Second Chance
The Obama administration can foster a better Afghan government --
if it is willing to commit itself.

Washington Post Editorial, 2009-10-17

[The relevant part is the boxed statement below.]

In fact, if the United States is going to keep troops in Afghanistan --
and Mr. Obama has said that it will --
it has no choice but to build and support the strongest government possible,
both at the national and local levels.
That is far from impossible:

Afghanistan had a working national government
through most of the 1970s and ‘80s.

Such an administration would be welcomed not only by Afghans
but also by Pakistanis who support secular and pro-Western democracy.
Only Pakistan’s anti-Western forces oppose a strong Afghan government.

[The boxed statement is critiqued in the next two items.]

The Washington Post Creates Its Own Facts to Support Afghan Nation-Building
by Melvin A. Goodman
Truthout.org, 2009-10-22

[This is also available at Consortium News,
where it is prefaced with this Editor’s Note (in italics):]

The Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial page is at it again,
using made-up “facts” and dubious logic
to influence a foreign-policy debate
in the direction favored by the capital’s still influential neocons.

In this latest case, the topic is Afghanistan and
the Post’s misinformation
may contribute to the deaths of many more U.S. troops and Afghanis,
as former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman explains in this guest essay:


The Washington Post is
creating its own facts
in order to support its argument for
US nation-building in Afghanistan.

In its lead editorial on Saturday,
the Post asserted that
the United States is capable of building a strong government in Afghanistan
at the national and local levels.
The Post claimed that Afghanistan had had
a “working national government through most of the 1970s and 1980s.”
This is simply not so.

Afghanistan has always been a diverse, loosely organized country,
although there was support for King Mohammad Zahir’s reign from 1933 to 1973.
King Zahir was the last Afghan ruler to pretend to play a national role,
but he was a weak and indifferent ruler,
spending most of his time abroad.
He was ousted in a bloodless coup in 1973 by Prince Mohammad Daoud,
who proclaimed himself the first president of the Republic of Afghanistan.
There has not been a stable government in Afghanistan since then.

[You may find this List of Presidents of Afghanistan useful here.]

Daoud lasted until 1978,
when the same leftist officers who had ousted the king occupied the palace
and killed Daoud, his wife and many of his children and grandchildren.
Daoud was replaced by Nur Mohammad Taraki,
secretary of the People’s Democratic (Communist) party,
who was ousted and eventually executed
by a supposedly loyal follower, Hafizullah Amin.
In this period, marked by instability and violence,
there was no evidence of national support for either Taraki or Amin.
The conventional wisdom was that
the Soviets were responsible for Daoud’s coup against the king
as well as the events that led to the overthrow of Daoud.
In fact, it was Iran and not the Soviet Union that was responsible,
as Tehran (with the encouragement of the United States)
had been trying to draw Kabul into
a western-tilted, Tehran-centered security sphere.

In any event, developments were about to get worse,
and Afghanistan was going to move even further from what the Post described as
a strong government at the national and local levels.
On Christmas Eve, 1979, Soviet armed forces invaded Afghanistan,
killed Amin and replaced him with Babrak Karmal,
a Communist who was subservient to Moscow’s wishes.
This marked the fourth Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 54 years,
following small-scale interventions in 1925, 1929 and 1930.
It is not widely known, but
President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski,
sponsored covert efforts in Central Asia
to foment rebellion inside the Soviet Union
even before Moscow ordered the invasion of Afghanistan.
President Carter then
authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to assist Afghan rebels
six months before Moscow invaded.
Following the invasion, CIA Director William Casey
encouraged Afghan rebels to conduct cross-border operations
into the Soviet Union itself
and boasted about these operations in secret talks
with high-ranking members of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).

Not even the neocons who dominate the Post editorial staff
[That would seem to include
Fred Hiatt, Jackson Diehl, and Charles Lane--see its Editorial Board.]

could possibly believe that
the ten-year Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1989
produced a “working national government.”
Indeed, the Soviet occupation led to the creation of an anti-Soviet jihad
that produced the greatest instability in Afghanistan’s tortuous history.
The CIA worked closely with Pakistan’s ISI during the jihad,
including support for operations in the Soviet republic of Tajikistan.
No one in Washington worried about
the political disintegration of Afghanistan during the 1980s
or the potential repercussions for religious fanaticism
throughout Southwest Asia in the 1990s.
The Taliban created its own chaos from 1994 to 2001,
and the US invasion in 2001 led to another spiral of violence
that continues until today.

[In fact, many other accounts claim that the Taliban,
after it gained control over more than 90 percent of the country,
produced an oppressive but stable government
remarkably free of corruption and crime.]

The recitation of this history over the past four decades
is not only designed to expose the Washington Post’s chicanery
(or simply a lack of research),
but to highlight the chaos and violence that have marked Afghanistan.
This history clearly suggests that
nation-building and institution-building is a fool’s errand in Afghanistan,
where political and economic backwardness and corruption
have been dominant.
We increased forces this summer to provide security for the Afghan election
and to challenge the expanding Taliban presence in Helmand Province.
We failed on both counts and, in the process,
left the northern regions of Afghanistan
exposed to greater Taliban infiltration.
The Taliban have also infiltrated key cities, including Kabul.
It is possible that the repositioning of US and international forces
could protect Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and even Mazar-e-Sharif in the north.
But key Afghan institutions, particularly the National Army and the police,
cannot provide much support
to US forces in sensitive areas in the south and the east,
where the Taliban has access to sanctuary in Pakistan.

According to informed observers,
the Afghan Army is still unable to conduct autonomous operations
with more than 100 troops.
The high level of illiteracy among Afghan military recruits
does not augur well for the future.

[I do not know why so many American commentators worry about
the literacy level of the Afghanistan National military.
Just how literate do they think the Taliban’s forces are?
For the type of guerilla warfare that we are facing,
the guerrillas do not need literacy,
but rather motivation and fighting skills,
which have nothing to do with literacy.
Historical examples:
Note how successful illiterate Afghan tribesmen were
at repulsing the British Army and its colonial auxiliaries
in the nineteenth century
(for a particularly macabre example, see this).
Also note how effective illiterate American forces
(literacy rates were low in the colonial era)
were at defeating British Redcoats
both in the American Revolution and the War of 1812,
notably Andrew Jackson’s win in the Battle of New Orleans.
So the question, again, is:
Why does the current American “elite” think
the literacy level of the Afghan forces
is relevant to
their effectiveness as a fighting force?]

The Obama administration is counting on
the current Pakistani offensive against the Pakistan Taliban
to buy time for the Islamabad government.
There is no indication, however, that the Pakistan Army
would be willing or able to take on the Afghan Taliban
and thus buy time for the government in Kabul.
The notion of sending civilian specialists to Afghanistan
to promote political and economic stabilization would be laughable
if the situation were not so serious.
there has never been
an Afghan government capable of running the entire country,

it is impossible to expect US military and civilian forces at virtually any reasonable level taking on both
a successful counterinsurgency against the Taliban and
the policy of nation-building in Afghanistan.

Melvin A. Goodman is national security and intelligence columnist for Truthout.
He is senior fellow at the Center for International Policy
and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.
His 42-year government career included service at
the CIA, State Department, Defense Department and the US Army.
His latest book is
“Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.”


The following is an excerpt from Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.

[page 132]
“… the notorious torturer Najibullah …”

[page 133]
By 1985,
Soviet and Afghan intelligence operatives
played a greater role in the counterinsurgency campaign than ever before.
Najibullah, the secret police chief,
was elevated to the Afghan Politburo in November 1985.
By the following spring Moscow had sacked Babrak Karmal
and appointed Najibullah as Afghanistan’s president.

His ruling councils were filled with ruthless intelligence operatives.
The KGB-trained Afghan intelligence service swelled to about 30,000 profellionals and 100,000 paid informers.
Its domestic directorates,
lacking cooperative sources among the population,
routinely detained and tortured civilians

in search of insight about mujahedin operations.

End of excerpt from Ghost Wars.

Is that anyone’s idea of a “working national government”?
Anybody besides the Post’s editorial board, that is?

One might be tempted to write the Post’s error off,
since, after all, we all make mistakes.
To err is human, etc.
But I think that error is significant for two reasons:

First, at least for myself,
everything I had ever read about Afghanistan’s government in the 1980s,
following the Soviet invasion of 1979,
made it absolutely clear that it was just a Soviet-dominated satellite,
with a regime opposed by the vast majority of the Afghan population.
In other words, not a regime to be viewed favorably in any way by Americans,
except, perhaps, those on the Post’s editorial board.
So it was not an easy error to make.

Second, this is part of an overwhelmingly clear pattern
we have seen from the Post’s editorial board,
of systematically slanting facts in a direction which would support
continued American involvement with the Afghan governing system.

Dennis Blair’s replacement has problems to solve
Washington Post Editorial, 2010-05-22

THE RESIGNATION of Dennis C. Blair as director of national intelligence
was the product of personal as well as institutional failings.
A retired admiral with a distinguished record of service,
Mr. Blair’s political judgment looked questionable
from the beginning of his DNI tenure,
when he nominated a former ambassador with
close ties to China and Saudi Arabia --
crackpot views about the Israel “lobby”
[The Post links the above to this 2009-03-11 Walter Pincus column;
the word “lobby” does not appear in that column.]
to chair the National Intelligence Council.


[The Post is referring, of course, to the nomination of Chas. Freeman to chair the NIC;
a considerable number of news reports and columns discussing both
that nomination and especially
the virulent and successful campaign of the Israel lobby to derail it
are assembled here;
note, e.g., the article entitled “Intel Council Head Draws Ire of Israel Lobby
by Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe.

But let’s leave those articles and opinion pieces aside,
and also the issue of whether Freeman’s views deserve to be called crackpot.
Let’s address the validity of putting the word “lobby” in quotes
in the phrase Post’s phrase ‘the Israel “lobby” ’
(i.e., denying that an Israel lobby really exists).

Now here is a fact:
In the last few months there have been
a number of full-page ads run in the A section of the Post,
sponsored by Jewish organizations such as
the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations,
the World Jewish Congress,
and the well-known individual Elie Wiesel.
Does anyone deny that those are all Jewish?

What has been the message of those full-page ads?
In at least two cases, the explicit text, in a very large and bold font, was
“We Stand With Israel.”
(Google “We Stand With Israel”, “Stand With (Israel|Us)”)
(For more examples and discussion, see
Israel Lobby Leadership Losing It”, 2010-04-15, by Jim Lobe.)

The context for these ads was
the pressure the Obama administration was attempting to bring to bear on Israel
to halt its expansion into East Jerusalem,
a series of developments chronologically subsequent to
Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel.
The purpose of the ads was clearly and explicitly to request, if not demand,
that the Obama administration in particular, and no doubt Congress as well,
cease and desist from any attempts to pressure Israel.
Does the Post deny the existence of those ads,
or that that was their clear and explicit purpose?

I am not a superexpert on language.
But it seems to me that under any reasonable interpretation of the words,
those ads constituted lobbying for Israel:

Wikipedia defines “lobbying” as
“Lobbying (also Lobby) is a form of advocacy
with the intention of influencing
decisions made by legislators and officials in the government
by individuals, other legislators, constituents, or advocacy groups.”

How can anyone deny that the purpose of those ads
was advocacy with the intent of
influencing decisions made by the Obama administration vis-à-vis Israel,
in particular, to not oppose Israel’s freedom of action?
In other words lobbying for Israel.

Now, if there are people lobbying for Israel,
by definition an Israel lobby exists.]

Labels: ,


The attack on motivations

Your bending of their words intended target
to suit your own agenda
is likely motivated by
some deep seated angst and self loathing.

The above was the initial response to a column by Jim Lobe.
The point is by attacking Lobe’s motivations, without giving the slightest reason,
the attacker avoids the need to address the substantive point Lobe had made.
(The “self loathing” charge, by the way, is because Lobe is Jewish.)

Labels: ,

False ascription of motivation

A classic example of the false ascription of motivation is
Freud’s ascription of sexual desire to “Dora”.
As of 2012-09-17, Wikipedia described it thusly:

[Ida Bauer (real name) was given the pseudonym “Dora” by Freud.
She] regularly babysat
the children of a married couple known only as Herr and Frau K.
Ida’s father was the lover of Frau K,
and (according to Ida, and believed by Freud),
Herr K himself had repeatedly propositioned Ida,
as early as when she was 14 years old.
(Freud, “Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (‘Dora’)”)

Ultimately, Freud sees Ida as
repressing a desire for her father,
a desire for Herr K,
and a desire for Frau K as well.

After only 11 weeks of therapy she broke off her therapy,
much to Freud’s disappointment.
Freud saw this as his failure as an analyst
and decided the whole treatment had failed.

After some time, however, Ida returned to see Freud
and explained how her symptoms had mostly cleared.
Freud had been the only person to believe her
regarding ‘Herr K’ and her father.
After the analysis, she chose to confront her tormentors
(her father, his lover and his lover’s husband).
When confronted, they confessed that she had been right all along
and following this,
most of her symptoms had cleared.

Freud’s interpretation

Through the analysis, Freud interprets Ida’s hysteria
as a manifestation of her jealousy
toward the relationship between Frau K and her father,
combined with the mixed feelings of Herr K’s sexual approach to her.[3]
Although Freud was disappointed with the initial results of the case,
he considered it important,
as it raised his awareness of the phenomenon of transference,
on which he blamed his seeming failures in the case.

The somewhat controversial psychologist Kevin MacDonald has written concerning this case:
Both Esterson (1992) and Lakoff and Coyne (1993, 83-86) show that
Freud’s famous analysis of the teenage Dora
(in which her rejection of the pedophilic sexual advances
of an older married man
is attributed to hysteria and sexual repression)

was based entirely on preconceived ideas and circular reasoning
in which
the patient’s negative emotional response
to the psychoanalytic hypothesis

is construed as
evidence for the hypothesis.

More completely, in Chapter Four of MacDonald’s The Culture of Critique
he added some piquant details concerning the case (emphasis added;
I go on to include several interesting thoughts of MacDonald about psychoanalysis besides his description of the case of Dora
contained in that chapter):
Freud used psychoanalysis to pathologize
female resistance to male sexual advances.
This is apparent in the famous analysis of the teenage Dora,
who rejected the advances of an older married man.
Dora’s father sent her to Freud because
he wanted her to accede to the man’s advances as an appeasement gesture
because the father was having an affair with the man’s wife.
Freud obligingly attributed Dora’s rejection to
repressing amorous desires toward the man.


Lakoff and Coyne (1993) conclude their discussion of Dora
by arguing that in general
psychoanalysis was characterized by
thought control, manipulation, and debasement of the analysand.


An important corollary of these findings is that
psychoanalysis has many features in common with brainwashing
(Bailey 1960, 1965; Salter 1998).
During training sessions,
any objection by the future psychoanalyst is viewed as
a resistance to be overcome (Sulloway 1979b).


[I]t is reasonable to conclude that
Freud’s real analysand was gentile culture,
and that
psychoanalysis was fundamentally an act of aggression
toward that culture.

I (the author of this blog) should add at this point that
I have no formal training whatsoever in psychology or psychoanalysis.
However, the views of MacDonald,
who has been professor of psychology at California State College at Long Beach for a number of years,
seem quite reasonable to me.



The Israel Lobby

Originally the post with this title contained
material related to the published work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt,
first their 2006-03 paper and then their 2007-09 book,
with the same title.
That material as of 2008-07-28 was moved to the post
Israel Lobby: M+W controversy.

This post now contains material related to
the subject of Mearsheimer and Walt’s work, namely,
the force in American politics which they (and others) have dubbed
“the Israel Lobby”.


AIPAC's Hold
By Ari Berman
The Nation, 2006-08-04

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

“The Bush Administration is bad enough in tolerating measures
they would not accept anywhere else but Israel,”
says Henry Siegman, the former head of the American Jewish Congress
and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

the Congress, if anything, is
urging the Administration on
criticizing them even at their most accommodating.

When it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict,
the terms of debate are so influenced by organized Jewish groups, like AIPAC, that

to be critical of Israel
is to deny oneself
the ability to succeed in American politics.”


The Israel Lobby and the Psychology of Influence
by Kevin MacDonald
Kevin MacDonald Blog, 2007-10-14

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Elaine McArdle was lobbied by the Israel Lobby.
Of course, this is not exactly unusual, nor is it illegal.
Indeed, it is standard practice among lobbyists of all kinds.
As she notes,
AIPAC provided first-class, all-expenses-paid trips to Israel
for 40 US congressmen

just last summer.
Journalists are eager to participate as well, although it appears that
this is viewed as less than ethical
by at least some mainstream news organizations.


What stands out about McArdle is that
she is very self-conscious about the psychological processes involved.
She is quite aware that persuasion often works at an unconscious level.
Giving someone a gift taps into a reciprocity norm
that is doubtless a remnant of our evolved psychology.
People who don’t reciprocate did not make good allies or friends,
and this happened over a sufficiently long period
to result in specialized brain mechanisms
designed to detect reciprocators and cheaters.
As McArdle notes, this is true the world over.
For the non-sociopaths among us,
when we receive something from someone else,
we feel a need to reciprocate
or at least have positive feelings toward that person.


In effect,
the people on the tour are being inculcated into a Jewish world view—
one in which Jews are the quintessential victims….


There is also
a sense of psychological bonding with Israelis at a person-to-person level.
McArdle refers to her experience as
“an unforgettable and emotionally charged week with warm, likable people —
generous hosts and tour guides whom I worried about
after returning to the safety of life in Massachusetts.”

She experiences empathy for these Israelis
as fellow ingroup members who are living in danger,
and she worries about their safety.
But she never gets to experience empathy with
the Palestinians on the other side of the wall—
the ones living in Bantustan-like concentration camps
in the apartheid West Bank.

McArdle also mentions that the experience was “emotionally charged.”
A great deal of psychological research shows that
experiences that have intense emotional overtones
are much more likely to be remembered and to have a long term influence.
As McArdle is well aware,
people need not be consciously aware of these memories
to be influenced by them.

Another psychological aspect of Jewish influence is that
Jewish intellectual and political movements
are promulgated from highly prestigious sources.
An important feature of our evolved psychology is
a greater proneness to adopt cultural messages deriving from
people with high social status.
This was certainly true of all the movements discussed in The Culture of Critique,
and there is no doubt that the Israel Lobby is intimately entwined with
elite media, elite universities, and well-funded think tanks.

And finally, it’s not only journalists like McArdle
who have to worry about the possibility of unconscious bias.
We all do.
Movements such as the Israel Lobby have typically presented themselves
not as furthering Jewish interests
but as furthering the interests of the society as a whole.
Neocons such as Richard Perle typically phrase their policy recommendations
as aimed at benefiting the US.
He does this despite evidence that he has a strong Jewish identity
and despite the fact that he has typical Jewish concerns, such as
anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and the welfare of Israel.
Perle poses as an American patriot despite
credible charges of spying for Israel,
writing reports for Israeli think tanks and op-eds for the Jerusalem Post,
and all the while having close personal relationships with Israeli leaders.


[For another example of this type of gift-giving, see


CFR Heavy Walter Russell Mead Says
Americans Love Israel Like Cherry Pie

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-06-20

[A very brief excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[Walter Russell] Mead is right about the polling
[showing that Americans support Israel].
But I [i.e., Weiss] say
this is a reflection of media distortion.
Let’s let all those Jacksonian divine Americans
see what is going on in the Occupied Territories,
which Mead of course elides here,
before they sign off.
As it is, the media give us a distorted view of the place and the politics.
Show the water those Palestinian kids are drinking.
Show the religious crazies on the ridgelines of Judea and Samaria.
I think
support would evaporate.

[In a later, 2008-10, piece, Weiss asks the very pointed question:]

When you look at Walter Russell Mead,
a three-barrelled Protestant minister’s son,
attacking Walt and Mearsheimer in Foreign Affairs,
how much is that a reflection of Mead’s need for employment at CFR,
which I am certain relies a lot on big Jewish donors?

Turning the Tables on the Israel-Firsters
by Michael Scheuer
Antiwar.com, 2008-07-16

[Paragraph numbers are added.]

Now that the dust has settled in
the spat between journalist Joe Klein and the ideologues at Commentary,
it is time to regret the ink spilled over the non-issue of “dual loyalties.”
The idea that there are U.S. citizens
who have equal loyalties to the United States and Israel
is passé.
American Israel-firsters have long since dropped
any pretense of loyalty to the United States
and its genuine national interests.
They have moved brazenly into the Israel first, last, and always camp.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Norman Podhoretz, Victor Davis Hanson,
the Rev. Franklin Graham, Alan Dershowitz, Rudy Giuliani, Douglas Feith,
the Rev. Rod Parsley, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, Bill Kristol,
the Rev. John Hagee,
and the thousands of wealthy supporters
of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
appear to care about the United States only so far as
Washington is willing to provide
immense, unending funding and the lives of young U.S. service personnel
to protect Israel.
These individuals and their all-for-Israel journals –
Commentary, National Review, the Weekly Standard,
and the Wall Street Journal
amount to nothing less than a fifth column
intent on involving 300 million Americans in other peoples’ religious wars,
making them pay and bleed to protect a nation in which
the United States has no genuine national security interest at stake.

The Israel-firsters’ success is, of course, the stuff of which legends are made.
Most recently, for example,
we heard President Bush echo
Sen. Lieberman’s insane and subversive contention that
the United States has a “duty” to ensure
the fulfilling of God’s millennia-old promise to Abraham
regarding the creation and survival of Israel.
Bush told the Knesset
all Americans are ready to endlessly bleed and pay to ensure Israel’s security.
And where does the president derive authority
to make such a commitment in the name of his countrymen?
From the Constitution?
On the basis of America’s dominant religion?
From – heaven forbid – a thoughtful, hardheaded analysis of U.S. interests?

No, Bush’s pledge was based on none of these.
Bush’s decision to more deeply involve America in the eternal Arab-Israeli war
was based on nothing less than
the corruption wrought on the American political system by
the Israel-firsters,
AIPAC’s enormous treasury, and
the lamentable but growing influence of
America’s leading evangelical Protestant preachers.

The Israel-firsters started the Iraq war
and now have the United States locked into an occupation of that country
that may not end in any of our lifetimes.
Unless Americans ignore the likes of
Hanson, Podhoretz, Lieberman, Woolsey, and Wolfowitz,
the cost in blood and treasure will ultimately bankrupt America.

AIPAC is a perfectly legal organization,
and the wealth of its members is channeled into reliable campaign contributions
for any candidate from either party
who will put Israel’s interests above America’s.
From McCain to Obama,
from Pelosi to Giuliani,
from Hillary Clinton to Vice President Cheney,
AIPAC pumps money to any and every American politician
who is willing to adopt an Israel-first policy.

Leading American Protestant evangelical preachers –
men like Hagee, Parsley, and Graham –
are the newest and perhaps most anti-American members of this fifth column.
They serve two purposes:
  1. to reinforce in the minds of their flocks
    the Bush-Lieberman absurdity that
    the United States has a “duty” to ensure Israel’s survival;

  2. to use religious rhetoric to steadily convince the Muslim world that
    U.S. leaders are interested only in taming – and if need be, destroying –

The reality and power of this anti-American, pro-Israel triangle –
Israel-first politicians, civil servants, and pundits;
AIPAC’s corrupting influence; and
the warmongering of major evangelical Protestant preachers –
is so obvious and palpable that the only way its members can blur reality is
to deny the triangle’s existence and identify their critics as anti-Semites.
Well, the time has come
to simply ignore these folks’ knee-jerk hurling of that epithet.
Indeed, the slur ought to understood for what it is:
a sure sign that the Israel-firsters know that
their fifth column would be destroyed in a minute
if their fellow Americans come to recognize that
their sons and daughters are dying in Iraq and soon elsewhere
to protect an Israeli state
whose existence is just as important to U.S. interests
as the creation of a Palestinian state –
that is, of no importance whatsoever.

American voters must start using the democratic process
to begin removing themselves from
the religious war known as the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Disengagement will take time, hard work,
and a steadfast commitment to the rule of law.
Three actions are well within the voters’ capability,
and their use would bring pressure on federal officials
to stop killing America’s children in wars between Arabs and Israelis.
  1. Voters should press federal representatives
    to end taxpayer funding for the National Endowment for Democracy
    and other such organizations.
    These organizations’ main function is to promote
    the fallacy that U.S. interests are served by making sure that Israel –
    “the embattled island of democracy in the Middle East” –
    is protected,
    and that the lives of American children should be joyfully spent
    to bring democracy to foreigners
    in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

  2. Voters should not vote for any candidate for federal office
    who accepts contributions from AIPAC
    or any other Israel-first organization.
    This decision would be an important step in beginning to sweep clean
    the Augean stable that is American politics.

  3. Voters of all faiths must press their religious leaders
    to regularly, publicly, and specifically denounce
    the evangelical Protestant preachers
    whose fire-and-brimstone support for Israel
    involves Americans in religious wars
    in which U.S. interests are not threatened.

Neutralizing the Israel-first fifth column must be done,
but it must be accomplished using legitimate democratic tools:
voting, lobbying, free speech, and support for candidates
pledged to keep America out of other peoples’ religious wars.
The invocation of the anti-Semite epithet by the Israel-firsters should be ignored.
To be silenced by the slurs of the Israel-firsters
is to ignominiously invite the end of American independence
by subordinating U.S. interests to those of a foreign nation,
as well as to forget the warning of the greatest American.
“If men are precluded from offering their sentiments
on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences
that can invite the consideration of mankind,”
George Washington said in March 1783,
“reason is of no use to us;
the freedom of speech may be taken away,
and, dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”
As long as the Israel-firsters can define the limits of acceptable public discourse,
Americans are on their way to the slaughter.

The Lobby Like No Other
Wants a War Like No Other

by Michael Scheuer
Antiwar.com, 2008-08-14

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Having watched John McCain and Barack Obama
resolutely pledge their allegiance –
and their countrymen’s lives and treasure –
to the defense of Israel
via AIPAC, the media, and personal meetings with Israeli leaders,
it is worth asking what could possibly drive these men
to so ardently commit America
to participation in other people’s religious wars.
This question is particularly important today
as the Bush administration and the Israel-firsters
continue to push for an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iran.

Let me say that I harbor no resentment over the actions of Israel’s leaders.
For more than 60 years,
they have knowingly made their country a pariah in the Arab and Islamic worlds,
just as the Palestinians have made themselves pariahs in much of the West.
This is, of course, the right of both parties,
but neither seems to want to face the consequences of their decisions.
With demographic realities and increasingly radical, well-armed Arabs
making them panicky about Israel’s security,
Israel’s leaders naturally to try to lock down as much U.S. support as possible.
Having consciously – if unwisely –
put all their eggs in the U.S. basket since the 1973 War,
Israel’s leaders must do everything possible
to protect their relationship with Washington.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq, it seems, was not enough for the Israel-firsters.
Now, according to Sen. Joseph Lieberman,
a U.S.-launched war on Iran is needed because
“the threat that the U.S. and Israel face from the Islamic Republic of Iran
is today greater than ever.”
Though based on
the fantasy that Ahmedinejad’s tin-pot regime
is a threat to the world’s only superpower,

this is a perfectly commonsense position
for Israel and its U.S.-citizen backers in AIPAC to champion.
In their view,
U.S. wars with Muslims are
the ultimate good for Israel.

Recall, if you will,
the perfectly accurate April 2008, words of Benjamin Netanyahu,
likely Israel’s next prime minister:

“We [Israel] are benefiting from one thing,
and that is
the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon,
and the American struggle in Iraq.”

[Sounds like two things to me.]
These wars, Netanyahu said, have
“swung American public opinion in our favor.”
How much more must Netanyahu and AIPAC believe that
a U.S. war with Iran would add to this “swing” in Israel’s favor?

My own anger falls not on Israel, then, or on Palestine, for that matter;
as I have written elsewhere,
America would do just fine and would be better off without either or both.
It falls rather on the lobbying efforts of AIPAC,
that organization’s blatant purchasing of fealty
from U.S. politicians in both parties,
and the media’s obsequious parroting of specious canards about
“Israel’s right to exist” and
“the duty of Americans to support an island of democracy in the Middle East.”

[In my opinion, Scheuer is technically right but morally wrong
on the question of “Israel’s right to exist”.
For a careful approach to this ultra-sensitive issue
by two experts who have both thought deeply about it
and are (evidently) capable of separating America’s interests from those of Israel,
see ¶C.1.Israel of Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby;
for their bottom line, click here.]

While few would question the right of AIPAC leaders to
lobby U.S. politicians, legally bribe them with campaign contributions,
or limit their right to speak as they please in public,
not matter how scurrilous or libelous their words,
I sometimes wonder if Americans have focused on
what AIPAC lobbies for
and what its acolytes in politics and the media support.

It is a commonplace to say that
lobbying is a pervasive activity in U.S. politics at all levels of government,
especially at the federal level.
People lobby for tax advantages for business or tax breaks for individuals;
for the right to own guns or laws to ban them;
for subsidies for agriculture or vouchers for private schools;
for universal health care or smaller government.
Across this diverse array of lobbyists there are two common threads:
  1. None are working to push the United States to participate
    in other peoples’ wars; and

  2. All are arguing for things that will – from their perspective –
    improve America, whether by making it
    richer, better protected, more competently educated,
    healthier, freer, etc.
The anti-gun lobby, for example,
is no less confident than the NRA and its affiliates
that they are working for the best interests of Americans.
One or the other is wrong,
but their activities are shaped by
their perception of what is best for America.

It is this last point
that separates the lobbyists working for and with AIPAC –
most of whom are U.S. citizens –
from almost all other U.S.-based lobbyists.
AIPAC does not lobby, bribe, and libel
to make Americans and America better off.
It lobbies solely, forthrightly, and cynically
to make Israel richer, better protected,
and able to do as it pleases in its relations with Muslim states.
AIPAC makes no pretense of doing things meant to benefit America;
its members take pride in seeking a goal that runs directly counter to
the economic welfare and physical security of almost all other U.S citizens
by seeking to keep them involved in a religious war
in which no U.S. national interest is at stake.

Now, there are a few other similar anti-American lobbies –
those for Armenia, Lebanon, Greece, etc. –
but AIPAC is clearly primus inter pares in this dastardly group.
And given that every AIPAC success
is a net loss for U.S. security and the U.S. Treasury,
it seems odd that our so-called political leaders
take orders and funds from this fundamentally anti-U.S. organization.
Odd or not, however, that is the reality.
Senators Obama and McCain have become AIPAC poster boys,
each strengthening his support for Israel
over the course of the current presidential campaign.
Obama’s position, in fact,
has changed so drastically in a pro-Israel direction
that the Illinois senator appears to have no mind of his own on this issue.

He has simply and obsequiously
adopted the Democrats’ traditional abject subservience
to their small but powerful pro-Israel constituency.

McCain is an Israel-firster of the deepest hue.
Coached by Joe Lieberman –
who argues there is a U.S. duty
to ensure God’s promise to Abraham about Israel is kept –
McCain is now considering
Republican Congressman Eric Cantor for his running mate.
Rep. Cantor, needless to say,
is eager to spend American blood and treasure to secure Israel.
Speaking in Israel, Cantor pushed the same false assertion
that is the staple of U.S. leaders in both parties.
“What befalls Jerusalem,” Cantor said,
“threatens the security of the United States and its allies worldwide.
That’s because Jerusalem and Israel are Ground Zero
in the global battle between
tyranny and democracy, radicalism and moderation, terrorism and freedom.”

This, of course, is nonsense of a high order,
and Lieberman and Cantor know it.
Both men are committed to Israel as a religious idea,
not because it has anything to do with U.S. security.
According to Lieberman,
“The rabbis say in the Talmud that
a lot of rabbinic law is to put a fence around the Torah
so you don’t get near to violating it.
Well, McCain has
a series of very clear-headed policies toward terrorism and Islamic extremism
[that put] extra layers behind his support for Israel.”
He also told a conference of Christians United for Israel
that he was pleased they recognized it was America’s duty to defend Israel,
blithely lying to them that
“President Washington and the Founding Fathers“
would support America fighting Israel’s wars.
Cantor, playing to both the Israel-firsters and their U.S. evangelical allies,
also has made clear where his primary loyalty lies:
“Jerusalem is not merely the capital of Israel
but the spiritual capital of Jews and Christians everywhere.
It’s the site of the First and Second Temples,
which housed the Holy of Holies,
and it’s the direction in which we Jews face when we pray.
This glorious City of David is bound to the Jewish people
by an undeniable 3,000-year historical link.”

My own view is that if God promised Palestine to the Israelis,
God is perfectly capable of keeping that promise,
and America is no way committed
to expend the lives of its soldier-children
in a war over conflicting interpretations of God’s word.
The Israelis and the Muslims should be perfectly free
to fight over whether Yahweh and Abraham or Allah and Mohammed are right,
and Americans should be perfectly free to draw the correct conclusion,
that the United States does not have a dog in this fight.
In addition,
there is a genuine constitutional question of church-state separation
on this issue.
Why should American taxpayers
have their earnings and children’s lives spent
to defend a theocracy in Israel
or, for that matter, to protect an Islamic theocracy in Saudi Arabia.?
(Imagine the howls of protest and torrents of church-state separation rhetoric from the media and both parties
if a congressman introduced a bill calling for
the U.S. to designate that
an amount equivalent to what’s spent to protect Israel and Saudi Arabia
be sent to the Vatican – a nation-state like Israel and Saudi Arabia –
to improve its defenses against
the now well-articulated threat from al-Qaeda and other Islamists.)

Objectively, three realities are clear:
  1. U.S. survival is not at stake in the Israeli-Muslim war;

  2. the taxes of Americans should not be spent to defend theocratic states; and

  3. holy books are insane tools to use as guides for U.S. foreign policy.
In America, however, these realities lie unspoken
because of the lobbying efforts of AIPAC
and the pro-Israel mantras of the politicians it purchases
with campaign contributions and promises of media exposure,
including McCain and Obama.
By their consistent anti-American actions,
AIPAC and the U.S. politicians who do its bidding
have fully validated the words of the real George Washington –
not the figment of Washington painted by Joe Lieberman.
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence,”
President Washington wrote in 1796,
“the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake,
since history and experience prove that
foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Biden and Israel
The Lobby Has Spoken
Counterpunch.org, 2008-09-18

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[I]t’s hard for the average American to believe
that Israeli interests could have such influence on a presidential election.
Israeli propaganda does an outstandingly good job of
diffusing any meaningful debate on the Middle East
or Israel’s role in shaping our foreign policies.
Whether by
defaming Jimmy Carter for daring to speak out or by censoring or
ignoring important scholastic books
such as “The Israel Lobby” by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer
[That book was not simply ignored.
It was savagely (and unjustly) panned by every review in the mainstream media.
Nothing could be more conclusive proof of
the toxic hold of Zionists over mainstream debate in America.]
Americans are kept ignorant of
just how important it is to please Israel in order to have
a real chance at occupying an elected post in Washington.
Every politician, newsman, and pundit knows that
you cannot be elected in Washington without
the blessing of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC),
known simply as “The Lobby” in Washington.

Under the Clinton administration,
the head of AIPAC had to resign after someone leaked a tape of him discussing
how AIPAC was negotiating with the president
about whom he should select for Secretary of State.
It is undeniably the most powerful foreign interest group in Washington,
and arguably the most powerful lobby in general.

Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Congress
and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations admitted that
“When it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict,
the terms of debate are so influenced by organized Jewish groups, like AIPAC, that

to be critical of Israel
is to deny oneself
the ability to succeed in American politics.”

'The American Left (Dailykos) Also Is Claimed by the Israel Lobby'
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-09-21

No. Va. lawmakers want more ties to Israel
On JCRC trip to Israel,
officials says Jewish state can help the commonwealth's economy

by Adam Kredo
Washington Jewish Week, 2008-09-24

[This is of interest as an example of
what Kevin MacDonald wrote about (2007-10-14-MacDonald-Psychology-of-Influence).
Here is an excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Some Virginia lawmakers say it’s time that the commonwealth does more
to strengthen economic ties with Israel.

“There are things Virginia has to gain from strengthening relations to Israel” including jobs and technology,
Virginia Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Fairfax) said from aboard a bus last week
as he was leaving the Golan Heights in Northern Israel.

Deeds was visiting Israel on

a 10-day mission organized by
the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
to give elected officials
an understanding of the Jewish homeland
and the significant issues surrounding Israel,

according to Debra Linick, the JCRC’s Northern Virginia liaison.

Unlike JCRC’s previous 22 missions, this one was the first time
the agency has exclusively hosted Virginia officials....

Deeds, who is planning to enter next year’s gubernatorial race,
said he will
aim to form connections within Israel’s booming technology market
as a means to increase jobs at home.


Linick said the JCRC had invited a “large group of officials,” with
the response so strong that a few had to be turned away.
Eleven participated in the mission,
along with JCRC staffers and lay leaders.

“We’re taking folks we think have a large voice” in government
and share the JCRC’s values of
promoting public policy issues
that are important to the local Jewish community.

Well into their third day of the trip, during the initial interviews,
some lawmakers said
their experiences have altered their perception of Israel,
mostly created by the media.

“People in Israel are peace loving,”
Deeds said.
“That’s the overwhelming perspective zooming through.”

[Note that,
at the same time the US provides Israel with extensive financial support
(see, e.g., Chapter 1 of M&W),
Americans desire that Israeli companies invest in the US.
I wonder if this seems strange to anyone besides me.]


Olmert's Claims Revive Israel Lobby Controversy
by Daniel Luban
Antiwar.com, 2009-01-14

The U.S. State Department fiercely denied
claims made by Ehud Olmert about
his influence over President George W. Bush,
in an incident that has stirred up old debates about
the role of the Israeli government and the so-called “Israel lobby”
in formulating Middle East policy in Washington.

On Monday [01-12],
Olmert claimed that he demanded and received
an immediate conversation with President Bush, during which
he convinced the president to
overrule the wishes of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
abstain from a United Nations resolution
calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

In response,
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Tuesday
called Olmert’s claims
“wholly inaccurate as to describing the situation,
just 100-percent, totally, completely not true.”


Lobby? What Lobby?
by Michael Scheuer
Antiwar.com, 2009-02-10

The full text of this article is shown, with emphasis added, here.

The War on J Street
By Daniel Luban
LobeLog, 2009-10-21

Why the Attacks on J Street?
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-10-26

Because they’re pro-peace, pro-American, and pro-Israel

J Street Runs in the Wrong Direction
by Michael Brendan Dougherty
American Conservative Blog, 2009-10-29

I was pretty positive about J Street when it launched 18 months ago.
And of course, on balance I prefer J Street to the bellicose AIPAC.
The former does not advocate that America launch wars (Iraq)
that are not in its interest to fight.

But J Street’s premises may be flawed.
This “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby exists for two reasons.
1) To give American Jews, most of them progressive,
a sane alternative to AIPAC.
2) To convince Americans, and American policymakers
that a two-state settlement is both desirable and–
contrary to other pro-Israel groups–
that it is achievable if only America really tries.

In a country that happens to control
the largest, best equipped, and most hubristic military apparatus in the world,
J Street finds itself banging on the table, shouting,
“Yes, we absolutely agree with AIPAC that
it is vital for America to protect Israel’s interests.
And yes, we agree that many Arab state actors are monsters.”
Then, in an embarrassed whisper, it adds
“We think there are diplomatic solutions that America should begin imposing.”
Finally, it concedes in footnotes to be released later, that
“No, we don’t think America should really threaten
to withhold its money or technology from Israel to accomplish any of this.”

I’m sorry. This won’t work.


The fix for Washington’s obsession with protecting Israel is not
a series of panel discussions on
what is really in Israel’s best interest.
Instead, our political class should focus on
what is in America’s best interest.

J Street’s problem is its internationalism.
In J Street’s view,
America is supposed to throw its weight around the region
toward a two-state solution.
Its supposed to stand up to the Israeli right.
Once America initiates this process, guides it, subsidizes it,
and perhaps defends it -
then America will reap some rewards.
In other words, J Street absolves Israel and Israelis
from responsibility for their own peace process.

My own view is that radical Palestinians may be just as aggrieved at
an American-imposed peace process,
as by an American-enabled Israeli occupation.
If by some miracle the dust ever settles in the Middle East,
it would be better for us
if our fingerprints were not discovered there.

My Problem with J Street
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2009-10-29

[An excerpt.]

I [Giraldi] believe that J Street is
just another Israel advocacy group
with a slightly more progressive and politically correct
and therefore acceptable message.
J Street wants carte blanche United States support for Israel
and, indeed, it might reasonably be described as
little more than a spin-off of the existing Israel Lobby
to make it more palatable to the liberal Democrats
that make up the Obama Administration.
It is one more voice pushing the same old agenda
with slightly different window dressing.
[T]he two pro-Israel lobbies clearly have the same overriding objective:
to preserve unlimited American support for the state of Israel,
not advancing the interests of the United States
except insofar as one assumes erroneously that
Tel Aviv’s and Washington’s interests are identical.
J Street calls continued massive US military aid to Israel
“an absolutely essential aspect of Israel’s security.”
If it is difficult to perceive
any pro-American element to the J Street program
it is because it is not about the United States at all –
it is about Israel.
J Street believes Washington should continue indefinitely
in its role as Israel’s patron, security guarantor, and financial supporter.

Moderate in America’s Jewish Lobby Causes a Stir
New York Times, 2009-10-31


The tensions and sharp disagreements
that have ripened among many American Jews
over President Obama’s approach to Middle East issues
were on public display here this week
as a fledgling Jewish group held its first convention.


The issue of
how much any American administration
should press an Israeli government to make concessions for peace

is at the heart of
delicate and long-unresolved questions among American Jews.
At the least, say the traditional supporters of Israel,
any disagreements should not be aired publicly.

At the height of the American-Israeli disagreement in June,
Aipac was able to get more than 300 members of Congress
to sign a resolution that in effect urged that
disagreements between Israel and the United States be dealt with privately.

On Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Lobby: A response to Peter Beinart
by Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2009-12-09


How much more evidence does one need?
By Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2010-02-10

Two and half years ago,
two political scientists published a book that said (p. 188):
“Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions
or says that
pro-Israel groups have significant influence over U.S. Middle East policy
stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite.
In fact, anyone who says that there is an Israel lobby
runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism,
even though AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents
are hardly bashful about describing their influence. ...
In effect, the lobby both boasts of its own power and
frequently attacks those who call attention to it.”

Over at The New Republic,
Leon Wieseltier has provided the latest example of this all-too-familiar tactic,
in the form of an incoherent and unwarranted smear of Andrew Sullivan.
Yglesias, Larison, and DeLong offer telling rebuttals.

[Also Greenwald, Luban, and a lengthy response by Sullivan himself.]

Where is the full-page letter in the NYT signed by prominent Jews
supporting Obama re settlements?

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.net, 2010-04-13

Israel Lobby Leadership Losing It
by Jim Lobe
Lobelog.com, 2010-04-15

Wish I'd said that ... (wait a minute ... I did!)
By Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2010-05-07

From the New Yorker profile of Haim Saban:

“His greatest concern, [Saban] says, is
to protect Israel,
by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship.
At a conference last fall in Israel,
Saban described his formula.
His ‘three ways to be influential in American politics,’
he said, were:
make donations to political parties,
establish think tanks, and
control media outlets.”

Presumably Abe Foxman will now denounce Saban
for peddling noxious anti-Semitic stereotypes about “Jewish influence.”
My view is different: I think Saban
is just a smart businessman who cares a lot about a single issue
and understands how the American system of interest group politics works.

Labels: , , ,

The Israel Lobby: The Book

The Parts, Chapters, and Sections of
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

  1. Introduction

    • In.1. The lobby and U.S. Middle East policy

    • In.2. The lobby’s modus operandi

    • In.3. Why is it so hard to talk about the Israel lobby?

    • In.4. How we make our case [Summary/Overview]

    • In.5. Those we learned from

    • In.6. A note on our sources

    • In.7. Conclusion

  2. The United States, Israel, and the Lobby

    1. The Great Benefactor

      • 1.1 Economic Aid

      • 1.2 Military Assistance

      • 1.3 Diplomatic Protection and Wartime Support

      • 1.4 Conclusion

    2. Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?

      • 2.1 Helping Contain the Soviet Bear

      • 2.2 From the Cold War to 9/11

      • 2.3 “Partners Against Terror”: The New Rationale

      • 2.4 Confronting Rogue States

      • 2.5 A Dubious Ally

      • 2.6 Conclusion

    3. A Dwindling Moral Case

      • 3.1 Backing the Underdog

      • 3.2 Aiding a Fellow Democracy

      • 3.3 Compensation for Past Crimes

      • 3.4 “Virtuous Israelis” versus “Evil Arabs”

      • 3.5 Camp David Myths

      • 3.6 Supporting Israel is God’s Will

      • 3.7 What Do the American People Want?

      • 3.8 Conclusion

    4. What is the “Israel Lobby”?

      • 4.1 Defining the Lobby

      • 4.2 The Role of American Jewry

      • 4.3 Unity In Diversity and the Norm Against Dissent

      • 4.4 The Lobby Moves Right

      • 4.5 The Role of the Neoconservatives

      • 4.6 The Christian Zionists

      • 4.7 The Lobby’s Source of Power

      • 4.8 The (Modest) Impact of Oil

      • 4.9 The Question of “Dual Loyalty”

      • 4.10 Conclusion

    5. Guiding the Policy Process

      • 5.1 Holding Sway on Capitol Hill

      • 5.2 The Making of Pro-Israeli Presidents

      • 5.3 Keeping the Administration in Line

      • 5.4 Conclusion

    6. Dominating Public Discourse

      • 6.1 The Media Is the Message

      • 6.2 Think Tanks That Think One Way

      • 6.3 Policing Academia

      • 6.4 Objectionable Tactics

      • 6.5 The “New Anti-Semitism”

      • 6.6 The Great Silencer

      • 6.7 Conclusion

  3. The Lobby in Action

    1. The Lobby Versus the Palestinians

      • 7.1 The Lobby Humiliates Bush

      • 7.2 “The More Things Change ...”

      • 7.3 Unilateralism In, Road Map Out

      • 7.4 Arafat Dies and Nothing Changes

      • 7.5 Rice Gets “Powellized”

      • 7.6 Conclusion

    2. Iraq and Dreams of Transforming the Middle East

      • 8.1 Israel and the Iraq War

      • 8.2 The Lobby and the Iraq War

      • 8.3 Selling the War to a Skeptical America

      • 8.4 Fixing the Intelligence on Iraq

      • 8.5 Was Iraq a War For Oil?

      • 8.6 Dreams of Regional Trasnformation

      • 8.7 The Lobby’s Role in Remaking the Middle East

      • 8.8 Conclusion

    3. Taking Aim at Syria

      • 9.1 The Syrian Threat

      • 9.2 Israel and the Golan Heights

      • 9.3 Jerusalem and Damascus after September 11

      • 9.4 The Lobby and Damascus after 9/11

      • 9.5 Why Did Bush Waver?

      • 9.6 Conclusion

    4. Iran in the Crosshairs

      • 10.1 Confrontation Or Conciliation?

      • 10.2 The Clinton Administration and Dual Containment

      • 10.3 The Bush Administration and Regime Change

      • 10.4 Rising To Israel’s Defense

      • 10.5 The Alternatives

      • 10.6 The Least Bad Option

      • 10.7 Conclusion

    5. The Lobby and the Second Lebanon War

      • 11.1 Prewar Planning

      • 11.2 “The Mighty Edifice of Support”

      • 11.3 Strategic Folly

      • 11.4 Damage to U.S. Interests

      • 11.5 Breaking the Laws of War

      • 11.6 The Lobby in Overdrive

      • 11.7 The American Public and Lebanon

      • 11.8 Doing America’s Bidding?

      • 11.9 Conclusion

  4. Conclusion: What is to be Done?

[Here are some excerpts from
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt.

Section and paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.
The labeling of paragraphs in some sections (like §In.4)
is not strictly “one-up” numerical,
but rather attempts to reflect the content of each paragraph.]


Section In.4
How We Make Our Case

To make our case, we have to accomplish three tasks.
Specifically, we have to convince readers that
  1. the United States provides Israel with
    extraordinary material aid and diplomatic support,

  2. the lobby is the principal reason for that support, and

  3. this uncritical and unconditional relationship
    is not in the American national interest.

Chapter 1 (“The Great Benefactor”) addresses the first issue directly,
by describing the economic and military aid
that the United States gives to Israel,
as well as the diplomatic backing
that Washington has provided in peace and in war.
Subsequent chapters also discuss
the different elements of U.S. Middle East policy
that have been designed in whole or in part
to benefit Israel vis-à-vis its principal rivals.

Chapters 2 and 3 assess the main arguments that are usually invoked
to justify or explain
the exceptional amount of support that Israel receives from the United States.
This critical assessment is necessary for methodological reasons:
to properly assess the impact of the Israel lobby,
we have to examine other possible explanations that might account for
the “special relationship” that now exists between the two countries.

In Chapter 2 (“Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?”),
we examine the familiar argument that
Israel deserves lavish support
because it is a valuable strategic asset.
We show that although Israel may have been an asset during the Cold War,
it is now increasingly a strategic liability.
Backing Israel so strongly helps fuel America’s terrorism problem
and makes it harder for the United States
to address the other problems it faces in the Middle East.
Unconditional support for Israel also
complicates U.S. relations with a number of other countries around the world,
thereby imposing additional costs on the United States.
Yet even though the costs of backing Israel have risen
while the benefits have declined,
American support continues to increase.
This situation suggests that something other than strategic imperatives
is at work.

Chapter 3 (“A Dwindling Moral Case”> examines the different moral rationales
that Israelis and their American supporters often use
to explain U.S. support for the Jewish state.
In particular, we consider the claim that the United States backs Israel
because of shared “democratic values,”
because Israel is a weak and vulnerable David facing a powerful Arab Goliath,
because its past and present conduct
is more ethical than its adversaries’ behavior, or
because it has always sought peace while its neighbors always chose war.
This assessment is necessary
not because we have any animus toward Israel
or because we think its conduct is worse than that of other states,
but because these essentially moral claims are so frequently used
to explain why the United States should give Israel exceptional levels of aid.
We conclude that while there is a strong moral case for Israel’s existence,
the moral case for giving it such generous and largely unconditional support
is not compelling.
Once again,
this juxtaposition of a dwindling moral case
and ever-increasing U.S. backing
suggests that something else must be at work.

Having established that neither strategic interests nor moral rationales
can fully explain U.S. support for Israel,
we turn our attention to that “something else.”
Chapter 4 (“What is the ‘Israel Lobby’?”)
identifies the lobby’s different components
and describes how this loose coalition has evolved.
We stress that it is not a single unified movement,
that its different elements sometimes disagree on certain issues,
and that it includes both Jews and non-Jews,
including the so-called Christian Zionists.
We also show how some of the most important organizations in the lobby
have drifted rightward over time
and are increasingly unrepresentative of
the larger populations on whose behalf they often claim to speak.

This chapter also considers whether
Arab-American groups, the so-called oil lobby, or wealthy Arab oil producers
are either a significant counterweight to the Israel lobby
or even the real driving forces behind U.S. Middle East policy.
Many people seem to believe, for example,
that the invasion of Iraq was mostly about oil and
that corporate oil interests were the primary movers
behind the U.S. decision to attack that country.
This is not the case:
although access to oil is obviously an important U.S. interest,
there are good reasons why
Arab-Americans, oil companies, and the Saudi royal family
wield far less influence on U.S. foreign policy than the Israel lobby does.

In Chapter 5 (“Guiding the Policy Process”)
and Chapter 6 (“Dominating Public Discourse”),
we describe the different strategies that groups in the lobby use
in order to advance Israel’s interests in the United States.
In addition to direct lobbying on Capitol Hill,
the lobby rewards or punishes politicians who are sympathetic to their views.
Equally important, the lobby has gone to considerable lengths to shape public discourse about Israel
by putting pressure on the media and academia
and by establishing a tangible presence in
influential foreign policy think tanks.
Efforts to shape public perceptions often include
charging critics of Israel with anti-Semitism,
a tactic designed to discredit and marginalize
anyone who challenges the current relationship.

These tasks accomplished,
Part II traces the lobby’s role in shaping recent U.S. Middle East policy.
Our argument, it should be emphasized,
is not that the lobby is the only factor
that influences U.S. decision making in these issues.
It is not omnipotent, so it does not get its way on every issue.
But it is very effective
in shaping U.S. policy toward Israel and the surrounding region
in ways that are intended to benefit Israel—
and believed also to benefit the United States.
Unfortunately, the policies it has successfully encouraged
have actually done considerable harm to U.S. interests
and have been harmful to Israel as well.

Following a brief introduction to set the stage,
Chapter 7 (“The Lobby Versus the Palestinians”) shows how
the United States has consistently backed
Israel’s efforts to quell or limit the Palestinians’ national aspirations.
Even when American presidents put pressure on Israel to make concessions
or try to distance the United States from Israel’s policies—
as President George W. Bush has attempted to do
on several occasions since September 11—
the lobby intervenes and brings them back into line.
The result has been
  • a worsening image for the United States,

  • continued suffering on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, and

  • a growing radicalization among the Palestinians.
None of these trends is in America’s or Israel’s interest.

In Chapter 8 (“Iraq and Dreams of Transforming the Middle East”),
we show how
the lobby—and especially the neoconservatives within it—
was the principal driving force
behind the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
We emphasize that the lobby did not cause the war by itself.
The September 11 attacks
had a profound impact on the Bush administration’s foreign policy
and the decision to topple Saddam Hussein.
But absent the lobby’s influence,
there almost certainly would not have been a war.
The lobby was a necessary but not sufficient condition
for a war that is a strategic disaster for the United States
and a boon for Iran, Israel’s serious regional adversary.

Chapter 9 (“Taking Aim at Syria”)
describes the evolution of America’s difficult relationship
with the Assad regime in Syria.
We document how the lobby has pushed Washington
to adopt confrontational policies toward Syria
(including occasional threats of regime change)
when doing so was what the Israeli government wanted.
The United States and Syria would not be allies
if key groups in the lobby were less influential,
but the United States would have taken a much less confrontational approach
and might even be cooperating with Syria in a number of limited but useful ways.
Indeed, absent the lobby,
there might already be a peace treaty between Israel and Syria,
and Damascus might not be backing Hezbollah in Lebanon,
which would be good for both Washington and Jerusalem.

In Chapter 10 (“Iran in the Crosshairs”),
we trace the lobby’s role in U.S. policy toward Iran.
Washington and Tehran have had difficult relations
since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah,
and Israel has come to see Iran as its most serious adversary,
in light of its nuclear ambitions and its support for groups like Hezbollah.
Israel and the lobby
have repeatedly pushed the United States to go after Iran
and have acted to derail several earlier opportunities for détente.
The result, unfortunately, is that
Iran’s nuclear ambitions have increased
and more extreme elements (such as current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad)
have come to power,
making a difficult situation worse.

Lebanon is the subject of Chapter 11 (“The Lobby and the Second Lebanon War”),
and the pattern is much the same.
We argue that
Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s unjustified provocation in the summer of 2006
was both strategically foolish and morally wrong,
yet the lobby’s influence made it hard for U.S. officials
to do anything except strongly back Israel.
This case offers yet another classic illustration of the lobby’s influence on American and Israeli interests:
by making it hard for U.S. policy makers to step back and give their Israeli counterparts honest and critical advice,
the lobby facilitated a policy that
  • further tarnished America’s image,

  • weakened the democratically elected regime in Beirut, and

  • strengthened Hezbollah.

The final chapter (“What Is to Be Done?”)
explores how this unfortunate situation might be improved.
We begin by identifying America’s core Middle East interests
and then sketch the essential principles of a strategy—
which we term offshore balancing
that could defend these interests more effectively.
We do not call for abandoning the U.S. commitment to Israel—
indeed, we explicitly endorse coming to Israel’s aid
if its survival were ever in jeopardy.
But we argue that
it is time to treat Israel like a normal country
and to make U.S. aid conditional on
  • an end to the occupation and

  • Israel’s willingness to conform its policies to American interests.
Accomplishing this shift requires
addressing the political power of the lobby and its current policy agenda,
and we offer several suggestions for
how the power of the lobby might be modified
to make its influence more beneficial
for the United States and Israel alike.

What Is To Be Done?

In Part I of this book, we argued that
strategic and moral considerations could neither explain nor justify
the current level of U.S. support for Israel.

Nor could they account for the largely unconditional nature of that support,
or for America’s willingness to conduct its foreign policy
in ways that are intended to safeguard Israel.
The main explanation for this anomalous situation, we suggested, is
the influence of the Israel lobby.
Like other special interest groups,
the individuals and organizations that make up the lobby
engage in a number of legitimate political activities,
in their case intended to push U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.
Some parts of the lobby also employ more objectionable tactics,
such as attempting to silence or smear
anyone who challenges the lobby’s role or criticizes Israel’s actions.
Although the lobby does not get everything it wants,
it has been remarkably successful in achieving its basic aims.

In Part II, we traced the lobby’s impact on U.S. Middle East policy
and argued that its influence
has been unintentionally harmful to the United States and Israel alike.
Washington’s reflexive support for Israel has
fueled anti-Americanism throughout the Arab and Islamic world and
undermined the U.S. image in many other countries as well.
The lobby has made it difficult for U.S. leaders to pressure Israel,
thereby prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This situation gives Islamic terrorists a powerful recruiting tool
and contributes to the growth of Islamic radicalism.
Turning a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear programs and human rights abuses
has made the United States look hypocritical
when it criticizes other countries on these grounds,
and it has undermined
American efforts to encourage political reform
throughout the Arab and Islamic world.

The lobby’s influence helped lead the United States into a disastrous war in Iraq
and has hamstrung efforts to deal with Syria and Iran.
It also encouraged the United States to back
Israel’s ill-conceived assault on Lebanon, a campaign that
strengthened Hezbollah,
drove Syria and Iran closer together, and
further tarnished America’s global image.
The lobby bears considerable, though not complete, responsibility
for each of these developments,
and none of them was good for the United States.
The bottom line is hard to escape:
although America’s problems in the Middle East would not disappear
if the lobby were less influential,
U.S. leaders would find it easier to explore alternative approaches
and be more likely to adopt policies more in line with American interests.

[C.0.4 is omitted.]

What is to be done?
To reverse the damage that recent U.S. policies have inflicted,
a new strategy is clearly needed.
But developing and implementing a different approach means
finding ways to address the power of the lobby.
Charting a fresh course will therefore require
  1. Identifying U.S. interests in the Middle East [§C.1]

  2. Outlining a strategy to protect those interests [§C.2]

  3. Developing a new relationship with Israel [§C.3]

  4. Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution [§C.4]

  5. Transforming the lobby into a constructive force [§C.5]

Let us consider each of these steps.

Section C.1
What Are U.S. Interests?


The overriding goal of U.S. foreign policy
is to
ensure the safety and prosperity of the American people.

In pursuit of that end,
the United States has always considered
the security of the Western hemisphere to be of paramount importance.
In recent decades,
policy makers have also considered three other regions of the world
to contain strategic interests important enough to fight and die for:
Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf.
These regions are important because they contain
either concentrations of power or critical natural resources,
and who controls them
has profound effects on the global balance of power.

The United States has three distinct interests in the Middle East.

Because this region contains a large percentage of global energy supplies,
the most important interest is
maintaining access to the oil and natural gas located in the Persian Gulf.
This objective does not require the United States to control the region itself;
it merely needs to ensure that
no other country
is in a position to keep Middle East oil from reaching the world market.
To do this, the United States has long sought
to prevent any local power from establishing hegemony in the Gulf and
to deter outside powers from establishing control of the region.

A second strategic interest is
discouraging Middle Eastern states
from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

As discussed in Section 2.4,
the risk here is not the remote possibility of
deliberate nuclear attack,
nuclear blackmail, or
a deliberate “nuclear handoff” to terrorists,
because such threats are not credible
in light of America’s own nuclear deterrent.
Rather, the United States opposes the spread of WMD in the region
because it would make it more difficult to project power into the region
and thus might complicate U.S. efforts to keep Middle East oil flowing.
WMD proliferation also increases the dangers
of accidental or unauthorized nuclear use.
Given the potential for instability in some countries in the area,
it also raises the risk that
nuclear weapons or other WMD might fall into the wrong hands
in the event of a coup or revolt,
or be stolen by terrorists from poorly guarded facilities.
For all these reasons,
inhibiting the spread of WMD in the region is an important U.S. objective.

Third, the United States has an obvious interest in
reducing anti-American terrorism.
This goal requires
dismantling existing terrorist networks that threaten the United States
and preventing new terror groups from emerging.
Both objectives are furthered by
cooperating extensively and effectively with countries in the region,
mostly in terms of intelligence sharing and other law enforcement activities.
It is also imperative that the United States take all feasible steps
to prevent groups like al Qaeda from gaining access to any form of WMD.
Terrorists armed with WMD
would be more difficult to deter than
states with WMD,
and they are likely to use them against America or its allies.
Encouraging political reform and greater democratic participation
can assist this goal as well—
which in turn requires good relations with key regional powers—
although the United States should be wary of rapid transformation
and certainly
should not try to spread democracy at the point of a gun.

Although we believe that America should support Israel’s existence,
Israel’s security is ultimately
not of critical strategic importance to the United States.
In the event that Israel was conquered—
which is extremely unlikely
given its considerable military power and its robust nuclear deterrence—
neither America’s territorial integrity, its military power,
its economic prosperity, nor its core political values
would be jeopardized.
By contrast,
if oil exports from the Persian Gulf oil were significantly reduced,
the effects on America’s well-being would be profound.

The United States does not support Israel’s existence
because it makes Americans more secure, but rather
because Americans recognize the long history of Jewish suffering
and believe that it is desirable for the Jewish people to have their own state.
As we have noted repeatedly,
there is a strong moral case for supporting Israel’s existence,
and we believe

the United States
should remain committed to coming to Israel’s aid
if its survival were in jeopardy.

But Americans should do this
because they think it is morally appropriate,
not because it is vital to their own security.

Section C.2
A Different Strategy: The Case for “Offshore Balancing”

Since 9/11, the United States has pursued
a policy of regional transformation in the Middle East.
In pursuit of this remarkably ambitious strategy,
the Bush administration has kept large numbers of American troops in the region,
something the United States never did during the Cold War.
This misguided policy has helped fuel America’s terrorism problem
and led to the ongoing debacle in Iraq.
It has also done serious damage to the United States’ reputation around the world,
including its relationship with European and Arab allies.

America would be best served if it abandoned regional transformation
and adopted a strategy of offshore balancing.
This strategy would be less ambitious in scope
but much more effective at protecting U.S. interests in the Middle East.
In this strategy, the United States would

deploy its military power—especially its ground forces—abroad
only when there are direct threats to vital U.S. interests

only when local actors cannot handle these threats on their own.

Washington would remain diplomatically engaged under this approach,
relying on air and naval power
to signal its continued commitment to the region and
to provide the capacity to respond quickly to unexpected threats.
It would also maintain a robust intervention capability,
along the lines of the original Rapid Deployment Force,
whose units were stationed over the horizon or in the United States [CONUS].

Offshore balancing is America’s traditional grand strategy
was a key component of U.S. Middle East policy for much of the Cold War.
The United States did not try to garrison the region
and never attempted to transform it along democratic lines.
it sought to maintain a regional balance of power
by backing various local allies and
by developing the capacity to intervene directly
if the local balance of power broke down.
The United States built the Rapid Deployment Force
to deter or defeat a Soviet attempt to seize the oil-rich Persian Gulf,
and Washington tilted toward Iraq in the 1980s
to help contain revolutionary Iran.
But when Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait in 1990
threatened to tilt the local balance of power in Saddam’s favor,
the United States assembled a multinational coalition
and sent a large army to smash Saddam’s military machine and liberate Kuwait.

Offshore balancing is the right strategy for at least three reasons.

it markedly reduces, but does not eliminate,
the chances that the United States will get involved in
bloody and costly wars like Iraq.

Not only does this strategy
categorically reject using military force to reshape the Middle East,
it also recognizes that
the United States does not need to control this vitally important region;
it merely needs to ensure that no other country does.

Toward that end, the strategy calls for
husbanding U.S. resources and relying primarily on
local allies to contain their dangerous neighbors.
As an offshore balancer,
the United States intervenes only as a matter of last resort.
And when it does,
it finishes the job as quickly as possible and then moves back offshore.

offshore balancing will ameliorate America’s terrorism problem.
One of the key lessons of the twentieth century is that
nationalism and other forms of local identity
remain intensely powerful political forces,
and foreign occupiers invariably generate fierce resistances.
[Walt cites Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.]
By keeping U.S. military forces over the horizon until they are needed,
offshore balancing minimizes the resentment created
when American troops are permanently stationed on Arab soil.
This resentment often manifests itself in terrorism or even
large-scale insurgencies directed at the United States.

Third, unlike regional transformation,
offshore balancing gives states like Iran and Syria
less reason to worry about an American attack
and thus less reason to acquire WMD.

The need to deter U.S. intervention
is one reason Iran has sought a nuclear capability,
and convincing Tehran to reverse course will require Washington to
address Iran’s legitimate security concerns and to
refrain from issuing overt threats.
The United States cannot afford to disengage completely from the Middle East,
but a strategy of offshore balancing
will make American involvement less threatening to states in the region
and might even encourage some of our current adversaries to seek our help.
Instead of lumping potential foes together in an “axis of evil”
and encouraging them to join forces against us,
offshore balancing facilitates a strategy of divide and conquer.
Because U.S. interests are served so long as
no hostile state or coalition
is able to threaten a vital region such as the Persian Gulf,
this basic approach makes good strategic sense.

In effect, a strategy of offshore balancing would
reverse virtually all of America’s current regional policies.
Instead of continuing the fruitless effort
to transform Iraq into a multiethnic and multisectarian democracy,
the United States would withdraw as soon as possible and focus on
containing the regional consequences of its foolhardy decision to invade.
Instead of trying to topple the Assad regime in Syria,
the United States would push Israel to give up the Golan Heights
in exchange for a formal peace treaty.
Not only would this bring Syria into the ranks of Arab countries
that have formally accepted Israel’s existence,
but it would isolate Hezbollah in Lebanon,
drive a wedge between Syria and Iran, and
reduce Iran’s ability to aid Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.
It would also encourage Damascus
to help the United States deal with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Finally, instead of threatening Iran with preventive war—
an approach that fuels Iran’s desire for WMD
and allows President Ahmadinejad to use nationalist sentiment
to deflect popular discontent—
the United States would try to
cut a deal on Iran’s nuclear ambitions
and put its hard-line leaders on the defensive.
This approach would not eliminate
all of the problems that the United States currently faces in the region,
but it would be better for America and Israel
than the policies endorsed by most groups in the lobby.
We have tried their approach, and its failure is plain to see.

Section C.3
A New Relationship: Treat Israel as a Normal State

But what about Israel?
What does offshore balancing say about U.S. relations with Israel,
especially since it is of little strategic value for America?

The Jewish state is sixty years old,
and its existence is now recognized and accepted
by almost all countries in the world.
Its economy is developing rapidly and most Israelis are increasingly prosperous,
even though its political system currently seems
paralyzed by internal divisions,
troubled by corruption,
and rocked by repeated scandals.
It is time for the United States to treat Israel not as a special case
but as a normal state,
and to deal with it much as it deals with any other country.
In other words,
the United States should support Israel’s continued existence—
just as it supports the existence of France, Thailand, or Mexico—
and Washington should be prepared to intervene
if Israel’ survival were ever threatened.

Treating Israel as a normal state means

no longer
pretending that
Israel’s and America’s interests are identical
, or
acting as if Israel deserves steadfast U.S. support
no matter what it does.

When Israel acts in ways that the United States deems desirable,
it should have American backing.
When it does not, Israel should expect to face U.S. opposition,
just as other states do.
It also implies that the United States should gradually wean Israel
from the economic and military aid that it currently provides.
Israel is now an advanced economy, and it will become even more so
once it achieves full peace with its neighbors
and reaches a final settlement with the Palestinians.

The United States would continue to trade with Israel, of course,
and American and Israeli investors would undoubtedly continue
to finance enterprises in each other’s countries.
Cultural, educational, and scientific exchanges
would continue as they do today,
and for the same reasons that the United States
has extensive social connections with many other countries.
The special personal and family connections between Israelis and Americans
would remain intact as well.
U.S. arms manufacturers would still be able to sell arms to Israel
(as they do to other states in the region, subject to the relevant U.S. laws),
and Washington and Jerusalem
would undoubtedly share intelligence information
and maintain other mutually beneficial forms of security cooperation.
But there is little reason to continue
the handouts that American taxpayers have provided since the early 1970s,
especially when there are many countries that have greater needs.
U.S. aid is indirectly subsidizing
activities that are not in its national interest.
Although the United States may have to offer some additional support
in order to persuade Israel to grant the Palestinians a viable state,
treating Israel as a normal country
should eventually lead to a dramatic reduction in U.S. assistance.

Section C.4
Ending the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Above all,
the United States should use its considerable leverage
to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end.

As the bipartisan Iraq Study Group noted in December 2006,
“There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States
to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts:
Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment
to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine ...
The United States does its ally Israel no favors
in avoiding direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

U.S. leaders have been engaged in virtually every aspect of the peace process,
but they have never used the full leverage at their disposal
to push the process forward.

While reaffirming
its commitment to Israel’s security within its pre-1967 borders,
the United States should make it clear that
it is dead set against Israel’s expansionist settlements policy—
including the land-grabbing “security fence”—
and that
it believes this policy is not in America’s or Israel’s long-term interests.

[C.4.3 (“The Deal”)]
This approach means
abandoning the Bush administration’s moribund Road Map
(which emphasizes a time table for negotiations) and instead
laying out America’s own vision for what a just peace would entail.
In particular,

the United States should make it clear that
Israel must withdraw from
almost all of the territories it occupied in June 1967

in exchange for
a full peace.
Israel and the Palestinians will also have to reach agreement on
the rights of displaced Palestinians
to return to the lands they fled [sic] in 1948.
Allowing this “right” to be exercised in full
would threaten Israel’s identity and is clearly infeasible.
But the basic principle is both
an essential issue of justice and
an issue on which the Palestinians will not compromise
save in the context of a final settlement.
To resolve this dilemma,
Israel will have to acknowledge a “right” of return—
in effect acknowledging that
Israel’s creation involved the violation of Palestinian rights—
and the Palestinians will have to agree to
renounce this right in perpetuity
in exchange for an appropriate level of compensation.

The United States and the European Union could organize and finance
a generous program of reconstruction aid to compensate the Palestinians,
which would terminate all claims for their actual return into
what is now and will forever remain Israeli territory.

It is sometimes said that Israel cannot make such concessions,
because it is small and vulnerable and would be even more so
were it to grant the Palestinians a viable state.
But this familiar argument ignores
how much Israel’s strategic situation has changed since its early years
(when, we should not forget,
it still managed to defeat its various adversaries,
and with little assistance from the United States).
Israel is far more secure now than it was
when it first occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in June 1967.
Israel’s defense spending in that year was less than half
the combined defense expenditures of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria;
today, Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan,
Iraq is occupied by the United States
and has little or no military power of its own,
and Israel’s defense budget is greater than Iran and Syria’s combined.
Israel’s adversaries used to get substantial military aid from the Soviet Union; today, that superpower is gone
and Israel’s ties to the United States have grown.
Israel had no usable nuclear weapons in 1967;
today it has perhaps two hundred.

Within the 1967 borders, in short,
Israel is more secure than it has ever been,
and it is its continued presence in the Occupied Territories—
as well as the Golan Heights—
that creates a serious security problem for Israel,
primarily in the form of terrorist violence.

Israel’s supporters in the United States are doing it no favors
by pressing Washington to continue subsidizing the occupation.

Some Israelis and Americans argue that the converse is true,
that Israel’s security situation is more perilous today
than at any time since 1967.
In particular, they argue that
Islamic groups like Hamas and Hezbollah
remain dedicated to Israel’s destruction
and are strongly backed by Syria and Iran,
thereby creating a potentially lethal threat.
There are two obvious responses to this line of argument.
First, this view overstates the threat that terrorism imposes to Israel—
it is clearly a problem but not an existential threat—
and, as discussed in Chapters 2 and 10,
it also exaggerates the threat that Iranian WMD represent.
Second, and more important,
ending the occupation would also help divide and defuse
the coalition of forces that doomsayers now see arrayed against Israel.

Syria has made it clear it will make peace if it regains the Golan,
and once it has its land back,
it has promised to cut off support for Hezbollah and Hamas.
Ending the occupation and helping create a viable Palestinian state
will deprive Iran of local sympathizers
and help turn groups like Hamas or Islamic Jihad
from heroic defenders of a national cause
into outdated obstacles to progress and prosperity.

The United States has ample justification for pressuring Israel to cut this deal:
so long as it is bankrolling Israel,
and jeopardizing its own security by doing so,
it is entitled to say what it is willing to support
and what it is going to oppose.
The Clinton parameters, laid out in December 2000
identify the basic outlines of a settlement
and offer the best baseline for new negotiations,
and President Bush and his successor
should make it clear that this is our starting point.
If a final status agreement can be reached,
then the United States and the European Union
should be willing to subsidize the news arrangements generously
and help Israeli and Palestinian leaders deal with
the rejectionists on both sides.

Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
would contribute to America’s national interests in another way.
Despite its military prowess and geographic location,
Israel’s strategic value to the United States is reduced by
its own pariah status within the region.
So long as the Palestinians are denied a state,
Israel’s isolation prevents it from participating
whenever the United States is trying to assemble a “coalition of the willing.”
If the conflict were resolved
and normal relations developed between Israel and the Arab world—
as the current Arab League peace proposal envisions—
then the United States would not pay a diplomatic price for backing Israel,
and Israel would be able to join forces
with the United States and its Arab allies
when serious regional threats emerged.
If the conflict were resolved, in short,
Israel might become the sort of strategic asset
that its supporters often claim it is.


If Israel remains unwilling to grant the Palestinians a viable state—
or if it tries to impose an unjust solution unilaterally—
the United States should curtail its economic and military support.

It should do so not because it bears Israel any ill will
but because it recognizes that
the occupation is bad for the United States
and contrary to America’s political values.
Consistent with the strategy of offshore balancing,
the United States would base its actions on its own self-interest
rather than adhere to a blind allegiance to an uncooperative partner.
In effect,

the United States should give Israel a choice:
end its self-defeating occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
and remain a close U.S. ally,

remain a colonial power on its own.

This step is not as radical as it might sound:
the United States would simply be dealing with Israel
the same way that it has dealt with other colonial democracies in the past.
For example,
the United States pushed Britain and France
to give up their colonial empires in the early years of the Cold War
and forced them (and Israel) to withdraw from Egyptian territory
following the 1956 Suez War.
The United States has also played hardball with plenty of other countries—
including close allies like Japan, Germany, and South Korea—
when it was in its interest to do so.
As discussed in Chapter 7, public opinion polls confirm that
the American people would support
a president who took a harder line toward Israel,
if doing so were necessary to achieve a just and enduring peace.

This policy would undoubtedly be anathema to most—
though perhaps not all—elements in the lobby
and it would probably anger some other Americans as well.
Moreover, present circumstances are hardly promising,
given the violent divisions within the Palestinian community,
the political weakness of Israel’s current leaders,
the Bush administration’s abysmal track record in the region, and
the eroding support for a two-state solution within Israel itself.
Even some of the staunches supporters of a negotiated two-state solution
now lament that
“the idea that
negotiations conducted bilaterally between Israelis and Palestinians
somehow can produce a final agreement
is dead.”

But the question must be asked:
What is the alternative?
What vision of the future do hard-line defenders of Israel have to offer instead?

Given present circumstances,
there are three possible alternatives to the two-state solution sketched above.

Israel could expel the Palestinians
from its pre-1967 lands and from the Occupied Territories,
thereby preserving its Jewish character
through an over act of ethnic cleansing.
Although a few Israeli hard-liners—
including Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman
have advocated variants on this approach,
to do so would be a crime against humanity and
no genuine friend of Israel could support such a heinous course of action.
If this is what opponents of a two-state solution are advocating,
they should say so explicitly.
This form of ethnic cleansing would not end the conflict, however;
it would merely reinforce the Palestinians’ desire for vengeance
and strengthen those extremists who still reject Israel’s right to exist.

instead of separate Jewish and Palestinian states living side by side,
Mandate Palestine could become a democratic binational state
in which both peoples enjoyed equal political rights.
This solution has been suggested by a handful of Jews
and a growing number of Israeli Arabs.
The practical obstacles to this option are daunting, however,
and binational states do not have an encouraging track record.
This option also means abandoning the original Zionist vision of a Jewish state.
There is little reason to think that
Israel’s Jewish citizens would voluntarily accept this solution,
and one can also safely assume that individuals and groups in the lobby
would have virtually no interest in this outcome.
We do not believe it is a feasible or appropriate solution ourselves.

The final option is some form of apartheid,
whereby Israel continues to increase its control over the Occupied Territories
but allows the Palestinians to exercise limited autonomy
in a set of disconnected and economically crippled statelets.
Israelis invariably bristle at the comparison to white rule in South Africa,
but that is the future they face
if they try to control all of Mandate Palestine
while denying full political rights to an Arab population
that will soon outnumber the Jewish population in the entirety of the land.
In any case, the apartheid option is not a viable long-term solution either,
because it is morally repugnant and
because the Palestinians will continue to resist
until they get a state of their own.
This situation will force Israel to escalate the repressive policies
that have already
cost it significant blood and treasure,
encouraged political corruption, and
badly tarnished its global image.

These possibilities are the only alternatives to a two-state solution,
and no one who wishes Israel well
should be enthusiastic about any of them.
Given the harm that this conflict is inflicting on Israel,
the United States, and especially the Palestinians,
it is in everyone’s interest to end this tragedy once and for all.
Put differently,
resolving this long and bitter conflict
should not be seen as a desirable option
at some point down the road,
or as a good way for U.S. presidents to polish their legacies
and garner Nobel Peace Prizes.
ending the conflict should be seen as
a national security priority for the United States.


this will not happen as long as
the lobby makes it impossible for American leaders
to use the leverage at their disposal
to pressure Israel into ending the occupation
and creating a viable Palestinian state.

what M+W are asking for, “pressuring Israel,”
is passionately opposed by the American Jewish community.
Just ask the first President Bush.]

The U.S. presidents
who have made the greatest contribution to Middle East peace—
Jimmy Carter [39] and George H. W. Bush [41]—
were able to do so precisely because
each was willing on occasion to chart a separate course from the lobby.
As former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami has written,

“Carter had yet another vital advantage.
A rare bird among politicians,
and especially among residents of the White House,
he was not especially sensitive or attentive
to Jewish voices and lobbies

As it turned out, it was this kind of President—
George [H.W.] Bush in the late 1980s is another case in point—
who was ready to confront Israel head on
overlook the sensibilities of her friends in America
that managed eventually to produce
meaningful breakthroughs on the way to an Arab-Israeli peace.”

Ben-Ami is correct, and his important insight underscores once again
how the lobby’s efforts have unwittingly undermined Israel’s own interests.

The United States will have to put significant pressure on Israel
to get it to accept the creation of a viable Palestinian state,

which in practice means accepting a solution within the Clinton parameters.
Although the Barak government accepted these parameters—
albeit with significant reservations—in January 2001,
broad support for the key elements of this solution is at present lacking.
While a majority of Israelis—55 percent in 2007—
support the establishment of a Palestinians state in principle,
a recent survey reveals much less support for
the main ingredients of the peace settlement
described by President Clinton in December 2000.
In particular,
only 41 percent of Israelis support
creating a Palestinian state on 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza,
even if Israel was allowed to keep its large settlement blocs.
Just 37 percent would support
transferring the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians,
while only 22 percent favor
transferring control of the Jordan River Valley to a Palestinian state
in a few years.
Finally, 27 percent support
giving control of the Temple Mount to the Palestinians
(with Israel retaining control of the Western Wall),
and a mere 17 percent favor
allowing a limited number of refugees to return to Israel.
In effect,

there is widespread opposition in Israel
to creating a viable Palestinian state,

which means that any future president who hopes to settle this conflict
will have to lean hard on Israel to change its thinking
about how to achieve a two-state solution.

[Lots of luck.]

Israel’s intransigence and the lobby’s influence
are not the only obstacles to a peaceful settlement, of course,
and ending the conflict will require the United States (and others)
to pressure the Palestinians as well.
This will be much easier to do if the Palestinians and key Arab states
see the United States as genuinely committed to a just peace
and willing to act as an honest broker,
instead of operating as “Israel’s lawyer.”
A genuine effort to end the conflict—
as opposed to
the Bush administration’s halfhearted commitment to the Road Map or
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s meaningless regional visits—
will force the Palestinians to make a real choice.
As it stands now,
there is little reason for the Palestinians not to support groups like Hamas,
because the possibility of meaningful negotiations is remote
and supporting the most radical groups
costs little in the way of missed opportunities.
But if the United States presses hard to help them gain a viable state,
and Hamas is exposed as the main obstacle to that end,
then the Palestinians would be more likely to turn against Hamas
and seize the olive branch.

Israel’s American backers need to recognize that
denying the Palestinians their legitimate political rights
has not made Israel safer

[The sad fact is, it may have made Israel safer,
but only at immense (and generally unacknowledged) cost to the United States.]
and those who have lobbied hardest for unconditional U.S. backing
have ultimately
nurtured Israeli and Palestinian extremism and
inflicted unintended hardships
on the very country that they seek to support.
It is high time to abandon this bankrupt policy and pursue a different course.

[In fact,
much of the hostility of West Bankers towards Israel
is caused by
the grievous facts of the occupation of the West Bank.
Many authorities have agreed on that point.
Note that Hamas was created only after the occupation of the West Bank,
and its terrorism has only increased with the prolongation of the occupation.

It is an insult to reason and history that so many Zionists confuse cause with effect,
implying that the occupation is a response to terrorism
rather than the other way around.
The 1967 war, according to Zionist accounts,
was a response to actions and perceived threats from the armed forces of Egypt,
not from the Palestinians who were then living under Jordanian rule in the West Bank.]

The policies sketched here are no panacea,
and they will not eliminate all the problems
currently facing the United States in the Middle East.
Achieving a final peace between Israel and the Palestinians
will require all the parties to engage in
difficult and probably violent confrontations with rejectionists on both sides.
Israeli-Palestinian peace
is not a wonder drug that will solve all the region’s problems:
it will by itself neither eliminate anti-Semitism in the region
nor lead Arab elites to tackle the other problems that afflict their societies
with new energy and commitment.
But ending the conflict and adopting a more normal relationship with Israel
will help the United States rebuild its image in the Arab and Islamic world
and put it in a position where it can more credibly encourage
the various reforms that are badly needed elsewhere in the region.

Some may argue that
the problems the United States currently faces in the Middle East
are an aberration,
due primarily to the influence on one faction in the lobby—
the neoconservatives.
Once President Bush’s second term is over
and the neoconservatives are out of power,
one might hope,
U.S. foreign policy will revert to more sensible positions
and America’s regional position will quickly improve.

This hopeful forecast, alas, is too optimistic.
Although a number of prominent neoconservatives
no longer serve in government,
they are still active in current policy debates.
Some of them are advising 2008 presidential candidates
and they remain a ubiquitous presence in the mainstream media.
[From which Mearsheimer and Walt are almost totally blocked
(e.g., by the Washington Post).
How’s that for proof that Jews do control the media?
(Or at least the Graham/Weymouth family.)]

To date,
few neoconservatives seem chastened by the havoc their policies have wrought,
and even fewer
have expressed any remorse about the human costs of their misguided advice.
The think tanks that support them
are still flourishing and influential inside the Beltway
and will continue to influence American foreign policy after the next election.

Equally important,
many of the organizations in the lobby
remain committed to the same policy agenda:
  1. steadfast support for an expansionist Israel
    at the expense of the Palestinians;

  2. confrontation with Israel’s adversaries
    for the purpose of either
    fundamentally changing each country’s foreign policy or
    toppling the regime,

  3. maintaining a substantial American presence in the region
    over the longer term.
As previously noted,
none of the major presidential candidates
has proposed a significant alteration in U.S. Middle East policy,
and certainly nothing like the strategy we have outlined here.
[Cf. Obama.]
Thus, anyone who believes that the 2008 election
will lead to markedly different policies
is likely to be disappointed.

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