On Chomsky’s Failed States

In the Guardian, the Observer’s foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont has a long and critical review of Chomsky’s Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. He also has a commentary on it in the Observer, though the review also reads like a commentary. From the review:

What is most troubling about all this is that there is much that Chomsky and I should agree on. Like him, I was opposed to what I believed was an illegal war in Iraq. In my travels in that country, I, too, have been troubled by the consequences of occupation. Where I differ from him, however, is that I reject Chomsky’s view that American misdeeds are printed through history like the lettering in a stick of rock. Instead, the conclusions I have drawn from more than a decade of reporting wars on the ground is that motivations are complex, messy and contradictory, that the best intentions can spawn the worst outcomes and, occasionally, vice versa.

But you’ve got to admire him for the verbal speed with which he comes out from his corner, if not for his grasp on reality. He hits you with five facts before you have had time to digest the first. Chomsky is an intellectual bruiser. Bang, bang, bang, he goes, and all that is left for slower-witted mortals is to hang on, ‘rope-a-dope’, like Muhammad Ali and try to survive until the round is over. Except it doesn’t work quite so well in his written prose.