Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dershowitz: Obama Should Repudiate Brzezinski

Yesterday, I posted then took down a piece on controversy on Obama's foreign policy advisers' views on Israel. I was essentially defending Obama's choice of Samantha Power as an adviser and defending her against what I initially thought to be excessive criticism of remarks she made in 2002 concerning Israel and domestic political concerns. I found problems in both sides of the argument with respect to inflated tone and emphasis on rhetorical issues. Frankly, I have mixed feelings concerning the merits of both sides of the argument over Obama's foreign policy staff and need a little more time to research the facts and digest the issues.

In the meantime, let me clearly state that some of Obama's choices are troubling to me. Of particular concern are the presence of Robert Malley and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both of whom are biased against Israel. Obama needs to explain what the presence of these two advisers in key positions on his staff says about his intended policies. I know that this issue will be a key point of the upcoming campaign should Obama be nominated -- as it should be. These are legitimate questions to raise reflecting both on Obama's position on the issues and his judgment with respect to nominees. Obama and his campaign staff have made some very positive statements in support of Israel in response to these questions, but avowals of good intentions are not enough. As a loyal Democrat strongly concerned about the welfare both of the United States and Israel, I want Obama to more fully address these issues now. It's in his interest and in the nation's as well.

I also wanted to use this piece to make the point that neither Democratic candidate is likely to do as much damage to the long-term interests of both the United States and Israel as the Bush administration has by pursuing policies which lower the value of the dollar, raise the price of oil and saddle the United States with excessive debt. This has weakened the United States and strengthened the oil-producing Arab states in ways that will become fully clear over the next several decades. I am much more concerned with that than I am with what Samantha Power said in an interview in 2002.

While I consider my position further, read the following from the NY SUN of September 12, 2007:

Dershowitz: Obama Should Repudiate Brzezinski (BY RUSSELL BERMAN):

Senator Obama may have distanced himself from a book criticizing the Israel lobby, but a prominent Harvard law professor — and Senator Clinton ally — says the Illinois lawmaker needs to go a step further and repudiate his newest foreign policy adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The Harvard professor, Alan Dershowitz, has emerged as a chief critic of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a new book in which authors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue that a powerful coalition of individuals and organizations has pushed America into supporting Israel in ways that undermine its national interests.

The book has drawn widespread scorn from the pro-Israel community, and it appears to have divided Mr. Obama and Mr. Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Carter who recently joined the Illinois senator's presidential campaign. Mr. Brzezinski will be with Mr. Obama as the candidate delivers a major policy address on Iraq today in Iowa.

Amid a firestorm over an initial working paper Messrs . Mearsheimer and Walt published last year on the Israel lobby, Mr. Brzezinski rose to their defense, even as he demurred on the question of whether he agreed with their central arguments. The authors, he wrote in the journal Foreign Policy, "have rendered a public service by initiating a much-needed public debate on the role of the ‘Israel lobby' in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy."

Mr. Obama's campaign took the opposite route earlier this week when notified that an ad for its Web site appeared on the page of the Mearsheimer-Walt book. The campaign immediately removed the ad, saying its placement was unintentional, and issued a statement saying Mr. Obama believed the arguments in the book were "just wrong." "I'm glad he's done that, but now he has to dissociate himself from Brzezinski," Mr. Dershowitz said in an interview yesterday. He said the Mearsheimer-Walt book was "a bigoted attack on the American Jewish community" and that Mr. Brzezinski's comments in Foreign Policy last year amounted to an endorsement.

Through an assistant, Mr. Brzezinski declined repeated requests to be interviewed yesterday about his views on the book and Mr. Obama. He endorsed the first-term senator last month, praising his long-running opposition to the Iraq war and offering a high-profile boost to a candidate who has struggled at times to combat the perception that he is inexperienced in foreign policy.

Mr. Dershowitz, who has contributed $1,000 to Mrs. Clinton's campaign and is supporting her candidacy, said his criticism of Mr. Brzezinski extended beyond the Mearsheimer-Walt book to what he said was Mr. Brzezinski's broader "anti-Israel" rhetoric in recent years. The former Carter aide was highly critical of Israel during its war last year with Hezbollah in Lebanon, at one point saying its actions amounted to "the killing of hostages."

Mr. Dershowitz said that while Mr. Obama has been a strong supporter of Israel, he "made a terrible mistake" by bringing on Mr. Brzezinski, which he attributed to "naïveté."

In response, the Obama campaign released a statement from one of its top supporters in the Jewish community, Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida. "Barack Obama has been a consistent supporter of Israel and this is an unfortunate case of a fabricated controversy for political reasons," he said. "I speak with him often on Israel policy, and I can tell you firsthand that Barack Obama is opposed to the arguments presented in this book."



Anonymous said...


According to Martin Peretz, there is nothing to the report that Robert Malley is an adviser to Obama.

And before people start getting too nervous over Obama's attitude toward Israel, they should check out his AIPAC speech last year.

Adam Holland said...

Thanks Gene. I've posted an excerpt from Peretz's piece as a correction/apology and have reposted your piece on Obama's AIPAC speech.

steve klein said...

Hi Adam, I stumbled across your site quite accidentally, doing some research on Pollack, Obama, etc.

I am a independent-minded conservative Republican who has been tempted to vote for Obama because of George W. Bush's terrible policies visa vis Israel, the Bush family's intimate connections with the Saudis, etc. Republican party has fully embraced Bush's policies. So has the DNC. As a conservative, I have come to expect the Democrats to pursue Utopian visions of "peace." I do not expect this from conservatives. It would appear John McCain will be no different than Bush. Perhaps worse. He is alleged to have opined, he will, unlike Bush, "micromanage" the conflict and bring in one or another of the "smart guys," James Baker or Brent Scowcroft, both anti-Israel "realists."

On the other hand Obama's associations are quite troubling. Often a person is known (fairly or unfairly) by the company he or she keeps. Zbignew Brezinsky is in favor of dealing with Hamas. He is very anti-Israel. I don't see much if any difference between Bush family friend James Baker and Zbignew Brezinsky.

I may sit it out in November. We'll see.


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