Stephen Walt believes that the "Israel lobby" virtually controls American foreign policy. His "evidence" was presented in a paper written with John Mearsheimer in which the two anti-Israel scholars looked for Jews and Jewish influence under every bed, and connected non-existent dots to posit the notion that American Jews have "dual loyalties" and America isn't first.
Now Walt is saying that American Jews shouldn't be put in positions where they can influence foreign policy because of a "conflict of interest:"
It would be wrong to exclude someone from work on South Asia policy simply because they were a Pakistani-American or an Indian-American. Similarly, I would not exclude a Muslim American, Arab-American, or Jewish-American from involvement in U.S. Middle East policy simply because of their background, or exclude someone who happened to be married to a Korean from working on U.S. policy in East Asia."Independent evidence" is so subjective a criteria as to give the lie to Mr. Walt's pious denials of discrimination against Jews in keeping them out of positions of responsibility for foreign policy. Given his past identification of AIPAC as a virtually un-American organization, one would suspect that any connection to that group would mean exclusion in Mr. Walt's government. Similarly, strong support for Israel as made obvious in public statements would fall under Mr. Walt's rubric of "conflict of interest" - at least it could be used as an excuse not to hire someone.
But when an individual's own activities or statements give independent evidence of strong attachment to a particular foreign country, is it a good idea to give them an influential role in shaping U.S. policy towards that country? If disagreements arise between that country and Washington, won't this place these officials in a difficult position, and raise questions about their ability to conduct policy in a wholly objective manner? And even if they are sincerely attempting to advance the U.S. interest, won't their sense of identity with the foreign country in question incline them towards certain approaches that may or may not be optimal?
No one makes a stink if a policy maker has strong ties to Great Britain or France - a given in much of the foreign policy community. Walt is simply continuing his assault on the pro-Israel faction in our government that sees the enormous benefits in being allied with the only democracy in the Middle East - one in which, despite Walt's denigration, we have a strategic and a moral obligation to support.
Hat Tip: Rich Baehr