*Congress and the Shaping of the Middle East*

by on January 21, 2016 at 1:59 am in Books, Current Affairs, History, Political Science | Permalink

That is the new Kirk J. Beattie book, and I find it one of the very best studies on how Washington actually works; I am less interested in the determinants of Middle East policy per se.  Here is one bit:

On the Senate side, I got the distinct impression that the constituents are not, in general, as important to senators as they are to House members.  One gets the distinct impression that individuals with financial clout are far more likely to get senators’ attention than others.  As one staffer put it, “If you’re talking to me, you’re talking about money.  People are not coming to these issues for the first time.  But for us, where our constituents are is very marginal.”  That said, a small number of well-heeled individuals can get senators’ attention in many but certainly not all cases.  The bias here runs distinctly in favor of putative supporters of Israel.  While other religious or ethno-religious factors are in play, like the size and strength of a senator’s evangelical community, senators appear to be less concerned about these voices, unless of course the senator either shares or sees utility in that perspective.  This parallels views held by House staffers, leaving one to think that evangelical senators’ commitment to Israel exceeds the level of pro-Israel concern by the evangelical masses.

Among other virtues, the book offers a new (to me) channel for how money might affect politics.  Even if donors cannot “buy positions” from politicians, the need to stay competitive in a more or less zero-sum fundraising game means that Congressional staff do not have enough time to study or learn issues very well, and thus depend all the more on outside sources of information.

Definitely recommended, you can buy it here.

1 Steve Sailer January 21, 2016 at 2:12 am

Irish Catholic millionaires could have tried to get their Senators worked up over Northern Ireland during the decades of the Troubles, but they mostly had the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team to root for instead. American foreign policy might have different obsessions if only Brandeis had a Top Ten football team …

2 So Much For Subtlety January 21, 2016 at 5:31 am

They could have. It seems that some did;

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1159475/ANDREW-ROBERTS-The-obscenity-giving-Ted-Kennedy-knighthood.html

Over all matters concerning Ireland, the Kennedys have taken a pro-Nationalist line that has been deeply antagonistic to the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is why it is absurd for Gordon Brown to make this award, in the words of its official citation, ‘for services to U.S.-UK relations and to Northern Ireland’.

For it is no exaggeration to say that Ted Kennedy did his damnedest to poison U.S.-UK relations over Ulster during the long decades in which he has castigated successive British governments. Rather than expressing any genuine commitment to peace in Northern Ireland, he would always play exclusively to his own Catholic-Irish voters in Massachusetts, whom he has represented in the Senate for more than 46 years.

Although he was always careful to use weasel words to condemn violence on both sides, it was always for Britain and the Ulster Protestants that he reserved his most withering rebukes. For the Queen to be obliged to honour this man is nothing less than an obscenity.

It is said that the New York Times recognized where its audience was by always referring to the Palestinians as terrorists but never the IRA.

3 Steve Sailer January 21, 2016 at 5:56 am

But back in Teddy’s day they only had one college football game on TV each week.

4 cp January 21, 2016 at 11:01 am

They got the idiotic DV lottery put in place so that more uneducated Irish could immigrate since the 1990.

5 prior_test January 21, 2016 at 2:21 am

‘On the Senate side, I got the distinct impression that the constituents are not, in general, as important to senators as they are to House members.’

And to think that originally, the Founders set the Senate up to have no ‘constituents’ at all.

‘One gets the distinct impression that individuals with financial clout are far more likely to get senators’ attention than others.’

Again, the system was so created that Senators were already people with ‘financial clout,’ and familiar with dealing with other such individuals. In a dignified manner, of course, as befits those distinguished individuals who belong to the world’s most exclusive club. (Though it now reflects Hamilton’s vision, and not that of Virginians like Madison or Jefferson.)

‘As one staffer put it, “If you’re talking to me, you’re talking about money. People are not coming to these issues for the first time. But for us, where our constituents are is very marginal.”’

One assumes that the money being referred to is more along the lines of campaign funding, and not trade deals with attendant ‘benefits’ being spread discretely. However, the Senate was intended to be the place for foreign policy discussion, away from the need to worry about ‘constituents.’

Meaning this insightful passage merely confirms that the Senate still works, more or less, as the Founders originally intended.

6 The Anti-Gnostic January 21, 2016 at 7:39 am

I’m glad you’re in Germany. One less ahistorical voice in the mix.

As we see in hindsight, the only separation-of-powers that actually matters is the division between the States and the federal government. The Founders were extraordinarily prescient but, as with most human endeavors, their intentions stopped governing once they were in their graves.

7 The Original D January 21, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Senators were selected by the state legislatures. Smaller constituency, much larger influence per voter.

8 Chip January 21, 2016 at 2:59 am

Israel is a strange choice here. Americans consistently express support for Israel in polls so for a Senator to also be supportive of Israel is hardly evidence of undue influence. More a no brainier.

A better example would be immigration, where a clear majority of Americans want it reduced and the border controlled but politicians keep pointing in the opposite direction. Trump, as a great salesman, is succeeding because he reads the public mood and the senators like Rubio do not.

Another exams would be anthropomorphic climate change. It consistently ranks low on the list of Americans’ concerns but politicians continue to funnel billions to connected Green companies.

So, sure, politicians are influenced by money more than constituents, but Israel is a lousy illustration of this argument.

9 j r January 21, 2016 at 3:24 am

“A better example would be immigration, where a clear majority of Americans want it reduced and the border controlled but politicians keep pointing in the opposite direction.”

Source?

I found this from Pew, “Overall, Americans have mixed views about the impact immigrants have had on American society, with 45% saying they are making society better in the long run and 37% saying they are making it worse, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March and April.”

And this, ” In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in May, a solid majority (72%) of Americans – including 80% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 56% of Republicans – say undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay in this country legally if they meet certain requirements. Last year, we asked a follow-up question of those who opposed granting legal status to undocumented immigrants: Should there be a “national law enforcement effort to deport” all immigrants here illegally? Just 17% of the public overall favored such an effort, including about a quarter (27%) of Republicans.”

10 Wikipedia January 21, 2016 at 3:38 am

In psychology, the false-consensus effect or false-consensus bias is a cognitive bias whereby a person tends to overestimate the extent to which their opinions, beliefs, preferences, values, and habits are normal and typical of those of others (i.e., that others also think the same way that they do).[1] This cognitive bias tends to lead to the perception of a consensus that does not exist, a “false consensus”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False-consensus_effect

11 Owen January 21, 2016 at 7:31 am

You can make the polls say whatever you want.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA

But if take a serious sample and you try to measure what people really care about, they’re really enthusiastic about reducing immigration and sending illegals home.

12 j r January 21, 2016 at 7:37 am

But if take a serious sample…

You can also make a logical fallacy say whatever you want, but I guess that’s the point.

13 Noumenon72 January 21, 2016 at 8:02 am

“A clear majority of Americans want immigration reduced and the border controlled” is not mutually exclusive with “immigrants are making society better in the long run” and “there should not be a national law enforcement effort to deport”. Chip’s claim is about inflow, your polls are about the existing stock.

14 j r January 21, 2016 at 8:19 am

It’s also not mutually exclusive with a belief in the Bigfoot. So what?

It is still an unsourced claim about what people really want. Evidence or GTFO.

15 chuck martel January 21, 2016 at 8:45 am

“Evidence or GTFO. Source? Link?”

Meatballs sitting around googling for studies to support their priors, enpixelated confirmation bias. Demands for bogus affirmation in hard numbers for the shifting behavior of fickle humans. Pseudo-intellectual ping-pong for the mis-educated.

16 Noumenon72 January 22, 2016 at 10:17 pm

It is true that it is unsourced. But you also claimed that you had polls contradicting it. Because Chip’s statement and your polls can both be true at the same time (not mutually exclusive), your polls do not contradict Chip’s statement. So you have the argument that his claim is unsourced and nothing else.

17 The Original D January 21, 2016 at 2:22 pm

From the quote above:

“80% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 56% of Republicans – say undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay in this country legally if they meet certain requirements. Last year, we asked a follow-up question of those who opposed granting legal status to undocumented immigrants: Should there be a “national law enforcement effort to deport” all immigrants here illegally? Just 17% of the public overall favored such an effort, including about a quarter (27%) of Republicans.

18 Noumenon72 January 22, 2016 at 10:14 pm

The point of my post was that it is entirely logically consistent to believe the things in bold and also that immigration should be reduced and controlled. Because immigration is a future flow and immigrants are an existing stock. I may not want to pay to fill in this hole, just because I want to stop digging.

19 Floccina January 21, 2016 at 9:53 am

In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in May, a solid majority (72%) of Americans – including 80% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 56% of Republicans – say undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay

It seems wrong to me to favor illegal immigrants over those aspiring to get into the USA. Perhaps it is because people have not heard an argument for the opposite:

Seeing that:

There is a large percent of voters who are anti-immigration and a larger percent who are against illegal immigration.
The illegal immigrants who have been here the longest are better off than those who would have wanted to come but did not come because they did not want to come illegally.
The illegal immigrants who have been here the longest because they have had a chance to earn more money than those in Mexico.
The illegal immigrants who have been here the longest because they have had a chance to learn some English which might help them get a better job in Mexico.

So suppose we deport illegal immigrants starting with those who have been here the longest and for each one deported we let a person from the queue. Or maybe we let in two people from the queue for each illegal deported.

This seems to be a reasonable compromise between pro and anti immigration voters.

Also, perhaps we should start a guest worker program.
http://un-thought.blogspot.com/2016/01/immigration.html

20 Andao January 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Qualitatively, I would rather have low skilled immigrants that work extreme hours for little pay, and instil virtues of hard work and patriotism in their children, versus new money investment immigrants that raise spoiled children who are reliant on their parents’ largess. I think there should be a measurable impact on broader society when you favor lazy rich immigrants over hardworking poor immigrants.

No its not such a binary choice, but our current immigration policy is such that we favor the investment immigrant who stole their winnings from tax coffers over the immigrant who genuinely wants to live in and contribute to their neighborhood in the US.

21 JWatts January 21, 2016 at 11:34 am

“Among all likely voters, 51% favor building a wall on the border; 37% disagree, and 12% are not sure.”

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/immigration/august_2015/voters_want_to_build_a_wall_deport_felon_illegal_immigrants

22 anon January 21, 2016 at 11:38 am

It’s about evenly split if asked “Should immigration be increased, decreased, or kept the same?”. It’s interesting that Hispanics’ opinions do not differ from the rest of the country all that much on this question.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/1660/immigration.aspx

The answers all depend on framing, and questions with more of a moral/ethical tone tend to elicit responses that are more favorable to immigration i.e. “is immigration a good or bad thing”.

23 Tyler January 21, 2016 at 3:03 am

Kirk Beattie has an incredibly shallow understanding of Israel and Israeli-American relations. Surprised to see Tyler recommend such scholarship.

24 Jenny Juno January 21, 2016 at 3:06 am

“the book offers a new (to me) channel for how money might affect politics … Congressional staff do not have enough time to study or learn issues very well, and thus depend all the more on outside sources of information.”

I am having a hard time integrating the idea that such a phenomenon is new to someone of your stature. As far as I know, that has long been one of the *primary* way by which money corrupts modern DC politics. Lobbyists “sell” their clients’ interpretations of reality backing it up with bought and paid-for reports and studies. That lets congress convince themselves that the clients’ interpretations are based on objective analysis. For example, Big Tobacco was funding pseudo-science reports claiming that smoking is healthy decades ago.

Some members of congress are more credulous than others. At best they are naive and overwhelmed, but at worst it gives them political cover to deny outright corruption.

25 Kyle January 21, 2016 at 6:51 am

The part that is new (I think) for Tyler and me is that because of the demands of fundraising staffers spend all their time fundraising. If they didn’t have to raise money they would have a lot more time to figure out the issues themselves.

26 Nathan W January 21, 2016 at 10:44 pm

I thought it was common knowledge that American politicians are usually too busy fundraising to have any time left to be informed on anything.

27 Art Deco January 22, 2016 at 12:04 am

You mean if our politicians weren’t fundraising they’d be as informed as Belinda Stronach, Svend Robinson, and Justin Trudeau?

28 Nathan W January 22, 2016 at 3:59 am

Well, Canada isn’t as important in the world, so our politicians shouldn’t be held to as high standards. An American president who can be fooled might start a major war. A Canadian prime minister who can be fooled can only be laughed at by history when the truth comes out.

Since donations laws are quite tight in Canada, there’s very little reason to kow-tow to any sort of “donor class”. I imagine this means that most politicians in the country are quite a bit more in tune with the populace as a result.

Not sure how to put it to an empirical test. But I read all over the place that American politicians have very little time for anything other than fundraising. It makes it hard to believe that they have time to formulate opinions other than those presented by the lobbyists.

29 Belinda Stronach January 22, 2016 at 10:18 am

How do you know what I know?

30 The Original D January 21, 2016 at 2:24 pm

I remember reading a book making this point 10-15 years. Can’t remember the name though.

Also, this was brought up a lot in articles about the K Street Project: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_Street_Project

31 Anonymous January 21, 2016 at 5:43 am

So what are we saying, that “Jewish money controls Washington and disenfranchises the average voter”? No stereotypes were overturned during the making of this blog post…

32 Tyler Cowen January 21, 2016 at 9:47 am

The book is quite clear that voter support is a big part of the overall policy picture.

33 Steve Sailer January 21, 2016 at 8:05 pm

Who pays for voter support? Who pays to wreck the careers of dissident politicians?

34 Steve Sailer January 21, 2016 at 8:06 pm

The word “stereotype” means a truth that you want everybody to shut up about.

35 Nathan W January 21, 2016 at 10:46 pm

No. It means something that has (or sometime previously had) a grain of truth, but is generally far less relevant than the people who talk about it seem to think.

36 Aaron J January 21, 2016 at 6:59 am

Low Congressional staff pay is an enormous problem. With recent austerity measures, the problem has only gotten worse. Staffers have to specialize in too many issues and often do not have the educational background for the stuff they are expected to cover. Well-paid lobbyists, often with a single focus, fill the gap not surprisingly.

I think physical spacing issues also explain why House members are more receptive to constituents. Senators personal offices are pretty large; they normally have at least seven or eight rooms plus their committee staff. House Members normally only have three rooms- one for the Member, one which serves as a reception area, and one for everyone else. This means the Legislative Director and Communications Director literally hear all the phone calls, say blasting the Congressman for supporting the Iran deal, that the poor intern sitting next to them has to deal with. In the Senate, this certainly is not the case.

37 Bob from Ohio January 21, 2016 at 12:43 pm

“Low Congressional staff pay is an enormous problem. With recent austerity measures, the problem has only gotten worse.”

Is there nothing that more government spending cannot cure?

38 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Low Congressional staff pay is an enormous problem.

There’s a man I know and respect who’s on the staff of Congress. He managed to afford the mortgage payments on a condominium in Montgomery County, feed a wife and three children, send three children to private or out-of-state colleges, and have some spare cash for things like dancing and music lessons. Maybe he and his wife are in debt up to their eyeballs and have a game face about it, but I suspect he’s adequately compensated. (I begrudge him not one dime). His wife was very hands-on with those children and out of the workforce for two decades (she’s now back working, so I guess they’re paying down their debts).

39 Bob Knaus January 21, 2016 at 8:18 am

“leaving one to think that evangelical senators’ commitment to Israel exceeds the level of pro-Israel concern by the evangelical masses.” — this is true only if one does not know a few evangelicals well enough for them to candidly express their opinions. If you don’t believe me, go into any Christian book store and browse through the section dealing with prophecy.

40 jk January 21, 2016 at 9:07 am

Interesting for the US, Israel is the epitome of a sunk cost or in Republican speak a ‘welfare queen.’

Always complaining about getting more benefits without working.

No return on investment geopolitically or real dollars. Lots of one way policy direction with no results. Lots of lost goodwill and political capital spent for no benefit.

No direct support against ISIS.

No offensive or defensive support in any US Middle East adventure ever.

No direct or indirect logistical support in any US Middle East adventure ever.

No airfields to land or launch offensive or supply missions.

No ports for staging or onward movement of supplies and troops.

No army bases for staging or onward movement.

So the US is scared of retribution to Israel, what’s the point of ally that produces nothing?

NATO nations and ‘defense freeloading’ Europe at least provides (at a cost) troops and staging for operations in the Middle East and beyond. European troops actually died fighting in A-stan and Iraq. Turkey and Kuwait have provided better help than Israel ever has for US Middle East adventures.

Intelligence support? All NATO nations provide intel support and are probably less biased. Israel is probably just one of many biased sources in the Levant area.

What has Israel done to earn the hundreds of billions over the decades of US tax dollars?

41 Richard Besserer January 21, 2016 at 9:42 am

The awful truth? Be willing to engage in nuclear blackmail.

In 1973, Israel made very clear its willingness to apply the Samson Option when its ability to beat back the Egyptian and Syrian armies was in real question early in the Yom Kippur war. That willingness was crucial in the US decision on October 9 to re-supply Israel.

In the end, it was a false alarm. By the time US supplies began to arrive in earnest on October 14, the IDF had already turned the tide.

However, it became clear that for the Soviet Union to allow its Arab proxies to attack Israel would be at least as risky as an attack on western Europe. “At least,” because the Israelis had made clear that the decision to go nuclear would be Israel’s, not the Pentagon’s. That’s the reason no state actor attacked Israel again.

And that’s why generations of US foreign policymakers since have considered military aid to Israel a bargain at several times the price. China has continued to support North Korea for substantially similar reasons—they have nothing to gain from a hot, possibly nuclear war in the Korean peninsula, and everything to lose.

42 Ethan Bernard January 21, 2016 at 10:09 am

As with massive aid to Egyptian and Pakistani militaries. We buy peace by giving money to terrible people and institutions, and the world hates us for it.

43 The Original D January 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Who hates us for that? I doubt most countries care at all. The money we give to them is not even a rounding error in comparison in the money we spent invading Iraq. That the world hates us for.

44 Nathan W January 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Not the whole world, but it is one of several fairly obvious reasons for people in those countries who dislike their military dictatorships to also hate the USA. I.e., a major reason for violent anti-American jihadism.

45 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 3:01 pm

but it is one of several fairly obvious reasons for people in those countries who dislike their military dictatorships to also hate the USA

You need to learn the difference between a reason and an excuse, Nathan.

46 Nathan W January 21, 2016 at 10:53 pm

A priori, I would hate anyone who supported a military dictatorship in my home country. A priori, I would also hate any country that frequently interfered in the domestic politics of my home country (unless I supported the same side in a civil war, for example, but then presumably this implies that a great number of my countrymen would hate them).

I suspect that most people are quite a lot like me in these regards, Iraqis, Egyptians, Pakistanis and Afghanis included.

It boggles my mind that some Americans don’t understand why so much of the world hates Americans. There are actually very simple reasons, and when people point it out, people like you are like “no, no, no, that’s irrelevant.” But then Americans would immediately support a rapid escalation to full war against anyone who tried to do to the USA what the USA does to other countries.

47 Art Deco January 22, 2016 at 12:00 am

A priori, I would hate anyone who supported a military dictatorship in my home country. A priori,

Who cares?

It doesn’t seem to occur to you that the term ‘support’ as used in this sentence is a bit of rhetorical gamesmanship. No one who utters these complaints ever defines it or manifests any evidence he has a clue as to what he means. Get it through your head: more than any part of the world, various forms of arbitrary government are the default in the Near East, Central Asia, and North Africa. Not much you can do about that other than a MacArthur regency, and almost no occidental governments have the elementary force and persistence to see that through (and it’s pretty asinine for you to even bring this subject up given your twee complaints about the Iraq war.

Get it through your head: the chatterati of dysfunctional and nonperforming countries do not like to acknowledge their responsibility for their condition, something exacerbated re the Arab world by the elements of culture which render them susceptible to the stupidest sort of conspirazoid thinking. That’s their problem and not our fault, and you’re doing any of them any favors by rattling on as if they were being the least bit reasonable.

48 Art Deco January 22, 2016 at 12:02 am

It boggles my mind that some Americans don’t understand why so much of the world hates Americans. There are actually very simple reasons,

Nathan, your failure to make sense of the world is not our problem.

49 Nathan W January 22, 2016 at 4:06 am

No shit Sherlock. I cannot personally end dictatorships around the world.

However, I can easily understand that people will hate the country that supports such dictatorships.

Why do you think there are so many Saudi sponsors of anti-American terrorism, even though the countries are formally on good terms? Hmmm… maybe it’s because it’s basically an American supported military dictatorship.

What do i mean by “support”? Two things: 1) lots and lots of money or 2) access to high end military hardware. Often both.

50 Art Deco January 22, 2016 at 9:47 am

Nathan, the total foreign aid budget of the United States is about $30 bn. No one is getting ‘lots of money’. The cultural pathologies of Saudi Arabia’s bourgeoisie are their own fault.

51 Bob from Ohio January 21, 2016 at 12:41 pm

“In 1973, Israel made very clear its willingness to apply the Samson Option when its ability to beat back the Egyptian and Syrian armies was in real question early in the Yom Kippur war.”

A myth.

52 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 1:48 pm

The phrase ‘Samson Option’ is a tell that he’s channelling historical fiction produced by Seymour Hersh.

53 Nathan W January 21, 2016 at 3:00 pm

What should he call it then? Does anyone seriously doubt a) that Israel has nukes or b) its willingness to use them if faced with defeat in conventional weapons?

54 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Nathan,you do realize he was referring as if it were an established fact the sort of unverifiable bilge produced by ‘investigative journalists’?

The extent of Israel’s nuclear technology and stockpile is unknown to anyone outside a restricted circle. Hypothetical scenarios are just that. What’s known is what the history of the Near East has been for more than 45 years since the Wars of Attrition: that any possession of nuclear technology by Israel has caused the Arab’s no injuries.

55 Ethan Bernard January 21, 2016 at 7:08 pm

Art, you do realize that if the whole thing is a bluff, and there are no deliverable nukes in the Israeli arsenal, then Israel is in an extremely dangerous position? If credible word of that got out and the Israelis could not produce a convincing test, then a leg is suddenly knocked out from under their strategic position. How long would it take for a weapon from Pakistan to be purchased by their adversaries? To say nothing of the resources wasted on delivery systems that can only fire blanks.

We can trust that the Israelis are far-sighted enough to have thought through the consequences of having most of the world think that they have nuclear weapons. It would not surprise me at all if strategic leaking to play up the size and sophistication of their arsenal were common practice, if only to dissuade other countries from entering an arms race by convincing them that they were hopelessly behind.

56 Bob from Ohio January 21, 2016 at 12:38 pm

We do not let Israel do any of those things. We are afraid of en-flaming the Arabs.

If we were not so afraid, they could be of enormous help. Best military in the area, English speaking, stable, pro American.

57 jk January 21, 2016 at 1:04 pm

There is no ‘not letting them’. Israel is a sovereign country. Israel is always hedging its bets. Yes they want the US welfare check. But Bibi also turned a request to see Trump after his comment on banning Arabs.

58 Bob from Ohio January 21, 2016 at 2:52 pm

You recited a laundry list of military support items. All require a US request or cooperation to happen. The fact is we either never request help or turn it down. We also lean on Israel to, for example, not launch retaliation for Iraq Scud attacks.

Israel would, for instance, love to have a US air base.

So “letting them” is accurate.

59 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 2:59 pm

You said ‘hundreds of billions’, which indicates you use an accounting method that doesn’t belong in a poker game. Reconceptualizing the aid stream to Israel over the period running from 1948 to the present as a lump sum and then translating that into today’s currency units might get you a figure of $70 bn. American aid to Israel has been of declining contextual significance for more than thirty years and is now sufficiently modest (about 1.2% of Israel’s domestic product, and most of it devoted to arms purchases) that it could be withdrawn tomorrow at the cost of an ordinary business recession in Israel Aid extended to Israel prior to 1973 was minimal, but we still had abrasive and antagonistic relations with a number of Arab governments (with regard to which Israel was putatively an issue). The money isn’t the decisive issue.

The Arabs on the West Bank and in Gaza and in the UNRWA camps want the Jews dispossessed and/or killed. Other Arabs have abstract resentments and abstract desires for revenge. There is little or nothing Israel can do about these wants. Or, as Conor Cruise O’Brien put it a generation ago, “There is no solution. There is merely security”.

60 Nathan W January 21, 2016 at 3:05 pm

If 1.2% of GDP isn’t a big deal, then it should be easy to get you to support $200 billion American annual public investment in solar and wind.

61 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Why would I care to have the federal government in the venture capital business? We’re not lacking for venture capitalists. That aside, that’s the recipient’s gdp . It amounts to shy of $3 bn for us.

62 Nathan W January 21, 2016 at 11:05 pm

1.2% of GDP is not to be laughed at. It can be the difference between AK47s+jeeps and modern jets+tanks.

63 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 11:05 am

I see you’re trolling both the red haze and the alt-right Jew obssessives.

64 nigel January 21, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Tyler blurbed “This Town” in the past (http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/07/what-ive-been-reading-30.html), but I still think that book was really valuable as study in public choice, especially in terms of a money-transmission mechanism. I found it really illuminating when Liebovich said that the real hook is the cushy lobbying job afterward. Something to the effect that the big lobby shops approach new congressmen and say “Gee wouldn’t you love a $3M a year salary after you get out? Don’t forget to check back in with us when you decide to leave the capitol” and then something to the effect of “then the congressman is on board, hook line and sinker, for anything the lobbyist wants.”

65 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 2:49 pm

I doubt many people in the lobbying business are paid $3 million a year. Also, you have examples like Rick Santorum, who has made satisfactory money as a lawyer-lobbyist but cannot be shifted on his core issues.

66 Ricardo January 22, 2016 at 12:14 am

Lobbyists don’t generally earn their money from core issues. Jack Abramoff specialized in obscure issues like Indian gambling and labor laws in the Northern Mariana Islands. The value a lobbyist brings is in keeping track of every clause in every piece of legislation that affects his or her clients and being able to get the attention of the committee members who shape these pieces of legislation.

67 Plucky January 21, 2016 at 3:04 pm

The best way I like to think about the relationship between money and politics is that it is like the relationship between money and happiness.

Money doesn’t make you happy, but lack of money can (but doesn’t have to) make you miserable.

Likewise, money doesn’t buy elections, but lack of money can (but doesn’t automatically) cost you one.

For campaigning, there’s a lower-bound limit politicians need to get over, which will vary by seat safety / media market size / length of incumbency, but beyond that level it’s about saving it for the future and intimidating potential challengers, or more often intimidating potential donors to potential challengers. Where a lot of the donor power comes from is loss aversion- a political operation will usually have a network built up that can be relied upon for a fairly predictable amount of money. The power they exert is more related to the threat of abandonment than it is to prospective additional donations. It’s analogous to the relationship between colleges and their donating alumni.

68 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 3:09 pm

William Proxmire used to spend $350 on his campaigns, and said that most members of Congress could get away with that but elected not to. Of course, he was not counting his congressional franking privileges as a campaign expense. I think the problem is one identified by Jerry Springer (who was at one time a lawyer and Mayor of Cincinnati): “I didn’t want to do it as a career. When you’re doing it to put bread on the table, you’ll say anything”. I suspect we’d be much better off if Congress were populated by men in late middle age and early old age serving 8 years or maybe 16 years in a few cases, men putting in some time and then heading off to grass.

69 John Hamilton January 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Have you read Mearsheimer and Walt’s *The Israel Policy and U.S. Foreign Policy* (a shortened version of their argument can be found here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/john-mearsheimer/the-israel-lobby)? That book attributed the U.S. gov’t’s priority of Israeli-interest (even over the interests of the U.S. itself!) to the Israel Lobby, and this explanation was criticized as being too simplistic. Beattie’s book, according to the blurb on Amazon and your review, seems like it thoroughly explains the particular mechanisms behind the Israel Lobby. Is this a correct assessment of this book, and, if so, do you think Beattie succeeds?

70 Thor January 21, 2016 at 10:50 pm

The once proud London Review of Books is an outlet for Zizek and Seymour Hersh, among others, who I simply cannot trust to be objective, fair-minded or interested in serious debate (as opposed to whatever it is that Zizek does, and to the scurrilous pandering to the far left that characterizes Hersh’s journalism). The fact that the LRB was chosen speaks volumes.

71 Nathan W January 21, 2016 at 11:24 pm

Very interesting Ben-Gurion quote at that article:

“If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country … We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”

72 Art Deco January 21, 2016 at 11:51 pm

Very interesting it did not occur to you that the quotation might be fabricated.

73 Nathan W January 22, 2016 at 4:16 am

Given that the article appends extensive expert criticism and not a single person levels any such charge? No, I attribute 0% probability to it being fabricated.

It’s an interesting article through and through. I know you’re staunchly pro-Israel and jump to dispute the least hint of legitimacy to Palestinian concerns. You will hate this article thoroughly, but might learn a lot. It might even help you to understand how such an intelligent person such as yourself can come to hold such a one-sided perspective on such a complex issue.

74 Art Deco January 22, 2016 at 9:45 am

Fabricated Ben-Gurion quotes are frequently cited, notably in “academic” journals like Journal of Palestine Studies. That particular quote smells.

75 Nathan W January 22, 2016 at 10:11 am

It perfectly matches history. What smells?

The Jews were willing to fight for it, they fought for it, they won. Aside from the fact that early comers actually bought property, why should we pretend that anything different happened?

76 Judah Benjamin Hur January 21, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Wow, quotes from Stephen Walt and Juan Cole on the cover. No room for a David Duke endorsement?

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