Mearsheimer resists urge to say ‘I told ‘em so’

Article by Kelley Vlahos.


John Mearsheimer wears his vindication well.

The 63-year-old University of Chicago professor and co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy (with Harvard Professor Stephen Walt) never said he felt vindicated, per se, but the glint in his eye and that smile – like the cat that just ate the mouse – said it all.

In a brief exchange with TAC at the Committee for the Republic’s regular Empire Salon last night, Mearsheimer affably addressed Tom Friedman’s pointed – and unprecedented — use of the designation “powerful pro-Israel lobby” in his recent New York Times Sunday column.

“There’s no question that it’s easy to talk about ‘the lobby’ now because we talked about it so much. We wrote the article, and we wrote the book,” he said. However, “because we were the ‘corridor cutters’ we knew we would pay a significant price. And because we’re not Jewish, we paid an even greater price.”

Friedman, who is Jewish, and admittedly one of the most sympathetic writers of Israel, nonetheless accused “the powerful pro-Israel lobby ” of forcing “the [Obama] administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America’s.”

Friedman’s frustration is at length leveled at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the beloved establishment author says has mucked up one critical diplomatic opportunity after another, citing Netanyahu’s failure to defuse the blowback in Ankara over the Israeli killing of Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara flotilla, and his stubborn refusal to see past an iron-fisted response to the Palestinian’s bid for statehood this week in Turtle Bay.

“Unfortunately,” concludes Friedman, “Israel today does not have a leader or a cabinet for such subtle diplomacy. One can only hope that the Israeli people will recognize this before this government plunges Israel into deeper global isolation and drags America along with it.”

Often referred to as a sort of windbag for Washington power elite, Friedman’s bloviation turned unusually sharp this week, and though he did not further expand his thoughts on ‘the lobby’ (baby steps?), his darts didn’t avoid the detection of Phillip Weiss and Glenn Greenwald, two writers who have risked their own demonization to speak out against ‘the lobby’ on their respective blogs.

“I always said that Walt and Mearsheimer were writing Jewish history. A day after the Washington Post at last referred to the powerful Israel lobby, look what came out from under the mustache in the Times today,” noted Weiss on Sunday. “An important moment, because Friedman is such a mainstream figure.”

Greenwald, ever indefatigable:

There were numerous reasons that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer were accused in prominent venues of all sorts of crimes — including anti-Semitism — when they published The Israel Lobby, but the most common cause was the book’s central theme: that there is a very powerful lobby in the U.S. which is principally devoted to Israel and causes U.S. political leaders to act to advance the interests of this foreign nation over their own…

Walt and Mearshiemer merely voiced a truth which has long been known and obvious but was not allowed to be spoken.  That’s precisely why the demonization campaign against them was so vicious and concerted: those who voice prohibited truths are always more hated than those who spout obvious lies.  That the foreign affairs columnist most admired in Washington circles just expressed the same point demonstrates that recognition of this previously prohibited fact has now become mainstream.


On his own blog, Walt, too, says, “well, duh,” taking the relaxed approach to what some are calling a breakthrough in frank political discourse. But he thanks Weiss and Greenwald for recognizing that someone (quite painfully, we might add)  had to pave the way.


Despite what you might think, I don’t have much to say about Tom Friedman’s column in the Sunday New York Times, where he openly bemoans the disastrous influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. Middle East policy and puts up in bright lights how bad it is for Israel as well. I’m grateful to Glenn Greenwald and Phil Weiss for pointing out that this is the main point that John Mearsheimer and I have been making for some time in our writings about the lobby…

The elephant has been in the room for a long time, but now it has the spotlights on it and it’s wearing a pink bikini too. It’s hard to miss, in short, which is surely why Tom Friedman wrote what he did.

Mearsheimer has hardly shrunk from “telling it like it is” since writing the controversial and groundbreaking book in 2007, through he refrained from any “I told ‘em so” moments last night. He did say he felt the Obama Administration was making a big mistake by trying to thwart the Palestinian’s bid at the U.N this week. “It would be a huge benefit (to support it),” Mearsheimer said. “It would significantly improve our standing in the Arab and Islamic world.”

Sadly, he added,  “Obama’s worried about being re-elected in 2012.”

If you don’t think there might be anything to what Mearsheimer, Friedman, Abramowitz, Walt, Greenwald, Weiss, etc., are saying, take a look at Rick Perry’s itinerary today. The presidential candidate spoke at a press conference with U.S and Israeli flags at his back and MK Danny Danon, a Likud member of the Israeli Knesset, at his side.

Now why would a Texas boy want to come all the way to New York City for this?

“(Danon) said he would ask Perry ahead of the conference to adopt the initiative the MK is advancing to annex Judea and Samaria in response to the unilateral Palestinian moves at the UN,” The Jerusalem Post wrote ahead of the event. Not sure if Perry agreed to that, but according to reports of the presser this morning, old fashioned retribution was on his mind:

“I think there are a number of things (to do) if the U.N. does in fact vote to allow statehood in direct conflict with the Oslo Accords,” said Perry in NYC this morning. “One of those is obviously having the United States send a clear message to the U.N. that we’re not going to support you with our dollars anymore — obviously shutting down that mission in Washington, D.C. I think the message needs to be swift, and it needs to be powerful.”

Earlier he wrote:

“The U.S. should oppose the statehood measure by using our veto in the Security Council, as President Obama has pledged to do, and by doing everything we can to weaken support for the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in the General Assembly,” Perry said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “The U.S. must affirm that the precondition for any properly negotiated future settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the formal recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state behind secure borders.”

Seems like this might be the only thing he and Obama can agree on.

But wait — when is Obama going to learn that while he and the administration are risking everything to prove their worthiness — it will never be enough?

“Simply put, we would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn’t naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous,” Perry said (today).

“It must be said, first, that Israel is our oldest and strongest democratic ally in the Middle East and has been for more than 60 years. The Obama policy of moral equivalency which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a dangerous insult.”

Unfortunately for Obama, “the mainstream” seems to be going the other way, if Friedman is any kind of bellwether.

“Nothing good can come of this,” Mearsheimer said of the administration’s position at the U.N. “This is what Tom Friedman was saying.”

That, and a whole lot more.


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