HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs

Abstract

Robert Lieberman's critique of our work on the Israel lobby is at odds with an abundance of evidence and prior scholarship describing the powerful influence that pro-Israel groups exert on U.S. Middle East policy. In addition to mischaracterizing our arguments, Lieberman claims that our methodology and research design are flawed and that our work contradicts the scholarly literature on American politics. Neither claim is true. Contrary to what he says, we did consider alternative hypotheses, and our analysis contains significant variation on both the independent and dependent variables. Given the methodological challenges involved in assessing the causal influence of any interest group, we also relied heavily on “process-tracing.” Lieberman recognizes this is an appropriate method for assessing causal impact and he concedes that this evidence supports our central argument. Moreover, we went to some lengths to avoid selection bias. Similarly, our arguments are consistent with the existing literature on interest groups, and with much of the scholarly literature on congressional decision-making, campaign financing, electoral politics, and the role of think tanks and the media. Surprisingly, after leveling a variety of false charges, Lieberman offers an “alternative” explanation for the Israel lobby's influence that is virtually identical to our own.

Citation

Mearsheimer, John J., and Stephen M. Walt. "The Blind Man and the Elephant in the Room: Robert Lieberman and the Israel Lobby." Perspectives on Politics 7.2 (June 2009): 259-273.