What Does ‘Pushback’ Mean? An Email from Dersh

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Some time back I reported that Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Colin Powell, said at the Middle East Institute (responding to Jim Lobe actually) that Walt and Mearsheimer’s paper contained the "blinding flash of the obvious," and that he had taught their ideas in his seminars and gotten "pushback" for doing so. This was back in ’06, when Walt and Mearsheimer were still just the paper that went ’round the world, in the LRB.

I spoke with Wilkerson today, for a magazine story I’m working on, and asked him what pushback meant. He said that he didn’t even teach Walt and Mearsheimer, just mentioned their ideas in national security seminars he taught at the College of William and Mary and George Washington University. "I just mentioned the paper. I mentioned it in the guise of ‘Here are some fairly credible scholars and this is what they think.’ Because of political correctness, in its most vicious sense, these things are rarely ever talked about."

Within 48 hours of mentioning the duo, Wilkerson got an email from Alan Dershowitz. If he was mentioning Walt and Mearsheimer, he "needed to present" Dershowitz’s view of their paper. "Here I am, getting an email from the man who advocated torture," Wilkerson chuckles. "I gave him a piece of my mind." Didn’t hear back. Wilkerson suspects that pro-Israel Jewish students on campus dropped the dime to Dershowitz. Because, "There is a network."

All I’d add is that this is real pressure, and Wilkerson is tough. A lot of other teachers would quail under it. Some time back a scholar at Yale told me he avoided Israel/Palestine, though he felt moral qualms about the U.S. position, because who needs Dershowitz jumping down their throat.

Also, re Dershowitz, thanks to Hilda Silverman for reminding me that when I quote Dershowitz calling the pre-67 borders "Auschwitz borders," Dershowitz is quoting Abba Eban…

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