Who's been reading Mearsheimer & Walt?
15 September 2009
Osama bin Laden has released a new message to the American people, in which he recommends that they should read The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, to discover the truth about the pressure groups "who control the White House". Bin Laden said that American support for Israel was the main reason for the 9/11 attacks, and that eliminating the "Israel Lobby" is the key to ending what he framed as a war between two nations, America and the Muslim world.
The emphasis bin Laden puts on American support for Israel is no surprise, but it is not supported by the evidence: his aggressive statements against America during the 1990s, while the 9/11 attacks were being planned, focused much more on the sanctions on Iraq and the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia than on events in Israel/Palestine. Grievances come and go, however, and with American forces gone from Saudi Arabia and on their way out of Iraq, bin Laden needs to stress the issues that will resonate with contemporary audiences. Al Qaeda have also proven adept at interpreting Western political assumptions and fears, and reflecting them straight back at us. Bin Laden's adoption of the Kyoto Protocol as a political cause is the most absurd and transparent example of this.
It goes without saying that Mearsheimer and Walt will not welcome bin Laden's endorsement of their work. The publication of their original article on the subject was warmly greeted by David Duke, which was bad enough. But they cannot claim to be completely surprised that the leader of al-Qaeda has cited their book in support of his cause; after all, they cited him first, as evidence that the activities of the Israel Lobby were damaging American interests ("There is no question that many al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are motivated by Israels presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians."). They can hardly complain that he has returned the compliment.