John Mearsheimer, once an appropriately obscure political scientist at the University of Chicago, was little noticed outside academia until 2007. That was the pivotal year his inaccurate, sloppily-written, barely-researched, and venomously anti-Israel book was published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, which paid an astounding $750,000 advance for The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, co-written with an equally unknown Harvard academic, one Stephen Walt.
Overnight, the two professors were rich and infamous. Being rich is the right of all Americans. Infamy brought about through freely-expressed bigotry — although certainly a right under the First Amendment — is intolerable in a tenured professor, or in anyone choosing to teach for a living. Like so many before them and since, such as — no, why give any of them any further publicity? — the two authors found a mother lode of lucre and like-minded support in the far left academic world of today, as well as among people with similar political views outside the academy.
Because of the principle of academic freedom they were at liberty to hawk their hate-filled book, which claimed falsely and maliciously that a cabal of Jewish interests is responsible for the American government’s support of Israel. The truth is, and has been since President Truman’s recognition of the state of Israel in 1948, that strong support for Israel is the preference of the overwhelming majority of Americans — who are not lobbied by anyone.
When, in September 2011, Mearsheimer endorsed a book by a Hitler apologist and Holocaust “revisionist,” Mearsheimer escaped the censure that would normally be the fate of anyone outside academia.
Well, his students have now done what no faculty member or university administrator has dared: call for his resignation. In an editorial that is far better-written and more logically-argued than the Mearsheimer-Walt screed, they wrote in COUNTERPOINT: The University of Chicago’s Conservative Quarterly, a student publication:
When, after a long career built on a theory that domestic political relationships had a minimal impact on any state’s foreign policy, John Mearsheimer co-wrote The Israel Lobby, a popular book alleging the maximal impact of a small cabal on American foreign policy, we were perplexed at the incoherence. When the book was written without accompanying scholarship on the Turkish lobby which has had a hand in the failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide or push for a Kurdish state, the Irish lobby which greatly influenced the American policy in Northern Ireland for decades, or Arab, Chinese, Tibetan, Greek, Indian, or Pakistani lobbies that have all made their mark on American foreign policy, we were left wondering at the motives of his focus. When the book was finally read and its narrative of the Israeli-Arab conflict rested on shoddy history, a mix of long-ago refuted facts (whose falsehood was easily available over Google) and stark errors of omission, we began to question the animus of Professor Mearsheimer.
For those of you who haven’t been in or around academia for several decades, this is unusual: unusually good writing and, far more significantly, unusually clear thinking. The students continue:
The R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago has long been an important academic, but only recently a famous one. He built a robust theory of states seeking security through regional hegemony, no matter their domestic politics. Yet this theory could not explain many of the adventures of the United States in the Middle East. There had to be an exogenous factor. He labeled this factor “The Israel Lobby.” But he did not use this factor to complicate the original model; he did not further examine the role of domestic constituencies in international relations. He left “The Israel Lobby” an outlier, an asterisk. It was a strange Jewish exceptionalism he propagated: only the Jews had dual loyalties. He was attacked. He dug in. More and more of his output was devoted to the dealings of the Jewish State. He began to speak at the events of Palestinian nationalists, groups whose assumptions would have seemed so contrary to realism. He would speak recklessly and accuse Israel of awful motives. This was a different John Mearsheimer. Something was going on.
But Mearsheimer continued to teach, attend faculty meetings, and be treated with civility by his colleagues, both at the University of Chicago and beyond, where he became an ever more popular guest lecturer. Far from “paying a price,” he and his co-author have flourished as they never had before. Although his colleagues said nothing, Mearsheimer’s students were taking note of his public descent into classic bigotry, freely and widely expressing his heretofore unspoken beliefs. The students exquisitely analyze their teacher’s tragic fall, and conclude as follows:
Professor Mearsheimer’s contribution to the study of powers regional and global will last, may even become canonical, but he has in recent years attracted a very sorry stain upon himself, his scholarship, and the University which enabled his many achievements. The charge of anti-Semitism is a durable one, especially when actions repeatedly fail to contradict it. Professor Mearsheimer is certainly entitled to study, author, and speak whatever he will (we do not think the approval of hateful ideas a fireable offense), but it will refract upon an institution that has done more for him than he has done for it. It lately refracts the most bigoted ravings of a British madman and the questionable animus of his endorsing professor. If Professor Mearsheimer is to retain any of the grace of an accomplished scholar and do right by his home for nearly thirty years, there is but a single option: retirement.
The publication of this editorial, which I urge all PJ Media readers to read in its brilliant entirety here, inspired alumni who had been Mearsheimer’s students to publish their own views favoring Mearsheimer’s resignation, such as this luminous post by Pejman Yousefzadeh, now an attorney in Chicago who studied both as an undergraduate in political science and a graduate student in international relations with Mearsheimer.
One cannot improve on the students’ own conclusion: retirement is the only way Mearsheimer can possibly save the few tattered shreds that remain of his reputation.