Thursday, May 20, 2010

Contrast Mearsheimer with Dershowitz

When I consider controversial topics I really do try and find reasoned arguments from both sides. With regards to the Israel/Palestine conflict it just seems to me that Zionism simply cannot make a reasoned, moral case. But I'm looking to Israel's proponents to try and see if I'm missing something.

Alan Dershowitz is a very prominent proponent of Zionism, but I have to say that when I listen to him he never seems to say anything. A lot of cliches. Little substance. But I don't know a lot of others that even try and defend Israel's actions, so I'm stuck listening to him. Right wing zealot blog Front Page Magazine recently had an effusive commentary of his recent speech, so once again I thought I'd give it a listen. You can find it here. But it's the same thing. He says nothing. "We have the arguments, we need to defend freedom of speech, we abhor your statements but defend your right to say them, these people live in 'Planet Chomsky', blah, blah, blah." I learn absolutely nothing and gain no insight in how a reasonable person would defend Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.

Contrast with John Mearsheimer. Reading the reviews from the right you'd think the guy was ready to fire up the gas chambers again. But have a listen. You can agree or disagree with him, but you have to admit that he's at least presenting a thesis and justifying it with facts and logic. At least you learn something. Dershowitz is just awful. Does anybody actually address the arguments of Israel's critics, like Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky?


HispanicPundit said...

I'm a bit surprised by your comment that you try and read both sides. My impression of you is very different.

You compare the hacks from the right with the intellctuals from the left. It would be like me comparing Michael Moore vs Milton Friedman - and concluding that libertarianism is correct. Not very fair, wouldnt you agree?

I mean seriously, I dont know ONE serious conservative you have read and dealt with.

Though I wouldn't consider Dershowitz a conservative, have you atleast read his books where he tries to defend Israel? He has atleast three...if not more. I bet you havent read one...and this is a person you claim to take seriously.

Even with Chomsky, have you atleast read the Anti-Chomsky reader? Or what about Bernard Lewis's book, What Went Wrong?

I dont the quality of these books...they may very well be a waste of time. But atlest it shows that you've tried to be objective.

Jon said...

I have "The Case for Peace" on audio book. I listened to a few chapters and it was much the same. Waiting and waiting for an argument refuting the left's main points. I get a lot of cliche's, some personal stuff against Finkelstein. No real substance.

True, I haven't read tons of books from critics. What I'm referring to is often when I exercise or drive or whatever I want to have some audio going where I'm learning something. It's an efficient way to come to understand both sides. Their books would certainly be better, but I'm a family man with a full time job doing the best I can. I think what I do is a lot more than what others in comparable positions do. I'm able to listen to critical audio without cutting in to family and work time.

I've gone out of my way to make such materials available to you and despite your commitments to me that you would listen I'm pretty much given up. Yes, I haven't provided the Chomsky audio. Not because I haven't tried, but it's been unavailable at the library. I imagine there's a library in San Diego if you were interested in listening to those that disagree with you, but it doesn't seem so. When you provide audio for me I pretty much always listen, like the Frum discussion recently. You ask what I've read of Chomsky's critics. I read every link you sent, despite the length, and refuted the arguments in detail. This prompted your commitments to read some of his books, which you obviously haven't. I watch critical videos you offer, some of which I've already seen because I look for such things. I recently read the chapter on Chomsky in "Do As I Say Not as I Do". So I don't know what you are basing your criticisms on except maybe projection.

But I'm really looking to listen to Israel's defenders. Maybe you could suggest some non hacks.

Jon said...

You know, we go way back on this. I begged and begged you to read Salmon. I think I finally got you to read a chapter or two. Meanwhile you sent me Jimmy Akin's book, which I read (and found to be quite compelling). I read Sungenis' two monstrosities. Each about 600 pages I believe. You managed two chapters in one book. When you finally did look at it you knew I was right to regard his arguments as powerful. You'd find the same is true of Chomsky if you'd actually crack a book like you said you would.

Jon said...

Here's an example of me making an effort. I'm not an academic, so I can't research as I'd like, but I really do want to understand those that make argument's against my view. It's strange to me that you are so critical in light of the efforts I've made to evaluate the sources you suggest.

Jon said...

Sorry. One more thing. I only discovered Chomsky less than a year and a half ago, so I don't know how much you expect me to have read of his critics. You know how I discovered him? David Horowitz. It was reading right wingers that prompted me to evaluate the left winger.

You'll note also that I'm non religious. Know why? Because as a Christian apologist I wanted to read my critics. So I read Richard Carrier, Farrell Till, and Dan Barker. Yeah, they're maybe layman, but I'm making an effort. And it made a difference. And the only radio I listen to is right wing talk radio. Call them hacks if you want, but it's more of an effort to understand the other side than a lot of people do. I don't see you making anything like the effort I do.

HispanicPundit said...

Thats why I find it so puzzling. On other issues (ie religion) you HAVE made an effort to understand all sides. So I know you have it in you when you are generally trying to be evenhanded. It's just your foreign policy realm seems far different.

And you cant use me as an excuse. True, I havent read any Chomsky or many of the books you've recommended, but neither have I read any right-wing material either. Not even mainstream material. I am a virgin on foreign policy (I cant even fall back on high school...I went to LA unified remember). That is why I am so hesitant to read Chomsky: I am a complete newbie at this, and reading such a one sided view might bias me in the wrong direction.

In other words, I dont even claim to be a student of foreign policy. The most I have done is maintain a subscription to Foreign Policy magazine and listen to a shit load of lectures from the teaching company. Thats it. But you better believe that when I do get into it, I will be alot more balanced. I would do what I do in economics: read both sides and the middle. Then decide.

All I am saying is that you could try to do the same. I dont know enough about the topic to recommend books on foreign policy. If I was to start somewhere though, I'd pick up stuff from intelligent neocons. People like David Frum, Victor Davis Hanson, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Perle, P.J. O'Rourke, or even Irving Kristol.

I've also heard World Affairs referred to as a good right wing foreign policy publication (National Affairs, btw, is a great right leaning domestic policy magazine...I subscribe). Though I have only read a couple articles in World Affairs (this one in particular article was pretty prescient).

I plan to ride my bicycle again throughout all of June. I'm pretty much all ears to what you want me to listen to. Hopefully you get the Chomsky audios by then. ;-)

Jon said...

I'm not aware that any of the people you suggested actually critique the left's arguments on Israel. Hitchens as I understand it would side with Chomsky on this one. He wrote a book called "Blaming the Victims" where I believe he makes the same sort of points Chomsky does. I'm just not aware of anyone that's sort of trying to take on the arguments except Dershowitz, which is why I'm stuck with him even though I find he has nothing to say. Finkelstein destroys him in "Beyond Chutzpah". Simply meticulous and documented. Dershowitz answer is to make efforts to see that Finkelstein is denied tenure, which worked. Virtually nothing in terms of argumentation.

I spend a lot of time online reading Chomsky's critics on foreign policy. I get something called "Google Alerts" which inform you of when there are prominent articles written about a certain person on a daily basis. I read everything critical first. I've read plenty of critiques. So your assertions are just false.

I will get a hold of the anti-Chomsky reader. That's exactly what I'm interested in. I had forgotten about it.

Whoa, I just looked at the description on amazon. Khmer Rouge and so called holocaust revision are the first two subjects covered that are mentioned. Enormous steaming piles of BS right from the get go, and you know that. Sounds like an awful book, but I'll read it anyway because I love that stuff. Maybe I'll review it in detail.

Paul said...

P.J. O'Rourke is a neocon?

All I know of him is his appearances on Bill Maher show. Certainly he is conservative but I was unaware that he was of the neocon shade.

That is a bit of a disappointment.

HispanicPundit said...


I dont know if the Anti-Chomsky reader is a good book or not. It may very well not be. But it is one of the many sources that I would consider giving you an alternative viewpoint.

Also, I wasn't addressing Chomsky or Israel in particular, but a general rebuttal of Foreign Policy views.

Paul, no, I dont think O'Rourke is a neocon, but he does present Jon with an alternative viewpoint.

HispanicPundit said...

Hey Jon,

I came across this book on Amazon. I thought id add it to a good idea for a book to read that challenges your views.

What do you think?

HispanicPundit said...

One more thought, what about John Bolton? His views have always seemed reasonable to me. These two books, here and here, seem worthwhile. Your thoughts?

Jon said...

John Bolton? Ugh. Did you see Bruno? He's interviewing Bolton and Bolton in fact only has a few audible words in the movie. What you hear is his contempt for democracy as he says something to the effect of not only should we not pay attention to worldwide public opinion, but even domestic public opinion. Kind of funny.

Basically Bolton as far as I can see is just a typical neo con war monger type. Here's a quote from him regarding his attitude towards the UN. At least he's honest.

"There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along."

He seems to reject what is an elementary moral principle. We cannot hold others to standards that we are unwilling to hold ourselves to. Treaties and obligation are for other people, not the United States, in the mind of John Bolton. I can't go along with that.