On the latest great selection from Osama's Book Club...

Frankly, on those few occasions when I imagine Osama bin Laden I prefer to envision him wasting away from some bat-borne illness he picked up in the caves he frequents. That's why thinking of him sitting there flipping through his well-thumbed copy of Walt and Mearsheimer's tedious tome is almost satisfying. Really, who knew there was a Death-to-Israel Book Club? But even more satisfying than thinking of Bin Laden drifting off somewhere between The Israel Lobby's recitation of the obvious and its misreading of America's challenges in the Middle East, was Walt's exquisite response on the FP site.  

While I'm tempted to leave well enough alone, it's hard to ignore the significance of Osama embracing Walt and Mearsheimer's theories. What could better illustrate that the book possesses all the internal logic of an al Qaeda press release than the mere fact of this intellectual love connection?

And what could I write about this development that would be more of a revealing indictment of the Walt-Mearsheimer approach than Walt's own efforts to fend off a big wet one from al Qaeda's head maniac? Watch him twist slowly in a noose of his own manufacture as he begins his response with a brief disavowal and then uses his Osama Moment to move quickly into a reassertion of his own theory. Once again, he recites the list of others who have mentioned that there was an Israel lobby without yet noting that this is simply evidence that his principal conclusion offered nothing new. 

Walt's response gets really good when he then goes so far as to suggest that Osama's embrace of his book only proves his point that the Israel lobby (or is it The Israel Lobby?) is used as a justification by terrorists. Blind to the irony all his book did was weave precisely the kind of fabric of partial truths and old biases that are used to dress up the hatreds of demagogues everywhere, Walt actually has the chutzpah to try use the news that the most evil man in the world is reading his work as a soap box from which to once again sell his argument (and books).   

Of course, even more disturbing to me than the fact that Bin Laden has now been given the opportunity to suggest that he has found support for his arguments from "prestigious academics" is of course, that not just terrorists are reading this book or buying its conclusions. The cold hard fact is that Walt and Mearsheimer have won the moment here in Washington. The United States is getting tougher with Israel and more open to Hamas and their supporters in the Arab world. We are seeking "balance" in the name of "realism." There are two prevailing groups who are driving the argument at the moment: those who see moral equivalency between the Israelis and the Palestinians (see yesterday's "war crimes" report) and those who think the Israelis are worse. 

Walt and Mearsheimer have achieved a near miracle, creating one thing on which both the current Washington establishment and Bin Laden can agree on. Bad as that may sound, at worst I think that is a mixed blessing. Because in the end there's only one sure way to undercut such theories, and that's to try to put them into action.  

Fortunately for all of us, the ultimate antidote to "realism" is reality.  

Which is why I am advising my Israeli and pro-Israel friends to put the Jew back into Jiu Jitsu. (We talk that way to each other at World Jewish Conspiracy meetings.) Let's see what happens when the United States distances itself further from Israel, when we beat up on them and embrace the Palestinians and their "allies" elsewhere in the region ... soon enough we will see that we ended up in support of Israel not because of the power of the Israel lobby or America's deep love of the Jews (hold on while I choke back my own laughter at that idea), but because they were the only country in the region that actually was a suitable and dependable ally and that as big a problem as the Israelis may have been for the long-suffering Palestinians, the Arabs have been as bad or worse. All that's even more true today. So, Israel should go along with the new approach (careful to defend itself against imminent threats, of course) and let Hamas and Ahmadinejad do the heavy lifting when it comes to disproving the whimsy of the realists that all it will take is for us to make nice with the Arab world and all will be well. And at the same time, by losing this argument big time, those who are supporters of Israel will (once again) prove their own weakness in the U.S. political process. 

In other words, go on, try "realism." Make my day. It's the best possible way to discredit Osama, Hamas, Ahmadinejad, Walt and Mearsheimer all at once. 

Now, before I conclude, I have to admit that at least on one level, I do have a little sympathy for Walt. My last book, Superclass, actually attracted a bunch of the same kind of folks who read his work, conspiracy theorists who, much as Walt did himself, start out with a conclusion and then look for evidence to support it (while carefully avoiding countervailing facts). It took me a long time to come to grips with the existence of this readership and realize that even though, in the end, my book disappointed them because it really sought to debunk most of their crazed theories, I played a role in attracting them to the book. I was responsible. And so it is that one can only hope that on some level, this most recent development will help Walt and Mearsheimer come to grips with one of the toughest truths any author can grapple with.

Every book gets the readers it deserves.

AFP/Getty Images

David Rothkopf

The day of the locos...

Yes, "Morning Joe" thought the hot story out of the Venice Film Festival was the footage of an exuberant gay Italian man stripping down and begging for a kiss from George Clooney. But they missed the bigger story. Perhaps they were too dazzled by the flashbulbs or their reporter was unable to make his way through the fawning, screeching crowds of fans. But there, upstaging the canals and the pigeons of St. Marks was Hollywood's newest hunk, Hugo Chavez. And just like Clooney, he had his retinue of crazed admirers. In Chavez's case however, the heavy-breathing was coming from director Oliver Stone, who was in town to promote his latest labor of love, a valentine to Chavez called "South of the Border." 

And you thought George W. Bush was Yale's most embarrassing graduate... 

This new film -- which is not, incidentally, named after the South Carolina roadside tourist trap of the same name -- builds on Stone's unwitting reputation as a master of historical fiction. Whereas some filmmakers are known for their camera work or story-telling, Stone is best known for his inability to separate fact from fairy-tale. First, came JFK, which provided the same view of the Kennedy assassination you would get after huffing glue while watching the Zapruder film. Other fantasies made their way into his movies on Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Appropriately, therefore, the best of all summaries of his worldview came in the description of his "single plane theory" of the 9/11 attacks as reported by the Onion. (Given Stone's track record, the fact that it is completely made up is precisely the reason it should be treated as the truth.) 

Here's an excerpt of Time's review of the film:

Every step of the way, Stone is by, and on, on the President's side. He raises no tough issues, some of which are summarized in Amnesty International's 2009 report on Venezuela: "Attacks on journalists were widespread. Human-rights defenders continued to suffer harassment. Prison conditions provoked hunger strikes in facilities across the country." Referring to the 2006 election in which Chávez won a third term, Stone tells viewers that "90% of the media was opposed to him," and yet he prevailed. "There is a lesson to be learned," Stone says. Yes: support the man in power, or your newspaper, radio station or TV network may be in jeopardy.

According to Variety, Stone said, ""You can't get a fair hearing for Chavez. It's an outrageous caricature they've drawn of him in the Western press."

Yes. Outrageous. Let's just take a few items of Chavez news from around the world that have crossed the wires in just the past couple days and draw our own conclusions, shall we?

Let's start with the mildly comic. In Belarus, Chavez met with President Alexander Lukashenko (the White Russian version of a caudillo). There, according to AFP:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday boasted of his good ties with fellow Western critic Belarus, even suggesting the two countries could become part of a Soviet-style union.

Chavez held talks in Minsk with his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko marked by a chummy bonhomie that saw the pair also propose they travel the length and breadth of Venezuela in the near future.

"We need to create a new union of republics," Chavez told Lukashenko, according to a statement from the Belarussian presidency.

Today, in moves that are not so laughable, Chavez will meet with Russian officials where he is expected to discuss further arms sales, military cooperation and energy deals.

More ominously, today Chavez also stirred up a torrent of controversy when he accused Israel of genocide.

The question is not whether the Israelis want to exterminate the Palestinians. They're doing it openly," Chavez said in an interview with Le Figaro published on Wednesday.

The Venezuelan president, who has just completed a tour of Middle Eastern and Arab countries, brushed aside Israeli assertions that its attack on Gaza was a response to rocket fire from Islamist group Hamas which rules the coastal enclave.

"What was it if not genocide? ... The Israelis were looking for an excuse to exterminate the Palestinians," Chavez said, adding that sanctions should have been slapped on Israel.

While perhaps Stone would agree with these rants (and while he might disagree with Elliott Abrams's excellent piece in yesterday's Washington Post taking former President Jimmy Carter to task for his similarly one-sided, overstated and distorted views), his past record of using and abusing the truth like other directors do starlets suggests that he might not dig far enough into the facts to recognize that his film's hero is deeply in bed with some of the very worst of the Middle East's bad actors. 

Fortunately for the rest of us, there is the very thoughtful and profoundly disturbing column by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau in yesterday's Wall Street Journal detailing a growing case that Chavez and the Iranians are up to the worst kind of no good in this neighborhood. (Connecting the dots between Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Chavez's views is very easy when you do a little more research than Stone did.) Morgenthau writes:

Why is Hugo Chávez willing to open up his country to a foreign nation with little shared history or culture? I believe it is because his regime is bent on becoming a regional power, and is fanatical in its approach to dealing with the U.S. The diplomatic overture of President Barack Obama in shaking Mr. Chávez's hand in April at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago is no reason to assume the threat has diminished. In fact, with the groundwork laid years ago, we are entering a period where the fruits of the Iran-Venezuela bond will begin to ripen.

That means two of the world's most dangerous regimes, the self-described "axis of unity," will be acting together in our backyard on the development of nuclear and missile technology. And it seems that terrorist groups have found the perfect operating ground for training and planning, and financing their activities through narco-trafficking.

His theory is supported not only by the evidence outlined in his article but also by statements earlier this week that Chavez intended to provide oil to Iran in the event the world's leading powers attempt to impose an embargo on the country should it continue to pursue its nuclear weapons ambitions. The Iranian intransigence could put the U.S. on a collision course not only with Tehran but with suppliers like Chavez -- a fact which could delay his getting a star on Hollywood's walk of fame indefinitely as well as causing a real foreign policy headache for the Obama administration.

However, there are always two sides to every story (at least ... around the dinner table in my house growing up there were typically many more than that). And as dark as is the picture of Iranian-Venezuelan cooperation painted by Morgenthau there will always be someone who sees the happy Hollywood ending to such collaborations. And of course, for that we can always turn to Stone. Because according to The Guardian, Chavez's Leni Riefenstahl is currently planning as an encore "an interview film with Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Update: We just heard from Willie Geist of "Morning Joe" who noted that they did their takedown of Chavez and Stone earlier this week. I should have known that Geist, who has one of television's best B.S. detectors and, even rarer, a great sense of humor, would never have let this story slip through the cracks.