Scott McConnell: The Wasp Diversion

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We will get, in due time, to Steve Walt’s noteworthy appearance at the “Committee for the Republic” — a Washington club comprised largely of dissenters from Bush’s foreign policy. Walt would be the most popular speaker the club has had since its formation some three years ago — and as result there would be no dinner so more chairs could be packed in. The unspoken subtext of the controversial Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel lobby” paper is that the “realist” Wasp establishment no longer runs American foreign policy, and if it did, America would have a more rational and even-handed attitude toward matters Mideast.
I pretty much agree with this view, but the interesting question is how and why it happened. My theory, which I hope to write about at length someday, is that it is linked to a decline of Wasp public spiritedness and a concomitant withdrawal to the pleasures of money and private life, epitomized most especially by the golf club.


So the Wasp golf obsession is part of the story of Wasp decline. To illustrate, I offer myself as an example. Instead of working yesterday, thinking of ways to advance the ball in the world of ideas, I went up to Woodmont Country Club in Rockville to watch sectional qualifying — 40 or so golfers vie for four spots in the U.S. Open, to be played at Winged Foot next week. (This is the event, held in about a dozen sites around the country, that Michelle Wie was also doing in New Jersey — she made the front page of the Times.)
I was happy to watch Carlos Franco in the morning — one of his playing partners, an amateur from West Virginia, shot a pretty embarrassing 87; the poor guy will carry the sad memory for the rest of his life — and Joey Sindelar shoot a spectacular 66 in the afternoon. Sindelar is friendly, late-40s, chatty, carries about 30 extra pounds, and hits long and straight. In sectional qualifying, there are no ropes, few spectators, and you can essentially walk along with the players and caddies. Joey needed at least one birdie in the last five (of 36) holes to make the cut; on Woodmont North’s #5, his 32nd hole, a 510-yard downhill and then uphill par five with a water hazard in the driver landing area, he reached the green with two one irons. I heard him discussing with second shot with his caddy, one iron or three wood, and the caddy told him to hit the one hard. He didn’t quite get all of it, complained all during the ball flight, and then broke into a big grin when the ball finally trickled onto the green. Few pros carry one irons anymore — they’ve been replaced by easier to hit hybrids — and in all my years of watching golf I’ve never heard of one being used twice in the same hole. (Old golf joke: you’re safe with a one iron if lightning strikes because not even God can hit a one iron.) This was my all-time favorite golf-spectating experience. Sindelar made the cut and will be playing at Winged Foot next week. I’ll be rooting for him.
That diversion perhaps illustrates in microcosm something about the senescence of the old establishment. For truth to tell, good as Steve Walt was yesterday evening, my main memories this morning are about Sindelar’s play.
At any rate, “the lobby” had, I think, hoped that Walt and Mearsheimer’s piece could buried under a pile of smears and abuse — it was clever of the New York Sun to ask David Duke’s opinion of it, so anyone who wanted to treat it as tainted could mention that, and it took up a lot of rhetorical space that might have been given to the merits of the actual piece. But praise be to the liberal establishment and the Left because after Phil Weiss in The Nation, Tony Judt in the New York Times, and Michael Massing in the New York Review of Books had treated the piece favorably, it essentially gave permission to the rest of the country (or that part interested in foreign policy ideas) to discuss it. Walt makes an excellent presentation, glib and precise, extremely moderate in his demeanor. At the Committee for the Republic he had a friendly audience, and it is testament to how much he and Mearsheimer have moved the ball that there is an “establishment” audience for something like this, a subject that might have been mere dinner table conversation five or ten years ago.
Walt is unsparing of George W. Bush, who has adopted Caligula’s foreign policy of not caring if they hate us so long as they fear us. He explained that his main intention was to start a discussion — it is seldom pointed out that though Israel is a rich country, we give it $500 per Israeli in aid a year, that the U.S. would have stopped the settlements long ago if the lobby was weaker, and that Israel would have been better off for it. I recall that former Kennedy and Johnson foreign policy aide George Ball made these points about 20 years ago when there were far fewer Israeli West Bank settlements and caused some ripples in the foreign-policy establishment but no further resonance. That is, of course, the problem: you may get a majority of foreign policy experts to agree that the Israel lobby distorts American policies, but there is no political follow through. Walt says that the guiding “moral” reason Americans might change their policies is self-interest — we would be a safer and more prosperous country with a more intelligent Mideast policy. But as one veteran writer for The Nation pointed out to me after the event, self-interest is likely to be defined by the people who give the biggest campaign contributions.
Walt radiates a kind of middle-of-the-road nice-guyness, and it is hard to dispute his view that if the United States had, in the aftermath of 9/11, devoted as much energy and resources to bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian settlement as it had to invading Iraq, its position in the world would be vastly better than it is now. This seems so obvious — and yet, sadly, it is really difficult to imagine any American government that would have taken that advice — not just Bush but anyone with a plausible chance of being president. Walt acknowledged that he would “whiff on three pitches” a question of how to expand the Mideast policy debate beyond the readers of the foreign-policy magazines. I certainly don’t know either. I once worked for a presidential candidate (my colleague Pat Buchanan) who had great communication skills and was very much committed to doing this, and, well, we know how that turned out.
For my part, it is more frustrating than satisfying to hear Steve Walt speak with subtlety and brilliance before an audience of 300 or so establishment Washingtonians. Walt and his co-author John Mearsheimer need bigger, younger audiences. They need to go on college speaking tours. They need to expand their paper into a book. (I have heard much speculation about whether any mainstream publisher will actually take the risk of signing up the authors of the most widely discussed magazine article in the past ten years, and a friend who is a book review editor at a big establishment publication thinks probably not.) They need to get on TV. But they are academics, believers that a well-modulated essay will slip into the cultural stream and actually change things. Perhaps so, but the change won’t come soon enough or dramatically enough.
Scott McConnell, editor of the American Conservative.

Comments

9 comments on “Scott McConnell: The Wasp Diversion

  1. Hydrocodone says:

    Welcome to Great Blog here!

    Reply

  2. Obrien says:

    The more I come to think about it, the less I think Bush has a foreign policy, or any policy at all for that matter. I am begining to suspect that he views government as a private affair; just another instrument with which he can arrange business deals; and does not appreciate it’s civic purpose. He is, in my opinion, simply innatentive, incognisant, and indifferent to the social implications of his policies, or that they even have social implications at all. His immigation policy is simply wheeling and dealing with the Mexican government, his war just working with Haliburton and the Israel Lobby, his domestic policy just negotiating with Big Business, just like he’s managing a supply chain. To the extent that he considers the public, they are just an irritating shareholder group that he has to swindle one way or another, and if they are stubborn about a particular issue, like Harriet Miers or immigration, he considers it a nuisance, if not an outright affront. How dare the meagre pulic interfere with my presidential prerogative of negotiating and dealing with the only people that I recognize as actually existing: my business peers. He then tries to intimidate them with inflammatory rhetoric or reluctantly concedes. This is contempt and self-absorption to an infinite degree, and in my opinion it is impossible for anyone to be more contemptible than G.W. Bush, who has nary one redeeming feature.

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  3. Jim Rockford says:

    Scott — your analysis is all full of … something that smells IMHO.
    WASPs lost control over foreign policy because of Vietnam, Watergate, and the effectiveness of the Left which loathes them. Thus WASPs if anything go along with PC Multi-culti garbage that of course includes loathing of the fundamental fruits of the Enlightenment and any people or nation that embodies Enlightenment principles (which means Jews in general and Israelis in particular).
    No nation has been as PC-Multi-culti and pro-Palestinian than Canada, and they got Jihadis trying to do a McVeigh-style 9/11. We could have armed Hamas and Hezbollah after 9/11 to “wipe Israel off the map” and make Palestinians (who danced in the streets celebrating 9/11) happy (they name their kids “Hitler” and admire Nazis). It would have bought us nothing but more attacks.
    “What you reward you get more of” and rewarding Muslims for 9/11 was then and is now a million kinds of stupid.
    If anything GWB has been too namby-pamby and pretty much like Kerry (Iraq was a one-off). Imagine a President who simply nuked Afghanistan, Riyadh, Islamabad and Tehran out of existence and had troops occupying Saudi, Iranian, and Iraqi oilfields, pumping them dry. Gas at $0.50 per gallon, economic activity world-wide EXPLODING as cheaper than ever energy lowers basic inputs, China happy as heck it has cheap oil, and Muslims with no money to attack us.
    Plus of course a massive object lesson to would-be-supporters of bin Laden — sign on to Global Jihad and end up dead, with your dreams of power broken.
    Jefferson, Adams, etc all fooled around until Madison finally just crushed the Barbary Pirates and that writ large is our problem. Not Jews existing or Israel or anything else.
    And it was Machiavelli who advised the Prince it was better to be feared than loved. Sound advice for nations living in the real world and not a Disneyland ride.
    [Whether US support and and at what level is a wise policy course is a separate issue, but we could arm Hezbollah and Hamas with nukes and help them kill every Jew in Israel and get no respite from Jihad. America threatens Islam and the Muslim way of life just by existing … quick name ONE world-class Muslim company]

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  4. Sverige says:

    BTW re Fox News – Rupert Murdoch is Irish-Australian Catholic, right? Not Jewish.
    Rupert may not be Jewish, but News Corps president and chief operating officer, Peter Chernin, is.
    BTW Jews are a media market dominant minority.

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  5. ron says:

    RE: Ruper Murdoch
    Oh, he *would* be a Papist, wouldn’t he?

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  6. Simon says:

    As a British Isles WASP I am sad to hear that my American kinfolk have apparently lost control of their great nation. I hope they get it back again soon.
    BTW re Fox News – Rupert Murdoch is Irish-Australian Catholic, right? Not Jewish.

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  7. ron says:

    Excuse me if I am dense, but this is satire right?
    Are you really saying “The problem with America is that WASPs have lost control”?
    Or worse, “The problem with America is that WASPs have lost control because they are over-privileged douche-bags more interested in golf than power”?
    This is a joke, right? Right?
    All kidding aside, our foreign policy is FUBAR. If we don’t drop this arrogant BS and start working *with* the rest of the world, rather than at cross purposes, we are going to find ourselves confronted with a lot of international organizations who’s unstated (or stated) purpose is to constrain American power. China and Russia in particular. Putin has found anti-US rhetoric useful. Comrade Wolf, that’s US! The EU should be a natural ally, and yet the people of Europe are greatly suspicious of US power. Do we want South Americans looking to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro for leadership and inspiration? We should work *with* the rest of the world as a leader, not ride into a hundred stupid gun fights like some lone cartoon cowboy.
    And for solutions? Perhaps we should start WASPAC? Help get the Old Boy’s Network back in charge. Good news folks, the future is lookin WASPy as hell!

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  8. DR says:

    The WASPs are too busy playing golf and watching basketball felons while illegal aliens mow their precious lawns or build houses for them to sell at outrageous prices. Meanwhile, their daughters are dreaming of sex with “cool, smooth” multiple black “playas,” and their neighborhoods are filling up with illegals and their illegal relatives, 20 of them per house…But as long as Jewish-owned Fox News trumpets mass murder (“collateral damage”) of “ragheads” on the other side of the globe, everything is A-OK with America. “I SUPPORT THE PRESIDENT.” Too bad he doesn’t support you, isn’t it?

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  9. Carroll says:

    I can’t think of anything that needs discussing and CORRECTING more than the zionist Lobby. They are bigger danger to this country than all the Islamic radicals put together. They have made this county more than just like Israel, they have made it worse than Israel. It’s sickening. They and all the politicans they own, which is 80% of our congress, need to have their US citizenship yanked and be deported to Israel.
    Maybe when the newly created “Office of Anti-Semitism” within the US State Department actually arrest an American citizen for critising Israel or zionist your average Joe Lunchbox will realize something is very wrong here.
    Tell Walt and John if I win the lottery I will finance a book for them, buy them prime time on TV and provide a private jet for them to tour colleges and speak on the Lobby and American foreign policy…and provide them around the clock protection by the Blackwater group from the Lobby and their minons…and oh yes, set up a trust fund for them so they won’t have to worry about supporting themselves in academica when the swiftboating of academics begans with the advent of our new law on “monotoring” universities for anti-semitism in Mid East studies….
    Come to think of it why aren’t some WASP sponsoring Walt and John on this, they already have the money to do it…don’t they care about their country?..or too busy playing golf?

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