The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Foreign Policy Charade

March 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, Steve Walt relied upon his own recent experiences writing about the Israeli Lobby to generate “a list of the lessons” he learned from “grabbing the third rail” of foreign policy discourse.

Interestingly, Walt’s somewhat older list of foreign policy taboo positions did not include challenging U.S. foreign policy towards Israel (or Israeli security policy). Had Walt declined to grab the rail this time?

I was reminded of the continued primary importance of these issues recently when reading a short book review in The Nation. Charles Glass, author of the review, used a sizable portion of his piece to quote the author (Emma Williams) quoting an unnamed aid worker in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. This is a potent and succinct critique of US policy:

“One day, we will look back on this charade with shame and ask ‘how in hell was this allowed to happen?’ We dress it up in shades of ‘security’–what are we talking about? That’s crap and we all know it. This is not about security. None of this is making anyone secure–the opposite is true, but we’re not going to say so, are we? This is about annexation of territory and slow ethnic cleansing. It’s making Israel less secure and a pariah nation on top of that. And we’re playing along with it, pouring billions of Euros and dollars into keeping the occupied going, keeping their heads above water while they’re boxed in like animals…. Oh, but don’t let anyone hear you say it. My God, we’re in trouble if we say it like it is. No no, we must toe the line, but why?”

I think most of us know why, though some evidence suggests that the discourse may be more open now.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.