26 March, 2006

Realists, the USA, and Israel (slight return)

A couple of things have struck me about that article by John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt (now that I have actually read it properly):

i) Mearsheimer & Walt are International Relations experts. It's odd, therefore, that in this article they primarily apply themselves to domestic US politics. It might have been better if they had written a long article outlining why they feel the US-Israel alliance is not in the USA's interests, and then left it to others (like people whose specialities are the process of government policy formulation or interest group action or that kind of stuff) to analyse why this apparently dysfunctional policy had been adopted.

ii) Mearsheimer & Walt are Realists, whose views can be simplified as meaning that they believe states in the long run always act in their own interest. Yet in their article they are talking about how a state has adopted a policy inimical to its own interests for internal political reasons. This is odd, and it suggests that Mearsheimer & Walt's views are evolving towards those of the Social Constructivists, who see states as evolving "interests" through interaction with the world, rather than their having actual objective interests per se. Arguably the giving of unequivocal support to whatever Israel fancies doing is a core interest of the United States, simply because all its policy makers think it is.

iii) The emerging campaign against the two is entertaining, given that it seems to amount to saying "They say X, as do certain bad people, therefore they are bad". The removal of the Harvard logo from a study by one of their star academics is probably a better testimony to the strength of the pro-Israel lobby in the USA than anything in their article.

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