From the Editors: On the Controversy of John Mearsheimer

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When, after a long career built on a theory that domestic political relationships had a minimal impact on any state’s foreign policy, John Mearsheimer co-wrote The Israel Lobby, a popular book alleging the maximal impact of a small cabal on American foreign policy, we were perplexed at the incoherence. When the book was written without accompanying scholarship on the Turkish lobby which has had a hand in the failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide or push for a Kurdish state, the Irish lobby which greatly influenced the American policy in Northern Ireland for decades, or Arab, Chinese, Tibetan, Greek, Indian, or Pakistani lobbies that have all made their mark on American foreign policy, we were left wondering at the motives of his focus. When the book was finally read and its narrative of the Israeli-Arab conflict rested on shoddy history, a mix of long-ago refuted facts (whose falsehood was easily available over Google) and stark errors of omission, we began to question the animus of Professor Mearsheimer.

The R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago has long been an important academic, but only recently a famous one. He built a robust theory of states seeking security through regional hegemony, no matter their domestic politics. Yet this theory could not explain many of the adventures of the United States in the Middle East. There had to be an exogenous factor. He labeled this factor “The Israel Lobby.” But he did not use this factor to complicate the original model; he did not further examine the role of domestic constituencies in international relations. He left “The Israel Lobby” an outlier, an asterisk. It was a strange Jewish exceptionalism he propagated: only the Jews had dual loyalties. He was attacked. He dug in. More and more of his output was devoted to the dealings of the Jewish State. He began to speak at the events of Palestinian nationalists, groups whose assumptions would have seemed so contrary to realism. He would speak recklessly and accuse Israel of awful motives. This was a different John Mearsheimer. Something was going on.

This is now Counterpoint’s sixth issue, marking the end of our second year in existence. The Mearsheimer controversy long predates us and we have withheld commentary on the man’s motives. We can no longer do so. John Mearsheimer is now in the denouement of a tragedy of a great academic. Too stubborn to revise his long-time model, Professor Mearsheimer has instead endorsed the theories of a long-standing anti-Semitic conspiracy. We cannot say whether Professor Mearsheimer is an honest-to-goodness anti-Semite; we do not know his heart. We can only say that he has, from the perch of an endowed chair at our university, endorsed a grotesque theory of the doings of the modern Jew.

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From the Editors: On the Controversy of John Mearsheimer

  • Source: Counterpoint, University of Chicago's Conservative Quarterlyb
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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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