As regular VC readers know, I've been highly critical of Mearsheimer and Walt's "Israel Lobby" paper. However, I think many of their critics are erring in accusing the authors of anti-Semitism without supporting evidence. Where some critics see anti-Semitism, I see what is much more likely the result of simple sheer arrogance. As is very clear from the paper, Mearsheimer and Walt have firmly concluded that U.S. support of Israel is CLEARLY neither strategically nor morally justified. They are sufficiently arrogant that they assume that any normal, right-thinking person who looked objectively at the evidence would agree with them. Thus, U.S. policy would naturally not be supportive of Israel. The fact that it is supportive of Israel leads the authors to a conundrum: either acknowledge that reasonable people might disagree with their conclusions (which would provide a non-conspiratorial basis U.S. support for Israel), or assume that there is a wide-ranging conspiracy involving an amorphous "Israel lobby" biasing U.S. policy in favor of Israel. Rather than suspend their arrogant view that everyone sensible agrees with them, the authors adopt the conspiracy theory (not uniquely in this respect), and engage in sloppily researched and ill-reasoned inferences to support it. The Israel lobby also explains, in their view, other anomalies that they can't otherwise explain, like how all reasonable people failed to agree with them that the Iraq War was not in U.S. interests.
The fact that Mearsheimer and Walt reasoned backwards from an inane, apparently arrogance-driven thesis, and wrote a "piss poor" (as Drezner put it) paper to support it, is reason enough to criticize these two well-known "scholars". No need to pile on unsubstantiated allegations of anti-Semitism. Indeed, such allegations drown out more substantive criticisms.
Admittedly, writing about alleged largely Jewish-driven conspiracies gives succor to anti-Semites, and for that reason, individuals sensitive to such concerns would be especially careful about circulating academic work on that theme that's not well-documented and reasoned. But a failure to be sensitive about anti-Semitism, or the anti-Semitic implicatons others will take from one's work, is simply that, and is not itself persuasive evidence of anti-Semitism. To put it another way, all anti-Semites will be insensitive about anti-Semitism, but most individuals who are not sensitive about anti-Semitism are not anti-Semites.
UPDATE: You're really in trouble when an anti-Israel diatribe can't win the support of Christopher Hitchens or even Noam Chomsky (the latter nevertheless praises the authors' "courage" as if criticizing Israel at an elite university is brave).
Related Posts (on one page):
- Followup on Peck and the Israel Lobby:
- Peck on the "Israel Lobby":
- Mearsheimer and Walt--Arrogance, Not Anti-Semitism:
- The Forward on "The Israel Lobby":
- "The Israel Lobby" Update:
- London Review of Books Article on the Israel Lobby: