As the coordinator of a university lecture series, I am always on the lookout for good speakers. I thought that I had found one in Stephen Walt, a political scientist at Harvard University and the academic dean of its Kennedy School of Government. His name had been given to me by John Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago political scientist, who in April 2005 had spoken in the series.
Mearsheimer mentioned to me during his visit that he and Walt were working on an article about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. The article appeared in March 2006 in the London Review of Books to intense controversy.
The excitement over the article stemmed both from what Mearsheimer and Walt wrote about the Israel lobby and from what they were perceived to be saying about an always-touchy issue: the power and influence of Jews.
They indicted the lobby for manipulating America’s Middle East policy in ways that jeopardize the international standing and physical safety of the United States. In particular, they pressed hard on the most sensitive issue in American politics, the war in Iraq.
Just as most Americans were coming to view the war as a terrible mistake, Mearsheimer and Walt declared, “There is little doubt that Israel and the [l]obby were key factors in the decision to go to war. It’s a decision the [United States] would have been far less likely to take without their efforts.”
Furthermore, the authors identified neoconservatives, “many with ties to Likud,” the main right-wing Israeli political party, as the driving force within the Bush administration for war. Mearsheimer and Walt pronounced the policies associated with the long-standing special relationship between Israel and the United States dysfunctional and dangerous for both countries. (MORE)