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Rejoinder to Mearsheimer and Walt

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2009


In their reply, Professors Mearsheimer and Walt focus quite reasonably on my two main claims: that their research methods are flawed and that their evidence is weak. But they begin, tellingly, by citing a range of indirect evidence that appears to depict a powerful “Israel lobby.” Lots of knowledgeable Washington insiders, they say—policymakers, journalists, candidates for office, and the like—say and do things that seem to acknowledge the “lobby's” power. I draw attention to this opening for several reasons. First, it is not clear how much weight some of this evidence will bear. Take, for example, the National Journal survey of members of Congress that Mearsheimer and Walt cite twice in their reply (and once in their book). In this survey, conducted once, in 2005, seventy-three members of Congress (out of 535—less than 15 percent) responded to the question, “Which two interest groups do you believe are most effective on Capitol Hill?” Of these respondents, thirteen (less than 20 percent of the sample) mentioned American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as one of their two choices. It seems something of a leap from the observation that a dozen or so members of Congress said once that AIPAC is “effective” (which might mean any number of things) to the inference that AIPAC—or the lobby more generally—is powerful. Or take the observation that important politicians regularly address AIPAC's annual conference and make friendly speeches when they do. Surely these same politicians visit other such organizations regularly. And when they appear before, say, the AFL-CIO or the NAACP, surely they say nice things about the issues that these organizations and their conference attendees care about. Successful politicians rarely voice open disagreement with the people they are talking to. But are we to conclude from this behavior that the AFL-CIO and the NAACP, or any other groups that regularly receive such visits, are powerful? Again, this inference requires something of a logical leap.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2009

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