Hogan's Alley

Monday, April 03, 2006

Blaming The Jews For All Our Troubles

A largely unspoken theme among those who dream of glorious days of American isolation and who would like al Qaeda to just go away is that if we let abandoned Israel as an ally, bin Laden would focus all his ire on them and leave us alone. Now we have this position given academic voice by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Steven Walt of the Kennedy School at Harvard.

The central thesis in their piece, published in the London Review of Books, is that the Israeli Lobby in the United States has become so powerful and entrenched since the Truman Administration, that generations of American presidents have, under their influence, made decisions contrary to our nation's interest, which have provoked retaliation by the terrorists. These authors interest in finding rationales for the presumed evils unleashed by post WWII America can perhaps be guessed if one reads only the titles of their most recent books. Mearsheimer's is The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, and Walt's is Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy.

This nonsense has been admirably refuted by two simultaneous rebuttals by Christopher Hitchens and David Gergen.

Hitchens points out that:

As for the idea that Israel is the root cause of the emergence of al-Qaida: Where have these two gentlemen been? Bin Laden's gang emerged from a whole series of tough and reactionary battles in Central and Eastern Asia, from the war for a separate Muslim state in the Philippines to the fighting in Kashmir, the Uighur territories in China, and of course Afghanistan. There are hardly any Palestinians in its ranks, and its communiques have been notable for how little they say about the Palestinian struggle. Bin Laden does not favor a Palestinian state; he simply regards the whole area of the former British Mandate as a part of the future caliphate. The right of the Palestinians to a state is a just demand in its own right, but anyone who imagines that its emergence would appease —or would have appeased —the forces of jihad is quite simply a fool. Is al-Qaida fomenting civil war in Nigeria or demanding the return of East Timor to Indonesia because its heart bleeds for the West Bank?
Key quote from Gergen:

Over the course of four tours in the White House, I never once saw a decision in the Oval Office to tilt U.S. foreign policy in favor of Israel at the expense of America's interest. Other than Richard Nixon--who occasionally said terrible things about Jews, despite the number on his team--I can't remember any president even talking about an Israeli lobby. Perhaps I have forgotten, but I can remember plenty of conversations about the power of the American gun lobby, environmentalists, evangelicals, small-business owners, and teachers unions.

The one true statement in the Mearsheimer/Walt piece is that, "What is needed is a candid discussion of the Lobby'’s influence and a more open debate about US interests in this vital region." That discussion will, I think, make it clear that, as Gergen says, "Harry Truman recognized Israel in 1948 out of humanitarian concerns and in spite of pressure from Jewish groups, not because of it. Since then, 10 straight American presidents have befriended Israel--not because they were under pressure but because they believed America had made a commitment to Israel's survival, just as we have to other threatened outposts of freedom like Berlin, South Korea, and Taiwan."