Missing the Point

Mearsheimer and Walt fail to capture the realities of policy formation.

Issue: July-Aug 2007

Copies of the highly anticipated new book The Israel Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy by  John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt arrived on bookshelves in Washington late last week despite a reported "embargo" from the publisher until its official September 4 release. In a sign of the book's controversial nature, the New York Times reported on August 16 that organizations such as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs have canceled scheduled events with Mearsheimer and Walt. This new debate about the rights of the prominent political scientists to present their critique of Israel adds to the question of whether their work is anti-Semitic—a claim made against the professors' original "Israel Lobby" paper published last March. Rather, the central issue on which reviewers of Mearsheimer and Walt's book should focus is whether the evidence the professors present supports their arguments about the significant influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy decisions.

Despite well over one thousand endnotes and updated chapters on the lobby's role in influencing the Bush Administration's approach to Israel, Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Lebanon War of 2006, the book consistently misrepresents U.S. decision-making in the Middle East. Mearsheimer and Walt manufacture causal connections between the lobby's activities and American actions that Bush Administration insiders rebuke.

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