My dissertation, completed in 1999, built on some main research findings in the realist balance-of-power paradigm, of which Walt is a leading scholar. His book, The Origins of Alliances (1987), offered one of the most important emendations to the balancing and alliance literature since the work of Kenneth Waltz in the late-1970s. I've loved the realist paradigm - with its grounding in rationalism and the primacy of the national interest - since my days as a political science undergraduate. Walt, as well as his coauthor John Mearsheimer (who I met in 2002 at the APSA annual meeting in Boston), are great political scientists, worthy of emulation.
But I became increasing less enamored of Walt and Mearsheimer in 2003, with the publication of their attack on the Bush administration's build-up in Iraq in 2003, "An Unnecessary War." It became clearer to me over time that realist academic political scientists were basically antiwar peaceniks with mortarboards and tassels.
Walt and Mearsheimer, of course, have become central players in the debates on U.S. foreign policy toward Israel. Most folks are familiar with the huge controversy over their article a few years back at the London Review of Books, "The Israel Lobby." I had just started blogging at that time, and didn't get too wrapped up in the debate. I read some flurries of the controversy in the pages of Foreign Policy, "The War Over Israel’s Influence," and I recommend Michael Massing's powerful essay reviewing the debate at the New York Review, "The Storm over the Israel Lobby." See also, Richard Baehr and Ed Lasky's, "Stephen Walt's War with Israel."
Yesterday afternoon I picked up a copy of Walt and Mearsheimer's book that grew out of that debate, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. I read the preface and introduction last night, and will continue reading this afternoon. I figured I might as well read the whole thing. With Walt now a major blogger at the Foreign Policy website, who will likely provide ample fodder to the nihilist leftists of the online fever swamps, it seemed like now's a good time to consume the full argument in preparation for even more intense debates in the months and years ahead.
Just a look at Walt's page this morning gives one a heads-up on what to expect. In an essay entitled "It's Time to Redefine 'Pro-Israel'," Walt glowingly cites the well-known Bush administration nemisis and eminent sockpuppet Glenn Greenwald:Over at Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald has posted some typically sharp and forceful comments on the gap between American public opinion on the conflict in Gaza and the public stance taken by our politicians.I'm telling you, if Stephen Walt - who is the Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government - describes Greenwald, who is perhaps the most loathed hardline leftist blogger among conservatives across the blogosphere, as "typically sharp," then there really is something strange going on in academic political science. To put Walt's blogging endorsements in perspective, see Rick Moran's, "Glenn Greenwald is a Pathological Liar."
It's kind of sad, actually, but this is the postmodern world we live in nowadays. Good thing I became a blogger, I guess.
I'll have more on all of this as things develop. For more on my take on Israel and blogging, click here.