I found Chomsky’s answer to the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis intriguing. He is very ambiguous in his response. I am now convinced that the answer is very political. Something keeps Chomsky away from giving to much importance to the Israeli lobby. My own little theory is that he does not want to create crystallized enemies. I don’t really agree with such full blown critique of Chomsky’s text, although it could contain some interesting elements.
I would more agree with the realistic accounts of a Justin Raimondo.
I especially like this part:
(…) the big problem for Chomsky and his co-thinkers on the Left is that their reasoning is dizzyingly circular. They ascribe everything to the machinations of a “corporate” cabal, but their case is stated in terms of the broadest generalities, leaving the details to the imagination.
It is the lack of details, however, that is most telling. Because wars are started not by abstract “forces” nor by ideological constructs floating in mid-air, but by individuals – not corporate entities, but specific government officials, their advisers and employees. One could say that, in the abstract, the “stovepiping” of false information about Iraq’s alleged WMD was the result of late capitalism’s moral corruption and the “class interests” of Scooter Libby, but most people would find such a formulation baffling – and it is certainly inadequate.
The question of how and why we were lied into war is a matter of fact, not ideology. Abstract “forces” had nothing to do with it: specific individuals carried out specific acts. The misinformation that was deliberately planted was produced not by decaying capitalism, but by the decayed moral sense of certain government officials.
But everything Chomsky argues shows that the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis, even if it contains specific internal argumentative weaknesses is more or less politically relevant.
Check this interview Chomsky did a year ago where he talks of the Israeli lobby in these terms:
It is impossible to give a measure to the influence of the Israeli lobby, but in my opinion it is more of a swing factor than an independently decisive one. It is important to bear in mind that it is not neoconservatives, or Jewish. Friedman, for example, is a liberal in the US system. The union leadership, often strong supporters of Israeli crimes, are protypical liberals, not neocons. The self-styled “democratic socialists” who modestly call themselves “the decent left” have compiled an unusually ugly record in support of Israeli government actions ever since Israel’s massive victory in 1967, which won it many friends in left-liberal circles, for a variety of reasons. The Christian right is a huge voting bloc, plainly not Jewish, and in fact to a significant extent anti-Semitic, but welcomed by the government of Israel and its supporters because they support Israel’s atrocities, violence, and aggression, for their own reasons. It is a varied and large group, which happens also to constitute a substantial part of the intellectual elite, hence the media elite, so of course there is ideological influence. However, these groups rarely distance themselves far from what they know to be authentic power: state-corporate power. If US government policy would shift, they would shift along with it, maybe with some snapping at the heels of the powerful, but never daring too much. That has been fairly consistent in the past, and I think there is good reason to expect similar behavior in the future. Privilege and rewards do not come from confronting power, but by serving it, perhaps with some complaints at the margins while pouring out lies and slanders against anyone who strays a few millimeters to far from doctrinal orthodoxy, a primary function of respectable intellectuals throughout history. Particularly since its 1967 victory, state power has generally regarded Israel as a very important “strategic asset,” by now virtually an offshore military base and militarized high-tech center closely linked to the US and major regional US allies, particularly Turkey. That opens the way for the ideological influence to exert itself – lined up with real power. The story is far more complex than anyone can describe in a few words, but my feeling is that the essentials are pretty much like that. That is true of domestic lobbies quite generally, in a state capitalist society with very close ties between state and corporate power, a very obedient intellectual class, and a narrow political spectrum primarily reflecting the interests of power and privilege.
Chomsky here discusses standard interest group politics that could include other than purely economic interests. This contrast with his more recent answer.