Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Resurrected from the Depths

It seems appropriate to note at this juncture that Walt and Mearsheimer are not experts in the area that The Israel Lobby covers, and indeed, their analysis is fraught with embarrassingly elementary mistakes which have nothing to do with whether they are, in some sense, "anti-Semitic" or not. There's plenty to find morally condemnable in their outlook, but that debate shouldn't distract us from the fact that their analysis is just descriptively awful -- lest we get mired in hellish contrarian mush about how they are bold prophets providing the hard truths that everybody else is too cowardly (because of the Israel Lobby!) to say aloud.


Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Have you read the book? If so, I'm surprised that you of all people would not outright and with confidence call it anti-Semitic.

David Schraub said...

Oh I have no problem calling it anti-Semitic. But as I'm sure you sympathize with, sometimes its exhausting to get mired in the YOUZ PLAYING TEH ANTI-SEMITIZM CARD sludge, and it's like: "look, even putting aside the anti-Semitism, this is just bad. I mean, bad."

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I do sympathize, and I get the need to pick one's battles. But I think it's important to say, well, what you just said in your comment, that you know the book is anti-Semitic, but that that's not all that's wrong with it. I mean, there's loads of weak scholarship out there, and there's a reason we've honed in on this one example. I've read so many criticisms of the book 'on account of its flawed scholarship' that don't dare address the elephant in the room, or that go out of their way to say that this is not their criticism, so it strikes me as important to point out how your contribution to the discussion differs from those. However, it's also important, I've found, to mention that you've read the thing (the book or at least the essay in which they say the same thing) - otherwise the "card" accusations are tougher to refute.

N. Friedman said...


You write: "It seems appropriate to note at this juncture that Walt and Mearsheimer are not experts in the area that The Israel Lobby covers ..."

Except under Daubert and, e.g., Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, expertise is not necessarily the trump card for hearing good scholarship. In reality, good scholarship can come from amateurs and professional alike.

In any event, whatever expertise, knowledge or facts about the Middle East and/or American lobbies that Walt and Mearsheimer may bring to the table - or, to be more exact, whatever presentation of factoids they have brought to the table - needs to be judged on its merits, not on their having or not having supposed "expertise." On the merits, their scholarship is not very good, their reasoning contradicted by their own theories of international relations and their agenda, with such shortcomings in mind, pretty clearly set by some other rationale or agenda - since neither of them is a dope.

Judeosphere said...

I was amused by this sympathetic review of Walt and Mearsheimer's original article in 2006, which warned that their clumsy scholarship would undermine a nonetheless valid argument.