Authors of Israel Lobby Paper Get Warm Reception at Military College

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Harvard’s Stephen Walt, being taped by a midshipman

The reason I went to the Naval War College was to hear Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the controversial paper on the Israel lobby, address an audience of officers and experts at the Navy’s 57th annual Current Strategy Forum. It’s remarkable when you think about it. Back in April, Harvard people were saying they were going to have all kinds of forums on the paper—to denounce it, as Hillel director Bernard Steinberg told me. Well, no forums. There’s been an embarrassed silence. And as has been argued here before, that probably stems from the fact that there is strong underground support for the paper’s findings, including its assertion that the disastrous decision to invade Iraq came partly out of pro-Israel pressure. Yes, that’s hard to talk about.

Meanwhile, (as Col. Larry Wilkerson has already indicated) the military is listening.

It was evident to me during my visit that many at the Naval War College were familiar with the paper. By one report, the College came under pressure from an unnamed congressman to cancel the talk, but the College stuck by its cannonballs. And no, Walt and Mearsheimer weren’t there to talk about the lobby—but the subject sure came up. A Lieutenant Commander Wilson rose to ask about the paper, wondering “how the Palestinians can combat the Israelis’ foreign influence in the United States.”

Mearsheimer used the question as an opportunity to say that the United States must not side with Israel on the question of unilateral disengagement from the West Bank.

You’re likely to see a situation in which the Israelis try to impose a settlement on the Palestinians. I think the Israel lobby will work hand-in-hand with the Israelis to push that approach. It think it is not in America’s interest and I think it is not in Israel’s interests. And for that reason, I think the Israel lobby is not good, not only for the United States but for Israel.

After the talk, another lieutenant commander came up to the authors with a bound copy of the paper, and had the authors sign it. Alan Dershowitz’s assertion that the two had “destroyed their professional reputations” was not supported by this event in Rhode Island. When it comes to the strategic military community, they’re doing fine.