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A History of Violence: Mearsheimer and Walt's Writings from ‘An Unnecessary War’ to the ‘Israel Lobby’ Controversy

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2008
Number of pages20
Original languageEnglish


Realist academics wrote some of the most lucid critiques of the geopolitics of anger initiated after 9/11 by the Bush administration: John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, in particular, began to interrogate the War on Terror with lines of inquiry that lead back to the critiques of U.S. foreign policy—and the ‘fantasies’ and ‘self-deception’ of policy makers—developed in the 1960s by Hans Morgenthau and Hannah Arendt. But then Walt and Mearsheimer published controversial essays on ‘The Israel Lobby’ based on arguments developed in Walt's Taming American Power. What interests me in the paper is accounting for a curious move that occurs in the writings of Mearsheimer and Walt since 9/11. By the time that we arrive at Walt's Taming American Power and the essays on ‘The Israel Lobby’, critical commentary on the ‘self-deception’ of policy makers and the problems with neo-conservatism has largely disappeared, replaced with an anxiety over the Israel lobby that appears overstated. It is argued that the emphasis on foreign ‘penetration’ is a means of postponing a broader interrogation of the domestic, internal problems of democracy and war in the United States.