September 16, 2002


For leftists like me who had long considered Chomsky as our own beacon of moral clarity, it is hard to say which development is more catastrophic: the fact that Chomsky-bashing has become a major political pastime, or the fact that Chomsky has become so very difficult to defend. Chomsky's response to the war in Afghanistan offered a repellent mix of hysteria and hauteur. . . .

The antiwar left once knew well that its anti-imperialism was in fact a form of patriotism - until it lost its bearings in Kosovo and Kabul, insisting beyond all reason that those military campaigns were imperialist wars for oil or regional power. And why does that matter? Because in the agora of public opinion, the antiwar left never claimed to speak to pragmatic concerns or political contingencies: for the antiwar left, the moral ground was the only ground there was. So when the antiwar left finds itself on shaky moral ground, it simply collapses.

I wonder what happened to the left such that it became capable of horror at the thought of removing a (quite literally) fascist dictator.

UPDATE: Alex Bensky writes:

Thanks; I'm still unimpressed.

Berube reminds me of the leftists and outright commies who decided after the Czech invasion of 1968 that maybe the Soviets weren't leading the way to the radiant future. All I could think of then was, "Where the hell have they

This is the Noam Chomsky who defended the Cambodian massacres, wrote a forward to a holocaust denier's book, and has readily and vigorously defended some of the worst assaults on human rights imaginable. He's been doing this at least since American Power and the New Mandarins (which was taken apart in Robert James Maddox's curiously ignored The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War). Five minutes on the internet would lay out a sorry litany of Chomsky's nastiness.

And now Michael Berube decides that maybe Chomsky isn't the best the left has
to offer? Where the hell has he been?

In a parallel universe, the same one where people argue, as they do, that Chomsky's defense of the Khmer Rouge is "misinterpreted." But maybe it's because I'm a teacher that I feel hope when I see the light begin to dawn in anyone, however benighted.