I'd like to thank the Senate Armed Services Committee

In The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007) John Mearsheimer and I wrote:

The bottom line is that AIPAC, which bills itself as ‘America's Pro-Israel lobby' has an almost unchallenged hold on Congress ... Open debate about U.S. policy toward Israel does not occur there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. (p. 162)

After discussing the lobby's efforts to influence the executive branch, we noted:

There is an even more obvious way to shape an administration's policy: the lobby's goals are served when individuals who share its perspective occupy important positions in the executive branch. . . .[G]roups in the lobby also try to make sure that people who are seen as critical of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. (pp. 165-66)

And after a lengthy discussion of the lobby's efforts to police public discourse and smear those who disagree with them with the charge of anti-semitism, we concluded:

The various strategies that groups in the lobby employ ... are mutually reinforcing.  If politicians know that it is risky to question Israeli policy or the United States' unyielding support for Israel, then it will be harder for the mainstream media to locate authoritative voices that are willing to disagree with the lobby's views.  If public discourse about Israel can be shaped so that most American have generally positive impressions of the Jewish state, then politicians will have even more reason to follow the lobby's lead.  Playing the anti-Semitism card stifles discussion even more and allows myths about Israel to survive unchallenged.  Although other interest groups employ similar strategies in varying form. most of them can only dream of having the political muscle that pro-Israel organizations have amassed. (p. 196)

I want to thank the Emergency Committee for Israel, Sheldon Adelson, and the Senate Armed Service Committee for providing such a compelling vindication of our views.  As Rosie Gray amd Andrew Kaczynski of Buzzfeed noted, at yesterday's hearing on Chuck Hagel Israel was mentioned 166 times, and Iran (a problem closely linked to Israel) 144 times. Afghanistan was mentioned only 20 times, and the problem of suicides of U.S. troops only twice. Glad to see that those Senators have their priorities straight. No wonder Mark Twain referred to Congress as "the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes."

I am sometimes asked if I have any regrets about publishing our book. As of today, my only regret is that it isn't being published now. After the humiliations that Obama has endured at the hands of the lobby and now the Hagel circus, we'd sell even more copies and we wouldn't face nearly as much ill-informed criticism.

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National Security

Ten questions for Chuck Hagel

The flap over Chuck Hagel's nomination to be the next secretary of defense -- brought to you, like so many other foolish things, by hardliners in the Israel lobby -- has been a distraction from the real questions that the next secretary of defense ought to be ready to address. I happen to think Hagel is a good choice for the position, but he shouldn't get a free ride when he testifies tomorrow. In that spirit, here are the Ten Questions I'd Ask Chuck Hagel on Thursday.

Senator Hagel:

1. On China: "Do you think China's rising power poses a serious threat to U.S. interests? If its power continues to rise, should the United States continue to strengthen its Asian alliances and move more military forces to Asia? What other steps should the United States take now to protect its geopolitical interests in Asia, and how can we avoid a new Cold War there?"

2. On Taiwan: "As China's naval, air, and missile capabilities increase, defending Taiwan will become increasingly difficult. If at some point defending Taiwan is no longer militarily feasible, what should the United States do?"

3. On cyberwar: "Are you worried that America's use of cyberwarfare capabilities -- such as the famous STUXNET attack on Iran -- is setting a dangerous precedent for others? Given our growing dependence on computer networks, shouldn't we be actively pursuing some sort of a global regime to limit this danger, instead of assuming we will always be better at it than others?

Bonus follow-up on drones: "Same question: are we setting an equally dangerous precedent here? And do you agree with critics who say that current drone strikes are often counterproductive because they create as many extremists as they take out?"

#4. On nuclear weapons: "If it were solely up to you, sir, how many nuclear weapons would you maintain in the U.S. stockpile, even if other states did not reduce their arsenals at all?"

#5: On U.S.-Japanese relations: "The U.S.-Japanese security treaty is decidedly one-sided. As MIT professor Barry Posen points out, the treaty commits us to defending Japan while Japan promises to help. Shouldn't this arrangement be reversed? Why should America be more committed to defending Japan than the Japanese are? As secretary of defense, what will you do to produce a more equitable sharing of burdens between the U.S. and its wealthiest allies?"

#6: On torture:  "Are you comfortable with how the Obama administration dealt with the previous use of torture by U.S. personnel? Do you think the officials who authorized torture and other war crimes should have been prosecuted?"


#7: On Iraq and Afghanistan: "In the past decade, the United States has failed to achieve its strategic objectives in two major conflicts: Iraq and Afghanistan. Apart from the obvious lesson that we should not start foolish wars, what other lessons should the U.S. military be learning from these twin failures?"

#8: On the global military footprint: "The United States has hundreds of bases and other military facilities in every continent of the world; no other country comes even close. In the absence of a serious peer competitor, does our security really depend on this enormous global footprint? Which facilities could we do without?"

Bonus follow-up: "Defense experts also agree that America's basing structure at home is inefficient. As Secretary, are there any bases you would close or consolidate?

#9: On rape in the U.S. armed forces: "President Obama has recently authorized the deployment of women in combat roles. Yet sexual harassment and rape have reached epidemic proportions within the U.S. military, with over 3000 incidents per year being reported. What do you intend to do about this?"

#10: On veterans' benefits: "The United States should pay its soldiers a fair wage and stand by its veterans. Yet a number of budget experts now believe that ever-escalating benefit packages threaten our ability to maintain an effective defense. Do you think our current approach to military compensation is about right, or does it need to be fundamentally rethought? If the latter, how?"

If anybody asks him a few questions like that, they might even forget about some of those other issues, and the Senators might learn something useful about his qualifications and judgment.