Commentary Magazine


Topic: Stephen Walt

The Legend of George Kennan

Has there ever been a celebrated American official whose contribution to a successful policy has been more overrated than George Kennan? I can’t think of one. Kennan is, and it seems he will forever be, credited with crafting Harry Truman’s “containment” policy toward the Soviet Union. What actually happened–which Kennan tried to explain–was that Kennan provided the outline of an approach to foreign policy that Truman and various other advisors refashioned into a successful policy that Kennan deplored and never truly understood.

Whether it’s condescension toward Truman, a plain-speaking Midwesterner with no college degree, or fascination with the intellectualization of elite opinion whose supposed erudition frees it from the responsibility to be sound or successful, Kennan has been given this legacy against his will. I think it’s a combination of the two, but the latter–the intellectualization to the point of fetishization–is hard to ignore these days, ubiquitous as it is in the age of Obama. This is a president whose policies are disastrous but who was president of the Harvard Law Review and uses the phrase “permission structure” (“The phrase puzzled reporters,” explained a puzzled reporter) when dismissing the democratic process, so the assumption has always been that there’s a method to the madness.

Perhaps there is a method. But presidents make foreign policy, as Kennan learned the hard way. So while there might be a “doctrine” behind the policy, there isn’t likely to be a muse, even when there appears to be one. And that’s probably what Kennan would say to the suggestion, made in an otherwise shrewd assessment of Obama’s attitude toward the Middle East, that “the Kennan of Obama’s Middle East policy is Stephen Walt.” The column is from Lee Smith, the consistently incisive authority on the Middle East. Smith notes that Walt, whose “Israel lobby” blathering is sold as “realism,” has special concern about the way special relationships (like the U.S. has with Israel) can impede traditional balance-of-power strategy:

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Has there ever been a celebrated American official whose contribution to a successful policy has been more overrated than George Kennan? I can’t think of one. Kennan is, and it seems he will forever be, credited with crafting Harry Truman’s “containment” policy toward the Soviet Union. What actually happened–which Kennan tried to explain–was that Kennan provided the outline of an approach to foreign policy that Truman and various other advisors refashioned into a successful policy that Kennan deplored and never truly understood.

Whether it’s condescension toward Truman, a plain-speaking Midwesterner with no college degree, or fascination with the intellectualization of elite opinion whose supposed erudition frees it from the responsibility to be sound or successful, Kennan has been given this legacy against his will. I think it’s a combination of the two, but the latter–the intellectualization to the point of fetishization–is hard to ignore these days, ubiquitous as it is in the age of Obama. This is a president whose policies are disastrous but who was president of the Harvard Law Review and uses the phrase “permission structure” (“The phrase puzzled reporters,” explained a puzzled reporter) when dismissing the democratic process, so the assumption has always been that there’s a method to the madness.

Perhaps there is a method. But presidents make foreign policy, as Kennan learned the hard way. So while there might be a “doctrine” behind the policy, there isn’t likely to be a muse, even when there appears to be one. And that’s probably what Kennan would say to the suggestion, made in an otherwise shrewd assessment of Obama’s attitude toward the Middle East, that “the Kennan of Obama’s Middle East policy is Stephen Walt.” The column is from Lee Smith, the consistently incisive authority on the Middle East. Smith notes that Walt, whose “Israel lobby” blathering is sold as “realism,” has special concern about the way special relationships (like the U.S. has with Israel) can impede traditional balance-of-power strategy:

It is the focus on the impediment posed by these “special relationships” to realist balance-of-power policymaking that distinguishes Walt from virtually every other American in the realist school. Sure, former policymakers like Jim Baker have lamented the influence of Jewish Americans on American policymaking—but compared to Walt, Baker was a squish. It was Walt whose 2006 London Review of Books article “The Israel Lobby,” co-authored with University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer, later expanded into a controversial book with the same title, first targeted the problem directly: The pro-Israel community needs to be cut down to size.

Unlike Kennan, a career diplomat, or Baker, a former secretary of state, Walt doesn’t have a formal role in government, or even any privileged access to this White House. But his ideas have nevertheless emerged at the core of a major shift in U.S. Middle East policy, which may come as a surprise to those who dismissed him as a fringe academic. The idea certainly isn’t pleasant for this columnist, who’s documented Walt’s dog-whistling blog posts meant to draw anti-Semites and anti-anti-Semites to his FP.com column, but it’s hard to dismiss his influence now. So, I tip my hat to the new George Kennan, for whether you love him or hate him, Stephen Walt has won the X sweepstakes.

Smith’s column is spot-on when describing the way the president relishes an opportunity to mute the pro-Israel voices in Washington and, when necessary, throw the occasional brushback pitch up and in. But the more encouraging aspect to the column is the memory of the Kennan-Truman collaboration it evokes–not the one of legend, but the real story.

Why did Kennan come to so dislike a policy with which he was credited? When Truman announced what became known as the Truman Doctrine, an appeal to Congress for funding to aid Greece and Turkey, the president said: “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

As Truman biographer Robert J. Donovan notes, “This was the epitome of containment, although not the beginning of it.” But in fact Kennan objected to the sentence on the grounds that it was universalist, not the unprincipled realism he so preferred. It was also ideological, at odds with Kennan’s perspective as well. Kennan was not the only advisor spooked by the commitment Truman was seeking to make on behalf of the United States, so why did that line, and that commitment, stay in the speech?

Because Truman understood that his audience–the people and especially their congressional representatives–were more comfortable with a policy that reflected their values. Americans didn’t care about the fate of the postwar Greek government nearly as much as they cared about democracy and liberty–ideas and ideals worth fighting for. Kennan’s realism rarely made room for ideology, and never made room for values. It was no coincidence that he also wasn’t particularly fond of popular democracy. He thought he knew better than the masses. He was wrong.

The same is true with Walt, Obama, and other such cynical realists. Walt’s conspiracist mindset may also animate the White House’s destructive approach to the Middle East, but it fails time and again to move Congress and the public away from our allies like Israel not because of some all-powerful congressional lobby, but because the people and their representatives believe that yes, actually, Western values and democratic politics are important. Contra Walt, Israel is most certainly a strategic ally. But why stop there? Israel and America share a moral bond too. Kennan would likely disapprove of such sentimentality. And he’d be every bit as wrong now as he was then.

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Harvard’s Unbalanced Middle East Program

A former colleague alerted me to this item, a book talk tonight being sponsored by Harvard University’s Middle East Initiative:

Book Talk: Brokers of Deceit

Wednesday, April 10, 6:00-7:00pm

A conversation with Rashid Khalidi about his new book: Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.

This event will be moderated by Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School.

Location: Bell Hall, 5th Floor, Belfer Building, Harvard Kennedy School

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A former colleague alerted me to this item, a book talk tonight being sponsored by Harvard University’s Middle East Initiative:

Book Talk: Brokers of Deceit

Wednesday, April 10, 6:00-7:00pm

A conversation with Rashid Khalidi about his new book: Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.

This event will be moderated by Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School.

Location: Bell Hall, 5th Floor, Belfer Building, Harvard Kennedy School

Now, make no mistake: Harvard University has every right to sponsor such a talk. Free speech, however, does not excuse imbalance and poor scholarship. Both Rashid Khalidi—a Columbia University professor and former PLO spokesman—and Stephen Walt have, in recent years, substituted polemic for research, sought to score political points by massaging facts to fit theses, and otherwise undercut basic standards of academic integrity.

Tonight’s book talk could be valuable if Harvard—true to its embrace of veritas, truth—encouraged a real debate with professors who hold different views. Hagiography should have no place in the university. Alas, it seems increasingly the most prestigious academic institutions are most reluctant to encourage broad debate in which professors and guests directly challenge each other’s ideas. That was why just over a year ago, Harvard University blessed a remarkably one-sided conference on the region. Any professor with an iota of self-confidence in the quality of his work should not fear challenge. If this event is an indicator, Harvard’s Middle East Initiative has become more interested in indoctrination than education.

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Israel’s Critics Are Afraid of Democracy

Yesterday’s vote by Israel’s Knesset to require a referendum to ratify any peace deal that involved the surrender of Jerusalem or the Golan Heights is being slammed in the Arab world as well as by other foes of the Jewish state. For Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, such a vote would be an “obstacle” to peace. Similarly, Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt believes it means the end of the two-state solution, since it “gives a veto to the hard-line settler faction.”

Such claims are laughable. In fact, assuming that the Palestinians were themselves interested in actually signing a peace deal (something they have repeatedly declined to do even when offered virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, as they were in 2000 and 2008), the knowledge that any accord would have to be ratified by a referendum in which Israelis could vote it up or down would make it more, not less, likely to be accepted by an Israeli government.

One of the problems that helped undermine Israeli support for the Oslo process was the fact that a narrow parliamentary majority rammed it down the country’s throat. Even worse, the follow-up agreement to the first accord, known as Oslo II, was only secured after two members of the now defunct right-wing Tsomet Party crossed the aisle to Labor in exchange for promises of high office and other perks. This shady process helped fuel public opposition to the deal, though it must be conceded that most of the credit for convincing Israelis that their government was on the wrong path must go to the Palestinians and the campaign of terrorism they waged even though peace was supposed to have broken out. Read More

Yesterday’s vote by Israel’s Knesset to require a referendum to ratify any peace deal that involved the surrender of Jerusalem or the Golan Heights is being slammed in the Arab world as well as by other foes of the Jewish state. For Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, such a vote would be an “obstacle” to peace. Similarly, Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt believes it means the end of the two-state solution, since it “gives a veto to the hard-line settler faction.”

Such claims are laughable. In fact, assuming that the Palestinians were themselves interested in actually signing a peace deal (something they have repeatedly declined to do even when offered virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, as they were in 2000 and 2008), the knowledge that any accord would have to be ratified by a referendum in which Israelis could vote it up or down would make it more, not less, likely to be accepted by an Israeli government.

One of the problems that helped undermine Israeli support for the Oslo process was the fact that a narrow parliamentary majority rammed it down the country’s throat. Even worse, the follow-up agreement to the first accord, known as Oslo II, was only secured after two members of the now defunct right-wing Tsomet Party crossed the aisle to Labor in exchange for promises of high office and other perks. This shady process helped fuel public opposition to the deal, though it must be conceded that most of the credit for convincing Israelis that their government was on the wrong path must go to the Palestinians and the campaign of terrorism they waged even though peace was supposed to have broken out.

Any Israeli government that chose to sign an agreement that called for the re-division of Jerusalem or handing the strategic Golan back to Syria would be strengthened by the knowledge that their decisions would have to be ratified by the people. They would be free to be more, not less, generous with a Palestinian partner who genuinely wanted peace, simply because such a government would be, in a sense, operating with a net. Without a referendum, acceptance of an agreement would be merely a matter of enforcing party discipline in the governing coalition. That would leave any government — especially one led from the right, as is Israel’s current coalition — vulnerable to accusations of betraying their voters. A referendum would give any peace deal the seal of democratic approval that it must have to succeed.

Moreover, far from ensuring that a deal would be defeated, the odds are that any referendum for a peace treaty would be passed, assuming it actually required the Arabs to accept Israel as a Jewish state within secure and accepted borders and without a “right of return” for the descendants of refugees, which would mean the country’s destruction. Israelis desperately want peace and might be inclined to accept anything that seems like a genuine solution even if they were skeptical about the Palestinians. That Walt thinks a referendum would give the settlers a veto shows that he understands Israel as poorly as he does America (whose foreign policy is, he thinks, directed by a pro-Israel cabal composed of a wall-to-wall coalition of liberals, moderates, and conservatives). Since a referendum would be a simple yes or no vote by the entire electorate, why would a group that makes up only a tiny percentage of the voting public have a veto?

But what most of those who have commented about this measure don’t mention is that so long as the political culture of the Palestinians regards the acceptance of a Jewish state as anathema no matter where its borders might be drawn or who controls Jerusalem, then any discussion of a referendum to ratify a peace deal is more science fiction than political science. After 17 years of fruitless concessions made in the name of peace, most Israelis have understandably grown cynical about a process that has proved to be an exchange of land for terror, not peace. If Abbas wants to change their minds, all he has to do is be willing to make peace and demonstrate to Israel’s people that he means it. Israeli democracy would be the best guarantee of a two-state solution, if only he were prepared to act as if he actually wanted one.

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No Sale on Obama’s Middle East Policy

The reaction to the AJC’s recent poll suggests that Obama is losing all but the hard-core Israel-haters. As this report explains, Stephen Walt sees the growing opposition to Obama’s policies and concern over a nuclear-armed Iran as the result of “the drumbeat of Islamophobia in the American media, the constant pounding on the Iran threat by Israeli politicians and their supporters here.” Well, as we saw, those supporters of Israel happen to be a majority of Americans, the vast majority of which are non-Jews.

But outside the realm of anti-Israel conspiracy theorists, the implications of the AJC survey are clear:

It was released just three weeks before mid-term elections in which Republicans, whose leadership has strongly assailed Obama over his sometimes rocky relations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, are expected to regain control of at least one of the two houses of Congress.

AJC president David Harris appeared to echo those Republican themes Tuesday, claiming that “the nervousness of American Jews about two of our nation’s top foreign policy issues and how our leadership is responding” was “the most disturbing” of the survey’s findings.

Or, as Larry Sabato put it, “A 50 percent positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is, frankly, terrible.”

As for the Obama team’s obsession with non-direct, non-peace, non-talking negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, there is now evidence that “for at least some U.S. Jews, Obama may have emerged as the loser in his contretemps with Netanyahu over settlements earlier this year. In addition to the 45 percent of Jews who expressed disapproval of his handling of U.S.-Israeli relations, the survey found that approval of Netanyahu’s handling of bilateral ties has risen — from 57 percent in March to 62 percent.” Approval for Obama’s Iran policy is also cratering. (“While a plurality of 47 percent approved of his performance last March, a 46-percent plurality now disapprove.”)

The Obama presidency has been an interesting, albeit dangerous, test case: is there an appetite for a reversal of America’s traditional warm relationship with Israel and its forceful presence in the Middle East? The answer is emphatically no.

The reaction to the AJC’s recent poll suggests that Obama is losing all but the hard-core Israel-haters. As this report explains, Stephen Walt sees the growing opposition to Obama’s policies and concern over a nuclear-armed Iran as the result of “the drumbeat of Islamophobia in the American media, the constant pounding on the Iran threat by Israeli politicians and their supporters here.” Well, as we saw, those supporters of Israel happen to be a majority of Americans, the vast majority of which are non-Jews.

But outside the realm of anti-Israel conspiracy theorists, the implications of the AJC survey are clear:

It was released just three weeks before mid-term elections in which Republicans, whose leadership has strongly assailed Obama over his sometimes rocky relations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, are expected to regain control of at least one of the two houses of Congress.

AJC president David Harris appeared to echo those Republican themes Tuesday, claiming that “the nervousness of American Jews about two of our nation’s top foreign policy issues and how our leadership is responding” was “the most disturbing” of the survey’s findings.

Or, as Larry Sabato put it, “A 50 percent positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is, frankly, terrible.”

As for the Obama team’s obsession with non-direct, non-peace, non-talking negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, there is now evidence that “for at least some U.S. Jews, Obama may have emerged as the loser in his contretemps with Netanyahu over settlements earlier this year. In addition to the 45 percent of Jews who expressed disapproval of his handling of U.S.-Israeli relations, the survey found that approval of Netanyahu’s handling of bilateral ties has risen — from 57 percent in March to 62 percent.” Approval for Obama’s Iran policy is also cratering. (“While a plurality of 47 percent approved of his performance last March, a 46-percent plurality now disapprove.”)

The Obama presidency has been an interesting, albeit dangerous, test case: is there an appetite for a reversal of America’s traditional warm relationship with Israel and its forceful presence in the Middle East? The answer is emphatically no.

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The Afghan Study Group Opines

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

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RE: Speaking of Pro-Israel

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn't remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. ["Notion" is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street's blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn't remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. ["Notion" is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street's blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

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Why No Outrage Over Oliver Stone?

Oliver Stone’s outburst of rank anti-Semitism in an interview last weekend with the Sunday Times of London has barely created a ripple in the mainstream media. Just as the sophisticates in liberal media outlets and the Hollywood elite gave a collective shrug of indifference when Mel Gibson issued his original anti-Semitic rantings, we have heard not much at all from the trend setters (too busy with their Roman Polanski victory celebrations?). The ADL issued a statement that nicely sums up what others prefer to ignore:

Oliver Stone has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments about ‘Jewish domination of the media’ and control over U.S. foreign policy. His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.

The myth of Jewish control is an old stereotype that persists to this day. Stone uses it in a particularly egregious fashion by suggesting that Hitler has gotten an unfair shake because of Jewish influence.

This is the most absurd kind of analysis and shows the extent to which Oliver Stone is willing to propound his anti-Semitic and conspiratorial views.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein blasted Stone:

“Beyond the ignorance he proves with his comments, his demonization of the Jewish people could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the minister said. “When a man of Stone’s stature says such things, it could lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and it may even cause real harm to Jewish communities and individuals.”

It’s not like Stone’s interview didn’t have newsworthy remarks:

In the interview, Stone said America’s focus on the Holocaust was a product of the “Jewish domination of the media.” He said his upcoming Showtime documentary series Secret History of America would put Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.” “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed],” Stone said … Stone, who recently met with Ahmadinejad, said American policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

“Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” he said. “But we don’t know the full story!”

By contrast, Stone praised Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as “a brave, blunt, earthy” man, who does not censor the Internet in his country.

Stone also raised an uproar when he defended Hitler at a press conference in January.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said at the time. “He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Maybe it’s Stone’s long leftist track record — who can forget his glowing biopic of Fidel Castro? — that has earned him a pass from the liberal U.S. media.

But maybe there is something else at work. Stone’s venomous rant against “Jewish domination of the media” and his assertion about the “Israel lobby” (“They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years”) are not so different from what comes from the lips of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the writings of the Israel-hating left, and the bile-drenched blogs of those who, for example, claimed John McCain was surrounded by Jewish neocon advisers.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Oliver Stone hasn’t been called out by the liberals — those who advertise themselves as experts on diversity and bigotry — because a great deal of what he said doesn’t sound all that objectionable to far too many of them. And of course, it’s rather embarrassing for those seeking respectability (the “tough love for Israel” gang) to illuminate that anti-Israel venom is, when you scratch the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned Jew-hating.

Oliver Stone’s outburst of rank anti-Semitism in an interview last weekend with the Sunday Times of London has barely created a ripple in the mainstream media. Just as the sophisticates in liberal media outlets and the Hollywood elite gave a collective shrug of indifference when Mel Gibson issued his original anti-Semitic rantings, we have heard not much at all from the trend setters (too busy with their Roman Polanski victory celebrations?). The ADL issued a statement that nicely sums up what others prefer to ignore:

Oliver Stone has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments about ‘Jewish domination of the media’ and control over U.S. foreign policy. His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.

The myth of Jewish control is an old stereotype that persists to this day. Stone uses it in a particularly egregious fashion by suggesting that Hitler has gotten an unfair shake because of Jewish influence.

This is the most absurd kind of analysis and shows the extent to which Oliver Stone is willing to propound his anti-Semitic and conspiratorial views.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein blasted Stone:

“Beyond the ignorance he proves with his comments, his demonization of the Jewish people could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the minister said. “When a man of Stone’s stature says such things, it could lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and it may even cause real harm to Jewish communities and individuals.”

It’s not like Stone’s interview didn’t have newsworthy remarks:

In the interview, Stone said America’s focus on the Holocaust was a product of the “Jewish domination of the media.” He said his upcoming Showtime documentary series Secret History of America would put Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.” “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed],” Stone said … Stone, who recently met with Ahmadinejad, said American policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

“Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” he said. “But we don’t know the full story!”

By contrast, Stone praised Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as “a brave, blunt, earthy” man, who does not censor the Internet in his country.

Stone also raised an uproar when he defended Hitler at a press conference in January.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said at the time. “He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Maybe it’s Stone’s long leftist track record — who can forget his glowing biopic of Fidel Castro? — that has earned him a pass from the liberal U.S. media.

But maybe there is something else at work. Stone’s venomous rant against “Jewish domination of the media” and his assertion about the “Israel lobby” (“They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years”) are not so different from what comes from the lips of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the writings of the Israel-hating left, and the bile-drenched blogs of those who, for example, claimed John McCain was surrounded by Jewish neocon advisers.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Oliver Stone hasn’t been called out by the liberals — those who advertise themselves as experts on diversity and bigotry — because a great deal of what he said doesn’t sound all that objectionable to far too many of them. And of course, it’s rather embarrassing for those seeking respectability (the “tough love for Israel” gang) to illuminate that anti-Israel venom is, when you scratch the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned Jew-hating.

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Goldstone’s Past: Apartheid Hangman

This report should shed some light on the hero of the Jewish left — Richard Goldstone. The man is to be feted by Tikkun and has been defended by J Street, but he had quite a track record as a judge in South Africa:

It turns out, the man who authored the Goldstone Report criticizing the IDF’s actions during Operation Cast Lead took an active part in the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century. During his tenure as sitting as judge in the appellant court during the 1980s and 1990s sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their death. Yedioth Ahronoth’s findings show that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black defendants to death. Most of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict. In those days, he actually made sure he showed his support for the execution policy, writing in one verdict that it reflects society’s demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening. …. In another verdict, in which he upheld the execution of a young black man convicted of murdering a white restaurant owner after he fired him, Goldstone wrote that the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts.

Alan Dershowitz, who has thoroughly debunked Goldstone’s fraudulent report, doesn’t buy Goldstone’s defense that he was merely applying South African law. (“You know, a lot of people say we just followed the law, German judges… That’s what [German SS officer and physician Josef] Mengele said too. That was Mengele’s defense and that was what everybody said in Nazi Germany. ‘We just followed the law.’ When you are in an apartheid country like South Africa, you don’t follow the law.”)

There are a few issues that this raises. First, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out, it certainly provides the motive for Goldstone’s vilification of Israel:

The most serious charge leveled against Goldstone — one of the most serious, anyway — is that he is a man without a moral compass, who did what he did at the UN because he wants to be remembered as an avatar of human rights, and he knew that one way to become a favorite of the human rights community would be to lead the charge against that community’s most favored target. This new report suggests not only that Goldstone is at best intermittently principled, but that he knew his old hanging-judge record would one day catch up with him.

This, of course, is the endemic problem of the UN — they always get their man — i.e., Israel — because the “investigators” are selected for the express purpose of dummying up evidence to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. It’s no accident Goldstone reached the conclusions he did, and it’s no accident that the UN selected him.

Second, will the left repudiate its heroic figure? Tikkun is set to give Goldstone an award next year for ethics. Perhaps it should reconsider. J Street helped mount Goldstone’s defense. Will it repudiate its association with him? I think both are unlikely, and we shouldn’t expect too much daylight between members of the anti-Israel Jewish left and Goldstone. For the enemy of Israel is their friend, be it NIAC or Stephen Walt. They aren’t too picky when it comes to those willing to go after Israel. (It is no coincidence that the anti-Israel left and the Gaza souvenir-buyers share a hero worship for Goldstone.) So no doubt, all will be forgiven. By defaming Israel, Goldstone has earned the eternal gratitude of the anti-Israel left.

This report should shed some light on the hero of the Jewish left — Richard Goldstone. The man is to be feted by Tikkun and has been defended by J Street, but he had quite a track record as a judge in South Africa:

It turns out, the man who authored the Goldstone Report criticizing the IDF’s actions during Operation Cast Lead took an active part in the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century. During his tenure as sitting as judge in the appellant court during the 1980s and 1990s sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their death. Yedioth Ahronoth’s findings show that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black defendants to death. Most of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict. In those days, he actually made sure he showed his support for the execution policy, writing in one verdict that it reflects society’s demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening. …. In another verdict, in which he upheld the execution of a young black man convicted of murdering a white restaurant owner after he fired him, Goldstone wrote that the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts.

Alan Dershowitz, who has thoroughly debunked Goldstone’s fraudulent report, doesn’t buy Goldstone’s defense that he was merely applying South African law. (“You know, a lot of people say we just followed the law, German judges… That’s what [German SS officer and physician Josef] Mengele said too. That was Mengele’s defense and that was what everybody said in Nazi Germany. ‘We just followed the law.’ When you are in an apartheid country like South Africa, you don’t follow the law.”)

There are a few issues that this raises. First, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out, it certainly provides the motive for Goldstone’s vilification of Israel:

The most serious charge leveled against Goldstone — one of the most serious, anyway — is that he is a man without a moral compass, who did what he did at the UN because he wants to be remembered as an avatar of human rights, and he knew that one way to become a favorite of the human rights community would be to lead the charge against that community’s most favored target. This new report suggests not only that Goldstone is at best intermittently principled, but that he knew his old hanging-judge record would one day catch up with him.

This, of course, is the endemic problem of the UN — they always get their man — i.e., Israel — because the “investigators” are selected for the express purpose of dummying up evidence to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. It’s no accident Goldstone reached the conclusions he did, and it’s no accident that the UN selected him.

Second, will the left repudiate its heroic figure? Tikkun is set to give Goldstone an award next year for ethics. Perhaps it should reconsider. J Street helped mount Goldstone’s defense. Will it repudiate its association with him? I think both are unlikely, and we shouldn’t expect too much daylight between members of the anti-Israel Jewish left and Goldstone. For the enemy of Israel is their friend, be it NIAC or Stephen Walt. They aren’t too picky when it comes to those willing to go after Israel. (It is no coincidence that the anti-Israel left and the Gaza souvenir-buyers share a hero worship for Goldstone.) So no doubt, all will be forgiven. By defaming Israel, Goldstone has earned the eternal gratitude of the anti-Israel left.

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Shut Up, Mr. Oren, J Street Explains

A reader alerts me to this item: it seems as though J Street’s president at Brandeis University doesn’t like upsetting students. (This would be news to the actual pro-Israel contingent there, who thought that J Street was all about provoking and challenging others.) Anyhow, his complaint: is “I’m not exactly thrilled that a representative of the current right-wing Israeli government will be delivering the keynote address at my commencement.” In case you thought it was directed at some party functionary, that is his way of referring to Ambassador Michael Oren, the representative of the elected government of Israel. The J Streeter thinks Oren is too “divisive.” He scrawls:

Despite its strong Jewish foundation, Brandeis has evolved into a university that prides itself on diversity, and its current student body reflects that pursuit. Even as a secular Jew of Israeli heritage, over the past four years I have often been agitated by the persistent questions, albeit half-serious, of my non-Brandeis peers: “Is there a Jewish studies requirement to graduate? I thought it was a rabbinical school.” If these queries bother me, I can only imagine what it must feel like for the half of Brandeis students who aren’t Jewish to answer these questions. Isn’t it possible that the selection of Oren is nothing but the icing on the cake, a silent confirmation that after four years of living and breathing Brandeis, these students really are outsiders in this community?

He seems to have confused “diversity” with “ridding the campus of pro-Israel voices.” He continues:

Oren is an undeniably controversial figure in a debate that is vibrant on our campus. Such speakers have a history of drawing protesters at Brandeis, something that now seems to be a likely feature of next month’s commencement. I will not be among the protesters and don’t believe that the ambassador’s selection warrants such demonstrations. Though I know that there were only the best of intentions in choosing the ambassador to speak, the University should have been more cognizant of the conflict that Oren’s selection would inevitably produce, particularly on a day that is supposed to represent unity and solidarity among a group of 800 graduating students.

Four years of vibrant college education has led him to conclude the highest idea is: don’t disturb anyone. Again, odd for J Street to take that view. But, he adds, “I sincerely hope that I’m getting worked up over nothing and his speech gives us broad advice completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Because that’s not a topic properly discussed on American campuses? Then what’s J Street doing there?

This is a microcosm of the “shut up”  attitude of the left. It’s not enough that J Street wants to turn over the Western Wall to the Palestinians. It’s not enough for them to oppose crippling sanctions or other effective means of dismantling the existential threat to the Jewish state from Iran. No, what they want to do is muzzle their opponents — a complaint they invariably invoke against the “Israel Lobby.” I wonder, would J Street prefer Stephen Walt as its speaker? Well, all of this is clarifying, if not a bit embarrassing, for J Street, which has been trying to mend faces with the Israeli government. That would be the “current right-wing Israeli government,” according to their man on campus.

A reader alerts me to this item: it seems as though J Street’s president at Brandeis University doesn’t like upsetting students. (This would be news to the actual pro-Israel contingent there, who thought that J Street was all about provoking and challenging others.) Anyhow, his complaint: is “I’m not exactly thrilled that a representative of the current right-wing Israeli government will be delivering the keynote address at my commencement.” In case you thought it was directed at some party functionary, that is his way of referring to Ambassador Michael Oren, the representative of the elected government of Israel. The J Streeter thinks Oren is too “divisive.” He scrawls:

Despite its strong Jewish foundation, Brandeis has evolved into a university that prides itself on diversity, and its current student body reflects that pursuit. Even as a secular Jew of Israeli heritage, over the past four years I have often been agitated by the persistent questions, albeit half-serious, of my non-Brandeis peers: “Is there a Jewish studies requirement to graduate? I thought it was a rabbinical school.” If these queries bother me, I can only imagine what it must feel like for the half of Brandeis students who aren’t Jewish to answer these questions. Isn’t it possible that the selection of Oren is nothing but the icing on the cake, a silent confirmation that after four years of living and breathing Brandeis, these students really are outsiders in this community?

He seems to have confused “diversity” with “ridding the campus of pro-Israel voices.” He continues:

Oren is an undeniably controversial figure in a debate that is vibrant on our campus. Such speakers have a history of drawing protesters at Brandeis, something that now seems to be a likely feature of next month’s commencement. I will not be among the protesters and don’t believe that the ambassador’s selection warrants such demonstrations. Though I know that there were only the best of intentions in choosing the ambassador to speak, the University should have been more cognizant of the conflict that Oren’s selection would inevitably produce, particularly on a day that is supposed to represent unity and solidarity among a group of 800 graduating students.

Four years of vibrant college education has led him to conclude the highest idea is: don’t disturb anyone. Again, odd for J Street to take that view. But, he adds, “I sincerely hope that I’m getting worked up over nothing and his speech gives us broad advice completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Because that’s not a topic properly discussed on American campuses? Then what’s J Street doing there?

This is a microcosm of the “shut up”  attitude of the left. It’s not enough that J Street wants to turn over the Western Wall to the Palestinians. It’s not enough for them to oppose crippling sanctions or other effective means of dismantling the existential threat to the Jewish state from Iran. No, what they want to do is muzzle their opponents — a complaint they invariably invoke against the “Israel Lobby.” I wonder, would J Street prefer Stephen Walt as its speaker? Well, all of this is clarifying, if not a bit embarrassing, for J Street, which has been trying to mend faces with the Israeli government. That would be the “current right-wing Israeli government,” according to their man on campus.

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I Make No Apology, Ms. West

I received the following e-mail today from columnist Diana West demanding a correction:

You wrote:

Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

Max,
There is ZERO evidence for this distortion of my analysis as “inventive spin” — namely:
“It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his `Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.’ ”
Please reread my post with care. You will see this claim does not exist. Please write a correction so that your readers are not misled.

Sincerely,
Diana West

Zero — excuse me, “ZERO” — evidence? Here is what La West actually wrote:

It is up to Petraeus to refute the Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes now far and widely attributed to him by media now taking his words, written and spoken and reported on, at face value if they are truly incorrect. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. The fact is, assuaging “Arab anger” is, when you think of it, is the very heart of “hearts and minds” current counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) — and Petraeus wrote the book.

He also wrote a Ph. D. thesis at Princeton in 1987 called “The American military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era” (available here).
One of his two faculty advisors, it is interesting to note in light of this recent debate was… Stephen Walt — of Walt and Mearshimer infamy.

In another blog item, she wrote, “It sounded as if Gen. Petraeus were chanelling Walt (if not Mearshimer) in his Senate testimony when he invoked the Arabist narrative regarding the ‘conflict’ between Israelis and Palestinians.”

I leave it to readers to decide whether my supposition — that West was blaming Stephen Walt for Petraeus’s supposed views — is unwarranted.

For my part, I await West’s correction and apology for the numerous calumnies she has lodged against the most distinguished American military commander since Eisenhower. Her accusations that Petraeus holds “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes” are without foundation — but hardly without precedent in her overheated writing. In the past, she has asked of this soldier who, more than anyone else, is responsible for defeating Islamist extremists in Iraq: “Is Petraeus an Islamic Tool?” In Part II of this post, she wrote in what is presumably her idea of jest:

Here’s a plan Gen. Petraeus should be able to get behind: A new battle strategy, maybe a Kilcullen special, for him to join forces with Iran to once and for all nuke Israel and its genocidal apartment houses out of existence. That, according to his own lights, is sure to keep American troops safe in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She made equally wild and specious accusations against General Stanley McChrystal, another of our most respected commanders who, as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, sent too many jihadists to count to meet their 72 virgins. (Wonder how many jihadists Diana West has eliminated by comparison?) She writes, again with zero — sorry, “ZERO” — evidence, that McChrystal is “zealot and “a high priest of the politically correct orthodoxy,” that his views on counterinsurgency are “despicable,” and that he should be fired for “throwing away [his] men’s lives in a misguided infidel effort to win the ‘trust’ of a primitive Islamic people.”

Those are truly disgusting charges to lodge against such distinguished soldiers who have repeatedly risked their lives to defend our nation. They recall, in fact, the widely condemned Moveon.org advertisement that called Petraeus “General Betray-Us.” Her writing suggests that some of the more extreme precincts of the Right are copying the worst excesses of the Left.

I received the following e-mail today from columnist Diana West demanding a correction:

You wrote:

Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

Max,
There is ZERO evidence for this distortion of my analysis as “inventive spin” — namely:
“It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his `Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.’ ”
Please reread my post with care. You will see this claim does not exist. Please write a correction so that your readers are not misled.

Sincerely,
Diana West

Zero — excuse me, “ZERO” — evidence? Here is what La West actually wrote:

It is up to Petraeus to refute the Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes now far and widely attributed to him by media now taking his words, written and spoken and reported on, at face value if they are truly incorrect. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. The fact is, assuaging “Arab anger” is, when you think of it, is the very heart of “hearts and minds” current counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) — and Petraeus wrote the book.

He also wrote a Ph. D. thesis at Princeton in 1987 called “The American military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era” (available here).
One of his two faculty advisors, it is interesting to note in light of this recent debate was… Stephen Walt — of Walt and Mearshimer infamy.

In another blog item, she wrote, “It sounded as if Gen. Petraeus were chanelling Walt (if not Mearshimer) in his Senate testimony when he invoked the Arabist narrative regarding the ‘conflict’ between Israelis and Palestinians.”

I leave it to readers to decide whether my supposition — that West was blaming Stephen Walt for Petraeus’s supposed views — is unwarranted.

For my part, I await West’s correction and apology for the numerous calumnies she has lodged against the most distinguished American military commander since Eisenhower. Her accusations that Petraeus holds “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes” are without foundation — but hardly without precedent in her overheated writing. In the past, she has asked of this soldier who, more than anyone else, is responsible for defeating Islamist extremists in Iraq: “Is Petraeus an Islamic Tool?” In Part II of this post, she wrote in what is presumably her idea of jest:

Here’s a plan Gen. Petraeus should be able to get behind: A new battle strategy, maybe a Kilcullen special, for him to join forces with Iran to once and for all nuke Israel and its genocidal apartment houses out of existence. That, according to his own lights, is sure to keep American troops safe in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She made equally wild and specious accusations against General Stanley McChrystal, another of our most respected commanders who, as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, sent too many jihadists to count to meet their 72 virgins. (Wonder how many jihadists Diana West has eliminated by comparison?) She writes, again with zero — sorry, “ZERO” — evidence, that McChrystal is “zealot and “a high priest of the politically correct orthodoxy,” that his views on counterinsurgency are “despicable,” and that he should be fired for “throwing away [his] men’s lives in a misguided infidel effort to win the ‘trust’ of a primitive Islamic people.”

Those are truly disgusting charges to lodge against such distinguished soldiers who have repeatedly risked their lives to defend our nation. They recall, in fact, the widely condemned Moveon.org advertisement that called Petraeus “General Betray-Us.” Her writing suggests that some of the more extreme precincts of the Right are copying the worst excesses of the Left.

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From the Horse’s Mouth: Petraeus on Israel

Back on March 13, terrorist groupie Mark Perry — a former Arafat aide who now pals around with Hamas and Hezbollah — posted an article on Foreign Policy’s website, claiming that General David Petraeus was behind the administration’s policy of getting tough with Israel. He attributed to Petraeus the view that “Israel’s intransigence” — meaning its unwillingness to give up every inch of the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow — “could cost American lives.” His item received wide circulation though it may be doubted whether, as he now says, “It changed the way people think about the conflict.”

I tried to set the record straight with two Commentary items (see here and here) in which I suggested, based on talking to an officer familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, that Perry’s item was a gross distortion —in fact a fraud. I noted that in Petraeus’s view, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was only one factor among many affecting U.S. interests in the region and that Israeli settlements were far from the only, or even the main, obstacle to peace. I even suggested — again, based on inside information — that the 56-page posture statement that Central Command had submitted to Congress, which stated that the Arab-Israeli conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” was not the best indicator of his thinking. Better to look at what he actually told Congress — in a hearing he barely mentioned Israel (until prompted to do so) and never talked about settlements at all.

This brought hoots of derision from commentators on both the Left and the Right, who claimed that I was putting words into Petraeus’s mouth — that I was, in Joe Klein’s phrase, taking a “flying leap.” Predictably piling on were Andrew Sullivan, who said I was “glossing over” what Petraeus said, and Robert Wright, who claimed that, “by Boot’s lights, Petraeus is anti-Israel.” Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

So who was off-base here: those of us who tried to explain the nuances of General Petraeus’s thinking or those bloggers and commentators who tried to suggest that he is a strident critic of Israel?

The answer has now been publicly provided by Petraeus himself in a speech in New Hampshire. Watch it for yourself. A good summary is provided by the American Spectator’s Philip Klein, who was present at the event and asked Petraeus to clarify his thinking.

The general said that it was “unhelpful” that “bloggers” had “picked … up” what he had said and “spun it.” He noted that, aside from Israel’s actions, there are many other important factors standing in the way of peace, including “a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place. So again we have all these factors in there. This [Israel] is just one.”

What about Perry’s claim that American support for Israel puts our soldiers at risk? Petraeus said, “There is no mention of lives anywhere in there. I actually reread the statement. It doesn’t say that at all.”

He concluded by noting that he had sent to General Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, the “blog by Max Boot” which, he said, had “picked apart this whole thing, as he typically does, pretty astutely.”

I hope Petraeus’s comments will put an end to this whole weird episode. Those who are either happy or unhappy about the administration’s approach to Israel should lodge their compliments or complaints where they belong — at the White House, not at Central Command.

Back on March 13, terrorist groupie Mark Perry — a former Arafat aide who now pals around with Hamas and Hezbollah — posted an article on Foreign Policy’s website, claiming that General David Petraeus was behind the administration’s policy of getting tough with Israel. He attributed to Petraeus the view that “Israel’s intransigence” — meaning its unwillingness to give up every inch of the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow — “could cost American lives.” His item received wide circulation though it may be doubted whether, as he now says, “It changed the way people think about the conflict.”

I tried to set the record straight with two Commentary items (see here and here) in which I suggested, based on talking to an officer familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, that Perry’s item was a gross distortion —in fact a fraud. I noted that in Petraeus’s view, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was only one factor among many affecting U.S. interests in the region and that Israeli settlements were far from the only, or even the main, obstacle to peace. I even suggested — again, based on inside information — that the 56-page posture statement that Central Command had submitted to Congress, which stated that the Arab-Israeli conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” was not the best indicator of his thinking. Better to look at what he actually told Congress — in a hearing he barely mentioned Israel (until prompted to do so) and never talked about settlements at all.

This brought hoots of derision from commentators on both the Left and the Right, who claimed that I was putting words into Petraeus’s mouth — that I was, in Joe Klein’s phrase, taking a “flying leap.” Predictably piling on were Andrew Sullivan, who said I was “glossing over” what Petraeus said, and Robert Wright, who claimed that, “by Boot’s lights, Petraeus is anti-Israel.” Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

So who was off-base here: those of us who tried to explain the nuances of General Petraeus’s thinking or those bloggers and commentators who tried to suggest that he is a strident critic of Israel?

The answer has now been publicly provided by Petraeus himself in a speech in New Hampshire. Watch it for yourself. A good summary is provided by the American Spectator’s Philip Klein, who was present at the event and asked Petraeus to clarify his thinking.

The general said that it was “unhelpful” that “bloggers” had “picked … up” what he had said and “spun it.” He noted that, aside from Israel’s actions, there are many other important factors standing in the way of peace, including “a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place. So again we have all these factors in there. This [Israel] is just one.”

What about Perry’s claim that American support for Israel puts our soldiers at risk? Petraeus said, “There is no mention of lives anywhere in there. I actually reread the statement. It doesn’t say that at all.”

He concluded by noting that he had sent to General Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, the “blog by Max Boot” which, he said, had “picked apart this whole thing, as he typically does, pretty astutely.”

I hope Petraeus’s comments will put an end to this whole weird episode. Those who are either happy or unhappy about the administration’s approach to Israel should lodge their compliments or complaints where they belong — at the White House, not at Central Command.

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Is Stephen Walt Actually a Realist?

The silly tagline of Stephen Walt’s blog is: “A realist in an ideological age,” the idea being that realists enjoy a more rational and serene understanding of global affairs than the benighted fanatics who do not adopt realism’s scientific outlook on the world.

Before becoming a full-time member of the Anti-Israel Lobby, Walt was an academic specialist in realist IR theory. Two of the central tenets of realism are: 1) domestic politics make little contribution to a state’s formulation of its foreign policy interests — states are “black boxes,” as the saying goes; and, related, 2) states are rational calculators of their national interests (yes, these two ideas are very much in tension, but ignore that for now).

The reason I bring this up is the fervency with which people like Walt — self-proclaimed realists, that is — make arguments at odds with the principles of their creed. One of Walt’s regular assertions is that Israel is incapable of calculating its own interests, or as Walt would put it, that the interests it pursues are self-destructive or harmful to its real interests, as understood by the noted Zionist, Stephen Walt. He writes this constantly, like yesterday, when he claimed: “A two state solution is also the best guarantee of Israel’s long-term future. … Netanyahu, AIPAC and the rest of the “status quo” lobby don’t get that. … these people are false friends of Israel.” A real realist would say that all of this is highly unlikely, or if he did believe that the Israeli government does not understand its own interests, he would be sufficiently curious about this significant aberration to do more than mention it flippantly.

And then there is the role of domestic politics, which Walt believes controls both American and Israeli foreign policy. In America, it is the pernicious influence of the Israel Lobby that perverts the expression of America’s interests in the Middle East, and in Israel, it is the pernicious influence of the settlers and the “greater Israel” ideologues who prevent Israel from withdrawing from various territories and hastening an era of peace and harmony in the Levant. Realist doctrine, of course, allows little space for the idea that domestic constituencies have significant sway over the expression of the national interest. But that is precisely what Walt argues over and over again on his blog. Maybe the tagline should read: “An ideologue in an ideological age.”

The silly tagline of Stephen Walt’s blog is: “A realist in an ideological age,” the idea being that realists enjoy a more rational and serene understanding of global affairs than the benighted fanatics who do not adopt realism’s scientific outlook on the world.

Before becoming a full-time member of the Anti-Israel Lobby, Walt was an academic specialist in realist IR theory. Two of the central tenets of realism are: 1) domestic politics make little contribution to a state’s formulation of its foreign policy interests — states are “black boxes,” as the saying goes; and, related, 2) states are rational calculators of their national interests (yes, these two ideas are very much in tension, but ignore that for now).

The reason I bring this up is the fervency with which people like Walt — self-proclaimed realists, that is — make arguments at odds with the principles of their creed. One of Walt’s regular assertions is that Israel is incapable of calculating its own interests, or as Walt would put it, that the interests it pursues are self-destructive or harmful to its real interests, as understood by the noted Zionist, Stephen Walt. He writes this constantly, like yesterday, when he claimed: “A two state solution is also the best guarantee of Israel’s long-term future. … Netanyahu, AIPAC and the rest of the “status quo” lobby don’t get that. … these people are false friends of Israel.” A real realist would say that all of this is highly unlikely, or if he did believe that the Israeli government does not understand its own interests, he would be sufficiently curious about this significant aberration to do more than mention it flippantly.

And then there is the role of domestic politics, which Walt believes controls both American and Israeli foreign policy. In America, it is the pernicious influence of the Israel Lobby that perverts the expression of America’s interests in the Middle East, and in Israel, it is the pernicious influence of the settlers and the “greater Israel” ideologues who prevent Israel from withdrawing from various territories and hastening an era of peace and harmony in the Levant. Realist doctrine, of course, allows little space for the idea that domestic constituencies have significant sway over the expression of the national interest. But that is precisely what Walt argues over and over again on his blog. Maybe the tagline should read: “An ideologue in an ideological age.”

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California Senate Candidates Debate Campbell’s Record

California senate Republican contenders Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina debated on the radio on Friday. Much of the discussion centered on Campbell’s voting record on Israel, his ties to Muslim extremists, and the charges and counter-charges that have been flying among the candidates. As the Associated Press noted:

Campbell requested the debate after his opponents began questioning his support for Israel. Their attacks were based on his voting record when he served in the House of Representatives and on campaign money given by a donor who later was revealed to have ties to a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.

(Actually, there is more than one donor, but more on that below.) Campbell accused Fiorina’s campaign manager of calling him anti-Semitic, a charge she denied. But the nub of the matter remains Campbell’s record. DeVore got into the act, as well:

He refused to back away from calling Campbell a “friend to our enemies” for his association with a University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group.

Campbell received a $1,300 campaign contribution from Sami Al-Arian in 2000 and later wrote a letter on his behalf asking the university not to fire him.

Campbell said the contribution came as the Republican Party was reaching out to Muslims and years before the criminal charges were filed.

“I certainly wish I had done a better job of finding out who he was at the time,” Campbell said.

The claim that Campbell does not view Israel as a friend is an important one in a primary in which evangelical Christians will help determine who will advance to the general election as the GOP nominee. The winner will face Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.

Many believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Campbell said he has never flinched from showing strong military support for Israel.

But alas, Campbell did repeatedly introduce measures to cut aid for Israel, and his association with Al-Arian is not his only troublesome relationship. And contrary to his assertion in the debate, he has supported the concept of a divided Jerusalem as the capital of both Jewish and Palestinian states. He did vote in 1990, one of only 34 lawmakers, against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As for his donors, this post notes:

Another $1,000 donor to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign was American Muslim Council member Abdurahman Alamoudi. After Alamoudi spoke out in support of terrorist organizations, Campbell refused to return the money, saying that he felt comfortable with Alamoudi’s position. In contrast, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned contributions they had received from Alamoudi and related parties.

In 2003, Alamoudi was caught carrying $340,000 in cash through an airport. When searched, authorities found that his electronic organizer held the names of six people who had been linked to al-Qaida financing. Alamoudi was brought to trial and pled guilty to immigration fraud and illegal business dealings with Libya. He also confessed to playing a part in an unsuccessful assassination plot on Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah. The plotters had hoped to destabilize Saudi Arabia with the prince’s death. And in 2005, authorities discovered that Alamoudi had also helped raise money for al-Qaida in the United States.

The list goes on. On February 13, 2000, Muthanna Al-Hanooti of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contributed $2,000 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. Eight years later, Al-Hanooti was arrested for spying on the U.S. Congress for Saddam Hussein. Hanooti had even attempted to broker a secret deal with members of Congress to stop the war in Iraq from happening.

Nehad Awad, the current executive director of CAIR, contributed $2,000 dollars to Campbell’s Senate campaign in 2000. Awad and his group have been criticized for supporting both Hamas and other radical violence by Muslim extremists.

And then there is Israel-hater and organ-harvest conspirator  Alison Weir, whom Campbell has praised.  She’s now taken up defending Campbell. First, of course, she unleashes her best Stephen Walt imitation by, among other things, denouncing the “Israel Lobby.” (Just so we know where she’s coming from.) Then she explains her association with Campbell. This, she says, occurred at a speech in 2001:

When it was my turn to speak, I described what I had seen in the Palestinian Territories, showed my photographs, and read a sort of letter I had written to the American people. To my surprise, I received a standing ovation from, it appeared to me, everyone in the room. One of the first on his feet was Tom Campbell. Afterwards, a friend asked him if he would write an endorsement of my presentation, which he graciously did. Later, when I founded If Americans Knew and we created a website, we placed his comment in the “About Us” section.

She also lets on that Campbell told her, in describing of one of his proposals to cut aid to Israel, that “many of his fellow Representatives privately told him they thought this was a wonderful plan, complimented him on his courage in proposing it, and said they didn’t’ dare vote for it. In the end, just 12 others cast affirmative votes.” Delighted he was, I suppose, to be so bold and so outside the mainstream on Israel aid.

Given her bile-spitting rendition of the Middle East conflict and desire to end American financial support for Israel, one wonders what in her speech Campbell found so praiseworthy. A Californian active in the Jewish community recounts to me the sort of presentation Weir was making those days. He attended one of her offerings at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library in Marin County:

What I remember most vividly was during her entire talk there was a slide displayed directly over her head of some stone steps with an extensive amount of recent blood visibly staining the steps. As you watched her anti-Israel diatribe being delivered, she said that blood was of martry’s slain by Israelis. The image reflected her barely supressed hatred of Israel.

The issue is not whether Campbell is anti-Semitic but whether his record and his associations of rather recent vintage are consistent with the pro-Israel rhetoric he now adopts. California Republican voters will need to decide what, if any, liability this will pose should he reach the general election. It seems, then, that the debate on Campbell’s record has just begun.

California senate Republican contenders Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina debated on the radio on Friday. Much of the discussion centered on Campbell’s voting record on Israel, his ties to Muslim extremists, and the charges and counter-charges that have been flying among the candidates. As the Associated Press noted:

Campbell requested the debate after his opponents began questioning his support for Israel. Their attacks were based on his voting record when he served in the House of Representatives and on campaign money given by a donor who later was revealed to have ties to a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.

(Actually, there is more than one donor, but more on that below.) Campbell accused Fiorina’s campaign manager of calling him anti-Semitic, a charge she denied. But the nub of the matter remains Campbell’s record. DeVore got into the act, as well:

He refused to back away from calling Campbell a “friend to our enemies” for his association with a University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group.

Campbell received a $1,300 campaign contribution from Sami Al-Arian in 2000 and later wrote a letter on his behalf asking the university not to fire him.

Campbell said the contribution came as the Republican Party was reaching out to Muslims and years before the criminal charges were filed.

“I certainly wish I had done a better job of finding out who he was at the time,” Campbell said.

The claim that Campbell does not view Israel as a friend is an important one in a primary in which evangelical Christians will help determine who will advance to the general election as the GOP nominee. The winner will face Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.

Many believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Campbell said he has never flinched from showing strong military support for Israel.

But alas, Campbell did repeatedly introduce measures to cut aid for Israel, and his association with Al-Arian is not his only troublesome relationship. And contrary to his assertion in the debate, he has supported the concept of a divided Jerusalem as the capital of both Jewish and Palestinian states. He did vote in 1990, one of only 34 lawmakers, against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As for his donors, this post notes:

Another $1,000 donor to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign was American Muslim Council member Abdurahman Alamoudi. After Alamoudi spoke out in support of terrorist organizations, Campbell refused to return the money, saying that he felt comfortable with Alamoudi’s position. In contrast, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned contributions they had received from Alamoudi and related parties.

In 2003, Alamoudi was caught carrying $340,000 in cash through an airport. When searched, authorities found that his electronic organizer held the names of six people who had been linked to al-Qaida financing. Alamoudi was brought to trial and pled guilty to immigration fraud and illegal business dealings with Libya. He also confessed to playing a part in an unsuccessful assassination plot on Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah. The plotters had hoped to destabilize Saudi Arabia with the prince’s death. And in 2005, authorities discovered that Alamoudi had also helped raise money for al-Qaida in the United States.

The list goes on. On February 13, 2000, Muthanna Al-Hanooti of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contributed $2,000 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. Eight years later, Al-Hanooti was arrested for spying on the U.S. Congress for Saddam Hussein. Hanooti had even attempted to broker a secret deal with members of Congress to stop the war in Iraq from happening.

Nehad Awad, the current executive director of CAIR, contributed $2,000 dollars to Campbell’s Senate campaign in 2000. Awad and his group have been criticized for supporting both Hamas and other radical violence by Muslim extremists.

And then there is Israel-hater and organ-harvest conspirator  Alison Weir, whom Campbell has praised.  She’s now taken up defending Campbell. First, of course, she unleashes her best Stephen Walt imitation by, among other things, denouncing the “Israel Lobby.” (Just so we know where she’s coming from.) Then she explains her association with Campbell. This, she says, occurred at a speech in 2001:

When it was my turn to speak, I described what I had seen in the Palestinian Territories, showed my photographs, and read a sort of letter I had written to the American people. To my surprise, I received a standing ovation from, it appeared to me, everyone in the room. One of the first on his feet was Tom Campbell. Afterwards, a friend asked him if he would write an endorsement of my presentation, which he graciously did. Later, when I founded If Americans Knew and we created a website, we placed his comment in the “About Us” section.

She also lets on that Campbell told her, in describing of one of his proposals to cut aid to Israel, that “many of his fellow Representatives privately told him they thought this was a wonderful plan, complimented him on his courage in proposing it, and said they didn’t’ dare vote for it. In the end, just 12 others cast affirmative votes.” Delighted he was, I suppose, to be so bold and so outside the mainstream on Israel aid.

Given her bile-spitting rendition of the Middle East conflict and desire to end American financial support for Israel, one wonders what in her speech Campbell found so praiseworthy. A Californian active in the Jewish community recounts to me the sort of presentation Weir was making those days. He attended one of her offerings at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library in Marin County:

What I remember most vividly was during her entire talk there was a slide displayed directly over her head of some stone steps with an extensive amount of recent blood visibly staining the steps. As you watched her anti-Israel diatribe being delivered, she said that blood was of martry’s slain by Israelis. The image reflected her barely supressed hatred of Israel.

The issue is not whether Campbell is anti-Semitic but whether his record and his associations of rather recent vintage are consistent with the pro-Israel rhetoric he now adopts. California Republican voters will need to decide what, if any, liability this will pose should he reach the general election. It seems, then, that the debate on Campbell’s record has just begun.

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Baloney Meets the Grinder

Martin Kramer proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Stephen Walt is a hack and an ignoramus.

Martin Kramer proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Stephen Walt is a hack and an ignoramus.

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Israel Lobby Author Compares Pro-Israel Pastor to Hitler

Over at the Foreign Policy magazine website, Harvard professor and Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt weighs in on Germany’s decision to continue to ban the publication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf even after the Nazi leader’s 70-year copyright expired in 2015. Walt is right when he says that banning the publication of this evil book is pointless and does nothing either to suppress racism in Germany or to promote a proper understanding of the history it evokes.

But that said, there is also something ironic, if not downright creepy about the author of a book that promoted its own dangerous conspiracy theory about Jewish power and sought to demonize American Jews and others who support Israel, pontificating about Hitler’s work.

Granted, The Israel Lobby is not to be compared to Mein Kampf in its intent, vitriol, or historical impact. The former, written by Harvard’s Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is far more sophisticated in its language and purpose than Hitler’s screed. But its agenda, while not as avowedly vicious or murderous as the Nazi book, still sought to single out the advocates of a particular political cause and not only to treat them with opprobrium but also to brand them as working against the national interests of the United States. Of course, The Israel Lobby was widely excoriated not just because of its clearly anti-Zionist bent, but because Walt and Mearsheimer’s error-filled book painted a picture of a pro-Israel conspiracy that was so large it included virtually everyone in the mainstream media and just about the entire political system in this country — except, of course, for anti-Semitic elements of the far Right and far Left. The book tars Jews and a vast number of non-Jewish Americans who back the State of Israel as an alien force subverting United States foreign policy. Which is to say that there is a clear path from its pages to those who espouse more overt forms of Jew hatred and Israel-bashing.

Yet just as egregious as Walt posing as the scholarly arbiter of questions about the publication of hate literature is his notion of contemporary analogies to Mein Kampf. Walt writes: “When you actually look at the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler’s infamous tome.”

So which religious figure is Walt referring to here? His link is not to the many Muslim religious leaders whose works have inspired not only hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West but also actual attempts at mass murder. It is rather to an American pastor whose primary claim to fame is his support for the State of Israel: Pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s religious beliefs may seem a bit loopy to non-evangelicals. And he is the sort of fellow who is prone to saying foolish things for which he must apologize. But the main impact of Hagee’s life work has been to try building support for the one democratic state in the Middle East and to fight against those — like Walt — who have aided those who seek to delegitimize both Israel’s existence and its right to self-defense. The idea that this cleric is the best analogy to Hitler in our own day is more than ludicrous. This analogy is quite an insight into the mindset of an academic who, while happily condemning the work of a great anti-Semite and mass murderer of the 20th century, is so full of hate against Israel and the Jews of our own day that he views anyone who supports them as somehow comparable to Hitler.

Walt is right when he writes about Mein Kampf that while the marketplace of ideas in a democracy is not perfect, it is generally competent enough to sort out hate speech from legitimate comment. That is why The Israel Lobby has had little impact on American politics or foreign policy. It is also why his anti-Israel policy prescriptions, though given a bully pulpit by Foreign Policy, will continue to be ignored by the overwhelming bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus in this country.

Over at the Foreign Policy magazine website, Harvard professor and Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt weighs in on Germany’s decision to continue to ban the publication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf even after the Nazi leader’s 70-year copyright expired in 2015. Walt is right when he says that banning the publication of this evil book is pointless and does nothing either to suppress racism in Germany or to promote a proper understanding of the history it evokes.

But that said, there is also something ironic, if not downright creepy about the author of a book that promoted its own dangerous conspiracy theory about Jewish power and sought to demonize American Jews and others who support Israel, pontificating about Hitler’s work.

Granted, The Israel Lobby is not to be compared to Mein Kampf in its intent, vitriol, or historical impact. The former, written by Harvard’s Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is far more sophisticated in its language and purpose than Hitler’s screed. But its agenda, while not as avowedly vicious or murderous as the Nazi book, still sought to single out the advocates of a particular political cause and not only to treat them with opprobrium but also to brand them as working against the national interests of the United States. Of course, The Israel Lobby was widely excoriated not just because of its clearly anti-Zionist bent, but because Walt and Mearsheimer’s error-filled book painted a picture of a pro-Israel conspiracy that was so large it included virtually everyone in the mainstream media and just about the entire political system in this country — except, of course, for anti-Semitic elements of the far Right and far Left. The book tars Jews and a vast number of non-Jewish Americans who back the State of Israel as an alien force subverting United States foreign policy. Which is to say that there is a clear path from its pages to those who espouse more overt forms of Jew hatred and Israel-bashing.

Yet just as egregious as Walt posing as the scholarly arbiter of questions about the publication of hate literature is his notion of contemporary analogies to Mein Kampf. Walt writes: “When you actually look at the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler’s infamous tome.”

So which religious figure is Walt referring to here? His link is not to the many Muslim religious leaders whose works have inspired not only hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West but also actual attempts at mass murder. It is rather to an American pastor whose primary claim to fame is his support for the State of Israel: Pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s religious beliefs may seem a bit loopy to non-evangelicals. And he is the sort of fellow who is prone to saying foolish things for which he must apologize. But the main impact of Hagee’s life work has been to try building support for the one democratic state in the Middle East and to fight against those — like Walt — who have aided those who seek to delegitimize both Israel’s existence and its right to self-defense. The idea that this cleric is the best analogy to Hitler in our own day is more than ludicrous. This analogy is quite an insight into the mindset of an academic who, while happily condemning the work of a great anti-Semite and mass murderer of the 20th century, is so full of hate against Israel and the Jews of our own day that he views anyone who supports them as somehow comparable to Hitler.

Walt is right when he writes about Mein Kampf that while the marketplace of ideas in a democracy is not perfect, it is generally competent enough to sort out hate speech from legitimate comment. That is why The Israel Lobby has had little impact on American politics or foreign policy. It is also why his anti-Israel policy prescriptions, though given a bully pulpit by Foreign Policy, will continue to be ignored by the overwhelming bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus in this country.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sometimes you get the sense that it won’t be the Democrats’ year: “Broadway Bank, the troubled Chicago lender owned by the family of Illinois Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, has entered into a consent order with banking regulators requiring it to raise tens of millions in capital, stop paying dividends to the family without regulatory approval, and hire an outside party to evaluate the bank’s senior management.”

There’s no one to blame when you control both branches of government: “Twenty-nine percent (29%) of U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This is the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course so far this year – and ties the findings for two weeks in December.”

I suspect he’ll be the first major adviser to go: “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came under fierce bipartisan criticism on Wednesday, with some House Republicans calling on him to resign. Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform grilled Geithner about his role in the bailout of American International Group (AIG) and whether he was involved in decisions about the lack of public disclosure about complicated derivatives payments. Geithner faced repeated criticisms about his role in the government paying out $62 billion to AIG’s financial counterparties that represented the full value they were owed.” Remember, we had to have the tax cheat as treasury secretary because he was such a genius.

But in the list of awful appointees, Eric Holder is certainly near the top. “Top Senate Republicans want answers from the man they believe decided the FBI should read the suspected Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights: Attorney General Eric Holder. ‘It appears that the decision not to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab was made by you or other senior officials in the Department of Justice,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) wrote in a letter to Holder Wednesday. ‘We remain deeply troubled that this paramount requirement of national security was ignored — or worse yet, not recognized — due to the administration’s preoccupation with reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights.’” Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee; Susan Collins of  Maine, the ranking member on Homeland Security; Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee; and John McCain of Arizona, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, also signed.

Jeffrey Goldberg rips the Beagle Blogger for praising the “bravery” of Daniel Larison’s Israel-bashing. Says Goldberg: “How brave it is to stand athwart the Jews and yell ‘Stop!’ We are a dangerous group of people. Just look at what has happened to other critics who have gone where angels fear to tread and criticized Israel. Take, for example, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of ‘The Israel Lobby.’  Walt, as many of you know, is in hiding in Holland, under round-the-clock protection of the Dutch police, after the chief rabbi of Wellesley, Mass., issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. Mearsheimer, of course, lost his job at the University of Chicago and was physically assaulted by a group of Hadassah ladies in what became known as the ‘Grapefruit Spoon Attack of 2009.’” Read the whole thing.

PETA wants an animatronic Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog’s Day. The response from the Punxsutawney club president: “I mean, come on, this is just crazy. … Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania. … He’s got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter. … He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?” Maybe the TV.

Mayor Bloomberg wakes up and finally opposes the KSM trial in New York. Robert Gibbs is noncommittal. Is this the beginning of a walk-back potentially more dramatic than not closing Guantanamo? Let’s hope.

Seems they’re now in the business of trying to win elections: “Members of a committee of state party chairmen voted unanimously today to oppose a so-called ‘purity test’ for GOP candidates, according to a source in the closed-press meeting.”

Chris Matthews is hooted down by the Left after putting his foot in his mouth once again. (“I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”) Well, if the MSNBC gig doesn’t work out, he can write speeches for Harry Reid.

Sometimes you get the sense that it won’t be the Democrats’ year: “Broadway Bank, the troubled Chicago lender owned by the family of Illinois Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, has entered into a consent order with banking regulators requiring it to raise tens of millions in capital, stop paying dividends to the family without regulatory approval, and hire an outside party to evaluate the bank’s senior management.”

There’s no one to blame when you control both branches of government: “Twenty-nine percent (29%) of U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This is the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course so far this year – and ties the findings for two weeks in December.”

I suspect he’ll be the first major adviser to go: “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came under fierce bipartisan criticism on Wednesday, with some House Republicans calling on him to resign. Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform grilled Geithner about his role in the bailout of American International Group (AIG) and whether he was involved in decisions about the lack of public disclosure about complicated derivatives payments. Geithner faced repeated criticisms about his role in the government paying out $62 billion to AIG’s financial counterparties that represented the full value they were owed.” Remember, we had to have the tax cheat as treasury secretary because he was such a genius.

But in the list of awful appointees, Eric Holder is certainly near the top. “Top Senate Republicans want answers from the man they believe decided the FBI should read the suspected Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights: Attorney General Eric Holder. ‘It appears that the decision not to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab was made by you or other senior officials in the Department of Justice,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) wrote in a letter to Holder Wednesday. ‘We remain deeply troubled that this paramount requirement of national security was ignored — or worse yet, not recognized — due to the administration’s preoccupation with reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights.’” Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee; Susan Collins of  Maine, the ranking member on Homeland Security; Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee; and John McCain of Arizona, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, also signed.

Jeffrey Goldberg rips the Beagle Blogger for praising the “bravery” of Daniel Larison’s Israel-bashing. Says Goldberg: “How brave it is to stand athwart the Jews and yell ‘Stop!’ We are a dangerous group of people. Just look at what has happened to other critics who have gone where angels fear to tread and criticized Israel. Take, for example, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of ‘The Israel Lobby.’  Walt, as many of you know, is in hiding in Holland, under round-the-clock protection of the Dutch police, after the chief rabbi of Wellesley, Mass., issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. Mearsheimer, of course, lost his job at the University of Chicago and was physically assaulted by a group of Hadassah ladies in what became known as the ‘Grapefruit Spoon Attack of 2009.’” Read the whole thing.

PETA wants an animatronic Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog’s Day. The response from the Punxsutawney club president: “I mean, come on, this is just crazy. … Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania. … He’s got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter. … He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?” Maybe the TV.

Mayor Bloomberg wakes up and finally opposes the KSM trial in New York. Robert Gibbs is noncommittal. Is this the beginning of a walk-back potentially more dramatic than not closing Guantanamo? Let’s hope.

Seems they’re now in the business of trying to win elections: “Members of a committee of state party chairmen voted unanimously today to oppose a so-called ‘purity test’ for GOP candidates, according to a source in the closed-press meeting.”

Chris Matthews is hooted down by the Left after putting his foot in his mouth once again. (“I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”) Well, if the MSNBC gig doesn’t work out, he can write speeches for Harry Reid.

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You’re Not Going to Believe This, But…

Yet another “human rights” NGO has been caught trafficking in made-up statistics. As Yaacov Lozowick and Elder of Ziyon report, Addameer, a Palestinian “prisoners’ rights” NGO, has been inflating the number of Palestinians it claims have been arrested by Israel to a point of total absurdity:

For Addameer’s numbers to be accurate, Israel would be arresting some 10,000 people a month. Yet the PCHR [Palestinian Centre for Human Rights -- no PR operation for Israel by any stretch of the imagination] says that the number of arrests was 23 last week, 26 the previous week, 23 the week before and 17 the week before that – for a total of less than 100 people a month.

And B’Tselem says that “about 6,831 Palestinians were held in Israel as of the end of December ’09.” How could only 6,800 Palestinians be held in Israel if the IDF is arresting 10,000 Palestinians per month?

Addameer not only made up the initial numbers but they keep grossly inflating them, confident that their anti-Israel audience will lap them up without question.

Precisely right: click here for an example of a prominent anti-Israel blog spreading the lie. (Naturally, this site is also the first link in the “Daily Reads” section of Stephen Walt’s blog.) This claim appears in the Goldstone Report and has been cited by everyone from UN “Special Rapporteur” John Dugard to Jimmy Carter to Time magazine.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the international press and NGOs such as Addameer: the NGOs supply reporters with context, anecdotes, and “data” they can use to bolster the preferred narrative, which is Israeli cruelty and Palestinian victimhood. In exchange, the press sanitizes the NGOs with credulous and often celebratory media attention, transforming what are in fact small and disreputable groups of political activists into sources of objective information. It remains true that hacks will always cover for hacks.

Yet another “human rights” NGO has been caught trafficking in made-up statistics. As Yaacov Lozowick and Elder of Ziyon report, Addameer, a Palestinian “prisoners’ rights” NGO, has been inflating the number of Palestinians it claims have been arrested by Israel to a point of total absurdity:

For Addameer’s numbers to be accurate, Israel would be arresting some 10,000 people a month. Yet the PCHR [Palestinian Centre for Human Rights -- no PR operation for Israel by any stretch of the imagination] says that the number of arrests was 23 last week, 26 the previous week, 23 the week before and 17 the week before that – for a total of less than 100 people a month.

And B’Tselem says that “about 6,831 Palestinians were held in Israel as of the end of December ’09.” How could only 6,800 Palestinians be held in Israel if the IDF is arresting 10,000 Palestinians per month?

Addameer not only made up the initial numbers but they keep grossly inflating them, confident that their anti-Israel audience will lap them up without question.

Precisely right: click here for an example of a prominent anti-Israel blog spreading the lie. (Naturally, this site is also the first link in the “Daily Reads” section of Stephen Walt’s blog.) This claim appears in the Goldstone Report and has been cited by everyone from UN “Special Rapporteur” John Dugard to Jimmy Carter to Time magazine.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the international press and NGOs such as Addameer: the NGOs supply reporters with context, anecdotes, and “data” they can use to bolster the preferred narrative, which is Israeli cruelty and Palestinian victimhood. In exchange, the press sanitizes the NGOs with credulous and often celebratory media attention, transforming what are in fact small and disreputable groups of political activists into sources of objective information. It remains true that hacks will always cover for hacks.

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A Tale of Three Obama Speeches

After listening to President Obama’s last two major speeches—his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance in Oslo and his announcement at West Point of a renewed commitment to fighting the war in Afghanistan—many of his leftist supporters are a bit confused. Perhaps the most understandable was the response from Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt, who suggested that everyone just ignore the Oslo speech and hope that its admirable defense of American power will have no influence on the president’s future decisions. While there was much to quibble about in both of these speeches—his foolish announcement of an exit date before buildup in Afghanistan and his blind faith in the value of diplomacy with North Korea and Iran—there can be no denying that after nearly a year in office, Obama seems to be waking up to the fact that his duties as commander in chief require him to face up to the facts of life in a dangerous world. And that has to be something that people like Walt and the members of the Nobel Peace Prize committee can’t be happy about.

In analyzing Obama’s Oslo oration, it is most useful to contrast it with the speech he gave to the Arab and Islamic world in Cairo in June. That paean to moral equivalence seemed to win him his Nobel in that it appeared to promise that his administration would be unwilling to see a world where “evil” existed and must be fought. In Oslo, he spoke out about the need for a foreign policy in which human rights and democracy—heretofore supposedly only the obsession of dread neoconservatives—was integral to our national goals. In Cairo, such talk was conspicuously absent.

One can also well imagine how disappointed Obama’s Norwegian hosts were when they heard him speak of the necessity of using American military power in just wars like the one the United States is fighting in Afghanistan. Nor could they have been prepared for his frank avowal that American military power not only conquered fascism in World War II but also largely kept the peace since then. This was, as others have noted, exactly the sort of thing George W. Bush often said during his presidency and often earned him the jeers of the European Left, which cheered Obama’s Cairo speech and its promise of a “post-American” foreign policy.

We ought not to ignore the flaws in Obama’s recent pronouncements, nor his propensity to curry favor among those who hate the country that elected him. But it may well be that the story of his time in office will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing battle between those in his administration who see the world from the point of the view of the Cairo speech and those who see it as enunciated in West Point and Oslo. If so, then hope is possible that as events lead us inevitably toward further confrontations with Iran, Obama will come to realize that engagement must be replaced with action. As his dithering on Iran illustrates, there is still plenty of reason to doubt Obama’s ability to come to the right conclusions about the hard choices facing America. But slowly and perhaps against his will, Barack Obama may have come to realize that as president, he must face up to America’s foreign-policy challenges with the same responses that earned his predecessor the hatred of the leftist elites.

After listening to President Obama’s last two major speeches—his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance in Oslo and his announcement at West Point of a renewed commitment to fighting the war in Afghanistan—many of his leftist supporters are a bit confused. Perhaps the most understandable was the response from Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt, who suggested that everyone just ignore the Oslo speech and hope that its admirable defense of American power will have no influence on the president’s future decisions. While there was much to quibble about in both of these speeches—his foolish announcement of an exit date before buildup in Afghanistan and his blind faith in the value of diplomacy with North Korea and Iran—there can be no denying that after nearly a year in office, Obama seems to be waking up to the fact that his duties as commander in chief require him to face up to the facts of life in a dangerous world. And that has to be something that people like Walt and the members of the Nobel Peace Prize committee can’t be happy about.

In analyzing Obama’s Oslo oration, it is most useful to contrast it with the speech he gave to the Arab and Islamic world in Cairo in June. That paean to moral equivalence seemed to win him his Nobel in that it appeared to promise that his administration would be unwilling to see a world where “evil” existed and must be fought. In Oslo, he spoke out about the need for a foreign policy in which human rights and democracy—heretofore supposedly only the obsession of dread neoconservatives—was integral to our national goals. In Cairo, such talk was conspicuously absent.

One can also well imagine how disappointed Obama’s Norwegian hosts were when they heard him speak of the necessity of using American military power in just wars like the one the United States is fighting in Afghanistan. Nor could they have been prepared for his frank avowal that American military power not only conquered fascism in World War II but also largely kept the peace since then. This was, as others have noted, exactly the sort of thing George W. Bush often said during his presidency and often earned him the jeers of the European Left, which cheered Obama’s Cairo speech and its promise of a “post-American” foreign policy.

We ought not to ignore the flaws in Obama’s recent pronouncements, nor his propensity to curry favor among those who hate the country that elected him. But it may well be that the story of his time in office will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing battle between those in his administration who see the world from the point of the view of the Cairo speech and those who see it as enunciated in West Point and Oslo. If so, then hope is possible that as events lead us inevitably toward further confrontations with Iran, Obama will come to realize that engagement must be replaced with action. As his dithering on Iran illustrates, there is still plenty of reason to doubt Obama’s ability to come to the right conclusions about the hard choices facing America. But slowly and perhaps against his will, Barack Obama may have come to realize that as president, he must face up to America’s foreign-policy challenges with the same responses that earned his predecessor the hatred of the leftist elites.

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But Some of His Best Friends Are Jews (Who Hate Israel)

Season’s greetings from Stephen Walt, who is thankful for ten things this year. Number six:

Supporters. The controversy over The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy also brought me a legion of new friends, some of whom I would never have met otherwise. My thanks to inspired writers and activists like Phil Weiss, Tony Judt, M.J. Rosenberg, Jerome Slater, Avi Shlaim, Uri Avnery, Sydney Levy, and many, many more.

All of the above, to varying degrees, believe that Israel is a sinister presence in the world. Some, such as Phil Weiss and Tony Judt, are anti-Zionists who wish for Israel to be destroyed. Others have devoted their lives and careers to relentlessly and tendentiously criticizing the Jewish state. There are, of course, great numbers of gentiles who also share these views, have pursued similar careers, and think that The Israel Lobby is first-rate scholarship. But the list of Walt’s new friends consists only of Jews. He seems a little touchy on the matter, wouldn’t you say?

Season’s greetings from Stephen Walt, who is thankful for ten things this year. Number six:

Supporters. The controversy over The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy also brought me a legion of new friends, some of whom I would never have met otherwise. My thanks to inspired writers and activists like Phil Weiss, Tony Judt, M.J. Rosenberg, Jerome Slater, Avi Shlaim, Uri Avnery, Sydney Levy, and many, many more.

All of the above, to varying degrees, believe that Israel is a sinister presence in the world. Some, such as Phil Weiss and Tony Judt, are anti-Zionists who wish for Israel to be destroyed. Others have devoted their lives and careers to relentlessly and tendentiously criticizing the Jewish state. There are, of course, great numbers of gentiles who also share these views, have pursued similar careers, and think that The Israel Lobby is first-rate scholarship. But the list of Walt’s new friends consists only of Jews. He seems a little touchy on the matter, wouldn’t you say?

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Who Is Afraid of Iran’s Nukes?

Norman Podhoretz has been courageously making the case for a U.S. strike on Iran’s nuclear-weapon’s program for some time now. He also has — or had — been predicting that President Bush would carry out such a strike before the end of his presidency. As time grows short, that seems increasingly unlikely.

But let’s not rule it out entirely.We have already pointed to the fact that as Iran acquires sophisticated Russian air-defenses, which it may deploy as early as this fall, the execution of a U.S. strike will be greatly complicated and the risks associated with it will rise. It would be easier for the U.S. to the job before the SA-20s are pointing toward the skies.

There is another factor as well that pushes in the same direction: growing pressure from an insecure but highly influential ally in the region — and, no, it is not Israel.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken a look at Saudi Arabian attitudes toward Iran’s nuclear program:

senior and mid-level Saudi officials express an apparently unambiguous belief among the upper-echelon of the Saudi Government that the Iranian nuclear program does not solely exist for peaceful purposes. One senior Saudi official told staff confidently, “Iran is determined to get a nuclear weapon.”. . . One senior long-serving U.S. diplomat in Riyadh said he had “never met anyone from the King on down who didn’t think it was a nuclear weapons program.”

Saudi officials believe Iran wants a nuclear weapon in order to become a regional superpower, to alleviate a sense of marginalization, to serve as a deterrent, and to be a more dominant force in the Gulf. While senior Saudi officials describe a nuclear-armed Iran as “an existential threat,” most Saudi officials do not believe Iran would actually use nuclear weapons against Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia worries that Iranian nuclear weapons would encourage and enable the Iranians to pursue a more aggressive, hegemonic foreign policy in the region. However, it would be inaccurate to completely characterize SAG [Saudia Arabian government] anxiety regarding Iranian nuclear weapons as a purely “balance of power concern.” Based largely on Iran’s subversive activities directed against the Saudi regime in the 1980′s, some senior Saudi leaders find a nuclear-armed Iran especially disconcerting. Such past Iranian subversion efforts has imbued the senior Saudi leadership with an intense distrust of Tehran.

What do the Saudis think should be done about the mounting danger?

When presented with a hypothetical choice between a nuclear-armed Iran and a U.S. [preventive] attack, a significant number of Saudi officials interviewed explicitly or implicitly preferred a U.S. attack. A correlation seems to exist between the seniority of Saudi officials and views on Iranian nuclear weapons. More senior Saudi officials tended to be more “hawkish” in their viewpoint toward Iran. Some key Saudi officials believe a U.S. attack could set the Iranian nuclear program back over a decade. More cautious members of the senior inner circle express concern that a military attack would affect “everything and will not be easy to pull off,” and doubt whether a U.S. attack could destroy all key components of the Iranian nuclear program. Based on U.S. actions in Iraq, some key Saudi officials feared a “nightmare” scenario in which the U.S. attacks Iran but fails to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The Saudis have a lot of oil, a lot of money, and a lot of influence in Washington. If the U.S. does take action, and if it is successful, they will surely reap some of the credit. And if it goes badly, we will surely hear from John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that the “Israel Lobby” is to blame.

Norman Podhoretz has been courageously making the case for a U.S. strike on Iran’s nuclear-weapon’s program for some time now. He also has — or had — been predicting that President Bush would carry out such a strike before the end of his presidency. As time grows short, that seems increasingly unlikely.

But let’s not rule it out entirely.We have already pointed to the fact that as Iran acquires sophisticated Russian air-defenses, which it may deploy as early as this fall, the execution of a U.S. strike will be greatly complicated and the risks associated with it will rise. It would be easier for the U.S. to the job before the SA-20s are pointing toward the skies.

There is another factor as well that pushes in the same direction: growing pressure from an insecure but highly influential ally in the region — and, no, it is not Israel.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken a look at Saudi Arabian attitudes toward Iran’s nuclear program:

senior and mid-level Saudi officials express an apparently unambiguous belief among the upper-echelon of the Saudi Government that the Iranian nuclear program does not solely exist for peaceful purposes. One senior Saudi official told staff confidently, “Iran is determined to get a nuclear weapon.”. . . One senior long-serving U.S. diplomat in Riyadh said he had “never met anyone from the King on down who didn’t think it was a nuclear weapons program.”

Saudi officials believe Iran wants a nuclear weapon in order to become a regional superpower, to alleviate a sense of marginalization, to serve as a deterrent, and to be a more dominant force in the Gulf. While senior Saudi officials describe a nuclear-armed Iran as “an existential threat,” most Saudi officials do not believe Iran would actually use nuclear weapons against Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia worries that Iranian nuclear weapons would encourage and enable the Iranians to pursue a more aggressive, hegemonic foreign policy in the region. However, it would be inaccurate to completely characterize SAG [Saudia Arabian government] anxiety regarding Iranian nuclear weapons as a purely “balance of power concern.” Based largely on Iran’s subversive activities directed against the Saudi regime in the 1980′s, some senior Saudi leaders find a nuclear-armed Iran especially disconcerting. Such past Iranian subversion efforts has imbued the senior Saudi leadership with an intense distrust of Tehran.

What do the Saudis think should be done about the mounting danger?

When presented with a hypothetical choice between a nuclear-armed Iran and a U.S. [preventive] attack, a significant number of Saudi officials interviewed explicitly or implicitly preferred a U.S. attack. A correlation seems to exist between the seniority of Saudi officials and views on Iranian nuclear weapons. More senior Saudi officials tended to be more “hawkish” in their viewpoint toward Iran. Some key Saudi officials believe a U.S. attack could set the Iranian nuclear program back over a decade. More cautious members of the senior inner circle express concern that a military attack would affect “everything and will not be easy to pull off,” and doubt whether a U.S. attack could destroy all key components of the Iranian nuclear program. Based on U.S. actions in Iraq, some key Saudi officials feared a “nightmare” scenario in which the U.S. attacks Iran but fails to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The Saudis have a lot of oil, a lot of money, and a lot of influence in Washington. If the U.S. does take action, and if it is successful, they will surely reap some of the credit. And if it goes badly, we will surely hear from John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that the “Israel Lobby” is to blame.

Read Less




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