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Adam Bronstone

 
WHAT IS THE BASIS OF MEARSHIEMER AND WALT'S ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS?

DR. ADAM BRONSTONE, Nov 26, 2011

 I teach a course in international politics at the University of North Florida. Throughout my entire university experience, from the time I obtained an undergraduate degree at the University of Manitoba to the time I received my doctorate in Britain, the works of both Prof. John Mearsheimer and Prof. Steven Walt were always subjects of discussion.
 
The latter wrote extensively on issues relating to nuclear weapons and strategy, whereas the former is considered a 'father' of modern Realist-oriented thinking in US academic circles, from his home at the University of Chicago.
 
I asked my students to write a short memo response to Mearsheimer's famous 1990 article in Atlantic Monthly entitled 'Why We Will Soon Miss the Cold War."
 
In a world plagued by possibly more instability than during the entirety of the 1945-1989 period, some do agree that the Cold War era was a period of 'long peace'. This article by Mearsheimer was followed by a much longer and even more academic piece in International Security, a benchmark journal for all students of International Politics.
 
And then, came the second Iraq War. I read with great interest the Kennedy School paper that both Mearsheimer and Walt authored, claiming that it was the so-called Israel Lobby that forced the hand of the Bush Administration.
 
From this piece to their book 'The Israel Lobby', and to the present-day, Mearsheimer and Walt continue to assail and blame the Israel Lobby and Israel for the mess of Iraq and the terrible state of US foreign policy relations with the Arab Middle East. Mearsheimer does this through speaking to every Arab-American and anti-war group that he can find, and Walt through online writing on foreignpolicy.com (a very well-respected journal and website).
 
Their work used to be the "apolitical" work of two very serious academics, whose research was of the highest caliber. Now not only does it display anti Israel venom, but the research, and the academic value, is of at best, third-rate. Through third-party sources, newspaper articles and linkages that would be considered hearsay in a court of law, two brilliant minds (regardless of where you stand on their previous work) appear to have gone off the deep end.
 
The question is...why, since there would appear to be nothing (and I mean nothing) in their previous works that would indicate a hatred for both Israel and its supporters. It appears that both Mearsheimer and Walt were terribly angered by the decision to start an unneeded and unjustified war in Iraq under the Bush 41 administration and, they looked for reasons and people to blame for this decision that they would claim undermines US foreign policy and US strategic interests in at least the Arab Middle East, and possibly with its allies around the world. As realist-oriented academics, both Mearsheimer and Walt believe that countries have interests, and not friends, and when friendship based on weak ideas such as values and commonalities (democratic traditions, for example) gets in the way of rational interest, then the interests of the country need to be re-aligned for the benefit of the country.
 
 What both of these authors saw was a group of neo-conservatives in the foreign policy apparatus of the Bush 41 administration (Perle, Pollack, Feith, Wolfovitz) with one common element - all Jewish,  and all right-of-center supporters of Israel, and all were of the belief that the US and Israel would be better off without Saddam Hussein in their lives. And these were the gang of guys pushing Bush, Rice, Rumself and Powell to start a 'war of choice' rather than a 'war of necessity’. And further the domestic pro-Israel lobby of Christian Evangelicals, AIPAC and the pro-Israel Congress pushed right along with this group of advisors, for the same reasons, thus landing the US in a war that has been costly in human lives, dollars and prestige.
 
 Since making this linkage (again, with awful sourcing), Mearsheimer and Walt have been on the warpath, taking themselves out of the world of academia and into the world of lobbyist.
 
I offer the above explanation not as a justification, rationale or excuse, but as a base of context for a situation that many could label as 'academics gone wild'. I will add one final note that makes all of this somewhat curious, and even more difficult to explain: John Mearsheimer is, like many senior academics in the world, arrogant. In his article on the Cold War, Mearsheimer makes the case that the Cold War is not truly over year (1991), and that only he, John Mearsheimer, will know when it will be over, and then he will let the rest of us know. Arrogance, hubris and not a shred of modesty which makes the final story all the more interesting:
 
An academic friend of mine was on a panel with Mearsheimer about the causes of the second Iraq War. This was at the largest political science/foreign policy conference, held annually, where everyone attends. This took place just after the initial Mearsheimer/Walt Kennedy School paper was published.
 
I asked my friend David if Mearsheimer spoke about this paper, given that it was relevant to the panel. In response, David said that Mearsheimer never mentioned the paper within this academic setting, and David had never heard of the paper. For an academic like Mearsheimer to not take this occasion and talk about his belief seems at odds with his arrogance. There is one plausible reason I can think of. In the context of his fellow academics, could it be Mearsheimer is embarrassed about his work, its quality and its position, and is only comfortable in front of friendly audiences who will always agree with him?
 
Profs. Mearsheimer and Walt might have large microphones from which to berate Israel and its supporters, but I think that what this incident really shows s that those who hate Israel are usually only one thing - cowards.
 
 
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