September 20, 2007
How Walt and Mearsheimer’s book got the pro-Israel lobby wrong
(Page 4 - Previous Page)RK: Professor Walt, do you regret that at an event in August 2006 organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, you said that Jews who previously served as U.S. diplomats, including Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, "have attachments that shape how they think about the Middle East and how they think about American policy in that region?"
SW: I think many Americans of many different backgrounds have attachments for other societies that are based on their ethnic origins or their own personal experiences, like living overseas when they're in high school, and those affinities or attachments are going to shape how [they] think of different parts of the world. And I think that's wonderful; I have no problem with that whatsoever. We are a melting pot society, where lots of people have attachments; and, by the way, as you know, in the United States of America you can be a dual citizen, dual citizenship in both countries, and we don't assume that someone who's a dual citizen has no feelings whatsoever for the other country in which they are a citizen.
And it's perfectly OK for that person to then advocate policies that they think are good for the United States and good for the other society, too. This is just a fact of life in America and it's perfectly OK. But it's also OK for us to point out that individuals have multiple loyalties and to also argue that those multiple loyalties may fog up their view of what's in the American interest. It's complicated.
RK: In any way, have you purposely overstated your argument in an effort to land a political blow against pro-Israel organizations?
SW: We actually have no animus at all toward Israel or toward the organizations in the lobby. This is not some kind of crusade that we launched ourselves because we want to take down a set of organizations. We say in the conclusion, one of the things we hope will happen is that there's more open discussion of the issue, which would be good, and second we hope that some groups and organizations that we think are advocating polices that are in everybody's best interests become more influential -- not that we're trying to destroy these groups or organizations or even suggest that what they do is illegitimate. We just think that they have been advocating a set of policies that are not good for us and not good for Israel, and people can disagree with us, but it wasn't motivated by an anger or hostility. We're scholars; we're not part of any political movement, OK? We're just trying to write a book that's as accurate as possible.