Home/Daniel Larison/A “Balanced and Realistic” Understanding of the Near East

A “Balanced and Realistic” Understanding of the Near East

Rod reacts to Scott McConnell’s post on a forthcoming hearing on Israel before the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

That said, unless this key GOP-controlled committee intends to host another hearing featuring a full roster of expert witnesses offering a more foreign-policy realist, or even pro-Palestinian, point of view — and there is no such hearing scheduled — then this planned hearing is a farce. Where is the balance? How are Congressmen supposed to make informed policy decisions when they only care to hear a single perspective — even if, in this case, it’s a perspective with which I largely sympathize?

There are a few ways to think about the absence of witnesses with different views at this hearing. The first point that needs to made is that the choice of witnesses can’t be pinned solely on the Republicans on the committee. According to the aide Scott quoted, the witnesses were apparently selected by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and Howard Berman, the Democratic ranking member (who also happens to be a lame duck Congressman after losing his seat). The lack of a intellectual diversity on display at this hearing is a bipartisan achievement.

Unfortunately, that’s nothing new. There are many foreign policy issues on which a bipartisan consensus prevails, and the range of views inside that consensus is normally quite narrow. It seems absurd to anyone outside or skeptical of that consensus, but to those that agree with it a panel that includes representatives of the Council on Foreign Relations, WINEP, and AEI probably seems fairly representative of the limited range of consensus opinion.

The purpose of such a hearing isn’t intended so much to inform members of the committee so that they can make good policy as it is meant to reinforce the consensus view so that the members of the committee will reach the “right” conclusions. What is more worrisome than the lack of balance is the committee members’ assumption that this is a balanced and representative panel. Like WINEP in the words of its mission statement, the committee members may imagine that they are seeking a “balanced and realistic understanding” of the relevant issues while doing nothing of the kind.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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