Monday, March 20, 2006

Does the Israel Lobby Shape American Middle-East Policy?

Here's an interesing and controversial essay on the issue of how the 'pro-Israel lobby' shapes American policy in the Middle-East. I remember writing a paper on the same issue years ago when I was in university and the discussion was very similar. While this is nothing new, the way this paper deals with the issue is unusually straightforward. Here's an excerpt just to give you an idea:
For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.
Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.
Daniel Drezner has made an interesting critique of the article on his Blog. He acknowledges that:
Mearsheimer and Walt make a decent case of arguing that interest group lobbying is responsible for some aspects of U.S. policy towards the Greater Middle East. Now this asssertion alone is enough to make people very uncomfortable at cocktail parties and other venues. Whenever I bring up ethnic lobbying in my American foreign policy class and mention Israel, everyone in the room tenses up. So kudos to Mearsheimer and Walt for speaking the taboo thought. arguing that interest group lobbying is responsible for some aspects of U.S. policy towards the Greater Middle East.
He also makes some fair remarks on how American politicy is always the result of lobbyist activities and AIPAC is certainly not the only one (think 'oil companies') although it is one of the most powerful ones on the Hill.


At 02:16, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course bloggers on the right are treating this paper like a piece of pungent anti-Semitism. I'm with Drezner on this one. You can't avoid it simply because it's uncomfortable. Leave the ridiculous charges of anti-Semitism aside and let's have an intelligent discussion.

At 09:02, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

Unfortunately, I find the charges of anti-Semitism to be not strictly on the right when you deal with this issue. But I agree it doesn't mean we should be shy of a discussion on facts. Certainly being critical of AIPAC or Israeli policy does not make you anti-Semitic and those issues must be addressed. Hence the post.


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