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April 06, 2006

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RR

At Power Line, Scott Johnson posts excerpts from Dershowitz’s paper and from Eliot Cohen’s “Yes, It’s Anti-Semitic” in the Washington Post and John Hinderaker adds this comment:

“If there were a referee, he'd stop the fight. If this were a Little League baseball game, it would have been called long ago under the ten-run rule. I think we can officially proclaim this the most one-sided intellectual debate in history. Mearsheimer and Walt have been reduced to rubble, and that was by Scott's initial post on the subject. What's happened since is almost too painful to contemplate.

“There is a lesson here, though: portions of the academic world comprise such a bubble of bigoted dissociation from reality that these two academics -- presumably of normal intelligence at least -- could write their paper without realizing what a laughable fantasy it was.”

http://powerlineblog.com/archives/013662.php

J. Lichty

And in the end the Arabs will still use this as proof of their victimhood -- Harvard and U of C said so.

The twin jew haters knew what they were doing. All they had to do was get it in the public spere and it would be transformed by the MSM from a collection of anti-semitic conspiracy theories and slanders to a "thought-provking and controversial research paper"

In today's Chicago Tribune of course the paper is painted as something that the over-sensitive Jews are using to try to stifle debate.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0604060188apr06,1,7426220.story


2 profs spark political firestorm
Duo from U. of C. and Harvard write that a powerful lobby has been able to force U.S. foreign policy to serve the interests of Israel

By Ron Grossman
Tribune staff reporter
Published April 6, 2006


A University of Chicago professor has ignited an intellectual firestorm in halls of ivy and corridors of power with an essay in a highbrow British journal.

Writing in the London Review of Books, John Mearsheimer, a U. of C. political scientist, and his academic partner, Harvard University professor Stephen Walt, offered a simple diagnosis for what ails U.S. foreign policy.

How did we get involved in a seemingly endless Iraq war? Why are we reviled in Muslim countries and targeted by terrorists?

"Why," they asked, "has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state?"

Mearsheimer and Walt say a vocal and well-financed lobby--made up of Jewish organizations and Christian fundamentalists, political fundraisers, media outlets and neo-conservatives--gets Washington to slavishly do Israel's bidding.

Mearsheimer and Walt's thesis, published late last month, has provoked both applause and a torrent of criticism. It also has inspired several spinoff counter-conspiracy theories.

When Walt recently stepped down as dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, some speculated he was forced out because the university was taking heat for their essay, "The Israel Lobby." Harvard published a news release saying the change long had been in the works. Both Harvard and the U. of C. have argued universities must be a forum for controversial ideas like those discussed in the essay.

"We wanted to stimulate a serious debate," said Mearsheimer, "not a food fight."

Reactions are mixed

Some observers suggest that Mearsheimer and Walt have done just the opposite, potentially scaring people away from the debate by putting the issue in polarizing terms.

But Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, told a leading Israeli newspaper: "It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here were exported" to the U.S.

The Christian Science Monitor favorably cited Mearsheimer and Walt's theory in an editorial on the Middle East. Some Israeli commentators have given it cautious praise as a warning that American support for Israel can't be taken for granted.

It is not until the next paragraph that the "Opposition from Jewish Groups" is noted then in essence dismissed as Jew-Hysteria.

I don't have time for a proper critique of that article but it seems based upon the Whitewashing by WaPo and now Tirbune, we can expect hundreds of words giving the accusations in an unchallenged form, while critics are given a few pithy words of criticism buried in the middle of this controversial and powerful piece.

Jack

Unfortunately, the way things work suggests that there will be many people who just accept what is written in this paper.

Too few engage in critical thought and analysis.

Conflator

Mearsheimer and Walt described an environment in which legitimate criticism of Israel is systematically shouted down by a loose coalition of Israel supporters ... and their comments are shouted down by a loose coalition of Israel supporters. Go figure.

Why do so many of Israel's supporters dodge critical scrutiny of their position? Do honest supporters of gun rights, for example, dodge arguments? Do honest supporters of nationalized health care?

There should be no shame in arguing that support for Israel is in the best interests of America. There should be no shame in promoting a personal preference for supporting Israel, even at cost, as long as it is recognized that others may not share this personal preference and might want to scrutinize the cost of supporting Israel. The appearance is very strongly given that that some people who have a personal preference for supporting Israel want to keep others who might disagree with them from having the matter show up on their radar screens. It would be nice if there were more evidence contrary to this appearance.

RR

Conflator: Thank you for your comment.

Is a 45-page response to Mearsheimer and Walt, which ends with an invitation to debate, a case of their being “shouted down”?

If Mearsheimer and Walt are criticized by people making specific allegations of factual errors and citing the evidence to refute them, and Mearsheimer and Walt choose (so far) not to respond to a single one, who is “dodging critical scrutiny of their position?”

How does extensive criticism of Walt and Mearsheimer’s paper by those who disagree with them prevent the matter from “show[ing] up on their radar screens”?

Is there any part of Dershowitz’s paper you think was substantively wrong? If so, specify it here and we’ll either acknowledge it or debate it. Think of this as a radar screen.

Conflator

As a rule, I stopped reading Dershowitz's comments relating to Israel after reading a bit of "The Case for Israel," of which, were it in support of the other side of the argument, Dershowitz himself might have noted that recycling such charges under the imprimatur of a prominent author would be featured on extremist websites.

But a very good, I think, criticism of the criticisms has been made at http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002669.html. Here it is:

"I have been very disappointed in the reactions of otherwise smart people to this debate. The original article was sloppy, and its conclusions are questionable. But the most prominent responses -- Dershowitz, Cohen, etc. -- offer a crash course in common logical fallacies. A small sampling:
1) Guilt by association: Support for an argument from a dislikable person does not make the argument false. (David Duke also believes that the earth revolves around the sun, presumably.) Dershowitz's response paper on the Harvard website is a particularly sharp example of this logical fallacy, devoting many pages to showing how lots of bad/extreme people agree with the authors' claims. Death penalty opponents often make the same claim, asserting that since only "bad" countries (Iran, Syria) have capital punishment, then it must be wrong.
2) Non-sequitur: Pointing out that Walt and Measheimer failed to mention other lobbies (Cuban, Saudi, etc.) or the sins of other groups (Iran, the Palestinians) in no way disputes the paper's argument that the Israeli lobby is powerful and that supporting Israel is not in our best interests. Likewise, just because I neglect to detail the (plentiful) logical flaws of Walt and Mearsheimer's article here doesn't mean my arguments against its critics are invalid. Changing the subject merely evades the original argument; it does not defeat it.
3) Straw man: Nowhere in the original article can I find accusations of "occult powers," "disloyalty, subversion, or treachery," or evidence of the authors "selecting everything that is unfair, ugly, or wrong about Jews" (Cohen, Washington Post, 5 April). These would be easy arguments to defeat, but they are not contained in the original article. In fact, the authors explicitly refuse to generalize about Jews as a group, noting that "not all Jewish-Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them" and that the Israel lobby "also includes prominent Christian evangelicals."
4) Ad hominem: The basic charge of anti-Semitism proves nothing (and, I should note, is impossible to prove). Even if the authors were anti-Semitic, it does not make their argument wrong. Name-calling is a cheap tactic, not an argument. Calling me "anti-New York" doesn't disprove my argument that the Knicks suck.
5) False choice: Questioning U.S. support for Israel is not tantamount to concluding that the U.S. "no longer ha[s] a vital interest in the continued survival of the only democracy in the Middle East" (letter, London Review of Books, 6 April). The choice is not (necessarily) between supporting Israel unconditionally and condemning it to death. The authors argue that Israel would do just fine on its own; where is the contrary evidence?
6) Reductive reasoning: Dershowitz claims that the existence of terrorism in Europe and elsewhere proves that U.S. support for Israel is not the cause of its "terrorism problem." This presumes that if one terrorist act was unrelated to Israel, then they must all be unrelated. But there is no reason to believe this -- the presence of another motive in one case does not refute the existence of anti-Israeli motives in other cases.
7) Unpleasant implication: Ruth Wisse writes in the Wall Street Journal (22 March) that the authors' argument "heaps scorn on American judgment and values." This may upset people but it does nothing to disprove the argument itself. Just because one does not like the implications of an argument does not mean it is false (see: Evolution vs. Creationism).
8) Appeal to authority: We all love Dan, but being Mearsheimer's colleague at Chicago does not strengthen his argument that the paper is "piss-poor, monocausal social science." Cohen's appeal to a phony authority here is especially awkward considering that Mearsheimer, as Chicago's preeminent IR scholar, probably had some influence over Drezner's recent tenure denial. Is there a personal motive here? I have no idea -- I don't know how Mearsheimer voted, nor do I have any reason to doubt Drezner's objectivity. But anyone citing Drezner as an authority must address this potential credibility problem.
9) Hasty generalization: neither Walt nor Mearsheimer have ever written a word about the Israeli lobby over the course of their lengthy careers, and all of a sudden they are anti-Semites? No. One data point does not demonstrate a trend.
Of course, just because these critics have employed logical fallacies does not mean their arguments are wrong, either. But it does mean that Walt and Mearsheimer's critics have not made a strong case, despite apparent presumptions to the contrary.
Sadly, for all the heated replies the article has generated, I have seen none that engage the central claim of the authors, which is that the current level of support for Israel is not in the U.S. national interest. A few, but only a few, contest the argument that U.S. politicians are deterred from altering policy toward Israel in large part due to the political influence of domestic pro-Israeli actors. Most simply scream "anti-Semitism," which is a lazy scholar's way of dodging these central questions.
It is unfortunate that instead of engaging the debate, Cohen et. al chose to smear the authors with hysterical charges that only trigger emotional responses and inhibit a reasoned discussion. They lend support to Walt and Mearsheimer's assertion that those who raise the issue are met immediately with accusations of bigotry. Dershowitz and others are famous for their diatribes, but I expected better of Eliot Cohen. Shame on him for helping to muddy the waters."

RR

The long quotation above boils down to this:

“The original article was sloppy, and its conclusions are questionable” but Dershowitz uses “guilt by association” by pointing out that their argument is the same as David Duke’s (which is a true statement, not an allegation that they are friends of Duke); Dershowitz’s argument that they fail to consider the relative strength of the Saudi and other foreign policy lobbies is a “nonsequitur” (huh?); a charge of anti-Semitism “proves nothing” since “calling me ‘anti-New York’ doesn't disprove my argument that the Knicks suck” (but it may explain why the argument is being made, if the evidence for the Knicks sucking is lacking, or if the argument is not one being applied to other teams); etc., etc.

These are not major points, and in any event unconvincing even on their own merits.

Conflator

And so, we are left with an indictment from Mearsheimer and Walt (not very well made, certainly); sloppy rebuttals from Dershowitz, Cohen, et al; and a criticism that you don't like of these critics (I agree, in part: "red herring" would have been a more appropriate name to put on the one logical fallacy noted.)

But underneath it all, we have the original situation. I have read statements signed by 80+ US Senators that are so profound in their bias toward Israel and so lacking in their recognition of the other side of the story that they make Mearsheimer and Walt's paper look like a mathematical proof, and these are documents that actually underly US policy, and not just external commentary. These documents are quite convincing to me, not of the position that support of Israel is or is not in the interest of the US, but of the position that, whether it is in the US interest or not, US support for Israel is not predicated upon a reasonable consideration of the matter.

In a world where twenty malcontents with a half million dollars in funding can destroy two skyscrapers and kill twenty-eight hundred people and send the world's biggest economy into a tailspin, I think it is essential for any nation to make sure that it truly, truly believes in whatever actions it takes that offend or harm other people. I don't believe the US has met this threshold with regard to its support for Israel. I welcome evidence to the contrary.

RR

For starters:

"The Basis of the U.S.-Israel Alliance"

http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief005-20.htm

Conflator

Here's one for you:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/96sens.html

It might be noted that this letter is his study is so filled with distortions, so empty of originality or new evidence, so tendentious in its tone, so lacking in nuance and balance, so unscholarly in its approach, so riddled with obvious factual errors that could easily have been checked (but obviously were not), and so dependent on biased, extremist and pro-Israli sources, as to raise the question of motive: what would motivate ninety-six Senators to depart so grossly from their usual standards of objectivity (uh ...) and research in order to produce a comment that contributed so little to the peace process while being so susceptible to misuse?

Mearsheimer and Walt proposed an answer to this question.

I'll look at your link, although I note it is to a propaganda site.

Julian

We should not give up land in the middle east.

Conflator

Whoever "we" is in Julian's statement above, what do they have the right to demand from the American people in order to avoid giving up land in the Middle East?

RR

From today's Harvard Crimson: http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512619

One day after a flyer decrying “the Jewish-Zionist hold on US political life” appeared outside some undergraduate dorms, a California-based activist and Holocaust revisionist confirmed that he wrote the flyer but said that he had no role in distributing it at Harvard.

The flyer—posted around Eliot House and outside several Yard dorms—was entitled “Iraq: A War for Israel,” and reproduced an excerpt of an essay that Mark Weber wrote for the Institute for Historical Review. It claims that “the crucial factor in President Bush’s decision to attack was to help Israel.”

It appeared alongside a second flyer that encouraged readers to join the organization National Vanguard, which the flyer described as “an intelligent and responsible organization that stands up for the interests of White people.”

That second leaflet went on to say, “many churches today play a dangerous role in favor of racial integration, and, especially in certain U.S. sects, in promoting Zionism,” and warned that “interracial sex is unsafe.”

In a phone interview from Newport Beach, Calif., Weber said of the first flyer: “The leaflet makes some of the same points as are made in the 81 page paper by [Kennedy School Academic Dean M. Stephen] Walt and [University of Chicago professor John J.] Mearsheimer.”

Walt and Mearsheimer published a paper on the Kennedy School’s website last month arguing that “the Israel Lobby”—a loose coalition of politicians, journalists, think-tank scholars, and Jewish leaders—holds an excessive influence on U.S. foreign policy.

Walt was unavailable for comment.

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