Stephen M. Walt, a realist in an ideological age, as he defines himself, published on September 6th an open letter to his Congressman, Joseph Kennedy III, who like Walt is a liberal in the best tradition of his family and the state of Massachusetts. In it, the professor pleads with the politician to get off the fence and vote against the administration's planned strike against the Assad regime.
The letter is a lucid and detailed catalog of all the intellectual arsenal of liberals on intervention in a third world dictatorship gone rogue, and in fairness, includes strong and effective arguments; I know this because I found myself in a lot of agreement with Walt. Not something to be looked down at, as my loyal readers will soon find out... Still, there were at least two glaring inaccuracies, perhaps the result of lack of sufficient sources. One is when Walt writes that an American strike will turn Syria into a failing state. Well, it already is, being torn apart by a horrific civil war, with one third of the population being refugees, and over 100,000 fatalities. Then Walt goes on to express the fear that the strike will ignite "a struggle for power among competing sectarian factions." It should be known by now even at Harvard University that the Syrian conflict has long been a sectarian struggle, something that "realist" liberals find somehow hard to accept.
But then, I would not have ventured to bother the readers of this blog with a correspondence between a constituent, as distinguished as he might be, and his elected congressman, but for a very significant omission in this otherwise very specific, well-argued letter. I read and reread and did not see the name Israel mentioned even once. And yes, this is the same Professor Walt who alongside professor Mearsheimer wrote the famous book about AIPAC and the demonic Israeli influence over American foreign policy. In it, the two argued that the Middle East conflict is a centerpiece of American foreign policy, and this policy is determined by Israel and the "all-powerful" AIPAC.
So, under these circumstances, I eagerly expected to read about the Israeli connection of the Syrian problem, as well as it being behind the President's decision to attack in Syria. Nothing of the kind in the open letter, and for good reason. The Syrian conflict has nothing to do with Israel. So was the case in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started, so it was in Libya, where the US intervened " from behind," so it was in Egypt, where the secular-liberal Tamarud movement agitates against the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty and the deposed Muhammad Morsi related to Jews as descendants of pigs and monkeys.
Well, Israel has not been involved in all these situations, as well as in Yemen, Bahrain etc. because the Arab Spring had nothing to do with the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It has to do with poverty, corruption, authoritarianism and sectarianism -- all are huge issues which are concerned with the very fabric of the Arab state system, with basic ills of Arab societies; in sum, with issues that are mostly the makings of the Arabs, ones which ought to be solved by them.
The Arab Spring has been a cataclysmic, formative event, the most important to have happened in the Middle East since the heydays of Nasserism, back in the 1950's. Such a huge event and no Israel connection, so where is the big thesis of Walt and Mearsheimer ? How is it connected to the Middle East circa 2013? Well, it is not. The book of the two distinguished authors caused a lot of damage to Israel and the pro-Israel community in the US. The two professors are luminaries in their field. A survey published in February 2009 by the Teaching, Research, and International Policy Project (TRIP) found out that 25 percent of American International Relations Scholars viewed the two, though not necessarily the book, as those who most influenced them. Michael Massing wrote in June 2006, in the New York Review of Books, that the two struck Washington like a Category 5 hurricane, no less... That may be the case but events in the REAL world of the Middle East, including Syria these days, just tend to indicate that even influential professors can be wrong.
There already are those who try to connect President Obama's decision to attack to the ever devious Israel connection. In that case they owe an explanation as to the position of the Arab League in support of the presumed strike, also that of PM Erdoghan and others who are not exactly lovers of Zion. And yes, judging by leaks from PM Netanyahu's office, Israel will support President Obama as to be expected from an ally.
Back to Walt. The good in me would like to believe that we shall live to read a realistic updating to his and Mearsheimer's theory. The realist in me Is gearing up to the inevitable charge, that when coming to Syria, it is again the Israelis who are behind it all. Can it be otherwise?!...