When the "The Israel Lobby" first appeared as an article in the London Review of Books, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt instantly became the targets of a barrage of unjustified and vicious personal attacks. Such influential pundits as Martin Peretz, Eliot Cohen and Alan Dershowitz-Walt's colleague at Harvard-casually charged the pair with anti-Semitism, the nuclear option in any political debate. Under the circumstances, it was difficult not to feel respect for Mearsheimer and Walt's courage and disgust with the assault on them, sentiments I expressed on the pages of The National Interest.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that their new book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, was controversial even before it appeared in print. Organizers cancelled several scheduled events with the authors, even at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a respected organization normally open to debate. Also unusual for major books, quotes on the back cover praise only Mearsheimer's and Walt's previous books-a clear signal that it was difficult to persuade prominent people to provide their names in a way that could appear to support this one.
After reading The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, I remain impressed with Mearsheimer and Walt's bravery. I also do agree with their main argument-that there exists a powerful if loose pro-Israeli coalition which has a major impact on U.S. policy in the Middle East, including on key decisions like the decision to invade Iraq that might not have been made without a vigorous campaign by Israel's supporters.