On Dual Loyalties

The Chas Freeman debate has devolved into the typical pissing contest between the token pro-occupationists and the Juicebox Mafia, and given as it should be clear where I stand in that, I didn’t feel it necessary to comment. But this accusation of Jon Chait’s is so truly vile that it needs singling out:

Walt is arguing that any Jewish-American who does not roughly share his views on Israel (which, of course, disqualifies the vast majority) is presumptively acting out of dual loyalty, is probably coordinating their actions in secret, and should thus be dismissed out of hand.

This is a lie. Walt has never said this. I defy Chait to find any Walt quote where you accuses all Jewish-Americans with hawkish views on Israel of dual loyalties. What I have read Walt say is that two specific individuals – Steven Rosen and Jeffrey Goldberg – have dual loyalties. Because they do. Steve Rosen is under federal indictment for being an Israeli spy, and Jeff Goldberg is an IDF veteran.

Now, I recognize that accusations of dual loyalties are a frequent anti-semitic trope, but let’s be clear for a second. I’m roughly the same age that Goldberg was when he enlisted in the IDF. If I were to move to the UK and enlist in the British Army, most people would conclude that I have dual loyalties with the US and Britain. And they’d be right, because that’s what dual loyalties means. Similarly, if I were to serve for decades as a major lobbyist pushing for closer Anglo-American ties and it came out that I had been funneling classified information from a source in the DoD to the MI6, any reasonably intelligent person would say I had dual loyalties, if not singular loyalty to Great Britain. And, again, they’d be right.

Does this mean that Rosen and Goldberg’s opinions are invalid? Of course not. But it does mean that they should be interpreted as driven by a desire to protect Israeli and American interests, rather than just the latter. It’s not beyond the pale, then, for someone solely concerned with the American national interest like Walt to dismiss Rosen and Goldberg’s arguments, or least be highly skeptical of them, on the basis of the mens’ dual loyalties. What is beyond the pale is baselessly accusing someone of anti-Semitism for rhetorical gain and blatantly lying about what that person has said. Then again, that’s the basic business model of TNR these days, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just disheartening to see someone as smart as Chait – who’s so consistently good on economic issues – to sink to such a contemptible level of discourse.

5 thoughts on “On Dual Loyalties

  1. I certainly think that a serious peace process would be good for Israel. If I were Israeli, I would certainly not vote for Likud. And I’m also not up in arms about Charles Freeman — although I don’t know a huge amount about that case. But when I read Stephen Walt’s blog past that you linked, it doesn’t look good. Walt crosses the line from being part of the solution to being part of the problem.
    Number one, Walt did not simply offer dual loyalty as a reason to be a little skeptical. What he said was, “A journalist (Jeffrey Goldberg) whose idea of ‘public service’ was to enlist in the Israeli army…” That’s not the same as you enlisting in the British Army. If you did, reasonable people would call that public service without scare quotes or any other note of sarcasm. As you say, Walt really means “dual loyalty” as an accusation. He interprets this dual loyalty as disloyalty, either to decency, or to America, or both.
    Number two, merely serving in the IDF is not by itself a dramatic token of loyalty. I don’t know Goldberg’s particular legal situation. But I do know other Israelis who served in the IDF, including some who are far to the left, for the simple reason that it’s compulsory. I’m not sure why Walt is (at least to appearances) jumping twice to such an accusatory conclusion, when once would already have been dubious.
    Number three, why are all seven of the “usual suspects” in Walt’s blog, they who “have not a shred of decency”, happen to be Jewish? Why are Jonathan Chait and Jeffrey Goldberg more prominent mudslingers in his view than, say, Michelle Malkin? Is it that Malkin has merely been pushed or brainwashed by those darned Likudniks?

  2. You and I disagree a lot on this issue, so I’ll just note for the record that Jeffrey Goldberg is not Israeli. He was born in Brooklyn and raised in Nassau County. So he was under no legal compunction to join. He chose to move to Israel and enlist.

  3. There are different possible degrees of volition in a story like this one. According to his autobiography (which is the source of any of this information), Goldberg emigrated to Israel and obtained Israeli citizenship.
    Anyway this morning I am not as irritated about Walt as I was yesterday — not because I have really changed my impression but just because I’m bored by ad hominem thinking. But I am just as irritated as before by this concept of “dual loyalty”.
    In my profession I talk to people with “dual loyalty” all the time, in the sense that they have American jobs but foreign citizenship. No, I do not interpret anything that they have to say as driven by a desire to protect their national interest. I talk to them as citizens of the world, and I do not add salt to their opinions just on the basis of their military service or their residence papers, because that’s the way to treat people with respect.
    I also want to make another point about the concept of “lying”. Yes, Chait has taken a wild interpretation of Walt has to say. No, I don’t agree with Chait at all on that point. But that’s not “lying”, and moreover Walt treats Chait the same way. “What unites this narrow band of critics is only one thing: Freeman has dared to utter some rather mild public criticisms of Israeli policy. That’s the litmus test that Chait, Goldberg, …” There Walt is putting words into Chait’s mouth, or a motive into his mind, just as much as vice versa. So that’s not “lying” either. But it is true that Walt and Chait are treating each other with contempt and wild suspicion rather than with respect.

  4. Why do you believe Walt only accused Walt and Rosen of being dual loyalists? Here’s what Walt said:
    Nice try, but it is abundantly clear to almost everyone that the assault on Freeman has been conducted by individuals — Chait included — who are motivated by their commitment to Israel and who are upset that Freeman has criticized some of its past behavior.
    http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/03/05/the_best_defense_is_to_be_offensive_a_response_to_chait_goldfarb_and_goldberg
    To me saying that people are “motivated by their commitment to Israel” seems like a less explosive way of calling them dual loyalists, and this post is focused on Chait, Michael Goldfarb, and Goldberg, not just Goldberg and Rosen, so I don’t see how Chait is “lying” or being particularly unfair here.

  5. Here we are on Monday morning and the dual loyalty concept still bugs me. It’s clear from aaaaaa’s quote, and for that matter Wikipedia’s synopsis of Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book, that loyalty to Israel is the big explanation and the big problem. As I said, that’s a theory that leaves Middle Eastern hawks who aren’t Jewish — Rush Limbaugh, or John Bolton, or anyone at NRO who isn’t Jewish — pretty much nowhere. Actually Mearsheimer and Walt thought of that and rattled off names of some Christian conservatives in their essay, but it doesn’t mesh well with the main thesis.
    But, that aside, where does that leave Jews and Israelis who want peace with the Palestinians? The dual loyalty explanation also leaves all of them nowhere. Yes, some of them have endorsed Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book. But I don’t think that they have thought through the implications. The ultimate implication is that Jews and Israelis who want peace aren’t loyal to Israel; they’re traitors to Zionism. The Israeli peace movement would then be an ineffectual distraction. The key to pursuing American interests would be to close ranks against Israel, never mind persuading any Israeli of anything.
    Since Walt is so interest in digging for people’s motives, I have some impression of his own motive. I don’t think that he is congenitally anti-Semitic. Rather, I think that some scholars get too wrapped up in geopolitics as a big chess game. They can then lose patience with pieces that are out of place.
    Let me make an analogy with Rhodesia. On the one hand, Rhodesia was the perfect example of despicable, unaccountable Western colonialism and racism. It was an illegitimate state. When it inevitably and deservedly fell, an expert in international affairs like Walt could say, oh good, problem solved, now we can have more geopolitical harmony. Indeed, the fall of Rhodesia was harmonious for regional relations, at least for a while. But what came after has not been better for ordinary people.

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