Walter Russell Mead picks up on the Gallup poll we highlighted yesterday on America's rising sympathy for Israel. Given that I highlighted Mead's piece in Foreign Affairs to further buttress my view that American support for Israel is broad and bi-partisan, I'm generally sympathetic to the case he makes. But in the spirit of bloggy garrulousness, let me take issue with this:
This brings us to a problem: why do so many people, especially self-described ‘realists’ when it comes to Middle East policy, find it mysterious that American foreign policy supports Israel? Surely in a democratic republic, when policy over a long period of time tracks with public sentiment, there is very little to explain. American politicians vote for pro-Israel policies because that is what voters want them to do. Case closed, I would think. Late breaking news flash: water runs downhill.
Here's another newsflash: the public does not write legislation. Lawmakers do. I'm fairly confident that Mead does not mean to suggest that the current policy status quo on Israel or any issue under the sun is simply the undiluted transmission of the public's collective will through the legislative body.
But I think Mead is badly mischaracterizing the realist position with respect to Israel. Indeed, I think Mead does realists a disservice by suggesting that they're confused by America's support for Israel when most realists themselves support an alliance with Israel. They just do not support the way the relationship is currently configured. Surely Mead is not suggesting that America's current policy status quo is the only possible "pro-Israel" policy the U.S. could formulate?