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Friday, December 02, 2011

A devastating takedown of John Mearsheimer

From Counterpoint, a conservative publication from the University of Chicago:

When, after a long career built on a theory that domestic political relationships had a minimal impact on any state’s foreign policy, John Mearsheimer co-wrote The Israel Lobby, a popular book alleging the maximal impact of a small cabal on American foreign policy, we were perplexed at the incoherence. When the book was written without accompanying scholarship on the Turkish lobby which has had a hand in the failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide or push for a Kurdish state, the Irish lobby which greatly influenced the American policy in Northern Ireland for decades, or Arab, Chinese, Tibetan, Greek, Indian, or Pakistani lobbies that have all made their mark on American foreign policy, we were left wondering at the motives of his focus. When the book was finally read and its narrative of the Israeli-Arab conflict rested on shoddy history, a mix of long-ago refuted facts (whose falsehood was easily available over Google) and stark errors of omission, we began to question the animus of Professor Mearsheimer.

He built a robust theory of states seeking security through regional hegemony, no matter their domestic politics. Yet this theory could not explain many of the adventures of the United States in the Middle East. There had to be an exogenous factor. He labeled this factor “The Israel Lobby.” But he did not use this factor to complicate the original model; he did not further examine the role of domestic constituencies in international relations. He left “The Israel Lobby” an outlier, an asterisk. It was a strange Jewish exceptionalism he propagated: only the Jews had dual loyalties. He was attacked. He dug in. More and more of his output was devoted to the dealings of the Jewish State. He began to speak at the events of Palestinian nationalists, groups whose assumptions would have seemed so contrary to realism. He would speak recklessly and accuse Israel of awful motives. This was a different John Mearsheimer. Something was going on.

John Mearsheimer is now in the denouement of a tragedy of a great academic. Too stubborn to revise his long-time model, Professor Mearsheimer has instead endorsed the theories of a long-standing anti-Semitic conspiracy. We cannot say whether Professor Mearsheimer is an honest-to-goodness anti-Semite; we do not know his heart. We can only say that he has, from the perch of an endowed chair at our university, endorsed a grotesque theory of the doings of the modern Jew.

There are no reports of Professor Mearsheimer being anything less than cordial to his Jewish colleagues or reducing the grades of Jewish students. This is nothing like the anti-Semitism that bars Jews from country clubs; it is, indeed, an adaptation of an older anti-Semitism: a belief that old adages hold true, that the Jews are loyal only to one another and are not to be trusted with power. It is revealed, not in statements about usurers or admonishments about “kikes,” but in an unwitting animus against the prominent Jews in public life and the ascribing of much too much to their effect. This comes out in speeches segregating “Righteous Jews” (marginalized radicals) from bad Jews, “New Afrikaners” (all the heads of major Jewish organizations). It comes out in paranoid blog-posts about the potential ability of the Israel Lobby to cover-up his own assassination. It comes out in reading lists for classes featuring the most absurd rendering of Israeli-Arab revisionism (Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) and a work of historical psychoanalysis that leaves the impression that Jewish dreams of self-determination are very near a mental disorder (Jacqueline Rose’s The Question of Zion). And it comes out in John Mearsheimer’s recent endorsement of a work by an undeniable anti-Semite, Gilad Atzmon’s The Wandering Who?.

...Professor Mearsheimer’s contribution to the study of powers regional and global will last, may even become canonical, but he has in recent years attracted a very sorry stain upon himself, his scholarship, and the University which enabled his many achievements. The charge of anti-Semitism is a durable one, especially when actions repeatedly fail to contradict it. Professor Mearsheimer is certainly entitled to study, author, and speak whatever he will (we do not think the approval of hateful ideas a fireable offense), but it will refract upon an institution that has done more for him than he has done for it. It lately refracts the most bigoted ravings of a British madman and the questionable animus of his endorsing professor. If Professor Mearsheimer is to retain any of the grace of an accomplished scholar and do right by his home for nearly thirty years, there is but a single option: retirement.
Read the whole thing.

(h/t Noah)