From Publishers Weekly
This intriguing series of conversations between like-minded peers about America in the Middle East pairs dissident intellectual Chomsky with Achcar, who is less well known for critiques of U.S. foreign policy (Clash of Barbarisms
). Drawing on deep historical background, they deconstruct Western assumptions about international politics: "Every state you can think of is based on violence, repression... the state system itself has no inherent legitimacy." While refreshingly careful to note when their conclusions aren't backed by rigorous documentation, both make broad assumptions about human behavior, while easily disregarding contradictions. For example they rely on opinion polls to indicate the desires of a given people (as opposed to the ruling elite), but reject the once-broad Palestinian support of the Oslo Peace Accords, for instance, because, as Chomsky says, the Palestinians "were just totally deluded." Similarly, they give little weight to nonrational influences—religiosity, fear—where these almost certainly played a key role in forming public opinion, such as in Arab disillusionment with secular nationalism or Israeli presumptions of anti-Semitism. Particularly in Chomsky's case, this can extend to an unfortunate contempt for those with whom he disagrees. Both men raise vital questions, but some readers may be alienated by the authors' often dismissive manner. (Nov.)
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About the Author
Gilbert Achcar, who lived in Lebanon for many years before moving to France, now teaches politics and international relations at the University of Paris. He is the author of several books on contemporary politics and is a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique.
Noam Chomsky, M.I.T., is the author most recently of 9-11 (a national bestseller) and Middle East Illusions. His articles and books revolutionized the contemporary study of linguistics and his political essays are widely read and translated throughout the world. In 2003 a profile of Chomsky in The New Yorker described his influence as one of the most widely cited scholars in history.