Apparently, Sterling Professor of English David Bromwich has something of a sideline at The Huffington Post. In addition to his writings elsewhere, he has posted intermittently on that liberal blog-hub; One of these postings came to my attention via (Ph.D.) alum Michael Rubin’s post on The National Review’s blog.
As one might expect of “HuffPo,” Bromwich’s Sept. 4 posting, “Iraq, Israel, Iran,” is filled with the typical inane jibber-jabber about “the war party” and the president’s “favorite tame senator” (Lieberman, duh). While I wasn’t interested in that — because really, who is? — my attention was caught by Bromwich’s glowing endorsement of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s new book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.”
For those who don’t keep pace with political science or the latest efforts to uncover the insidious Jewish conspiracy behind the world’s wars (really, either one), there’s been controversy surrounding Mearsheimer and Walt. It began with their London Review of Books article (on which this new book expands), “The Israel Lobby,” in which they argued that American support for Israel defies strategic and moral logic. It can only be attributed to “the Lobby,” a Jewish cabal that has hijacked American policy. “The Lobby” (which doesn’t roll off my tongue like “Evil Jew Super-Conspiracy,” but I guess I don’t have a Ph.D.) “increases the terrorist danger that all states face” and “has made it impossible to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Worst of all, “the Lobby’s campaign for regime change in Iran and Syria could lead the US to attack those countries.” In the absence of “the Lobby,” “preventive war would not be a serious option” and, moreover, we could “enlist [Iran and Syria, the principal state sponsors of al-Qaida in Iraq and the Iraqi insurgency] in the struggle against al-Qaida and the Iraqi insurgency, where their help is badly needed.”
Honestly, I’ll never read their book — I’ve got important books for my senior essay not to read first — but there’s plenty to dislike about their earlier Frankenstein’s monster of ignorance and hoary anti-Semitic tropes (sorry, I meant “serious scholarly article”), and plenty of great critiques of it — my favorite is Eliot Cohen’s “Yes, It’s Anti-Semitic” from the Washington Post.
Of course, according to Bromwich, this makes Cohen “a shameless slanderer of Mearsheimer-Walt.” Bromwich generously concedes, “the evidence of Mearsheimer and Walt suggests that Israel was never the prime mover of the Iraq war” — and, although their article gave a distinctly different impression, I’m sure Jews appreciate Bromwich’s magnanimity. Oh, wait: “But now the American war with Iran they [Israel] originally wanted is coming closer.” “The hottest cries for another war have been coming this summer from Joe Lieberman,” inspired by “his appetite for multiple theaters of conflict,” “the congealed memory of all the wars he never fought” and “his crusty lust for con-qwust” (guess which one I made up). But he wouldn’t push for war without permission from “Vice President Cheney, a close and admired friend.” So the Jew is the bloodthirsty henchman and the gentile the bloodthirsty behind-the-scenes manipulator? Oops, sike: Cheney wouldn’t “permit a high-profile lawmaker whom he partly controls to set the United States and Israel on so perilous a course unless he had ascertained its acceptability to Ehud Olmert.” Ah, so the Israelis have secret veto power over American policy. My world makes sense again.
Of course, the “chief orchestrater of the second neoconservative war of aggression” is Elliot Abrams, with “his reckless love of subversion” — sounds like that pesky dual loyalty! According to Bromwich, Abrams “presides over the Middle East desk at the National Security Council” — a job description two years out of date, as he was promoted in 2005. Regardless, Abrams is unfit for the job he doesn’t hold because of his 1997 book “Faith or Fear,” an entreaty to American Jews to keep their religious identity distinct from secular American culture. To this end, Abrams says, “It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart — except in Israel — from the rest of the population.” Bromwich theorizes that “when he wrote those words, Abrams probably did not expect to serve in another American administration,” as he couldn’t have expected “to occupy a position that would require him to weigh the national interest of Israel, the country with which he confessed himself uniquely at one, alongside the national interest of a country in which he felt himself to stand ‘apart … from the rest of the population.’ ” Ah, so, unencumbered by career ambition, Abrams let loose his secret Jew-feelings; therefore, “his words of 1997 ought to alarm us into reflection.” Employing the hypothetical example of a Hindu “director of the South Asia desk of the National Security Council” who had made similar comments about Hindus (and also “recently channeled 86 million dollars to regional gangs and militias bent on increasing … tension,” which seems without real-world parallel), Bromwich asks: “Would we not conclude that something in our counsels of state had gone seriously out of joint?” Bromwich makes a good point, namely that we’re lucky we don’t have to worry about the Hindus — unlike those J-O-O’s.
According to Mearsheimer and Walt, one of the ways “the Lobby” menaces American democracy is by “put[ting] pressure on particular academics and universities” — presumably by bringing those academics’ ugly comments to public light. Well, Yale students and alumni: Here we have a Yale professor touting a book that has been derided as a failure of scholarship and a retread of ancient blood libels as something that “deserves to be widely read and discussed” and “could not be more timely” — apparently because we’re on a Jew-set course for war with Iran. Contrary to Mearsheimer and Walt’s wishful thinking, of course, there’s no unitary Lobby (or, again, Evil Jew Super-Conspiracy) to resort to here. In the real world, there’s not much we can do about professor Bromwich’s article — save be embarrassed that Yale’s name is somehow attached to it.
Sam Heller is a senior in Pierson College. His column appears on alternate Fridays.