Friday, September 07, 2007

The "Blame Israel First" crowd is at it again:

The Walt & Mearsheimer's doctrine of Blame Israel First

has been published in the form of a book, titled "The Israeli Lobby".

1. Here is what one enthusiastic, stunned, reviewer says:

"So if neither "shared values" nor "strategic asset" can explain the overwhelming U.S. support of Israel, what else is there? The power of the Israel lobby, which has brought about a situation in which it is impossible for elected officials to question support for Israel, much less redirect foreign policy in any way contrary to the perceived self-interest of Israel. This has led the U.S. to make critical mistakes, such as invading and occupying Iraq. The war on Iraq has proven disastrous; the authors argue that the U.S. would not have attacked Iraq, were it not for the influence of the Israel lobby."

Let's read the sentence in red, again:

This has led the U.S. to make critical mistakes, such as invading and occupying Iraq.

2. Alex Safian, at Camera, agrees with the reviewer, that

"Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt... have consistently leveled a key charge: That the “Israel Lobby” played a critical role in pushing the Bush administration into the Iraq War, a war which they claim was in fact fought to assure Israel’s security rather than America’s."

And in their own words:

"Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element. (p. 31 paper; p. 230 book with a lower case lobby)"

3. In an interview on NPR’s On Point program, hosted by Tom Ashbrook, John J. Mearsheimer , seems to have misremembered his main thesis, when he says:

It’s quite clear that in early 2002...when the Israelis caught wind of the fact that we were seriously thinking about doing Iraq, that they came to Washington and told us that they would prefer that we do Iran first. The Israelis very clearly thought that Iran was a greater threat than Iraq. It’s not that they were uninterested in having us effect regime change in Iraq and Syria, it’s just that they preferred Iran.

But once they came to understand that Iraq would be the first operation, and we would subsequently deal with Iran and Syria, they embraced the idea of attacking Iraq, although they continually reminded us that we had to do Iran and Syria afterwards.

So what you see from early 2002 up until the war starts in March 2003 is that the Israelis are pushing us very hard, harder than other country outside the United States, to go to war against Saddam Hussein."

If, as in the first paragraph, Israel's main threat was considered Iran, and if, as in the second paragraph, Israel came to support the Bush administration's push to war, despite the fact that it actually went against its own interests, how come Prof. Mearsheimer concludes his own statement by inferring that "the Israelis are pushing us very hard, harder than other country outside the United States, to go to war against Saddam Hussein."?

Seems to me that the strongly-stated theory in 1. and 2. is contradicted by 3.

It is possible to misspeak about some marginal fact or argument or conjecture. It hardly seems likely that the Prof. would have made such a volte - face on the theory that is central to his book about the Svengali-like clutch of the Jews over the American policies.

What is it, then? Why the divergence from the main argument of his book?

I can't rightly account for it. The clash between the inner logic of the two narratives is there, explicit, clear, present. It may be explained by a phenomenon of human nature and memory, something which Montaigne meditates upon:

"It is not without reason, men say, that be who hath not a good and readie memorie should never meddle with telling of lies, and feare to become a liar. I am not ignorant how the Grammarians make a difference betweene speaking untrue and lying; and say that to speake untruly is to speake that which is false, but was reputed true; and that.. to lie, implieth and meaneth to goe against ones conscience: and by consequence it concerneth onely those, who speake contrary to that which they know, of whom I speake. Now, these, either invent, seale, stampe and all, or else they disguise and change a true ground. When they disguise or change, if they be often put to the repetition of one thing, it is hard for them to keepe still in one path,..."

(Montaigne's Essays Book I)

It appears to me that Mearsheimer in his book speaks contrary to that which he knows and this knowledge somehow finds the cracks through which to assert itself. Or, as Montaigne says:

"He who is not sure of his memory, should not undertake the trade of lying. "

(Hat tip to: Judeosphere Camera )

For an effective rebuttal of M&W's doctrine of Blame Israel First, read Dore Gold's no-nonsense analysis: Wartime Witch Hunt: Blaming Israel for the Iraq War


Yet from Israel's perspective, by 2003 the Iraqi Army had been severely degraded in both military manpower and equipment. Continuing UN sanctions had made Iraqi re-armament difficult and Iraq was clearly not Israel's primary concern. Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens concluded in August 2002 that in the immediate future, "the [missile] threat that Israel most likely will have to contend with" is that of Syria. He described the Iraqi capability as "relatively limited." During the same month, Israel's current chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, declared in Jerusalem that the threat posed by Iraq "doesn't make me lose sleep."

If prior to the Iraq War the Israeli security establishment was somewhat ambivalent about the extent of the Iraqi threat, there was one state that threatened Israel about which Israeli statements were unmistakably clear: Iran. Israel used language with respect to Iran that it did not apply to Iraq. Thus, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would call Iran "the main existential threat to Israel."


Update:

In an article about the same subject today, Richard Ingrams, of the Independent, States the following:

The professors demonstrate that the American invasion in 2003 not only had the support of Israel but also that the overriding aim of those (mostly Jewish) neocons who were urging Bush to invade was to assist Israel by getting rid of its menacing neighbour Saddam Hussein. The issue was stated quite simply by Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said prior to the invasion: "When America succeeds in Iraq, Israel is safer." Unfortunately, it didn't work out like that.


I'm not sure Ingrams is quoting the book or adds from his own confident knowledge. But the falsehood of this statement should be obvious to anyone with a minimal sense of timeline. The invasion took place in 2003. Ehud Olmert was not Israel's Prime Minister then, but Arik Sharon was. However, Olmert did say these words, famously, on AIPAC's annual policy conference in Washington on March 12, 2007. That is, 4 years after we are told he said them!

"When America succeeds in Iraq, Israel is safer," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said late Monday in a live satellite address from his Jerusalem home that capped the gala dinner. "The friends of Israel know it, the friends who care about Israel know it. They will keep the Americans strong, powerful and convincing."

Montaigne's theory on lying and memory once again proving correct.

Update II:

According to the official, Israel tried to convince the Bush administration that the main problem in the region was Iran, not Iraq.

The man, Lawrence Wilkerson, was a member of the US State Department's policy planning staff and later chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell.
In an interview with the news agency, he said that "the Israelis were telling us Iraq is not the enemy - Iran is the enemy."


According to Wilkerson, different sources in Israel explained to senior US officials that "if you are going to destabilize the balance of power, do it against the main enemy."
Wilkerson noted that the main point of their communications was not that the US should immediately attack Iran, but that "it should not be distracted by Iraq and Saddam Hussein" from a focus on the threat from Iran. ...


Soon after Israeli officials got wind of that planning, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked for a meeting with Bush primarily to discuss US intentions to invade Iraq.



In light of Mearsheaimer's Freudian slip during his interview on NPR, it seems hard to believe that he was writing and researching a book without knowing, or getting wind of these facts. He and his co-author chose to push on with their accusation, in spite of the fact that they must have known it was gutted, voided, of any truth. That makes them liars by Montaigne's definitions. The lie was maintained in order to defame an entire country and an entire people. The endgame of M&W is cutting Israel loose, stopping all American aid, cooperation and support, either militarily or politically, and invest those resources in the much more profitable Arab states. Some would say that this hardly counts for antisemitism. Their hostility to Israel derives not from personal animus towards Jews but from a purely business, economic and political sense: There are 400 million Arabs and 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. Interest dictates that the wishes of such a vast number of people will prevail over the safeguarding of the tiny Jewish minority from which little profit can be extracted.

So in order to let this interest get its heyday, they must create the correct atmosphere, make a case of the vileness of Israel and its bidders, the powerful Jews of America. And if a lie, no matter how big, is needed to make that case, then lie they will.

It is very simple. Antisemitism is defamation writ large. M&W defame and lie in order to make Jews appear criminal and power-hungry. So while they may not be antisemitic in inclination, they are antisemitic in fact. A Soprano like morality prevails: the harm done to the other is not instigated by any personal animus. Strictly business.

So when they deny any antisemitic motivation, they cannot be taken seriously. One thing an antisemitic cannot do is determine who is an antisemite.

And that goes for all antisemites, whether they be famous, little-known, first-grade antisemite or third-grade antisemite.

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