Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mearsheimer/Walt/Israel Lobby has become Big Story...

...Now that Tony Judt published a long op-ed A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy in the New York Times. You can just imagine the number -- and the tone -- of the emails, phone calls, etc. that the Times is receiving at exactly this moment. Is Alan Dershowitz going to have a huge letter to the editor or a long counter piece in the op-ed section tomorrow? Or is it going to be long signed letter to the editor or perhaps a paid ad? We'll have to wait and see... I agree in general with most of the points that Judt makes although I continue to argue that Americans need a serious debate on the entirety of U.S. policy in the Middle East, including the relationship with Israel. (see my From the China Lobby to the Israel Lobby ).In any case, I think the most important and biting part of Judt piece is the following:
Looking back, we shall see the Iraq war and its catastrophic consequences as not the beginning of a new democratic age in the Middle East but rather as the end of an era that began in the wake of the 1967 war, a period during which American alignment with Israel was shaped by two imperatives: cold-war strategic calculations and a new-found domestic sensitivity to the memory of the Holocaust and the debt owed to its victims and survivors.
For the terms of strategic debate are shifting. East Asia grows daily in importance. Meanwhile our clumsy failure to re-cast the Middle East — and its enduring implications for our standing there — has come into sharp focus. American influence in that part of the world now rests almost exclusively on our power to make war: which means in the end that it is no influence at all. Above all, perhaps, the Holocaust is passing beyond living memory. In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that an Israeli soldier's great-grandmother died in Treblinka will not excuse his own misbehavior.
Thus it will not be self-evident to future generations of Americans why the imperial might and international reputation of the United States are so closely aligned with one small, controversial Mediterranean client state. It is already not at all self-evident to Europeans, Latin Americans, Africans or Asians. Why, they ask, has America chosen to lose touch with the rest of the international community on this issue? Americans may not like the implications of this question. But it is pressing. It bears directly on our international standing and influence; and it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. We cannot ignore it.

I make similar arguments in my Israel: America’s Weakest Link?:

For the Arab and Muslim nations — as well as for other powers, especially those challenging the international status quo — Israel would be perceived as the "weakest link" in the American Empire.
Israel would thus become an ideal target for anti-American and anti-globalization forces.
We are already seeing the shape of things to come in the growing anti-Israeli sentiments in Europe and Asia, and the way anti-Israeli sentiments are starting to intertwine, in some cases, with dormant anti-Semitic attitudes.
In some respects, Israel's ties with the United States are starting to resemble the relationship between the old political and economic elites and the Jewish community in Europe during the 19th century.
As Hannah Arendt pointed out in her classic study of European anti-Semitism, it was the erosion in the power of those elites — and their growing inability to protect the Jews of Europe — that sealed their fate.
The new and angry social classes and political players turned their frustration against the group they associated with the hated status quo — a group that was also very vulnerable.
A similar scenario could take place on an international scale, when a weaker and less confident United States would be under pressure at home and abroad to reduce its global commitments.
This would leave Israel — its weakest link — vulnerable to attacks not only from Arab and Muslim nations, but from other new anti-status quo powers.

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