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August 04, 2007

The Middle East Panel was actually kind of...fun
Posted by Moira Whelan

I have been to a lot of Middle East panels in my time, but I gotta give it to Kos, this was the best. One. Ever. For one, I laughed…and not just at Dennis Perrin who was on the panel talking about the influence of satire, but Juan Cole and even John Mearsheimer got a few laughs as well. That’s not to say that it wasn’t serious. In fact, I’d say the opposite. The audience and the panel were passionate. Matt has some thoughts on Mearsheimer’s presentation. Unsung on the panel was Manan Amed who had some interesting thoughts about Pakistan. He talked about how important Obama’s speech was, and what a major step forward it is regarding the challenges we face. The audience was more interested in talking about Israel and Palestine, and of course, Iraq.

At the risk of delving into a subject matter in which I have no expertise (the Middle East Peace Process), as a wonky type, I found a few things interesting about the conversation that followed. It’s less of a debate at Kos, and more of a given, that AIPAC and other groups have disproportionate power, and those that think differently simply don’t have the money/organization etc to compete.  The panelists correctly pointed out that the blogs are really the only place where the Israel and Palestinian relationship is being talked about without the influence of “the Israel lobby.” Because bloggers don’t really face recourse from typical levers of power (money, media, etc) the Israel lobby is accused of wielding with great effectiveness. The conversation can be fairly vibrant and democratic. Frankly, I think if the blogs are going to exercise power on foreign policy, this will probably be the area of biggest influence.

The coolest part about this panel really to me was John Mearsheimer. Juan Cole (of whom I am now a giant fan) did a fantastic job of really making the Middle East accessible, but still bringing in major fire power. I really don’t think people at Kos realized just how influential Mearsheimer is on the entire field of foreign policy, which made it all that more interesting. I have to say, that as someone who’s read everything he’s ever written, I was SHOCKED when people interrupted him, or questioned his judgment on the idea that oil companies did not, in fact, orchestrate the war in Iraq. He is, after all, John friggin Mearsheimer. I’m sure when he speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, people don’t interrupt him. I don’t think the Presidents he’s counseled interrupt him. Mearsheimer was totally into it which was fantastic.

Juan has the right formula for how best to have national security conversations with/in the blogosphere. It left me wanting more, and it was pretty clear the audience agreed.

Overall, I’ve been pretty surprised at just how much time YKos folks spend talking about national security. There were about 5 panels on various security subjects, which to me is pretty significant. The sole session somewhat homeland security related was on Katrina. The subject was more social justice than emergency response which is where my mind goes, but I’m glad I heard it.

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Will you be cross-posting this diary at Daily Kos? I have seen nothing written there yet about the Middle East panel. Several members who are active in the I/P diaries at Daily Kos, but who were unable to attend Yearly Kos, are very interested in hearing more details about the presentations and the question and answer sessions. For example, was it just Mearsheimer who was being interrupted while he was speaking or other panelists as well?

Why were you surprised at people talking about national security? An awful lot of foreign policy is bound up with national security issues. The Defense department is one of the largest slices of the US budget. How can you even talk about politics in the US without touching on national security?

And your link to Yglesias is broken.

"Frankly, I think if the blogs are going to exercise power on foreign policy, this will probably be the area of biggest influence."

And that's supposed to be a good thing?

I am so pleased to have found your review- "The panelists correctly pointed out that the blogs are really the only place where the Israel and Palestinian relationship is being talked about without the influence of “the Israel lobby.” Because bloggers don’t really face recourse from typical levers of power (money, media, etc) the Israel lobby is accused of wielding with great effectiveness."

When I started Blogging two years ago I whole hardly agreed. Today this Israeli/American see things differently~ "The Arc of Crisis: US Policy in the Middle East and South Asia" has been Deleted from YearlyKos: or at the very lest, hidden?

I am unable to find it through the original link or search: The sad truth is I am not surprised. After Daily Kos purged every Palestinian member and Kos Fellow "Hunter" proclamation last May- that "every single new pro-Palestinian poster in these threads is going to be presumed guilty until proven innocent" and the mass banning of 5-10 Moderate Pro-Palestinian members right before YearlyKos (myself included) I am no longer naive- Blogs need money too.

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