A few months ago, I posted about Stephen Zunes, a lefty professor at the University of San Francisco (and no fan of Israel) who nontheless surprised me by publishing an article taking the anti-war left to task for blaming the Iraq War on a Zionist cabal.
Well, Zunes is back, and this time his target is Walt-Mearsheimer and their groupies.
For starters, he chides his fellow “progressives” for rallying around two academics who are, er, less-than-progressive:
With some notable exceptions, Mearsheimer and Walt have been largely supportive of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War and subsequently. For example, during the 1980s, Mearsheimer—a graduate of West Point —opposed both a nuclear weapons freeze and a no-first-use nuclear policy. A critic of nonproliferation efforts, Mearsheimer has defended India’s atomic weapons arsenal and has even called for the spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states such as Germany and Ukraine. He was also an outspoken supporter of the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War. It is ironic, then, that these two men have suddenly found themselves lionized by many progressive critics of U.S. foreign policy as a result of their article.
What progressive supporters of Mearsheimer and Walt’s analysis seem to ignore is that both men have a vested interest in absolving from responsibility the foreign policy establishment that they have served so loyally all these years. Israel and its supporters are essentially being used as convenient scapegoats for America’s disastrous policies in the Middle East.
As for Walt-Mearsheimer’s argument that the “Israel Lobby” (capital L) was responsible for the war in Iraq:
Perhaps the most twisted argument in their article is the authors’ claim that the 2003 invasion of Iraq “was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.” This is ludicrous on several grounds. First of all, Israel is far less secure as a result of the rise of Islamist extremism, terrorist groups, and Iranian influence in post-invasion Iraq than it was during the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, when Iraq was no longer a strategic threat to Israel or actively involved in anti-Israeli terrorism. Indeed, it had been more than a decade since Iraq had posed any significant threat to Israel and some of Israel’s biggest supporters on Capitol Hill were among the most outspoken voices against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Zunes dismisses accusations of anti-semitism against Walt-Mearsheimer, but nonetheless notes:
There is something quite convenient and discomfortingly familiar about the tendency to blame an allegedly powerful and wealthy group of Jews for the overall direction of an increasingly controversial U.S. policy. Indeed, like exaggerated claims of Jewish power at other times in history, such an explanation absolves the real powerbrokers and assigns blame to convenient scapegoats.
Even more disturbing is the way that blaming the Israel lobby has been used in foreign capitals to get U.S. decision-makers off the hook for America’s controversial policies regarding Israel and Palestine….My interviews with a half dozen Arab foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers in recent years have confirmed that U.S. diplomats routinely blame the “Jewish lobby” as a means of diverting blame away from the U.S. government. This cynical excuse has contributed to the frightening rise in recent years of anti-Jewish attitudes in the Arab world.
In Zunes’s view, the “real lobby” that drives U.S. foreign policy is the “military-industrial complex.” (Yeah, I know, how original…) Still, I find this interesting. As I’ve noted previously, it seems to me that the Walt-Mearsheimer paper has exposed–and even accentuated–divisions within the poltical Left. It’s a throwdown between those who see Israel as just another pawn of U.S. imperial policies and those who see support for Israel as the driver of U.S. foreign policy.