An edited version called “The Israel Lobby” was published in The London Review of Books

Mearsheimer Biography
Recent and unpublished work

Essay Stirs Debate About Influence of a Jewish Lobby

By ALAN FINDER Published: April 12, 2006 The New York Times

When John J. Mearsheimer, a 58-year-old political scientist at the University of Chicago, decided to take on the United States' support for Israel, he considered the subject too touchy to confront alone.

Michael Stravato for The New York Times

John J. Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago.

So he enlisted a colleague to help provoke a public discussion. Like Dr. Mearsheimer, Stephen M. Walt, a 50-year-old professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, is a specialist in theories of international relations and a tenured professor with a prestigious chair.

"I think it's in the national interest to have a debate on this," Dr. Mearsheimer said. "I don't think it benefits anyone to keep this in the closet."

The resulting paper, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," was published last month in the London Review of Books, after an earlier draft was rejected by The Atlantic. Editors at The Atlantic declined to discuss why.

A longer, 42-page version of the article, with an additional 40 pages of footnotes, was also posted on the Kennedy School's Web site.

The paper asserts that the United States' support of Israel has been unwavering, has jeopardized American security and has been driven by "the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby," which the authors describe as a loose coalition of American Jews and their allies.

They say that the United States was singled out by Al Qaeda in large part because of American support for Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and that a significant motivation for the invasion of Iraq was to improve Israel's security.

The essay has caused an uproar. First came headlines in The New York Sun and The Forward, the 108-year-old Jewish weekly, followed by critiques in opinion journals like The New Republic and The Weekly Standard, along with myriad newspaper op-ed articles.

Many of the articles have castigated the paper as historically inaccurate and sloppy in its scholarship, with some critics saying for example that Osama bin Laden first focused on the United States because of its support for the Saudi government. Many have also criticized the professors as defining the so-called pro-Israel lobby so broadly as to render it all but meaningless, and as implying, by referring to it always as "the Lobby" with a capital L, that it operates in a monolithic, if not conspiratorial manner.

While condemnations have been fierce at home, the article has drawn some praise in British publications for stimulating debate.

The Kennedy School removed its logo from the cover page of the essay on its Web site to make clear that it contained the professors' opinions and analysis, not the school's. But Harvard and the University of Chicago have stood behind Dr. Mearsheimer and Dr. Walt, with officials citing the need to protect free expression.

"This is a kind of classic call in academic freedom," said David T. Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School. "If universities stand for anything, they stand for getting ideas out there and then for open debate. Some ideas are controversial, some ideas are very controversial, some ideas are wrong. But the administration shouldn't be in the position of making a judgment on something like this. Other scholars should be making those judgments, and ideas should rise and fall in the bright light of scholarly debate."

Some Harvard colleagues of Dr. Walt have entered the debate full-throated, including David R. Gergen, also at the Kennedy School and a former adviser to four presidents, and Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School, described in the paper as an apologist for Israel.

The Kennedy School invited members of the Harvard faculty to post responses on the Web site, as long as they were scholarly and were not personal attacks. Mr. Dershowitz posted a 45-page response last week in which he attacked the authors' logic and facts. He also asked why they recycled accusations that "would be seized on by bigots to promote their anti-Semitic agendas."

The article asserts that the Israel lobby includes members of the Clinton and the Bush administrations, Jewish organizations, Christian evangelicals, thinkers referred to as "neo-conservative gentiles" and an array of policy organizations.

"There is this blanket denunciation of a very large number of American Jews and an accusation of disloyalty," Eliot A. Cohen, a professor at School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said in a telephone interview.

In an opinion article in The Washington Post last week, Dr. Cohen described the paper as anti-Semitic and "a wretched piece of scholarship."

Dennis Ross, a former Middle East negotiator for the United States, said he found the paper "incredibly simple-minded." He was listed in it as an official with "close ties to Israel or to prominent pro-Israel organizations."

"If this lobby is so powerful, how come every major Arab arms sale that they opposed they lost on?" Mr. Ross asked.


Now counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a research organization, Mr. Ross also said that Dr. Mearsheimer and Dr. Walt had misstated American positions in peace negotiations with the Israelis and Palestinians during the Clinton administration.

Dr. Mearsheimer said that the response was not unexpected, but that he had been surprised by some of the vitriol.

"We certainly wanted to provoke a debate, and this has happened," he said. "But we hoped to provoke a rational debate, not a food fight in which people accuse us of being anti-Semites."

Dr. Walt and Dr. Mearsheimer are prominent in the academic world, part of a group of foreign policy analysts, known as realists, who believe that international politics is fundamentally about the pursuit of power. Each has written extensively on foreign affairs and theories of international relations, although they are not experts on the Middle East.

Dr. Walt has written books on how other nations have responded to the global power of the United States and on international alliances. Dr. Mearsheimer, who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, has written books on deterrence and great-power politics.

In the first article they wrote together, in 2003, they opposed the Iraq war.

Dr. Mearsheimer said that he and Dr. Walt had stated in their latest essay that they were not contending that American Jews and their allies were engaged in a conspiracy to put Israel's strategic needs ahead of those of the United States.

"We never used the word 'cabal,' " Dr. Mearsheimer said. "It's not in our vocabulary. And I think it would be completely irresponsible to suggest that it is a cabal or a conspiracy."

"This is a classic case of interest-group politics," he said of the pro-Israel lobbying in Washington. "It's as American as apple pie."

Dr. Walt and Dr. Mearsheimer said that most of their colleagues had treated them well, including those who disagreed with them.

"The response of colleagues has been on one level uniformly supportive of the basic principle of academic freedom," Dr. Walt said. "I have received a number of messages from colleagues, at Harvard and elsewhere, that were strongly supportive of our basic argument. I have also received some very thoughtful responses from colleagues at other universities taking issue with arguments we've made."

Both men said they had expected consequences from having published the paper.

"We both knew from the get-go that whoever wrote this piece would essentially be committing career suicide in terms of getting a high-level administrative job in academia or a policy-making position," Dr. Mearsheimer said.

(Dr. Walt's intention to step down this summer as the academic dean at the Kennedy School was announced in early February, before the essay was published.)

Some critics of the paper dismissed the idea that Dr. Mearsheimer and Dr. Walt might be punished for expressing their ideas.

"Honestly, one of the things I found distasteful is the pose of martyrdom," Dr. Cohen of Johns Hopkins said. "Nothing is going to happen to them, nor should it."

US professors accused of being liars and bigots over essay on pro-Israeli lobby

Julian Borger in Washington
Friday March 31, 2006


An article by two prominent American professors arguing that the pro-Israel lobby exerts a dominant and damaging influence on US foreign policy has triggered a furious row, pitting allegations of anti-semitism against claims of intellectual intimidation.

Stephen Walt, the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, published two versions of the essay, the Israel Lobby, in the London Review of Books and on a Harvard website.

The pro-Israel lobby and its sway over American policy has always been a controversial issue, but the professors' bluntly worded polemic created a firestorm, drawing condemnation from left and right of the political spectrum.

Professor Walt's fellow Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz - criticised in the article as an "apologist" for Israel - denounced the authors as "liars" and "bigots" in the university newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, and compared their arguments to neo-Nazi literature.

"Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism," wrote two fellow academics, Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits, in a letter to the London Review of Books. Critics also pointed out that the article had been praised by David Duke, a notorious American white supremacist.

Prof Mearsheimer said the storm of protest proved one of its arguments - that the strength of the pro-Israel lobby stifled debate on US foreign policy.

"We argued in the piece that the lobby goes to great lengths to silence criticism of Israeli policy as well as the US-Israeli relationship, and that its most effective weapon is the charge of anti-semitism," Prof Mearsheimer told The Guardian. "Thus, we expected to be called anti-semites, even though both of us are philo-semites and strongly support the existence of Israel."

He added: "Huge numbers of people know this story to be true but are afraid to say it because they would punished by pro-Israeli forces."

Soon after the publication of the article it was announced that Prof Walt would step down from his job as academic dean at the end of June. However, the Kennedy School and Prof Walt's colleagues said that the move had long been planned.

The Kennedy school removed its cover page from the online version of the article but said in a statement: "The only purpose of that removal was to end public confusion; it was not intended, contrary to some interpretations, to send any signal that the school was also 'distancing' itself from one of its senior professors."

"The University of Chicago and Harvard University have behaved admirably in difficult circumstances. We have had the full support of our respective institutions," Prof Mearsheimer said.

The article argues that the US has "been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies" to advance Israeli interests, largely as a result of pressure from Jewish American groups such as the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) allied to pro-Zionist Christian evangelists and influential Jewish neo-conservatives such as former Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle. It argues their combined influence was critical in the decision to go to war in Iraq.

Writing in the online magazine, Slate, the British-born journalist Christopher Hitchens criticised the authors' "over-fondness for Jewish name-dropping" and argued that the first occasion the neo-conservatives had a significant influence on foreign policy was to press the Clinton administration to intervene on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.

No AIPAC officials would comment about the controversy on the record.

Yesterday Prof Mearsheimer said: "We went out of our way to say that the lobby is simply engaging in interest group politics, which is as American as apple pie."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Report on Effect of Israel Lobby Distorts History, Critics Say
Report on Effect of Israel Lobby Distorts History, Critics Say

By Michael Powell Washington Post Staff Writer, April 3, 2006

Two prominent academics, a dean at Harvard and a professor at the University of Chicago, have stirred a tempest by writing a paper arguing that the Israel lobby often persuades the United States to set aside its own security to pursue the best interests of Israel.

"No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially the same," the authors wrote in a paper posted on the Web site of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

"The United States has a terrorism problem in good part," they add a few pages later, "because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around."

The report, written by Kennedy School Dean Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago, has ignited criticism. Academic critics, newspaper editorial pages and conservative bloggers have accused the professors of distorting history and trucking in anti-Semitic stereotypes. Harvard Law professor Alan M. Dershowitz says the professors "destroyed their professional reputations."

"We've heard all this before, the talk of powerful Jewish lobbies and the language one hears on Arab and extreme right-wing Web sites," Dershowitz said in an interview. "This is paranoid and conspiratorial."

Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at the Kennedy School, said the report was filled with errors, not least the assertion that Israeli forces were better armed and positioned than the Arab armies in the 1947-1948 war. "It does play into the terrible argument that Jewish no-goodniks control the media and our foreign policy," Kalb said.

The professors, in fact, cast blame widely. They pointed at the powerful lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee and at neocon intellectuals, the editorial pages of the New York Times and think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, which they say all reveal a pro-Israel slant.

And they are not without academic support. Juan Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Michigan, suggests the authors make commonplace points -- that U.S. Middle East policy is driven disproportionately by those who favor Israel, and that this lobby resorts to all manner of vile accusations to discredit opponents.

"There's nothing intellectually wrong with arguing that U.S. policy in the Middle East is dislodged from its natural moorings by the power of a domestic constituency," Cole said. "But most people are timid -- they don't want to be smeared and risk having their lives ruined."

Walt and Mearsheimer, leaders in what is known as the "realist" school of foreign policy and stringent critics of the war in Iraq, embarked on their study in 2002 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, as the drums beat loudly for an invasion of Iraq. They described a constellation of Christian evangelicals and neocon intellectuals, including then-Defense Department officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith, who strongly supported Israel and advocated an aggressive expansion of U.S. power in the Middle East.

They unsuccessfully shopped their article -- which pointedly relies on much Israeli scholarship -- here before the London Review of Books published it in March. An academic, footnoted version was posted on the Kennedy School Web site -- but as the controversy raged, the Harvard logo was removed.

"We are arguing it's difficult to fully explain the remarkable level and the unconditional level of U.S. support for Israel by reference to strategic interests or purely moral interests," Walt said in an interview last week. "We knew that some of the responses would not be gentle or fair."

The professors say Israel's American allies have skewed the national interest, inflamed Islamic opinion and endangered U.S. policy around the world. Foreign policy elites, they write, believe U.S. support for Israel's "repression in the occupied territories is morally obtuse and a handicap in the war on terrorism."

Nor, they say, is there much evidence the war in Iraq was about oil. "Instead the war was motivated," they wrote, "by a desire to make Israel more secure.

The authors draw a distinction among Jewish groups, which often have supported the Iraq war, and American Jews, who have opposed the war in greater proportion than most Americans.

Their critique has drawn applause from some liberal Jewish critics. But left-wing Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky -- a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- wrote that the professors took a naive view of U.S. foreign policy. Although he applauded their courage in standing up to "anticipated hysterical reaction," Chomsky wrote that throughout the 20th century a broad swath of the political intellectual class has favored a muscular and illegal exercise of imperial power, in the Middle East and worldwide.

"Has it been a failure for U.S. grand strategy based on control of . . . middle eastern oil and the immense wealth from this unparalleled material prize? Hardly," Chomsky wrote.

University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and describes the professors as "incredibly bold" at stirring policy and theoretical debates. But, although Telhami is a critic of the war, he does not believe Jewish neocons and their Christian supporters forced the United States into the war.

"There's no doubt that neocons long wanted a war," Telhami said. "But in the end it was the decision of a president who was super-empowered after 9/11 and who could have ignored them."

So pro-Israel that it hurts

TEL AVIV A recent study entitled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" should serve as a wake- up call on both sides of the ocean. It is authored by two respected academics - John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government (it appeared first on the Kennedy's School's Web site, and was then published in the London Review of Books).

The tone of the report is harsh. It is jarring even for a self-critical Israeli. It lacks finesse and nuance when it looks at the alphabet soup of the world of American-Jewish organizations and at how the "Lobby" interacts with both the Israeli establishment and the wider right-wing echo chamber.

The study sometimes takes the purported omnipotence of AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) too much at face value, disregarding key moments when the United States and Israel were at odds. The study also largely ignores AIPAC's run-ins with more dovish Israeli administrations, most notably when it undermined Yitzhak Rabin, and how its excessive hawkishness is often out of step with mainstream American Jewish opinion.

Yet the case built by Mearsheimer and Walt is a potent one: Identification of American with Israeli interests can be principally explained by the impact of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington in limiting the parameters of public debate, rather than by the fact that Israel is a vital strategic asset or has a uniquely compelling moral case for support (beyond, as the authors point out, the right to exist, which in any case is not in jeopardy).

The study is at its most devastating when it describes how the lobby "stifles debate by intimidation" and at its most current when it details how America's interests (and ultimately Israel's, too) are ill-served by the lobby's agenda.

The bottom line might read as follows: defending the Israeli occupation of Arab territory has done to the American pro-Israel community what living as an occupier has done to Israel - muddied both its moral compass and its rational self-interest compass.

The context in which the report is published makes of it more than passing academic interest. Similar themes recur in several influential books, including, recently, "The Assassin's Gate," "God's Politics" and "Against All Enemies."

In Congress, the AIPAC-supported Lantos/Ros- Lehtinen bill, which places unprecedented restrictions on aid to and contacts with the Palestinians, is stalled. Moderate American organizations such as the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom (the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace) - each with its own policy nuance - have led opposition to the bill. Two former AIPAC lobbyists face trial on charges of communicating national security information

All this is not yet a tipping point, but certainly time for a debate.

Sadly, if predictably, response to the Harvard study has been characterized by a combination of the shrill and the smug. Avoiding a candid discussion is unlikely to either advance Israeli interests or the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Here are some talking points that can already be suggested for this debate:

First, efforts to collapse the Israeli and neoconservative agendas into one have been a terrible mistake. The turmoil in Iraq and Al Qaeda's foothold there; growing Iranian leverage and the strengthening of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority are only a partial scorecard of the products of this collaboration.

Second, Israel would do well to distance itself from our "friends" on the Christian evangelical right. When one considers their support for Israel's extremists, the depiction of our prime minister's physical demise as "punishment from God" and their belief in our eventual conversion, or slaughter, this alliance is exposed as sickening irresponsibility.

Third, Israel must not be party to the bullying tactics used to silence policy debate in the United States, such as the policing of academia by groups like Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch. If nothing else, this is deeply un-Jewish. It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here, in Israel, was exported to the United States.

Fourth, the lobby denies Israel something many other countries benefit from - the excuse of external encouragement to do things that are politically tricky but nationally necessary.

The signs that Israel and the pro-Israel lobby are not on the same page are mounting. For Israel, the withdrawal from Gaza and future evacuations in the West Bank are acts of strategic national importance; for the pro-Israel lobby, they are an occasion for confusion and foot-shuffling. For Israel, the election of Hamas raises complex and difficult challenges; for the lobby it is a public-relations home run and an occasion for legislative muscle-flexing.

The lobby's influence, write Mearsheimer and Walt, "has discouraged Israel from seizing opportunities...that would have saved Israeli lives and shrunk the ranks of Palestinian extremists....

"Using American power to achieve a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians would help advance the broader goals of fighting extremism and promoting democracy in the Middle East."

This is not about appeasement; it's about smart, if difficult, policy choices that also address Israeli needs and security.

In short, if Israel is indeed entering a new era of national sanity and de-occupation, then the role of the pro-Israel lobby in U.S.-Israel relations will have to be rethought, and either reformed from within or challenged from without.

Daniel Levy served as a policy adviser in the Israeli prime minister's office in the government of Ehud Barak. He was the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative. This article first appeared in Haaretz.

Harvard dean opens faculty papers to rebuttal

Move in response to recent uproar

By Charles A. Radin, Globe Staff  |  March 31, 2006

The dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government said yesterday that he has decided to open the working papers of the school's faculty to challenge and rebuttal by other Harvard professors. The move was prompted by the uproar over a recent paper that asserted that a pro-Israel lobby dominates US foreign policy to the detriment of US interests.

Dean David Ellwood said in a telephone interview yesterday that he formulated the new policy after Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz asked to post his rebuttal to the Israel lobby paper in the ''working papers" section of the Kennedy School website, alongside the original article by Kennedy School academic dean Stephen M. Walt and University of Chicago political scientist John J. Mearsheimer.

Working papers are works in progress by members of the Kennedy School faculty on a broad range of subjects. Ellwood's decision would open those papers to all full-time Harvard faculty -- more than 1,000 people, according to university officials.

Ellwood was interviewed yesterday just after returning from a trip to India.

He said he had been in constant contact with other administrators and faculty about the controversy, which spread nationally and internationally.

In addition to requiring that authors be full-time Harvard faculty, the new policy would require that articles submitted be in academic format, with citations of sources, and that they be responsive to the intellectual ideas and evidence of the original paper and not contain attacks on the authors of the original paper.

He said that two respected members of the senior faculty would determine whether a submission for posting met these criteria.

Ellwood said no request like Dershowitz's has come up previously, and that after considering the matter he opted to set a general policy rather than decide on the single request.

''Throughout this whole episode, my abiding principle, the most abiding principle of the university, has been academic freedom," Ellwood said. ''In the give and take of the [intellectual] marketplace, good ideas remain and less good ideas fade away. I thought hard about [the new policy], about the implications, and we will go forward with it because academic freedom is what universities are all about."

He said that he already has determined which faculty members would decide whether the Dershowitz rebuttal met the criteria for posting, but declined to name them.

Dershowitz said that he expected to submit his rebuttal paper on Monday, and both he and Ellwood said they expected that it would be posted sometime early next week.

The Israel lobby paper asserts that the United States' close relationship with Israel has made it a target of terrorists. It questions whether the alliance with the Jewish state was ever strategically beneficial to the United States, and asserts that the moral basis for supporting Israel cited by pro-Israel organizations has never existed.

The authors specifically state that the Israel lobby is not a conspiracy, but that the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in Washington, functions as the agent of a foreign government and has a stranglehold on Congress.

Exposé on Jewish role in US policy is disowned

By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor
March 30, 2006

HARVARD UNIVERSITY is distancing itself from a report by one of its senior academics that accuses the Jewish lobby in America of subverting  US foreign policy in Israel’s interest.

After a furious outcry from prominent American Jews, Harvard has removed its logo from the study and disowned any responsibility for the views put forward in the working paper, released two weeks ago.


Yesterday it confirmed that Stephen Walt, the co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, will be stepping down in June as academic dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government to become an ordinary professor.

Professor Walt and John Mearsheimer, of the University of Chicago, caused a storm of protest when they published their report, which argued that America’s interests were being manipulated by the pro-Israel lobby, using a network of politicians, journalists and academics. It said that the Jewish lobby was a key factor behind President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and cautioned that the US could be drawn into conflicts against Israel’s other enemies in the region.

No one disputes that the Jewish lobby is an influential force in US politics and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) is one of the most powerful organisations in Washington. Aipac is described in the report as “a de facto agent of a foreign government (that) has a stranglehold on the US Congress”. It also challenges the need for America to give Israel $3 billon (£1.73 billion) in aid every year, worth about $500 for every Israeli citizen. It argues that Israel’s critics are routinely branded anti-Semites.

Professor Walt said yesterday that he and his co-author stood by their paper and welcomed “serious scholarly discussion of its arguments and evidence”. Instead, they have provoked an emotional and angry response, including criticism from other scholars at Harvard.

Marvin Kalb, a member of the Kennedy School, said that the report contained factual errors and failed to meet basic academic standards.

Alan Dershowitz, the famous Harvard criminal lawyer, denounced the report as ignorant propaganda, and said that he was writing a paper to refute its claims.

Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat congressman from New York, accused the authors of finding “Jewish conspirators under every bed and controlling every major American institution”.

The report states: “Pressure from Israel and the [Jewish] lobby was not only a factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was critical... the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.

“Equally worrying, the lobby’s campaign for regime change in Iran and Syria could lead the US to attack those countries, with potentially disastrous effects.”

Paranoid View of History Infects Harvard

Written by Richard L. Cravatts
Thursday, March 30, 2006

            “Anti-Semitism,” wrote Stephen Eric Bronner, author of the engaging book A Rumor About the Jews, “is the stupid answer to a serious question: How does history operate behind our backs?”  For a wide range of ideological extremists, anti-Semitism is still the stupid answer for why what goes wrong with the world does go wrong. It is a philosophical world view and interpretation of history that creates conspiracies as a way of explaining the unfolding of historical events; it is a pessimistic and frantic outlook, characterized in 1964 by historian Richard Hofstadter as “the paranoid style” of politics, which shifts responsibility from the self to sinister, omnipotent others--typically and historically the Jews.


            Long the thought product of cranks and fringe groups, Hofstadter’s paranoid style of politics has lately entered the mainstream of what would be considered serious, and respectable academic enterprise.  Witness, for instance, the recent article, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by Harvard Professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer which first appeared in the London Review of Books, and then as a ''working paper'' at Harvard’s Kennedy School.


            What the 83-page screed attempts to do is convince readers that America’s support of Israel, both diplomatically and financially, is out of balance with what the authors believe to be benefits derived from this troublesome relationship between the United States and the Jewish state.  In fact, in the authors’ view, Israel was founded on terrorism, is not a military or economic underdog that deserves or needs U.S. assistance, has made us hated internationally by Arab regimes, and, most recently, has urged on the neoconservative-led Bush administration to go to war against Iraq--all to benefit of Israel and causing serious damage to U.S. national interests.


Why, then, does Israel still find sustenance and support from the United States despite the many defects Walt and Mearsheimer identify in its political, historical, and military character?  “The explanation lies in the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby,” they write ominously. “Were it not for the Lobby’s ability to manipulate the American political system, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be far less intimate than it is today.”


The characterization of pro-Israel lobbying by organizations and high-placed government officials as “manipulation”--coercive, underhanded actions whose end result would not otherwise honestly, fairly, or reasonably be achieved--marks the very tone that has drawn such immediate and thunderous denunciation of the piece.  And it is a particularly incendiary bit of language when discussing Israel, a Jewish state, for it parallels so invidiously the classic anti-Semitic canards, such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that purport to reveal the intention of Jews to furtively rule and dominate the globe. 


As Hofstadter described it, the paranoid scholar sees the manipulator, in this case the so-called “Israel Lobby,” as an enemy, one with disproportionate and unreasonable influence. “Unlike the rest of us,” however, he wrote, “the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history . . . Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he directs the public mind through ‘managed news’; he has unlimited funds. . .he is gaining a stranglehold”--in this case on the votes of American politicians and policy makers.


            Walt and Mearsheimer are nearly in awe of the ruthless precision with which the Israel lobby subordinates Congress to its iron will, having attained what they describe as a “stranglehold on Congress.” “The Lobby pursues two broad strategies to promote U.S. support for Israel,” the professors write. “First, it wields significant influence in Washington, pressuring both Congress and the Executive branch to support Israel down the line,” presumably, they are suggesting, whether or not there is any validity or sound international policy actually involved. 


            Walt and Mearsheimer then reveal a remarkable discovery: that the lobbying organizations actually strive to have Israel’s policies accepted by world opinion, that “the  Lobby  strives  to  ensure  that  public  discourse  about  Israel  portrays  it in a positive  light, by  repeating  myths  about  Israel  and  its founding and  by publicizing  Israel’s  side  in  the  policy  debates  of  the  day.” Of course, the smarmy reference to “myths about Israel” would refer to any positive aspects of the history and political evolution of the democratic Jewish State, something than Israel haters--as well as those who never embrace or accept the legitimacy of Israel at all--are fond of criticizing, particularly Israel’s defensive military attempts to ward off Arab aggression and equating those actions with the murderous, intentional terrorism of the Intifada.


            “The goal [of the Israel Lobby],” they write, “is to prevent critical commentary about Israel from getting a fair hearing in the political arena,” a rather remarkable assumption that assumes policy makers are never exposed to the ubiquitous, sometimes venomous, anti-Israel bellowing from the United States and international press; NPR; Israel itself; Middle East study centers which foment anti-Israel sentiment and have obsessive reverence for everything Palestinian; university campuses across the country where shrill leftists like Noam Chomsky decry Israel’s policies and equate Zionism with Nazism in demonstrations, divestment efforts, speeches, and marches; and even high-visibility U.N.-sponsored conferences, such as the 2001event held in Durban, South Africa which degenerated into an anti-Semitic hate fest and perfidiously announced to the world that Zionism was racism.


            This huge wave of worldwide, consistent, and oft-repeated anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiment apparently never reaches the consciousness of American policy makers, Walt and Mearsheimer have concluded, because the omnipotent Israel Lobby has as its goal “to prevent critical commentary about Israel from getting a fair hearing in the political arena,” ''fair'' presumably meaning for the authors a critical view which would support their own negative preconceived attitudes about Israel.  “A candid discussion of U.S-Israeli relations,” such as the one they weave in their paper, “might lead Americans to favor a different policy.” 


            The primary characteristic of paranoid scholarship, as is the case here, is that the paranoid historian does not conduct his research in a methodical, objective way, with the primary intention of creating unbiased history and scholarship.  He has already preordained the outcome of his research by the slant of his ideology.  “The typical procedure of the higher paranoid scholarship,” said Hofstadter, “is to start with . . .defensible assumptions and with a careful accumulation of facts, or at least of what appear to be facts, and to marshal these facts toward an overwhelming ‘proof’ of the particular conspiracy that is to be established.” This, of course, is the very technique used by Holocaust deniers, who conduct their research and have come to their findings in a manner similar to the way Walt and Mearsheimer come to theirs about the legitimacy of Israel and its role as an American ally and beneficiary.


In his essay “Why Revisionism Isn’t,” Gordon McFee wrote about deniers that “‘revisionists’ depart from the conclusion that the Holocaust did not occur and work backwards through the facts to adapt them to that preordained conclusion.” “Put another way, they reverse the proper methodology . . . , thus turning the proper historical method of investigation and analysis on its head . . .  To put it tritely, ‘revisionists’ revise the facts based on their conclusion.”


            The professors’ other scholarly flaw here is that in addition to beginning their research with a forgone conclusion, their ambitious and circuitous effort to uncover some hidden reason for Israel’s support in America leads them to ignore the obvious: that it may well be that the U.S. props Israel up, protects it from its enemies with money and diplomacy, and values it as a model of democracy in a sea of fanaticism, not because of an invidious, manipulative lobby forcing policy makers to make decisions against America’s interests, but for an opposite, and a more believable reason--because it is the right thing to do and America’s leaders and voters know it is the right thing to do.


            All the concern and intrigue engendered in this piece of scholarship show that the obvious, and easy, answers are not the ones the paranoid is likely to accept on face value.  He is condemned by his nature to suffer in the labyrinthine schemes he uncovers.  “We are all sufferers from history,” Hofstadter concluded, “but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.”

About the Writer: Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a lecturer at Tufts University, Boston University, Emerson College, and Emmanuel College, writes frequently on law, politics, religion, housing, and culture. Richard L. receives e-mail at

Will the real John Mearsheimer please stand up?

John Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, is the coauthor of a by-now very controversial study charging that the “Israel lobby” has distorted the foreign policy of the United States in favor of Israel, and to the detriment of U.S. interests. The bill of indictment, for that is how it is written, charges that the lobby had a “critical” role in arranging the Iraq war, and even that it caused the United States to be targeted on 9/11.

In the study, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, written with Harvard Kennedy School Professor (and Academic Dean) Stephen Walt, the authors point the finger directly at supporters of Israel, and take care to note that the Bush administration ranks include:

... fervently pro Israel individuals like Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and David Wurmser. As we shall see, these officials consistently pushed for policies favored by Israel and backed by organizations in the Lobby.

Going into more detail, the authors explain that:

Like virtually all the neoconservatives, Feith is deeply committed to Israel. He also has long standing ties to the Likud Party. He wrote articles in the 1990s supporting the settlements and arguing that Israel should retain the occupied territories... Wolfowitz is equally committed to Israel. The Forward once described him as “the most hawkishly pro Israel voice in the Administration,” and selected him in 2002 as the first among fifty notables who “have consciously pursued Jewish activism.” At about the same time, JINSA gave Wolfowitz its Henry M. Jackson Distinguished Service Award for promoting a strong partnership between Israel and the United States, and the Jerusalem Post, describing him as “devoutly pro Israel,” named him “Man of the Year” in 2003.

Walt and Mearsheimer focus especially on an alleged pro-Israel role in the decision to topple Saddam Hussein’s Iraq:

Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element. Some Americans believe that this was a “war for oil,” but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.

So their point could not be more clear: The United States went to war in Iraq largely in the interests of Israel, and thanks largely to the influence of pro-Israel administration officials, most of whom are Jewish and are tied to Israel’s Likud party.

It couldn’t be more striking then, to read Professor Mearsheimer stating in late December of 2004 almost exactly the opposite concerning the origins of the Iraq war. Interviewed on a website called American Amnesia, Prof. Mearsheimer stated clearly that administration officials went to war in good faith, expecting “in their heart of hearts” to find WMD and ties between Osama bin Laden and Saddam:

A number of [Bush administration officials] who were in favor of the war believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that he was joined at the hip with Osama Bin Laden. At the same time, I think that they were aware that we had no hard evidence to support either one of those contentions; but in their heart of hearts they believed that both suppositions would be proven true once we were in Iraq and gained access to the evidence. I believe that people like Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, were shocked that we found no WMD and no evidence of cooperation between Saddam and Bin Laden. I think that they expected to find that evidence.

So according to Mearsheimer, Wolfowitz and the other senior administration officials were actually acting in the interests of the United States rather than of Israel. The good professor continued:

What you often discovered when debating proponents of the war was that if they admitted that Saddam might not be an imminent threat, they would invariably fall back on the argument that this is actually the ideal time to attack him because he is not especially dangerous at the moment. Why wait until he is armed and a serious threat to the United States? Let's get him when he is weak and vulnerable.

Note that according to Mearsheimer, for these supporters of the war it wasn’t Israel that was the issue, but rather that Saddam could well become “a serious threat to the United States.”

And in a long answer, Mearsheimer specifically attributed Wolfowitz’s support for the war not to any concern for Israel, but rather to his belief in the transformative power of democracy:

I think that Wolfowitz, who was the war’s principle architect, believes very strongly that the most powerful political ideology on the face of the earth is democracy and that every individual is hard-wired with a potent democratic impulse inside him or her. The only thing that prevents that democratic impulse from manifesting itself is the presence of a tyrant or an authoritarian regime like Saddam’s. Thus, I think he believed that once we decapitated the regime in Iraq, we would not have to worry much about what the replacement regime looked like, because that democratic impulse, once unleashed, would produce a democratic form of government that would not only be friendly to the United States, but would allow us to leave Iraq quickly and painlessly. I think that the model that Wolfowitz and other neo-conservatives had in mind was Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They believed that once Saddam was gone, once we got rid of the Ayatollahs in Iran, once we got rid of the Ba’athists in Syria, democracy would take hold in those places, because it is such a powerful and attractive ideology.

Notice especially that Mearsheimer says that he believed that Wolfowitz expected the new, post-Saddam Iraq would be “friendly to the United States” – with no mention of Israel.

Questioned as to whether Wolfowitz might have been lying about the reasons for going to war, Professor Mearsheimer responded with a firm “No”:

No, I don't think this particular issue involves myth making or lying or deception or anything like that. One could call it self-deception. Wolfowitz had a particular view of international politics that he honestly believed in and that he was adept at articulating and defending. Nevertheless, I thought before the war, and I certainly think now, that his theory of international politics is deeply flawed.

So Wolfowitz acted in good faith, in the interests of the U.S., and based on perceptions that “he honestly believed in.”

In contrast to the Harvard paper, Mearsheimer in the interview also noted that not just neo-conservatives supported going to war against Saddam’s regime, but also those he considered genuine liberals, who supported the war for idealist reasons:

I do not think that there was a good realist case for attacking Iraq, which is why almost all the realists opposed the war. I could actually make an idealist case for going to war against Saddam. And you want to remember that the support for this war came from both the left and the right. There were many liberals who supported this war, like Anne-Marie Slaughter, who is the Dean of the Wilson School at Princeton, and Michael Ignatieff, an influential human rights advocate who teaches at Harvard. They favored the war, as did other liberals like Joseph Nye and Ashton Carter.

And while in the Harvard paper Mearsheimer scoffed at the threat to the United States from nuclear-armed rogue states or terror groups, in the interview he took a very different view. Here, first, is the passage from the Harvard paper:

Neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed by a nuclear armed rogue, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without receiving overwhelming retaliation. The danger of a “nuclear handoff” to terrorists is equally remote, because a rogue state could not be sure the transfer would be undetected or that it would not be blamed and punished afterward.

But in the interview Mearsheimer said the opposite:

... at the same time, [Bush] made hard-nosed realist arguments for the war. For example, he talked constantly about the threat from WMD and terrorism. He talked about rogue states like Iraq and Iran using WMD to blackmail the United States. He talked about those states giving WMD to terrorists, who would surely use them against us. So there was both a realist and idealist logic at play in Bush’s mind, which is what allowed him to think that his behavior was morally as well as strategically correct.

So, according to Mearsheimer, the chance that rogue states might pass WMD to terrorists is not “remote,” and the belief that they “would surely use them against us,” far from being alarmist fantasy, is actually “hard-nosed” realism.

How then to explain these sharp contradictions in Professor Mearsheimer’s stated views? How to explain that, despite the interview being specifically about the decision to go to war in Iraq, nowhere in it is there so much as a mention of Israel?

Did Professor Mearsheimer, in the interim, come upon some evidence that turned his thinking around on this question? If so, there is no evidence of any such “smoking gun” in the Walt/Mearsheimer paper – on the contrary, they present their charges against Israel as commonplace and familiar: “the facts recounted here are not in serious dispute among scholars” and “readers may reject our conclusions, of course, but the evidence on which they rest is not controversial.”

Is the explanation that the Harvard study was more Walt than Mearsheimer? Perhaps, but that’s not to say that Professor Mearsheimer in the past was at all well-disposed towards Israel, or even neutral on the subject. Before the start of the Iraq war, for example, he signed onto an absurd and embarrasing “Letter Against Expulsion of the Palestinians,” which charged that Israel was quite likely planning to use the distraction of the Iraq war to expel Palestinians and possibly Israeli Arabs as well. According to the letter, signed also by such luminaries as Edward Said and Noam Chomsky, the “fog of war” could be :

exploited by the Israeli government to commit further crimes against the Palestinian people, up to full-fledged ethnic cleansing… Escalating racist demagoguery concerning the Palestinian citizens of Israel may indicate the scope of the crimes that are possibly being contemplated.

But even the wacky, anti-Israel views required to agree to such nonsense still can’t explain how a “hard-headed realist” like Mearsheimer coauthored a paper on the “Israel Lobby” that so contradicted views he had strongly expressed just 15 months earlier, especially since the Harvard paper was long in the making.

The bottom line is that Professor Mearsheimer, who has been virtually silent since publication of the Harvard paper, owes his readers an explanation.


The Lobby Strikes Back
Harvard study of Israeli lobby's influence costs the dean of the Kennedy School his job

by Justin Raimondo March 31, 2006

The reaction to the Harvard University study by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," [.pdf] has been fury by the Lobby and its partisans – and a demotion for Walt, who, it was announced shortly after the paper's release, would be stepping down from his post as dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. As the New York Sun reports (via the Harvard Crimson):

"Yesterday's issue of The New York Sun reported that an 'observer' familiar with Harvard said that the University had received calls from 'pro-Israel donors' concerned about the KSG paper. One of the calls, the source told The Sun, was from Robert Belfer, a former Enron director who endowed Walt's professorship when he donated $7.5 million to the Kennedy School's Center for Science and International Affairs in 1997. 'Since the furor, Bob Belfer has called expressing his deep concerns and asked that Stephen not use his professorship title in publicity related to the article,' the source told The Sun."

The Kennedy School has removed its logo from the front page of the paper, and made more prominent a boilerplate statement to the effect that the school doesn't necessarily endorse any or all of the views expressed therein.

Now, somebody please tell me that Mearsheimer and Walt have overplayed the power and influence of the Lobby in American political life.

The hatecampaign directed at Mearsheimer and Walt underscores and validates the study's contention that all attempts to objectively discuss our Israel-centric foreign policy and the pivotal role played by the Lobby are met with outright intimidation. We have O.J. Simpson defender and pro-Israel fanatic Alan Dershowitz claiming that the scholarly duo filched the majority of their sources from "hate sites" – although how Dershowitz knows this, without having looked directly over their shoulders as they wrote, is very far from clear. But don't worry, he assures us, a "team" of researchers on his staff is looking into the matter. One wonders if this is the same "team" that looked into the evidence and concluded that Simpson was innocent.

Virtually every mention of the study informs us that David Duke is among its most fervent defenders. The Boston Globe and the Washington Post both featured Duke's endorsement in their respective summaries of the controversy, and when the shameless Joe Scarborough of MSNBC had him on, he introduced the notorious racist this way:

"Thank you for being with us tonight, Mr. Duke. You have been attacked as a former Klansman, an anti-Semite, but tonight you're in league with Harvard University. Do you feel vindicated?"

Mearsheimer and Walt are the ones who should feel vindicated, because this sort of cheap demagoguery proves their point about the Lobby's modus operandi. Always they seek to set the terms of the debate in their favor: If you disagree with them and decry their influence, you're a "Nazi." How very convenient.

What would the Lobby do without the former Ku Klux Klan leader, who now inveighs against "ZOG" and the alleged perfidy of the Jews from somewhere in Central Europe? He ought to be getting some kind of stipend from them, in view of the tremendous service he performs: by setting up an avowed neo-Nazi as the chief spokesman for the other side, the Lobby gets to control the discourse.

Naturally, Scarborough would never have invited anyone like, say, Juan Cole on the show to defend the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis. He might have invited any one of a number of people cited in the study's 200-plus footnotes, including's Ran HaCohen. But that is expecting far too much of the Lobby and its allies: intellectual honesty is not one of their strong points.

The same trope is continued and expanded on with Max Boot's contribution to the debate, in which he conjures the ghost of Richard Hofstadter, departed neocon scholar of "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," which sought, back in the early 1960s, to show that "right-wing agitation" (i.e., mainstream conservatism) was a psychopathology, rather than a bona fide ideology, consisting of little more than paranoid fantasies brought on by acute "status resentment." Hofstadter, in turn, was simply carrying forward and applying the "social science" of Theodore Adorno, the Marxist sociologist who famously diagnosed opposition to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's policies as evidence of an Oedipal "father complex." So far, it's the same old malarkey, minus the footnotes, until, at the end, Boot bares his teeth:

"After finishing their magnum opus, I was left with just one question: Why would the omnipotent Israel lobby (which, they claim, works so successfully 'to stifle criticism of Israel') allow such a scurrilous piece of pseudo-scholarship to be published? Then I noticed that Walt occupies a professorship endowed by Robert and Renee Belfer, Jewish philanthropists who are also supporters of Israel. The only explanation, I surmise, is that Walt must himself be an agent of those crafty Israelites, employed to make the anti-Israel case so unconvincingly that he discredits it. 'The Lobby' works in mysterious ways."

But not too mysterious. As we see, above, Belfer got on the phone to Harvard – and Walt was out of the dean's office in no time. To notice this, however, is "paranoid."

There have been a few substantive commentaries on the Mearsheimer-Walt study, to my knowledge, one by Daniel Drezner, and another by Daniel Levy, a former top adviser to Israel's prime minister, which originally appeared in Ha'aretz. Drezner, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago and a very smart blogger, gives credit to the study for exploring truths that make people feel "very uncomfortable at cocktail parties," and concedes that there is much to be said for the thesis that Israel seems to dominate "some aspects" of U.S. policy-making. However, he nits and picks:

"Shot through these papers are an awful lot of casual assertions that don't hold up to close scrutiny. … The authors assert that, 'If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China or even a nuclear North Korea, it can live with a nuclear Iran. And that is why the Lobby must keep up constant pressure on politicians to confront Tehran.' I'm pretty sure that there's more to U.S. opposition to Iran possessing nuclear weapons than the protection of Israel."

It is true there may be other reasons why Washington might not want Iran to go nuclear, but there is no reason to believe that these might prevail over prudence in the absence of the Lobby's decisive influence. Drezner cites the study's contention that the Lobby's mere existence proves an imperfect congruence of Israeli and American interests – otherwise, "one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about." Drezner finds this "fascinating," he writes, because of

"The implicit assumptions contained within it: i) the only interest group in existence is the Lobby, and; ii) in the absence of the Lobby, a well-defined sense of national interest will always guide American foreign policy. It would be very problematic for good realists like Mearsheimer and Walt to allow for other interest groups – oil companies, for example – to exist. This would allow for a much greater role for domestic politics than realists ever care to admit."

Contra Drezner, Mearsheimer and Walt do not contend that the Lobby is the sole organization of its kind, only that they do a better job than anyone else. Far from denying the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy, the study shows that this sort of influence is decisive, especially in its discussion of the Christian evangelical-neocon convergence on the issue of Israel. Whether this comports with Drezner's understanding of "realism" is, really, irrelevant.

While Drezner does not agree with Mearsheimer and Walt, he is too intellectually honest to go along with the Smear Brigade's calumnies:

"On the one hand, it's a shame that this isn't being debated more widely in the mainstream press. On the other hand, it might be good if the mainstream media didn't cover it, if this New York Sun editorial is any indication:

"'It's going to be illuminating to watch how Harvard handles the controversy over the decision of its John F. Kennedy School of Government to issue a "Faculty Research Working Paper" on "The Israel Lobby" that is co-authored by its academic dean, Stephen Walt. On page one this morning we report that Dean Walt's paper has been met with praise by David Duke, the man the Anti-Defamation League calls "America's best-known racist." The controversy is still young. But it's not too early to suggest that it's going to be hard for Mr. Walt to maintain his credibility as a dean. We don't see it as a matter of academic freedom but simply as a matter of necessary quality control.'

"This is an absurd editorial – just about any argument out there is endorsed by one crackpot or another, so that does not mean the argument itself is automatically invalidated. As for Walt's sympathies towards David Duke, in the very story they cite, Walt is quoted as saying, 'I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world.'

"I didn't say this explicitly in my last post, but let me do so here: Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false. They should be criticized for doing piss-poor, monocausal social science."

Bravo – except for the "piss-poor" stuff. Drezner should ask himself, however, why it is that the debate over this study is being engaged in such a viciousmanner by opponents of the Harvard study. Doesn't that say something about the role of the Lobby and its methods, as characterized by Mearsheimer and Walt? Drezner believes the authors have failed to demonstrate that Israel is a strategic liability, that "U.S. foreign policy behavior" is determined "almost exclusively by the activities of the 'Israel Lobby'" and that the authors "omit consideration of contradictory policies and countervailing foreign policy lobbies." Fine. All those points are debatable. But they aren't being debated. Instead, the Lobby is busy smearing the authors and getting Walt kicked out of his job as Kennedy School dean.

Daniel Levy, a former adviser in the office of Israel's prime minister, a member of the Israeli negotiating team at the Oslo B and Taba talks, and the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative, has the most thoughtful commentary to date, averring that the Harvard study "should serve as a wake-up call, on both sides of the ocean." He notes that "the tone of the report is harsh," and "jarring," that it "lacks finesse and nuance," but nevertheless,

"Their case is a potent one: that identification of American with Israeli interests can be principally explained via the impact of the Lobby in Washington, and in limiting the parameters of public debate, rather than by virtue of Israel being a vital strategic asset or having a uniquely compelling moral case for support (beyond, as the authors point out, the right to exist, which is anyway not in jeopardy). The study is at its most devastating when it describes how the Lobby 'stifles debate by intimidation' and at its most current when it details how America's interests (and ultimately Israel's, too) are ill-served by following the Lobby's agenda."

Hear! Hear!

Levy goes on to note that the response to the study by the Lobby "has been characterized by a combination of the shrill and the smug. Avoidance of candid discussion might make good sense to the Lobby, but it is unlikely to either advance Israeli interests or the U.S.-Israel relationship." In the course of his argument that the Lobby is just as bad for Israel as it is for America, Levy makes a salient point:

"The Lobby even denies Israel a luxury that so many other countries benefit from: of having the excuse of external encouragement to do things that are domestically tricky but nationally necessary (remember Central Eastern European economic and democratic reform to gain EU entry in contrast with Israel's self-destructive settlement policy for continued U.S. aid)."

The Lobby, by its success at neutralizing any effort to rein in the Israeli leadership's more extreme impulses, undermines the interests of the Jewish state. But the ideologues who make up the Lobby don't care about that: what they really care about is having the power to silence – and punish – their enemies.

The firing of Dean Walt is an outrage, one that should be met with a storm of indignation. That the Amen Corner would even attempt it – let alone go on the record as taking credit for it – is a testament to the Lobby's enduring and unchallenged power. It shows how the Lobby operates, and why they must be stopped before any real debate over the foreign policy of this country can be conducted.

The reasons for this extreme defensiveness on the part of the Lobby are not hard to discern. If they are the prime movers of U.S. foreign policy, then they do indeed have a lot to answer for. As the consequences of the Iraq war roll across our television screens, tracing a path of blood and mindless destruction, we have to wonder: who got us here? We have to question their motivations. And we have to ask: Why?

Who lied us into war? For whose sake did 2,300 American soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, die? Whose interests were served? The tip of the spear Mearsheimer and Walt have pricked the Lobby with is the contention that they were the decisive influence in pushing us into war with Iraq. And the howls that are coming from right, left, and center are proof enough that they have struck home.

Harvard's False Report

CAMERA | March 24, 2006

The authors also make bogus claims about CAMERA pro-Israel Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America

A new study by Harvard professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer charges that the “Israel lobby” has distorted the foreign policy of the United States to the point of serious damage to U.S. interests. Perhaps anticipating that their claims might be controversial, the authors attempt to reassure any who might doubt them:

Some readers will find this analysis disturbing, but the facts recounted here are not in serious dispute among scholars.

In fact, even a cursory examination of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy reveals that it is riddled with errors of fact, logic and omission, has inaccurate citations, displays extremely poor judgement regarding sources, and, contrary to basic scholarly standards, ignores previous serious work on the subject. The bottom line: virtually every word and argument is, or ought to be, in “serious dispute.”

In other words, a student who submitted such a paper would flunk.

According to the report, which is posted on Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government website:

The U.S. national interest should be the primary object of American foreign policy. For the past several decades, however, and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security.

This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries is based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives. As we show below, however, neither of those explanations can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel.

Instead, the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the “Israel Lobby.” Other special interest groups have managed to skew U.S. foreign policy in directions they favored, but no lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.

Is it true that U.S. policy in the Middle East, and specifically our support for Israel, is due almost entirely to the activities of the “Israel Lobby?” The authors are hardly the first to so argue, though one wouldn’t know it from reading their report, which, as noted, ignores all prior serious work on the subject, including the seminal book refuting such claims by the late Professor A.F.K. Organski, The $36 Billion Bargain: Strategy and Politics in U.S. Assistance to Israel.

Though the authors do cite Organski’s book once, on the strategic importance of Israel during the cold war, they entirely ignore his main point, which is that the primary reason for U.S. support of Israel can’t possibly be the Jewish vote, or Jewish political contributions, or the activities of any pro-Israel lobby, for the simple reason that, as polls indicate, Jews were just as pro-Israel before 1970, when U.S. support for Israel was minimal, as they were after 1970, when U.S. support for Israel grew rapidly. As Organski put it in his preface:

In 1983 I ran across a Congressional Research Service series on assistance to Israel from 1948 to 1983, and I was surprised by what I saw. The numbers told an important story. Assistance to Israel before 1970 had been very low. After 1972 levels shot up. The data fairly screamed that American Jews could not have been responsible for U.S. policy, for it is elementary that one cannot explain a variable with a constant, and American Jews had been in favor of assistance all along...

Now, the president in 1970 was Richard Nixon, a Republican who knew very well that overwhelmingly Democratic and left-leaning American Jews had already voted against him in large numbers and would do so again in 1972. So what happened in 1970 that convinced Nixon, the arch practitioner of realpolitik, to press for increased support for Israel? Here we can turn to another seminal work on U.S./Israel relations, Israel: The Embattled Ally, by the late Harvard professor, Nadav Safran. According to Safran the turning point in U.S./Israel relations was the so-called Black September crisis, in which the Palestine Liberation Organization, assisted by invading Syrian tanks, and in connivance with the Soviet Union, attempted to overthrow and assassinate Jordan’s King Hussein, an ally of the United States (see pages 451-456). Had these two Soviet clients succeeded in taking Jordan, they would have created an arc of radical Soviet client states pointing right at the Persian Gulf, thereby threatening western oil supplies. As Safran put it:

In the White House conception, Jordan under King Hussein ... constituted an important buffer separating the pro-Soviet radical regime of Egypt from those of Syria and Iraq, and all three of them from oil-rich, friendly Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf principalities. The fall of the Jordanian regime would bring about a solid pro-Soviet bloc from the Euphrates to the Nile ...

Safran continued:

... [when] the Syrians captured Irbid, an important junction of roads linking Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Israel ... King Hussein sent additional urgent appeals for American and British help. Consultations with the British ... revealed that they not only refused to intervene militarily ... but [also] strongly counseled against American intervention. Similar opposition was expressed by other European allies. The President ordered Kissinger to work out contingency plans for a joint American-Israeli intervention ...

Confident of American and Israeli support, King Hussein was able to commit all his forces to battle; fearful of that support, specifically of a flanking attack by massed Israeli tank columns, the Syrians withdrew, and Jordan was saved. According to Safran this affair had a profound effect on U.S/Israel relations:

The Jordanian episode had a far-reaching effect on the American attitude toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict... the President ... was deeply impressed by the determination shown by the Israelis at a time when America’s formal allies had quit on him.

... the Jordanian episode drove home to the President and some of his advisers ... the value for the United States of a strong Israel.

Needless to say, Safran’s work was also ignored by the authors.

Of course, the authors don’t just argue that U.S. support for Israel was due to the pro-Israel lobby rather than U.S. interests, they also argue that this support has in fact damaged U.S. interests. They claim for example, that because of its support for Israel the U.S. is targeted by terrorists:

... the United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around. U.S. support for Israel is not the only source of anti- American terrorism, but it is an important one, and it makes winning the war on terror more difficult. There is no question, for example, that many al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, are motivated by Israel’s presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians. According to the U.S. 9/11 Commission, bin Laden explicitly sought to punish the United States for its policies in the Middle East, including its support for Israel, and he even tried to time the attacks to highlight this issue.

While the 9/11 Commission report did mention Israel as a factor in the attacks, there is much evidence to argue against the assertion, and they certainly did not point to Israel as the major factor in provoking the attacks. Indeed, according to documents cited by experts on Al Qaeda, such as Rohan Gunaratna, the group attacked the United States on 9/11 (and before) not primarily because of our support for Israel, but because of our support for Saudi Arabia and other “moderate” Arab countries. As Gunaratna explains in his book Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, bin Laden was horrified that the Saudis were considering a U.S. offer to send troops to protect the Kingdom. Bin Laden urged against what he saw as sacrilege, and offered to protect the Kingdom with his Afghan mujahidin, but the Saudis turned him down and invited in the Americans. For inviting in the infidels, the Saudi rulers would never be forgiven by bin Laden. Gunaratna quoted from bin Laden’s key fatwa on the subject:

Ignoring the divine shariah law; depriving people of their legitimate rights; allowing the Americans to occupy the land of the two Holy Places [Mecca and Medina] ... the regime has torn off its legitimacy...

Clearly after belief (iman) there is no more important duty than pushing the Americans out of the holy land [Arabia]... There is no precondition for this duty and the enemy must be fought with one’s best abilities.

Al Qaeda’s aim is to restore the caliphate (the unitary Arab Islamic state that existed in the days of Muhammed and his followers), but they understand that as long as the United States props up Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait and Egypt and Jordan, with weapons and soldiers and financial support, and the promise of military intervention if necessary, these regimes are unlikely to fall. A key example of such regime resilience was seen in Egypt after the assassination of Sadat by radical Islamists, who thought that with the leader gone the regime would fall. Instead the regime survived and decimated Egypt’s Islamist movement, beheading scores of conspirators and sympathizers. Among those imprisoned, but eventually released, was a young man named Ayman al-Zawahiri, who later rose to become the deputy to bin Laden, and the operational leader of Al Qaeda. The lesson learned from the Sadat assassination was clear – with a powerful U.S. active in the Middle East, the regimes would not fall. There would be no caliphate, therefore, until the U.S. is humiliated and driven from the Middle East, at which point the corrupt regimes will crumble into the waiting hands of Al Qaeda.

Thus the earlier Al Qaeda attacks against the Unites States, in Saudi Arabia, in Kenya and Tanzania, in Yemen, and finally on the U.S. homeland on 9/11. These attacks had nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with U.S. support for Arab regimes. It should be noted also that Al Qaeda never even tried to attack an Israeli target, much less Israel itself, until after 9/11.

In their efforts to prove their at best shaky case the authors also argue that Israel is a bad ally. For example, they allege, Israel has compromised sensitive U.S. military technology:

... Israel has provided sensitive U.S. military technology to potential U.S. rivals like China, in what the U.S. State Department Inspector General called “a systematic and growing pattern of unauthorized transfers.”

What they don’t tell readers is that the accuracy of the State Department report has been called into serious question. Richard Clarke, for example, then the official in the State Department responsible for overseeing arms transfers, and later President Clinton’s counter-terrorism chief, stated there was one, minor improper transfer, not a pattern of them:

Under President Bush, Mr. Clarke served as Assistant Secretary of State for political and military affairs. In 1992, he was accused by the State Department's Inspector General of looking the other way as Israel transferred American military technology to China.

"There was an allegation that we hadn't investigated a huge body of evidence that the Israelis were involved in technology transfers," Mr. Clarke said. "In fact, we had investigated it. I knew more about it than anyone. We found one instance where it was true. The Israelis had taken aerial refueling technology we sold them and sold it to a Latin American country. We caught them, and they admitted they had done it." (New York Times, Feb. 1, 1999)

And an article in the American Journalism Review raised further serious questions about the reliability of the IG’s report:

... a series of interviews with officials in the Defense Department, State Department and CIA leaves no doubt that there are major and bitter disagreements about whether the intelligence reports about Israel were as conclusive as some claimed. For example, a senior Defense Department official who examined both the classified and unclassified versions of the IG report, as well as the raw intelligence reports collected by Funk to assemble his study, said firmly that the "IG abjectly misrepresents the intent and bottom line of the documents upon which his report was based." And a former government official who had access to the raw intelligence charged that the IG report was politicized. "The IG report," he said, "was a dumping ground for anyone who wanted to get their digs in on Israel."(May 1992)

In the same vein, the authors also charge that Israel passed to the Soviet Union information it received from convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, supposedly to get more exit visas for Soviet Jews. But this claim, which originated in an extremely controversial sentencing memorandum submitted by Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, is known to be false. This is what Prof. Angelo Codevilla (a former Senior Staff Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and intelligence specialist) had to say about the charge in an interview:

But back to the issue of what Pollard is being punished for. The indictment that he agreed to plead guilty to did not charge him with any breach of sources or methods. It did not charge him with giving away a room full of anything. After the plea bargain had been consummated and before sentencing, there was an ex parte submission to the Judge by Caspar Weinberger. This memorandum was entirely outside the indictment. Its contents have never been made public. Nor have they been shared with the Senate Intelligence Committee or the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board or the Intelligence Oversight Board. But this memo contained the lie that Pollard caused the deaths of countless U.S. agents. It also reportedly said the Israelis sold part of the information to the Soviet Union. All of these things are not only untrue, they were known by Weinberger not to be true. (Washington Weekly, Jan. 11, 1999)

The authors also try to undermine the moral case for supporting Israel, arguing, for example, that it is not, and has never been, the underdog in the Middle East conflict. Thus, they claim that:

Contrary to popular belief, the Zionists had larger, better-equipped and better-led forces during the 1948-1949 War of Independence.

This claim is simply laughable. Consider, for example, the relative strengths of the Israeli forces and the Arab forces arrayed against them during the first critical weeks of the war:











Arabs (not including regular Palestinian units)





(From Arab-Israeli Wars, A.J. Barker)

Thus, contrary to the authors, and in contrast to the invading Arabs, Israel had essentially no tanks, barely any artillery pieces, and few if any aircraft.

As for Israel being better led, the authors are apparently unaware that the invading Arab forces were professional armies, while the Israeli forces facing them were no better than militias, with experience only in small unit operations. Just how foolish the authors’ claims are can be seen by looking, for example, at the Jordanian army, which was led by a highly experienced British officer, General Sir John Bagot Glubb, along with roughly 40 other British officers serving in senior ranks. At the time Israel simply had nothing to compare to this level of experience and professionalism.

How then did the Israelis win? Quite simply they were able to win because they were fighting for their lives, unlike the Arab forces, who could lose and go home, and because the Arab leaders did not trust each other and often acted at cross purposes.

The authors also try to undermine Israel’s moral standing by citing seemingly damaging quotes from Israeli leaders. They claim, for example, that Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion stated that:

After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.

The authors are a little naive, and are apparently unaware that there is a whole “industry” of fake Zionist quotes, both on anti-Israel websites, but also in many seemingly respectable books. Too bad, then, for the authors, that they didn’t check this “quote” more carefully. Here’s the actual protocol of the relevant part of the meeting that the above alleged quote is based upon:

Mr. Ben-Gurion: The starting point for a solution of the question of the Arabs in the Jewish State is, in his view, the need to prepare the ground for an Arab-Jewish agreement; he supports [the establishment of] the Jewish State [on a small part of Palestine], not because he is satisfied with part of the country, but on the basis of the assumption that after we constitute a large force following the establishment of the state – we will cancel the partition [of the country between Jews and Arabs] and we will expand throughout the Land of Israel.

Mr. Shapira [a JAE member]: By force as well?

Mr. Ben-Gurion: [No]. Through mutual understanding and Jewish-Arab agreement. So long as we are weak and few the Arabs have neither the need nor the interest to conclude an alliance with us... And since the state is only a stage in the realization of Zionism and it must prepare the ground for our expansion throughout the whole country through Jewish-Arab agreement – we are obliged to run the state in such a way that will win us the friendship of the Arabs both within and outside the state.(Efraim Karsh, “Falsifying the Record: Benny Morris, David Ben-Gurion and the 'Transfer’ Idea,” Israel Affairs, V4, No. 2, Winter 1997)

In other words, Ben-Gurion was stating the opposite of what the authors would have their readers believe.

Unfortunately for the authors, they also “quoted” Ben-Gurion a second time, this time apparently supporting brutal measures to expel Palestinians:

...the Zionists had to expel large numbers of Arabs from the territory that would eventually become Israel. There was simply no other way to accomplish their objective. Ben-Gurion saw the problem clearly, writing in 1941 that “it is impossible to imagine general evacuation [of the Arab population] without compulsion, and brutal compulsion.”

Amusingly enough, in this case the authors’ own citation undermines their claim. They refer to a Palestinian author, Nur Masalha, and to the book Righteous Victims, by Israeli Benny Morris. Now either they never really checked the latter, or they are trying to fool their readers, for this is how Morris actually recounts the quote:

“Complete transfer without compulsion – and ruthless compulsion, at that – is hardly imaginable.” Some – Circassians, Druze, Bedouin, Shi’ites, tenant farmers, and landless laborers – could be persuaded to leave. But “the majority of the Arabs could hardly be expected to leave voluntarily within the short period of time which can materially affect our problem.” He concluded that the Jews should not “discourage other people, British or American, who favour transfer from advocating this course, but we should in no way make it part of our programme.” (Righteous Victims, p 169)

In other words, if you take seriously the authors’ own citation, it disproves their claim.

Of course David Ben-Gurion is not the only Israeli Prime Minister the authors criticize. They also go after former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, claiming that his peace offer to the Palestinians was not generous at all: Israeli government has been willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state of their own. Even Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s purportedly generous offer at Camp David in July 2000 would only have given the Palestinians a disarmed and dismembered set of “Bantustans” under de facto Israeli control.

This claim about “bantustans,” or cantons, was directly contradicted by the one person who was in on all the negotiations, Ambassador Dennis Ross, President Clinton’s chief Middle East negotiator. According to Ross:

... the Palestinians would have in the West Bank an area that was contiguous. Those who say there were cantons, completely untrue. It was contiguous... And to connect Gaza with the West Bank, there would have been an elevated highway, an elevated railroad, to ensure that there would be not just safe passage for the Palestinians, but free passage. (Fox News, April 21, 2002)

In addition to criticizing Ben-Gurion and Barak, the authors also try to link Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to war crimes:

[the IDF] was also complicit in the massacre of 700 innocent Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps following its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and an Israeli investigatory commission found then-Defence Minister Sharon “personally responsible” for these atrocities.

In fact, while the Kahan Commission did find that Sharon bore “personal responsibility,” it is clear from the rest of the report that the authors misunderstood this reference, which was in contrast to Ministerial responsibility. In the latter a ministry makes a serious mistake, and the Minister, though unaware, must take responsibility, since he heads the ministry. With personal responsibility, the Minister himself made the mistake. Sharon indeed was found to have made mistakes, but he was found to be only indirectly responsible for the outcome. To quote from the report:

Contentions and accusations were advanced that even if I.D.F. personnel had not shed the blood of the massacred, the entry of the Phalangists into the camps had been carried out with the prior knowledge that a massacre would be perpetrated there and with the intention that this should indeed take place; and therefore all those who had enabled the entry of the Phalangists into the camps should be regarded as accomplices to the acts of slaughter and sharing in direct responsibility. These accusations too are unfounded. We have no doubt that no conspiracy or plot was entered into between anyone from the Israeli political echelon or from the military echelon in the I.D.F. and the Phalangists, with the aim of perpetrating atrocities in the camps.... No intention existed on the part of any Israeli element to harm the non-combatant population in the camps. ... Before they entered the camps and also afterward, the Phalangists requested I .D.F. support in the form of artillery fire and tanks, but this request was rejected by the Chief of Staff in order to prevent injuries to civilians. It is true that I.D.F. tank fire was directed at sources of fire within the camps, but this was in reaction to fire directed at the I.D.F. from inside the camps. We assert that in having the Phalangists enter the camps, no intention existed on the part of anyone who acted on behalf of Israel to harm the non-combatant population, and that the events that followed did not have the concurrence or assent of anyone from the political or civilian echelon who was active regarding the Phalangists' entry into the camps.... If it indeed becomes clear that those who decided on the entry of the Phalangists into the camps should have foreseen - from the information at their disposal and from things which were common knowledge - that there was danger of a massacre, and no steps were taken which might have prevented this danger or at least greatly reduced the possiblity that deeds of this type might be done, then those who made the decisions and those who implemented them are indirectly responsible for what ultimately occurred, even if they did not intend this to happen and merely disregarded the anticipated danger. A similar indirect responsibility also falls on those who knew of the decision; it was their duty, by virtue of their position and their office, to warn of the danger, and they did not fulfill this duty. It is also not possible to absolve of such indirect responsibility those persons who, when they received the first reports of what was happening in the camps, did not rush to prevent the continuation of the Phalangists' actions and did not do everything within their power to stop them. (Emphasis added)

Mention must also be made of yet another claim by the authors with a bogus reference:

Pro-Israel forces have long been interested in getting the U.S. military more directly involved in the Middle East, so it could help protect Israel.

They support this extremely dubious claim with footnote 181, which lists only one reference, a report, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.

This report is easily searched, and it mentions Israel only once:

Ever since the Persian Gulf War of 1991, when an Iraqi Scud missile hit a Saudi warehouse in which American soldiers were sleeping, causing the largest single number of casualties in the war; when Israeli and Saudi citizens donned gas masks in nightly terror of Scud attacks; and when the great “Scud Hunt” proved to be an elusive game that absorbed a huge proportion of U.S. aircraft, the value of the ballistic missile has been clear to America’s adversaries. (p 51)

Obviously this report offers no support whatsoever for the claim that Israel wants the U.S. to fight its battles. Whether this is a careless mistake, or something more serious, it only further undermines the credibility of the authors.

In a further effort to discredit Israel the authors compare Israeli democracy unfavorably with U.S. democracy:

The United States is a liberal democracy where people of any race, religion, or ethnicity are supposed to enjoy equal rights. By contrast, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship.

It is not clear what the authors mean by blood kinship, but clearly there are many Israeli citizens who are not Jewish and some of them don’t even have any kin in Israel, blood or otherwise. So what does this mean?

One obvious target for the authors is the supposedly massive level of US aid to Israel.

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War II. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita incom roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.

Interesting that the authors mention Israel being a wealthy industrial state, like South Korea. The implication being that South Korea doesn’t get huge amounts of U.S. aid, while Israel, supposedly because of the lobby, does, to the tune of about $3 Billion annually.

However, we have had around 40,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea for about 50 years. The presence of these troops is a direct subsidy to the South Koreans – because we are there protecting them, they have that much less a defense burden, and we have that much more a defense burden (that is, if we didn’t have to defend them, we could have a smaller, less expensive, military). The money that South Korea saves can be used to reduce taxes, or to create, say, a car industry, or a steel industry, or a chip industry, producing goods which they can then sell to the U.S., and jobs that they can take from the U.S. All subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer. And what do those troops and their equipment and other related items cost the U.S.? About $3 Billion a year. (source: New York Times, Jan. 8, 2003)

And what of the defense of Japan and the rest of East Asia (excluding South Korea)? Perhaps another $40 Billion. Same consequences as above, just multiplied by a factor of 13.

Which brings us to the defense of Western Europe – aka our NATO committment. That runs to about a third of the defense budget, roughly $80 Billion a year. Same consequences as for Korea, just multiplied by a factor of around 26.

Now, none of the above is to argue that the above money is wasted, or that we derive no benefits from carrying the defense burden of so much of the developed world. Maybe we do, and maybe we don’t. But these are gigantic costs that truly dwarf what we spend on aid to Israel. About these costs, and the benefits or lack thereof to the “interests” of the United States, the authors are silent – a silence that is truly deafening.

The authors also make bogus claims about CAMERA (and they get our name wrong):

the pro-Israel Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) organized demonstrations outside National Public Radio stations in 33 cities in May 2003, and it also tried to convince contributors to withhold support from NPR until its Middle East coverage became more sympathetic to Israel.

In fact, CAMERA (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) did not organize the demonstrations outside NPR stations. They were organized by a woman named Diana Muir, independently of CAMERA. And CAMERA does not want coverage more “sympathetic” to Israel, we want coverage that is fair, accurate and balanced.

The authors make numerous other false and misleading claims, and they also mislead by what they omit, such as the documented power of the Saudis and the other oil states to directly influence U.S. policy, thanks to their great wealth and their control of oil. Also omitted is the Saudi use of powerful, influential U.S. corporations that do business in the Gulf, such as Bechtel, as their agents of influence.

These other omissions and falsehoods will be covered in further updated versions of this report.

But the material gathered here is enough to already reach some firm conclusions: The authors’ report is a deep embarrassment to Harvard University. While Mearsheimer and Walt are free to make any assertions they like, no matter how baseless, Harvard University should have nothing to do with such shoddy, biased work.

Harvard should remove the report from its website – and therefore remove from the report the Harvard imprimatur – until the authors fix its manifold deficiencies.

Harvard Study Critical of Israel Lobby Unjustly Lambasted  
by Ira Glunts
March 27, 2006

The furious barrage of  unjustified and vituperative criticism leveled at John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt over the recent publication of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,”* is the latest and arguably the most troubling in a series of recent events which indicate that it has become extremely difficult for any critical views of Israeli government policy to receive a fair and calm hearing in the United States. There has been an almost complete disappearance of the Palestinian point of view from the mainstream media reporting of the Middle East within the past two years. The intense public display of disapproval for Stephen Spielberg’s film, Munich, the organized protests against the nomination of the Palestinian film, Paradise Now at the Academy Awards, and the indefinite postponement of the New York City staging of the critically acclaimed play, Rachel’s Words, are all  recent instances where expression of unfavorable opinion in regard to Israeli policy have met with inordinate and orchestrated criticism. 

Stephen Walt is the Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and John Mearsheimer is a political science professor at the University of Chicago. Both are highly respected scholars of international relations who have written extensively on American foreign policy. Their article presents a highly critical view, firstly of Israeli settlement expansion and failure to reach a peaceful accommodation with its Arab neighbors, along with the American policy that financially and politically supports that endeavor, and secondly, of the powerful Israel Lobby which influences United States policy in the Middle East. The authors’ main argument is that a small group of influential organizations, opinion makers and public officials, view the interests of Israel and America to be identical, and exert a deleterious and dangerous influence upon American policy. They argue that the Israel Lobby has had a significant impact on US foreign policy, in particular encouraging the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq. The essay also describes the activities of the Lobby in suppressing open debate, especially on university campuses. 
Many of the individuals and organizations in the Lobby are Jewish (AIPAC, Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, William Kristol), but not all of them are (The American Enterprise Institute, Tom Delay).  Also, many American Jews are not in agreement with the opinions of the Israel Lobby.  There are a significant number of Israeli Jews who would agree with many of the positions taken in “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Ironically, many of the sources used in the study are taken from the research of Israeli scholars and journalists, as well as the work of Israeli political and human rights organizations. An editorial in the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, proclaimed: “it would be irresponsible to ignore the article's serious and disturbing message.” Tom Segev, an Israeli journalist and historian, writes in an article that is not totally sympathetic to some of the views expressed by Walt and Mearsheimer, that “the authors are correct in the most important argument in their essay…. The Israel lobby in the United States harms Israel’s true interests. It made the continuation of the occupation and the settlements possible. Its influence led, among other things, to missing out on a peace treaty with Syria and to a loss of the opportunities created in Oslo.” 
The critics of the article have called the essay “ignorant,” “anti-semitic,” “poor scholarship,” and “dangerous.” Many have called on Harvard to remove the piece from its web site. In an apparent attempt to distance themselves from the controversy, Harvard has removed its logo from the title page and strengthened its standard disclaimer of responsibility for the contents of the piece. Despite the hysterical ill-considered outcries against the essay, initially very few American voices of support have been heard. I know of none at Harvard who are publicly defending their colleagues. Could this be due to the present climate of intimidation toward dissenting opinion of which this event is clearly illustrative? 
The article is neither ignorant nor anti-semitic. It is a review of previously published information and opinion that is familiar to all who have followed events in the Middle East. It presents a view of the US and Israel that people such as Alan Dershowitz and Ruth Wisse oppose, and for which they will go to great lengths to delegitimize, in the name of defending Israel and Jews, against unjust attacks. Yet, according to the Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar, the essay “dared to put in writing things that are often heard in closed rooms now that the U.S. has sunk into the Iraqi swamp …. it was only a question of time before it became Israel's turn to pay the price of the battle waged by Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and their colleagues in the pro-Israel lobby….” 
The Dean of the Kennedy School of Government is not ignorant, nor a fool.  His co-author, who has a more than two decade long career as a distinguished scholar, has not written an essay with scholarship so inferior that it must, in all good conscience, be removed from circulation, as Dr. Wisse suggests. The essay is an important review of positions that are widely held by a significant number of scholars, journalists and officials who are knowledgeable about the Middle East. Unfortunately, Walt and Mearsheimer are the victims of a campaign of the very intimidation and suppression of debate about which they have written. I applaud their courage in the face of what I am sure they knew would be slanderous protest.    
If there is going to be an open and honest discussion of American foreign policy in the Middle East, especially concerning the relationship between the US and Israel, it is important that all concerned individuals, especially scholars at Harvard and the University of Chicago express support of Walt’s and Mearsheimer’s right to publish a dissenting view. The price of closing this debate is a continuation of America’s failed interventionism in the Arab world and the foreclosing of a possibility of achieving a negotiated peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.  
* The complete working paper  
* An edited version called “The Israel Lobby” was published in The London Review of Books
Ira Glunts first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1992.  Mr. Glunts lives in Madison, New York where he operates a used and rare book business. He can be reached at:

'Israel Lobby' Dean To Leave Post in June

By MEGHAN CLYNE - Staff Reporter of the Sun  March 28, 2006

WASHINGTON - The academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, currently facing a storm of criticism for a paper he co-authored about an "Israel lobby," will step down at the end of June, according to the School's administrators and faculty.

The academic dean, Stephen Walt, is scheduled to vacate his administrative position on June 30, the dean of the school, David Ellwood, told The New York Sun. Mr. Walt will remain at the Kennedy School as a professor.

Mr. Walt has come under fierce criticism for his co-authorship of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," an 83-page "working paper" he wrote with a political science professor and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, John Mearsheimer.

In the paper, which was published by the Kennedy School, Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer suggest that a vast network of journalists, think tanks, lobbyists, and largely Jewish officials have seized the foreign policy debate and manipulated America to invade Iraq.

The paper has drawn sharp criticism from prominent Harvard faculty, Harvard students, and members of Congress, with many critics alleging the document is riddled with inaccuracies, bias, and faulty research.

The end of Mr. Walt's tenure as academic dean this summer, however, is "completely unrelated to the current discussion surrounding the article he co-authored with John Mearsheimer," Mr. Ellwood said in an e-mail.

Mr. Walt's departure was "long planned," the dean said. "He had been due to depart last June after the normal three-year cycle, but had agreed, at my request, to stay on for one more year. Everyone at the school has long known that he would end his academic deanship on June 30."

Professor Says American Publisher Turned Him Down

By Ori Nir  March 24, 2006

John Mearsheimer says that the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful that he and co-author Stephen Walt would never have been able to place their report in a American-based scientific publication.

"I do not believe that we could have gotten it published in the United States," Mearsheimer told the Forward. He said that the paper was originally commissioned in the fall of 2002 by one of America's leading magazines, "but the publishers told us that it was virtually impossible to get the piece published in the United States."

Most scholars, policymakers and journalists know that "the whole subject of the Israel lobby and American foreign policy is a third-rail issue," he said. "Publishers understand that if they publish a piece like ours it would cause them all sorts of problems."

In their paper, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," the two professors accuse "the lobby" of "policing academia," intimidating scholars and stifling dissent on campuses, mainly through accusing critics of being antisemitic.

Mearsheimer said that he and Walt expected to be accused of being anti-Israel and antisemitic, so they made a point of stating in the study that the establishment of Israel was morally justified and that America's support of Israel, in principle, is justified as well. He said the paper takes issue with the extent of American support for Israel and the role that the pro-Israel lobby plays in pushing for such assistance.

Asked if the study may have been initially rejected by the American publisher because of poor research, Mearsheimer said that the "evidence in the piece is just the tip of the iceberg," and that the study's observations are supported by a large body of evidence. He did concede, however, that none of the evidence represents original documentation or is derived from independent interviews. All the additional supporting material - just like the references footnoted in the paper - is of a secondary nature: citations of books and newspaper articles, Mearsheimer said.

Mearsheimer dismissed accusations and insinuations that people or entities hostile to Israel encouraged him and Walt to write the paper or that they did so to appease Arab donors to their universities. "We did this independently," he said.

Mearsheimer said that he and his colleague do not intend to become "policy advocates" calling for diminishing the role of America's pro-Israel lobby in foreign policy.

"We decided to write a really serious piece on what we thought was a very important subject and put it in the public domain and hopefully that would open up the debate or the discussion in a civilized tone," he said. "But there was no intention to write a piece that was anti-Israel or that would in any way shape or form challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel. That was not our intention."

An Unfair Attack

By David Gergen 4/3/06

It brings no joy to issue a public rebuttal against a valued colleague, but there are moments that demand no less. The occasion is the publication of a nerve-jangling essay entitled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," written by two professors, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, the academic dean and my colleague at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

In essence, their 82-page piece argues that U.S. policy in the Middle East has been hijacked by a pro-Israel "Lobby." "The core of the Lobby," they say, "is comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel's interests." As a result, "the United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel." Mearsheimer and Walt assert that for decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the lobby has manipulated our political system to give short shrift to Palestinians, was a "critical element" in the decision to invade Iraq, and is now skewing our policy on Iran (the United States, they say, "can live with a nuclear Iran").

Not only are these charges wildly at variance with what I have personally witnessed in the Oval Office over the years, but they also impugn the loyalty and the unstinting service to America's national security by public figures like Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, and many others. As a Christian, let me add that it is also wrong and unfair to call into question the loyalty of millions of American Jews who have faithfully supported Israel while also working tirelessly and generously to advance America's cause, both at home and abroad. They are among our finest citizens and should be praised, not pilloried.

Commitment. To be sure, pro-Israeli groups in this country, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, push hard to gain the support of U.S. political leaders and public opinion in favor of positions that keep Israel strong and secure. AIPAC is officially registered as a lobbying group, and it is very effective. But that does not mean that its members are somehow disserving America or engaging in something sinister. The Founding Fathers believed interest groups were intrinsic to democracy (see Madison, Federalist 10), and anyone who thinks Jews are unusual hasn't met the Irish, Italians, Greeks, and Armenians who lobby just as hard for their brethren.

Moreover, it is just not true that the Israel "Lobby" has captured U.S. policy toward the Middle East. As David McCullough writes, 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.

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.

Moreover, history shows many instances when our presidents have sharply opposed the Israeli government in order to protect American interests. I was there when Ronald Reagan, a great friend of Israel, was so repelled by pictures of victims in Lebanon that he insisted the Israelis call off their assault on Beirut (they did). He acted in the same spirit as Dwight Eisenhower, who insisted that the Israelis, British, and French pull back from the Suez in 1956 (they did).

History is also replete with examples of American governments working tirelessly to mediate or negotiate peace between Israel and its neighbors. Who can forget the shuttles of Henry Kissinger, the heroic efforts of Jimmy Carter, the last-minute push for peace by Bill Clinton? These men and their colleagues weren't hostages of some sinister Israeli "Lobby." They were acting in what they correctly perceived to be America's own security interest--and they weren't afraid to put pressure on Arabs or Israelis if that's what it took.

Has Washington sometimes tilted too much toward Israel? Of course, just as we have toward other friends overseas. Is our policy in the Middle East worthy of serious debate? Absolutely, and we should defend the right of academics like Mearsheimer and Walt to question it. But let that debate go forward with a clear mind and an understanding heart. And let us remember that our friendship with Israel has always been rooted in noble values--just as our friendships have been with other outposts of freedom.

John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "An unnecessary war," Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb 2003

In the full-court press for war with Iraq, the Bush administration deems Saddam Hussein reckless, ruthless, and not fully rational. Such a man, when mixed with nuclear weapons, is too unpredictable to be prevented from threatening the United States, the hawks say. But scrutiny of his past dealings with the world shows that Saddam, though cruel and calculating, is eminenty deterrable.

Should the United States invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein? If the United States is already at war with Iraq when this article is published, the immediate cause is likely to be Saddam's failure to comply with the new U.N. inspections regime to the Bush administration's satisfaction. But this failure is not the real reason Saddam and the United States have been on a collision course over the past year.

The deeper root of the conflict is the U.S. position that Saddam must be toppled because he cannot be deterred from using weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Advocates of preventive war use numerous arguments to make their case, but their trump card is the charge that Saddam's past behavior proves
he is too reckless, relentless, and aggressive to be allowed to possess WMD, especially nuclear weapons. They sometimes admit that war against Iraq might be costly, might lead to a lengthy U.S. occupation, and might complicate U.S. relations with other countries. But these concerns are eclipsed by the belief that the combination of Saddam plus nuclear weapons is too dangerous to accept. For that reason alone, he has to go.

Even many opponents of preventive war seem to agree deterrence will not work in Iraq. Instead of invading Iraq and overthrowing the regime, however, these moderates favor using the threat of war to compel Saddam to permit new weapons inspections. Their hope is that inspections will eliminate any hidden WMD stockpiles and production facilities and ensure Saddam cannot acquire any of these deadly weapons. Thus, both the hard-line preventive-war advocates and the more moderate supporters of inspections accept the same basic premise: Saddam Hussein is not deterrable, and he cannot be allowed to obtain a nuclear arsenal.

One problem with this argument: It is almost certainly wrong. The belief that Saddam's past behavior shows he cannot be contained rests on distorted history and faulty logic. In fact, the historical record shows that the United States can contain Iraq effectively - even if Saddam has nuclear weapons - just as it contained the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Regardless of whether Iraq complies with U.N. inspections or what the inspectors find, the campaign to wage war against Iraq rests on a flimsy foundation.


Those who call for preventive war begin by portraying Saddam as a serial aggressor bent on dominating the Persian Gulf. The war party also contends that Saddam is either irrational or prone to serious miscalculation, which means he may not be deterred by even credible threats of retaliation. Kenneth Pollack, former director for gulf affairs at the National Security Council and a proponent of war with Iraq, goes so far as to argue that Saddam is "unintentionally suicidal."

The facts, however, tell a different story. Saddam has dominated Iraqi politics for more than 30 years. During that period, he started two wars against his neighbors - Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. Saddam's record in this regard is no worse than that of neighboring states such as Egypt or Israel, each of which played a role in starting several wars since 1948. Furthermore, a careful look at Saddam's two wars shows his behavior was far from reckless. Both times, he attacked because Iraq was vulnerable and because he believed his targets were weak and isolated. In each case, his goal was to rectify Iraq's strategic dilemma with a limited military victory. Such reasoning does not excuse Saddam's aggression, but his willingness to use force on these occasions hardly demonstrates that he cannot be deterred.

The Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88

Iran was the most powerful state in the Persian Gulf during the 1970s. Its strength was partly due to its large population (roughly three times that of Iraq) and its oil reserves, but it also stemmed from the strong support the shah of Iran received from the United States. Relations between Iraq and Iran were quite hostile throughout this period, but Iraq was in no position to defy Iran's regional dominance. Iran put constant pressure on Saddam's regime during the early 1970s, mostly by fomenting unrest among Iraq's sizable Kurdish minority. Iraq finally persuaded the shah to stop meddling with the Kurds in 1975, but only by agreeing to cede half of the Shatt al-Arab waterway to Iran, a concession that underscored Iraq's weakness.

It is thus not surprising that Saddam welcomed the shah's ouster in 1979. Iraq went to considerable lengths to foster good relations with Iran's revolutionary leadership. Saddam did not exploit the turmoil in Iran to gain strategic advantage over his neighbor and made no attempt to reverse his earlier concessions, even though Iran did not fully comply with the terms of the 1975 agreement. Ruhollah Khomeini, on the other hand, was determined to extend his revolution across the Islamic world, starting with Iraq. By late 1979, Tehran was pushing the Kurdish and Shiite populations in Iraq to revolt and topple Saddam, and Iranian operatives were trying to assassinate senior Iraqi officials. Border clashes became increasingly frequent by April 1980, largely at Iran's instigation.

Facing a grave threat to his regime, but aware that Iran's military readiness had been temporarily disrupted by the revolution, Saddam launched a limited war against his bitter foe on September 22, 1980. His principal aim was to capture a large slice of territory along the Iraq-Iran border, not to conquer Iran or topple Khomeini. "The war began," as military analyst Efraim Karsh writes, "because the weaker state, Iraq, attempted to resist the hegemonic aspirations of its stronger neighbor, Iran, to reshape the regional status quo according to its own image."

Iran and Iraq fought for eight years, and the war cost the two antagonists more than 1 million casualties and at least $150 billion. Iraq received considerable outside support from other countries - including the United States, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and France - largely because these states were determined to prevent the spread of Khomeini's Islamic revolution. Although the war cost Iraq far more than Saddam expected, it also thwarted Khomeini's attempt to topple him and dominate the region. War with Iran was not a reckless adventure; it was an opportunistic response to a significant threat.

The Gulf War, 1990-91

But what about Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990? Perhaps the earlier war with Iran was essentially defensive, but surely this was not true in the case of Kuwait. Doesn't Saddam's decision to invade his tiny neighbor prove he is too rash and aggressive to be trusted with the most destructive weaponry? And doesn't his refusal to withdraw, even when confronted by a superior coalition, demonstrate he is "unintentionally suicidal"?

The answer is no. Once again, a careful look shows Saddam was neither mindlessly aggressive nor particularly reckless. If anything, the evidence supports the opposite conclusion.

Saddam's decision to invade Kuwait was primarily an attempt to deal with Iraq's continued vulnerability. Iraq's economy, badly damaged by its war with Iran, continued to decline after that war ended. An important cause of Iraq's difficulties was Kuwait's refusal both to loan Iraq $10 billion and to write off debts Iraq had incurred during the Iran-Iraq War. Saddam believed Iraq was entitled to additional aid because the country helped protect Kuwait and other Gulf states from Iranian expansionism. To make matters worse, Kuwait was overproducing the quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which drove down world oil prices and reduced Iraqi oil profits. Saddam tried using diplomacy to solve the problem, but Kuwait hardly budged. As Karsh and fellow Hussein biographer Inari Rautsi note, the Kuwaitis "suspected that some concessions might be necessary, but were determined to reduce them to the barest minimum."

Saddam reportedly decided on war sometime in July 1990, but before sending his army into Kuwait, he approached the United States to find out how it would react. In a now famous interview with the Iraqi leader, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam, "[W]e have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." The U.S. State Department had earlier told Saddam that Washington had "no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait." The United States may not have intended to give Iraq a green light, but that is effectively what it did.

Saddam invaded Kuwait in early August 1990. This act was an obvious violation of international law, and the United States was justified in opposing the invasion and organizing a coalition against it. But Saddam's decision to invade was hardly irrational or reckless. Deterrence did not fail in this case; it was never tried.

But what about Saddam's failure to leave Kuwait once the United States demanded a return to the status quo ante? Wouldn't a prudent leader have abandoned Kuwait before getting clobbered? With hindsight, the answer seems obvious, but Saddam had good reasons to believe hanging tough might work. It was not initially apparent that the United States would actually fight, and most Western military experts predicted the Iraqi army would mount a formidable defense. These forecasts seem foolish today, but many people believed them before the war began.

Once the U.S. air campaign had seriously damaged Iraq's armed forces, however, Saddam began searching for a diplomatic solution that would allow him to
retreat from Kuwait before a ground war began. Indeed, Saddam made clear he was willing to pull out completely. Instead of allowing Iraq to withdraw and fight another day, then U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his administration wisely insisted the Iraqi army leave its equipment behind as it withdrew. As the administration had hoped, Saddam could not accept this kind of deal.

Saddam undoubtedly miscalculated when he attacked Kuwait, but the history of warfare is full of cases where leaders have misjudged the prospects for war. No evidence suggests Hussein did not weigh his options carefully, however. He chose to use force because he was facing a serious challenge and because he had good reasons to think his invasion would not provoke serious opposition.

Nor should anyone forget that the Iraqi tyrant survived the Kuwait debacle, just as he has survived other threats against his regime. He is now beginning his fourth decade in power. If he is really "unintentionally suicidal," then his survival instincts appear to be even more finely honed.

History provides at least two more pieces of evidence that demonstrate Saddam is deterrable. First, although he launched conventionally armed Scud missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel during the Gulf War, he did not launch chemical or biological weapons at the coalition forces that were decimating the Iraqi military. Moreover, senior Iraqi officials - including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and the former head of military intelligence, General Wafiq al-Samarrai - have said that Iraq refrained from using chemical weapons because the Bush Sr. administration made ambiguous but unmistakable threats to retaliate if Iraq used WMD. Second, in 1994 Iraq mobilized the remnants of its army on the Kuwaiti border in an apparent attempt to force a modification of the U.N. Special Commission's (UNSCOM) weapons inspection regime. But when the United Nations issued a new warning and the United States reinforced its troops in Kuwait, Iraq backed down quickly. In both cases, the allegedly irrational Iraqi leader was deterred.


Preventive-war advocates also use a second line of argument. They point out that Saddam has used WMD against his own people (the Kurds) and against Iran and that therefore he is likely to use them against the United States. Thus, U.S. President George W. Bush recently warned in Cincinnati that the Iraqi WMD threat against the United States "is already significant, and it only grows worse with time." The United States, in other words, is in imminent danger.

Saddam's record of chemical weapons use is deplorable, but none of his victims had a similar arsenal and thus could not threaten to respond in kind. Iraq's calculations would be entirely different when facing the United States because Washington could retaliate with WMD if Iraq ever decided to use these weapons first. Saddam thus has no incentive to use chemical or nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies - unless his survival is threatened. This simple logic explains why he did not use WMD against U.S. forces during the Gulf War and has not fired chemical or biological warheads at Israel.

Furthermore, if Saddam cannot be deterred, what is stopping him from using WMD against U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, which have bombed Iraq repeatedly over the past decade? The bottom line: Deterrence has worked well against Saddam in the past, and there is no reason to think it cannot work equally well in the future.

President Bush's repeated claim that the threat from Iraq is growing makes little sense in light of Saddam's past record, and these statements should be viewed as transparent attempts to scare Americans into supporting a war. CIA Director George Tenet flatly contradicted the president in an October 2002 letter to Congress, explaining that Saddam was unlikely to initiate a WMD attack against any U.S. target unless Washington provoked him. Even if Iraq did acquire a larger WMD arsenal, the United States would still retain a massive nuclear retaliatory capability. And if Saddam would only use WMD if the United States threatened his regime, then one wonders why advocates of war are trying to do just that.

Hawks do have a fallback position on this issue. Yes, the United States can try to deter Saddam by threatening to retaliate with massive force. But this strategy may not work because Iraq's past use of chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iran shows that Saddam is a warped human being who might use WMD without regard for the consequences.

Unfortunately for those who now favor war, this argument is difficult to reconcile with the United States' past support for Iraq, support that coincided with some of the behavior now being invoked to portray him as an irrational madman. The United States backed Iraq during the 1980s - when Saddam was gassing Kurds and Iranians - and helped Iraq use chemical weapons more effectively by providing it with satellite imagery of Iranian troop positions. The Reagan administration also facilitated Iraq's efforts to develop biological weapons by allowing Baghdad to import disease-producing biological materials such as anthrax, West Nile virus, and botulinal toxin. A central figure in the effort to court Iraq was none other than current U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was then President Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East. He visited Baghdad and met with Saddam in 1983, with the explicit aim of fostering better relations between the United States and Iraq. In October 1989, about a year after Saddam gassed the Kurds, President George H.W. Bush signed a formal national security directive declaring, "Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East."

If Saddam's use of chemical weapons so clearly indicates he is a madman and cannot be contained, why did the United States fail to see that in the 1980s? Why were Rumsfeld and former President Bush then so unconcerned about his chemical and biological weapons? The most likely answer is that U.S. policymakers correctly understood Saddam was unlikely to use those weapons against the United States and its allies unless Washington threatened
him directly. The real puzzle is why they think it would be impossible to deter him today.


The third strike against a policy of containment, according to those who have called for war, is that such a policy is unlikely to stop Saddam from getting nuclear weapons. Once he gets them, so the argument runs, a host of really bad things will happen. For example, President Bush has warned that Saddam intends to "blackmail the world"; likewise, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice believes he would use nuclear weapons to "blackmail the entire international community." Others fear a nuclear arsenal would enable Iraq to invade its neighbors and then deter the United States from ousting the Iraqi army as it did in 1991. Even worse, Saddam might surreptitiously slip a nuclear weapon to al Qaeda or some like-minded terrorist organization, thereby making it possible for these groups to attack the United States directly.

The administration and its supporters may be right in one sense: Containment may not be enough to prevent Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons someday. Only the conquest and permanent occupation of Iraq could guarantee that. Yet the United States can contain a nuclear Iraq, just as it contained the Soviet Union. None of the nightmare scenarios invoked by preventive-war advocates are likely to happen.

Consider the claim that Saddam would employ nuclear blackmail against his adversaries. To force another state to make concessions, a blackmailer must make clear that he would use nuclear weapons against the target state if he does not get his way. But this strategy is feasible only if the blackmailer has nuclear weapons but neither the target state nor its allies do.

If the blackmailer and the target state both have nuclear weapons, however, the blackmailer's threat is an empty one because the blackmailer cannot carry out the threat without triggering his own destruction. This logic explains why the Soviet Union, which had a vast nuclear arsenal for much of the Cold War, was never able to blackmail the United States or its allies and did not even try.

But what if Saddam invaded Kuwait again and then said he would use nuclear weapons if the United States attempted another Desert Storm? Again, this threat is not credible. If Saddam initiated nuclear war against the United States over Kuwait, he would bring U.S. nuclear warheads down on his own head. Given the choice between withdrawing or dying, he would almost certainly choose the former. Thus, the United States could wage Desert Storm II against a nuclear-- armed Saddam without precipitating nuclear war.

Ironically, some of the officials now advocating war used to recognize that Saddam could not employ nuclear weapons for offensive purposes. In the January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs, for example, National Security Advisor Rice described how the United States should react if Iraq acquired WMD. "The first line of defense," she wrote, "should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence - if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration." If she believed Iraq's weapons would be unusable in 2000, why does she now think Saddam must be toppled before he gets them? For that matter, why does she now think a nuclear arsenal would enable Saddam to blackmail the entire international community, when she did not even mention this possibility in 2000?


Of course, now the real nightmare scenario is that Saddam would give nuclear weapons secretly to al Qaeda or some other terrorist group. Groups like al Qaeda would almost certainly try to use those weapons against Israel or the United States, and so these countries have a powerful incentive to take all reasonable measures to keep these weapons out of their hands.

However, the likelihood of clandestine transfer by Iraq is extremely small. First of all, there is no credible evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or more generally that Iraq is collaborating with al Qaeda against the United States. Hawks inside and outside the Bush administration have gone to extraordinary lengths over the past months to find a link, but they have come up empty-handed.

The lack of evidence of any genuine connection between Saddam and al Qaeda is not surprising because relations between Saddam and al Qaeda have been
quite poor in the past. Osama bin Laden is a radical fundamentalist (like Khomeini), and he detests secular leaders like Saddam. Similarly, Saddam has consistently repressed fundamentalist movements within Iraq. Given this history of enmity, the Iraqi dictator is unlikely to give al Qaeda nuclear weapons, which it might use in ways he could not control.

Intense U.S. pressure, of course, might eventually force these unlikely allies together, just as the United States and Communist Russia became allies during World War II. Saddam would still be unlikely to share his most valuable weaponry with al Qaeda, however, because he could not be confident it would not be used in ways that place his own survival in jeopardy. During the Cold War, the United States did not share all its WMD expertise with its own allies, and the Soviet Union balked at giving nuclear weapons to China despite their ideological sympathies and repeated Chinese requests. No evidence suggests Saddam would act differently.

Second, Saddam could hardly be confident that the transfer would go undetected. Since September 11, U.S. intelligence agencies and those of its allies have been riveted on al Qaeda and Iraq, paying special attention to finding links between them. If Iraq possessed nuclear weapons, U.S. monitoring of those two adversaries would be further intensified. To give nuclear materials to al Qaeda, Saddam would have to bet he could elude the eyes and ears of numerous intelligence services determined to catch him if he tries a nuclear handoff. This bet would not be a safe one.

But even if Saddam thought he could covertly smuggle nuclear weapons to bin Laden, he would still be unlikely to do so. Saddam has been trying to acquire these weapons for over 20 years, at great cost and risk. Is it likely he would then turn around and give them away? Furthermore, giving nuclear weapons to al Qaeda would be extremely risky for Saddam - even if he could do so without being detected - because he would lose all control over when and where they would be used. And Saddam could never be sure the United States would not incinerate him anyway if it merely suspected he had made it possible for anyone to strike the United States with nuclear weapons. The U.S. government and a clear majority of Americans are already deeply suspicious of Iraq, and a nuclear attack against the United States or its allies would raise that hostility to fever pitch. Saddam does not have to be certain the United States would retaliate to be wary of giving his nuclear weapons to al Qaeda; he merely has to suspect it might.

In sum, Saddam cannot afford to guess wrong on whether he would be detected providing al Qaeda with nuclear weapons, nor can he afford to guess wrong
that Iraq would be spared if al Qaeda launched a nuclear strike against the United States or its allies. And the threat of U.S. retaliation is not as far-fetched as one might think. The United States has enhanced its flexible nuclear options in recent years, and no one knows just how vengeful Americans might feel if WMD were ever used against the U.S. homeland. Indeed, nuclear terrorism is as dangerous for Saddam as it is for Americans, and he has no more incentive to give al Qaeda nuclear weapons than the United States does - unless, of course, the country makes clear it is trying to overthrow him. Instead of attacking Iraq and giving Saddam nothing to lose, the Bush administration should be signaling it would hold him responsible if some terrorist group used WMD against the United States, even if it cannot prove he is to blame.


It is not surprising that those who favor war with Iraq portray Saddam as an inveterate and only partly rational aggressor. They are in the business of selling a preventive war, so they must try to make remaining at peace seem unacceptably dangerous. And the best way to do that is to inflate the threat, either by exaggerating Iraq's capabilities or by suggesting horrible things will happen if the United States does not act soon. It is equally unsurprising that advocates of war are willing to distort the historical record to make their case. As former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson famously remarked, in politics, advocacy "must be clearer than truth."

In this case, however, the truth points the other way. Both logic and historical evidence suggest a policy of vigilant containment would work, both now and in the event Iraq acquires a nuclear arsenal. Why? Because the United States and its regional allies are far stronger than Iraq. And because it does not take a genius to figure out what would happen if Iraq tried to use WMD to blackmail its neighbors, expand its territory, or attack another state directly. It only takes a leader who wants to stay alive and who wants to remain in power. Throughout his lengthy and brutal career, Saddam Hussein has repeatedly shown that these two goals are absolutely paramount. That is why deterrence and containment would work.

If the United States is, or soon will be, at war with Iraq, Americans should understand that a compelling strategic rationale is absent. This war would be one the Bush administration chose to fight but did not have to fight. Even if such a war goes well and has positive long-range consequences, it will still have been unnecessary. And if it goes badly - whether in the form of high U.S. casualties, significant civilian deaths, a heightened risk of terrorism, or increased hatred of the United States in the Arab and Islamic world - then its architects will have even more to answer for.

Regardless of whether Iraq complies with U.N. inspections or what the inspectors find, the campaign to wage war against Iraq rests on a flimsy foundation.

Nuclear terrorism is as dangerous for Saddam as it is for Americans, and he has no more incentive to give al Qaeda nuclear weapons than the United States does.

Want to Know More?

On Saddam's role in starting the 1980 war with Iran, see Efralm Karsh's
"Geopolitical Determinism: The Origins of the Iran-Iraq War" (Middle East
Journal, Vol. 44, No. 2, 1990), Nita M. Renfrew's "Who Started the War?"
(FOREIGN POLICY, Spring 1987), and Kanan Makiya's Republic of Fear: The
Politics of Modern Iraq, rev. ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1998). For a comprehensive analysis of Iraq's decision to invade Kuwait
in 1990, see Lawrence Freedman and Karsh's The Gulf Conflict 1990-1991:
Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1993). F. Gregory Gause III provides an excellent discussion of
Iraqi decision making before both wars in "Iraq's Decisions to Go to War,
1980 and 1990" (Middle East Journal, Vol. 56, No. 1, 2002). Gause also
analyzes Saddam's failure to leave Kuwait before Desert Storm, as does
Robert A. Pape in Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1996). The best discussion of the extensive cooperation
between Iraq and the United States during the 1980s is Bruce W Jentleson's
With Friends Like These: Reagan, Bush, and Saddam, 1982-1990 (New York:
Norton, 1994).

On why nuclear blackmail rarely works, see Robert Jervis's The Meaning
of the Nuclear Revolution: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1989) and Richard K. Betts's Nuclear Blackmail
and Nuclear Balance (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1987). For a first-rate
assessment of why the United States could have won Desert Storm against
a nuclear-- armed Saddam, see Barry R. Posen's "U.S. Security Policy in
a Nuclear-Armed World (Or: What if Iraq Had Had Nuclear Weapons?)" (Security
Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1997).

The Saddam Hussein Reader (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002), edited
by Turi Munthe, includes selections by leading Iraq thinkers that cover
topics ranging from Iraqi politics to the consequences of a nuclear Iraq.
In "Think Again: Attacking Iraq" (FOREIGN POLICY, March/April 2002), FP
Senior Editor Mark Strauss analyzes the arguments in favor of and against
the war.

For a more extensive version of this article, see John J. Mearsheimer and
Stephen M. Walt's "Can Saddam Be Contained? History Says Yes" (Cambridge:
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, November 12, 2002),
posted on the Belfer Center's Web site.

>>For links to relevant Web sites, access to the FP Archive, and a comprehensive
index of related FOREIGN POLICY articles, go to

John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison distinguished service professor
of political science at the University of Chicago, where he codirects the
Program in International Security Policy. He is the author of The Tragedy
of Great Power Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001). Stephen M. Walt
is the academic dean and the Robert and Renee Belfer professor of international
affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is faculty
chair of the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science
and International Affairs and is writing a book on global responses to
American primacy.



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