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Friday, September 28, 2007

Mearsheimer and Walt: the Shove in the Back Legend

Have no fear, I haven't given up in disgust, it's just that practically all of this month has been taken up with holiday and illness. Evidently staying at home is the healthy option.

So now I'm busy trawling through about 50,000 posts on my favourite blogs. Where to start? Well, an important and frightening place to start is with a couple of posts from Melanie Phillips.

In the first she quotes the wise words of LA Times writer Timothy Rutten reviewing Mearsheimer and Walt's The Israel Lobby. Rutter in turn quotes New Yorker editor David Remnick, who says that the Iraq fiasco 'has left Americans furious and demanding explanations. Mearsheimer and Walt provide one: the Israel lobby.' Rutter then concludes:-

'In fact, if you accept the analysis put forward in this book, it’s impossible not to conclude that the United States was, in fact, tricked into a disastrous war in Iraq by a domestic Fifth Column and that the ranks of that subversive formation are filled with Jews, their friends and willing dupes.

'Mearsheimer and Walt go to great pains to proclaim their disinterested benevolence toward all and to attach the word ‘realist’ to their argument. The only adjective that comes to this reader’s mind is "sinister."'

Not only sinister, but chillingly familiar. Germany, November1918: after the failure of its last big offensive the army is on the verge of being routed on the Western Front; on the home front despair finds an outlet in a wave of strikes; the Kaiser acknowledges the hopelessness of the situation and abdicates. The power vacuum is filled by politicians of the democratic Left, who form a provisional government, grasp the nettle of suing for peace, and then draft the democratic constitution of the ill-fated Weimar Republic. A weary, humiliated, angry people look for explanations.

Now it so happens that some of the most prominent personalities among these democratic politicians are Jews. As are a significant number of the radical socialists who led the strikes.

Or does it? Could it be that this fact provides the key to what's really been going on? Namely, that the Fatherland's heroic forces were on the verge of a glorious victory, only to have it snatched from them by a fiendishly cunning plan to foment unrest behind the lines, and thus smooth the way to power for a clique of politicians, revolutionary agitators and profiteers, united beneath their superficial differences by their lack of patriotism, their unscrupulousness - and their Jewishness.

So ran the Stab in the Back Legend (Dolchsto├člegende), which began gaining adherents immediately after the events of November 1918. One man may or may not have believed in the legend, but certainly believed it had an indispensible part to play in realizing his own dreams of power. Enjoying comfortable board and lodging at the state's expense (officially a prison cell) after his first attempt at seizing power, he wrote a book setting the Stab in the Back in its wider context of Jewish bestiality. The rest, as they say, is history.

And history has a way of repeating itself. Of course, the details are different. Then, a stab in the back to cheat a nation of its victory. Now, a shove in the back to ensure that a nation fights a war which is not in its interest. And of course Mearsheimer and Walt are not Hitlers.

But the Stab in the Back Legend came in many versions, some relatively 'sophisticated' and not - at least overtly - anti-Semitic. Once the logic of scapegoating is established, however, it tends to be the most consistent and ruthless scapegoaters who reap the rewards.

For the other Melanie Phillips post, see my next.

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