A University of Chicago professor has ignited an intellectual firestorm in halls of ivy and corridors of power with an essay in a highbrow British journal.

Writing in the London Review of Books, John Mearsheimer, a U. of C. political scientist, and his academic partner, Harvard University professor Stephen Walt, offered a simple diagnosis for what ails U.S. foreign policy.

How did we get involved in a seemingly endless Iraq war? Why are we reviled in Muslim countries and targeted by terrorists?

“Why,” they asked, “has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state?”

Mearsheimer and Walt say a vocal and well-financed lobby–made up of Jewish organizations and Christian fundamentalists, political fundraisers, media outlets and neo-conservatives–gets Washington to slavishly do Israel’s bidding.

Mearsheimer and Walt’s thesis, published late last month, has provoked both applause and a torrent of criticism. It also has inspired several spinoff counter-conspiracy theories.

When Walt recently stepped down as dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, some speculated he was forced out because the university was taking heat for their essay, “The Israel Lobby.” Harvard published a news release saying the change long had been in the works. Both Harvard and the U. of C. have argued universities must be a forum for controversial ideas like those discussed in the essay.


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