Good lord. It took Chomsky 10 minutes to respond to my email (see previous post) – and substantively too, not just with a brush-off. Alas, he doesn’t like people sharing the contents of his emails – which I will respect, as painful as that is to do. But I can say that he has apparently addressed this issue at some length in his book Hegemony or Survival.
I found the email itself thoroughly unconvincing, and I doubt the longer version in his book will help matters, though I would be curious to check it out. But I imagine I’ve already written enough on this subject to frighten away most of my readers. So I’ll stop now.
UPDATE: No, I lied about stopping. I went for a walk and communed with nature a little bit. That led to the desire to round things out with a concluding paragraph. Here goes:
The story of Iraq’s drive to develop nuclear weapons is an extremely complicated one, involving all kinds of regional, international, domestic and psychological causes. The remark of Chomsky’s which touched off this little debate was only an aside, but that aside was an allusion to a well-considered view. That view attempts to reduce this complicated story to a single cause: Israel’s strike on Osirak (and to perhaps Israel more generally). That’s really simplistic, and – worse – simplistic about an extremely important subject. So, in my view, we have an example of a very prominent spokesperson for the left making a serious error of historical analysis. If that isn’t an occasion for criticism and debate, then we should just give up on the entire notion of self-scrutiny and substantive debate altogether.