Thursday, August 30, 2007

"In my country there is problem"*

David Remnick writes that "Mearsheimer and Walt are 'realists.' In their view, diplomatic decisions should be made on the basis of national interest." I thought it was that realists believe diplomatic decisions ARE made on the basis of national interest. Or someone told me this--Bernadette Soubirous?--who knows, but clarification would be helpful.

As with just about everyone else timidly approaching this topic, before adding the inevitable "But," Remnick gives a lengthy explanation of how he is a good liberal who would not do anything so crass and whiny as accuse someone well-educated of anti-Semitism:

Mearsheimer and Walt are not anti-Semites or racists. They are serious scholars, and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity. They are right to describe the moral violation in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. (In this, most Israelis and most American Jews agree with them.) They were also right about Iraq. The strategic questions they raise now, particularly about Israel’s privileged relationship with the United States, are worth debating––just as it is worth debating whether it is a good idea to be selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

There is no reason to doubt their sincerity? There are so many reasons doubt the sincerity of publicity-seekers, no matter what their profession. (Except for Britney Spears, who is always 100% sincere). They are not anti-Semites? Again, I would not say that with such confidence, even if plenty of bona fide Jews have come forward and declared Walt and Mearsheimer to be super friendly. Seems beside the point.

Remnick offers a tepid defense of Israel, along the lines of, if you're going to point out Israeli misconduct, you must do the same regarding that of the Palestinians. Um, agreed?

It’s a narrative that recounts every lurid report of Israeli cruelty as indisputable fact but leaves out the rise of Fatah and Palestinian terrorism before 1967; the Munich Olympics; Black September; myriad cases of suicide bombings; and other spectaculars. The narrative rightly points out the destructiveness of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and America’s reluctance to do much to curtail them, but there is scant mention of Palestinian violence or diplomatic bungling [...].

Tack on a 'why can't we all just get along' and that was the most articulate eighth-grade essay ever.

The scary part is the New Yorker article's conclusion. According to Remnick, we are living in miserable times that lead Americans to demand a solution:

The duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush Administration, the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran—all of this has left Americans furious and demanding explanations.

And for Walt and Mearsheimer, Remnick reveals, the key to why the world is a horrible place is "the Israel lobby." For someone who does not seem to be in agreement that an Israel lobby is behind all evil, Remnick is awfully relaxed about the extremity of this argument, and completely blind to the massive historical significance of such a line of reasoning. When things in the world seem amiss in a myriad of unrelated and even contradictory ways, Jews are often singled out as the catch-all culprit. Communism and capitalism got you down? Jews are surely responsible for both! Behind every big "anti-Semitic moment" (Pierre Birnbaum on 1898 in France) there is a simplification of all society's woes as having specifically to do with Jews, even those problems that affect those who have never met a Jew in their lives. By claiming that Jews, as a bloc, control the national government or the world economy, anti-Semites have for centuries directed attention away from whatever far more complex problems were actually present.

*New title; more to the point.

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