Friday, March 31, 2006

On Stephen Walt's... whatever

I started my day reading Justin Raimondo's report that Porfessor Stephen Walt was "kicked out" of his job as Harvard's Kennedy School dean in retaliation for co-authoring the controversial Israel Lobby paper on which I've written earlier. And the day ended with Steve Clemons reporting that the Dean of the Kennedy School has stated that there was no connection between Walt's stepping down as academic dean "at the natural end" of his term and the Israel Lobby paper (although Steve seems not to be entirely convinced and is waiting for direct communication from Walt). In between I received an email from someone "close" to the controversy who insisted that Walt wasn't fired. Well... whatever really happaned it seems to me that the assault on Walt and his co-author Mearsheimer are bound to produce a "chilling effect" on anyone who wants to conduct a serious and honest debate on U.S. policy in the Middle East. While I had some reservations over several of the points raised in their paper (and I certainly don't regard Mearsheimer and Walt as "victims"), I think that much of the attack on them wasn't motivated by the concern over the "quality of their research" and had very little to do with the merit of the arguments. Insetad, the attack reflected a concern that the views expressed by these two renowned scholars would provide a certain legitimacy, if not respectability to criticism of the Israel Lobby. So even if Walt wasn't really "fired," his bashers have achieved their goal. Let me conclude this short post with the wise words of Steve Sailer:
In any case, doesn't this entire controversy where the Israel Lobby en masse furiously denounces these two scholars for pointing out the existence of the Israel Lobby remind you of that scene in "The Wizard of Oz" where the Wizard shouts, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can be sure of one thing; Professors Walt and Meirsheimer are certain to have the chamberpots emptied over them in a determined attempt to impugn their names and reputations.

Simply to write the words, "Israel Lobby" (much less to actually discuss it as they do) is to lay one's self open to furious attack.

This will not be conducted openly of course. Max Boot's syndicated column this week is singularly inane, although the ineffable Mr. Boot does manage to impute anti-Semitism (surprise!) to the authors without stating this plainly. (And why does he quail at doing so? After all, under the legal standard for 'genuine malice' in U.S. courts, it is almost impossible for anyone suing for libel to win. This faint-heartedness from the same Boot who--himself from ease and safety--exhorts our troops to show heroic valor against the evil Saracen.)

No, the real work of sliming people goes on in the war rooms and on the blogs ("Little Green Footballs", anyone?) where scurrilous stuff gets into public (and private) discourse the way sewage leaks into a drinking well.

While I agree with Professor Hadar that there are some mistakes the authors should have avoided (for example--Israeli public opinion is anything but the monolith that the authors mistakenly imply--as the recent election there should show); nevertheless, their piece is a landmark discussion of this issue. Whatever offal gets thrown at them now, Miersheimer and Walt have breached the taboo against open discussion of the lobby and it's activities in a way that can never be undone.