brainwashing.
Yes, I was being immoderate, because I read your post as dismissing that we could have come to the views we did without "the Lobby." I did make sure to note that you HAD acknowledged the influence of other things.[/quote]

If I explicitly say that the influence of the Jewish Lobby would not have worked as it did in the absence of other cultural and historical factors that allowed it to work, you recast my position as saying that the Jewish Lobby explains everything about the attitudes of your gentile peers to Israel-Palestine.
No, I didn't. I specifically stated that you'd acknowledged the importance of other things.

One frustration for me in this conversation is that I am not really sure what it is that we -- you and me -- are disagreeing about on the broader issue. I get the sense that you are attributing to me (or to Mead, who I started out defending, just solely based on my interpretation of the comments in the diavlog and the one review, neither of which struck me as offensive) views that are, of course, stupid, but which I don't hold and didn't defend, namely those in Commentary, etc. Clearly, one frustration for you is that you are interpreting me as attributing to you the views that I'm slamming (the "it's only the Jews" thing), which I'm actually not, even if I've not expressed myself well enough to make that clear. But those are the views I saw Mead as reacting to and thus was defending that reaction.

Given all this, it seems to me possible that you and I may well have similar views on the underlying matters but I read W&M and, more so, the language that Mead was reacting to (which was not W&M, but the whole "the Jewish Lobby explains the whole thing" argument) more critically and you read Mead himself and the criticism of that argument (especially the claim that it's "immoral") more critically.

We also are disagreeing on the importance of W&M vs. other events, which is perhaps why you are more positive about them and I'm more dismissive or critical of their sloppiness (as I perceive it).

To focus in on the Commentary vs. Friedman dynamic, this is clearly not something new -- it's similar to the kind of criticism Friedman (unfairly) received in response to his articles about Israel's involvement in the Lebanon War, and it demonstrates the kind of debate about Israel that has traditionally been possible, indeed on which Friedman's views represented the more mainstream view. My concern, and why I think things are changing, is that there seems to be much more demonization in the mainstream political discourse these days based on people taking the Friedman side or anything left of the Commentary side. This is because the right has whole-heartedly taken up the Commentary side in a way they hadn't previously (pre 9/11).

Indeed, as you pointed out before, traditionally Friedman would likely have been part of the W&M "Israel Lobby." Certainly Goldberg would. Yet both are critical of the same things that you have been slamming. I don't think this is because they've changed their minds, new use of "Israel Lobby" aside. Again, I think it's because the discussion in the US is moving in a disturbing direction and they are reacting to it. Thus, despite Friedman's adoption of the language, I think he has to be considered as part of the mainstream US view that is under attack by W&M et al. as the product of the Israel Lobby. When considering how much different factions of the Israel Lobby or other factors play a role in the development of this mainstream, we thus have to focus more on the kinds of arguments that Friedman makes, that Goldberg makes, that defenders of US policy generally make, and not those that defenders of Commentary positions make, as the latter are actually criticizing US policy from the right.

W&M are saying that US policy for decades has been contrary to US interests, and to understand that claim productively I think it's necessary to see how it could possibly be so. I continue to think that the argument that AIPAC had such political power that US policy makers bent to their will simply doesn't make sense, either in terms of how US foreign policy works or how lobbying works. IMO, lobbying isn't likely to make the US act in a way that seems consciously contrary to its best interest, as Glenn seemed to be suggesting. It probably is one factor among others that causes the US to weigh what is in fact in its best interest in a way that might be skewed (as did Cold War paranoia, as does our reaction to terrorism, as do a variety of other things). My view, with which you may well disagree, is that the way Glenn was framing the issue, the kinds of frames that Mead objected to, don't help get at the real problem.

I think that the specifically Jewish Lobby is crucial to understanding the special relationship that has developed between the US and Israel.
I think it's part of it. I think I consider it less important than you do, because I think the situation as it existed in, say, 1975 or 1985 or 1990 or '95 was less problematic than you probably do. Also, I think the US's position can be explained at those times by looking at the US's perceived interests (paranoia about nationalist movements and pro Communist attitudes in the Middle East, about Iran, post hostage crisis and about Islamic fundamentalism stemming from the Iranian events, so on) and a lot of the pro Israel bias in the media explained not so directly by a lobby as a much more widely held and consistent attitude about Israel in the Jewish American community that gentiles, largely due to the Holocaust and awareness of Christian anti-semitism over time tended to be somewhat sympathetic to. I'd add to this the fact that Israel itself used PR effectively (something Friedman talks about), and, of course, that even Christians of the non-Christian-Zionist variety, who may not theologically care about Israel, will still find the names and geography resonate and thus be interested and read media stories about it in a way that few other areas outside of the US can demand. (And other factors specific to US culture.)

However, I do think the lobby (as I would define it, in a more limited way than W&M seem to) is an important factor. How important, how much it made a difference in what the US did in broad strokes, I'm less convinced of its significance than you, but as I've said about a thousand times now, I am interested in real investigation and arguments about this. I think it's irresponsible (to use a better word than Mead's) to assume that it's all about the lobby and ignore these other factors unless you can show me evidence that I haven't seen anyone even try to put together, however. W&M do not. And to be clear, this is not criticism of what you've said here, it is not at all critical of what Friedman said, which I applaud. It's criticism of the kinds of discussions that Glenn seemed to be getting into (although I think he would be very open to acknowledging these other factors) and, in particular, criticism of the kinds of discussions I think Mead was criticizing.

It is of crucial and critical importance. It does not explain everything. I do not think it is remotely possible to understand the US-Israel relationship without paying due attention to the Jewish Lobby's influence in electoral politics, on the federal bureaucracy, and in the media. The entire question is how much of the relationship it explains. How about 51%?
Okay. Again, maybe I'd pick a lower number, but I don't have much disagreement here.

I really wish that you would try to find a Friedman quote that antedates the W&M article and that tends to demonstrate, to your mind, that Friedman was unaffected by W&M when writing his recent column about American-Israel relations.
I might try to show some evolution in Friedman's attitudes (not a clean one, due to his reaction to 9/11), but I think you are misunderstanding me. Under my theory -- that Friedman is reacting with frustration to the greater extremity in the US dialogue (as demonstrated by the much more mainstream place of views like Ray's, especially on the right) -- it also should be a relatively recent development. I think you see that in Goldberg, where you get similar comments more recently. We are arguing about causation, not timing.

I am seeing this through a frame where I found my own views all of a sudden seeming to shift to the left in comparison with national opinion when they haven't changed. Somehow, having views that Gershom expressed on bloggingheads doesn't make you firmly pro Zionist (like analogous views did in, say, 1999). It makes you critical of Israel and gets your support questioned. Again, Obama does not have different views than Clinton, but he gets a very different reaction, and only a part of this in the US is his name, etc. The rest is a change in the US. Now, while "the lobby" may play an important role in this change -- the change that I'm really worried about -- it's a different make-up of the lobby than in the '80s, it seems to me, and it focusing on different supporters. In part because some of the traditional supporters (the traditional broad support among Jewish Americans) aren't as much fertile ground, whereas other groups (the right, Christian Zionists) are. It seems to me that the support for the current viewpoints is different than the traditional support for AIPAC (which doesn't mean that right-wing Jews aren't part of it, of course). Granted, I'm basing this too much on anecdotal evidence, so I am -- like you -- interested in evidence and people doing studies and so on.
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