All this negative energy just makes the Israel Lobby stronger
I’ve been trying not to wade into The Israel Lobby waters, but this argument from Stephen Walt about why the book was panned in the United States caught me short: Douthat is correct that the mainstream reviews of the book [in the United States] were mostly negative, which is hardly surprising if one looks at ...
I've been trying not to wade into The Israel Lobby waters, but this argument from Stephen Walt about why the book was panned in the United States caught me short:
I’ve been trying not to wade into The Israel Lobby waters, but this argument from Stephen Walt about why the book was panned in the United States caught me short:
Douthat is correct that the mainstream reviews of the book [in the United States] were mostly negative, which is hardly surprising if one looks at who was chosen (or agreed) to review it. Given the hot water that Zbigniew Brzezinski got into when he said a few nice things about our original article, one can understand why people who liked the book might have been reluctant to say so in print.
In fact, the pattern of reviews does allow for an admittedly crude test of one of our arguments. We showed that people who criticize Israeli policy or the influence of the Israel lobby are virtually certain to face a firestorm of criticism and personal attacks in the United States. This is partly because such tactics are part of the standard MO for some key actors in the lobby, but also because mainstream media in the United States have tended to be protective of Israel in the past (this may be changing somewhat now). If we are right, one would expect mainstream reviews of our book in the United States to be negative, but reviews elsewhere should be more favorable. And that proved to be the case.
Let’s label the above explanation the Cliff Poncier Hypothesis. This certainly could be one explanation for why The Israel Lobby got panned in the United States. To be sure, some of the reviews didn’t seem to understand how political science works.
Just for the sake of argument, however, I can think of at least two other possible explanations for this particular distribution of reviews:
The Cliff Poncier Hypothesis is too narrow: no one reviewed The Israel Lobby based on its intrinsic merits. Those reviewers comfortable with the status quo had an incentive to pan it, and those reviewers eager to change the U.S.-Israeli relationship loved it. They loved it or hated it strictly based on whether the book’s conclusions matched up with their own policy preferences.
The Israel Lobby was primarily a book about American politics and American foreign policy, and it presented a sloppy, simplistic account of how such politics work. American reviewers, who are more aware of how American politics actually works, would therefore be expected to provide more negative reviews of these sections of the book.
I’ll let the readers be the judge of which hypothesis best explains the pattern of reviews.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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