The Economist wonders who ever accused the lobby of causing the Iraq War


M.S. at The Economist weighs in on Josh Block’s parting with the Truman National Security Project over charges of anti-Semitism by bloggers for the Center for American Progress.

M.S. (when will The Economist leave the 19th century behind and employ full names?) is especially exercised by this contribution to the affair by the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

"When it comes to the charges of being ‘Israel Firsters’ and having ‘dual loyalty,’ we not only plead innocent but also counter-charge that these sponsored bloggers are guilty of dangerous political libels resonating with historic and toxic anti-Jewish prejudices," the center said in a statement issued today. "These odious charges have been around since Henry Ford in 1920 said ‘wars are the Jews’ harvest,’ Charles Lindbergh in 1940 condemned Jews for conspiring to plunge America into World War II, and ‘Jewish neocons’ were charged with colluding with Israel to cause the 2003 Iraq War."

M.S. then makes half a viable point by saying that considerations of Israel were not absent from Iraq War considerations, as opposed to the fantasies of Jewish warmongering peddled by Ford. But M.S. also shoots himself or herself in the foot:


Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were anti-semites, and their claims that Jews caused the first and second world wars were baseless anti-semitic propaganda. But the last claim offered here is completely different.


Those neocons did, in fact, press for the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. The Israeli government also generally supported the American invasion of Iraq, though it was more concerned about Iran and had misgivings about a prolonged American occupation. Yes, it would be ridiculous, and anti-semitic, to cast the Iraq war as a conspiracy monocausally driven by a cabal of Jewish neocons and the Israeli government. But it’s entirely accurate to count neoconservative policy analyses as among the important causes of the war, to point out that the pro-Israeli sympathies of Jewish neoconservatives played a role in these analyses, and to note the support of the Israeli government and public for the invasion. In fact any analysis of the war’s causes that didn’t take these into account would be deficient.

Claims that the Jews caused the world wars through their financial conspiracies and so forth are pure fantasies with no factual base, motivated by religious bigotry and paranoid worldviews. The claim that Jewish neocons "colluded" with Israel to "cause" the Iraq war is an exaggerated way of making the point that Jewish neocons, and to a much lesser extent the Israeli government, supported the Iraq war and played a substantial role in precipitating it. The words "collude" and "cause" are over the top, but I’m not sure who exactly has used them, outside of this press release.

A) Lindbergh had a point — a repellent one, to be sure, but U.S. Jews were, indeed, campaigning for entry into World War II (although they certainly were not the sole cause of America’s entry). But why should they have not been, for entirely American and entirely Jewish reasons? The problem with Lindbergh — and with folks who complain about "Israel-firstism" — is the insinuation that such activism is inherently anti-American and treasonous. Yes, we can now say with a great degree of moral authority that the Jews who campaigned for European intervention in the 1940s were right; but that by itself is not what makes Lindbergh’s charge repugnant.  It is the reflexive classification of such activism as outside the American norm, whether or not its effects are salutary.

B) That said, M.S. trips up in trying to link pro-Iraq War activism with pro-Israel activism. He contradicts himself in this single clause, where he tries — but cannot — reconcile "lesser" and "substantial":

Jewish neocons, and to a much lesser extent the Israeli government, supported the Iraq war and played a substantial role in precipitating it. 

His other trip-up is in pretending that the authors of the neocon Jews-Israel-Iraq fallacy are as reasonable as he is, that they only want revealed the limited degree that sympathy for Israel played in spurring the war, and are not arguing that Israel was the overweening cause of the war.

It took me 20 seconds — just that, really — to pull from the Mondoweiss blog these entires arguing just that: that Israel was the principal cause of the war.

More saliently, the gurus of the argument, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, put it this way on pages 230 and 231 of their book, "The Israel Lobby":

Pressure from Israel and the lobby was not the only factor behind the Bush administration’s decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element.

This remarkable ambitious scheme was inextricably linked to concerns about Israel’s security.

M.S., who chides SWC for its use of scare quotes, employs them to deride the group for its use of the verbs "caused" and "colluded;" but how far are these terms from "critical element" and "inextricably linked"?

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