Ruth Wisse has a piece in the Wall Street Journal today on the Walt-Mearsheimer "Israel Lobby" paper. According to the indispensable Daily Alert, she points out that the essay -with its thesis that "a loose association of special-interest groups has persuaded the country to sacrifice its interests to a foreign power"- does not address why the "Israel Lobby" formed in the first place, nor does it reference -or even admit to- the political agency of 21 Arab countries and 1.2 billion Muslims world-wide.I'd say that's a pretty damning reproach.
Rick Richman has an even more scathing review, in which he accuses The Professors of Academic Malpractice. You'll have to read it all in order to appreciate the painstaking integrity of his research, but it's well worth it, as Richman proceeds step by step to show exactly how the authors "misstate primary sources and ignore others." He writes,
No one contests their right to their opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.Money quote, as they say.
I am a cynic, and not a painstaking one. I admit it. I am not only cynical, but reactionary (as in, characterized by reaction... not as in, an opponent of progress). However, this in and of itself does not make me wrong, so let me share with you my reaction to Walt and Mearsheimer.
I've been in academia. For eight years I was involved in graduate-level study of anthropology at Hunter College in NYC. I know that academia is corrupt and not the Great Honest Inquiry for Truth that we all want it to be, but I also know that shoddy scholarship does not get you to the top.
So here we have Stephen M. Walt, with a BA in international relations from Stanford, MA and PhD in political science from UC-Berkeley, taught at Princeton, served as Deputy Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, presently Belfer Professor of International Affairs and Academic Dean at Harvard's prestigious Kennedy School of Government and John Mearsheimer, West Point graduate, Cornell University Ph.D. in political science, research fellow at the Brookings Institution, post-doctoral fellow at Harvard, Whitney H. Shepardson Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, recipient of the Clark Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Quatrell Award for Distinguished Teaching, Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, presently the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and co-director of the International Security Policy program at the University of Chicago.
These two did not become preeminent in their field by publishing works that could be reasonably condemned as "academic malpractice." That would have been impossible. Yet take a look at what's being said about this current controversial essay:
"riddled with errors of fact, logic and omission, has inaccurate citations ...[and] ignores previous serious work on the subject" -- Alex Safian
"pseudoscholarly" .... "Mearsheimer and Walt throw distortion and defamation like rice at a wedding" --Scott Johnson
"a collection of innuendo, half truths, and outright misrepresentations [failing] the test of academic integrity and honest research" -- Richard Baehr and Ed Lasky
"a highly misleading picture ... anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent" -- James Taranto
So what's up with this? Could The Professors have been so intent on achieving a certain result, that they disregarded the norms of assiduous scholarship, ignored the very methodology which one must assume has been the fulcrum of the work of their lifetimes? It makes no sense, unless they were that passionately devoted to the result, to their (foregone) conclusion that
Jews the "Israel Lobby" run the world controls US foreign policy... even to the extent that U.S. support for Israel has "jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world."
I was talking to the Husband about this at dinner tonight, and he said it's the same story he's been hearing since he was seven years old, and it goes all the way back to Pharaoh. The Jews run the world, control whatever, the economy, the media, in this case the foreign policy of the world's only superpower... I think it can be, and in this case is, that simple. It's just another "Jews have too much power" rant. What bothers me most is that with the next breath always comes, like day after night, something along the lines of an enslavement, a pogrom, an expulsion... a proposed Solution, if you will, of one sort or another.
So my reaction is this - the work is antisemitic, and it doesn't make much difference if that's by way of intent, or effect, or both. If The Professors weren't guilty of academic malpractice, if they hadn't bent and twisted the facts and abused accepted methodology in order to reach their conclusion, if they had made a true evidentiary case as befits their position, people might disagree with them but no one could possibly make such a pointed accusation as that of bigotry.
It is apparent -and utterly sickening- to me that these highly influential men are infected with classic, pedestrian antisemitism. It is rearing its ugly head in our time, in our generation, in our society, in our country, in our most noble institutions. And because antisemitism is highly contagious and deeply resonant, I cannot but dread the ripple effects of what might have been, in some other context, just an inconsequential bad piece of work. I think we can all agree, and perhaps The Professors will be happy to hear, that their essay is - at least potentially - highly consequential.
While Walt and Mearsheimer seem to have failed to show that supporters of Israel have placed the security of the United States in jeopardy, they may very well have succeeded in putting the Jewish people at greater risk of peril ... in America.
We'll have to see, but I do not think the "next breath" can be too far behind.
CAMERA reports that Harvard is backing away from The Professors.
OTOH, the Saudi Arab News gives the essay a positive review. It describes Walt and Mearsheimer as "two of America's top scholars," "leading figures in American academic life" and "recognized American authorities" and says they have published "a blazing attack on the power of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States."