Simon Bromley writes (MER 197) that “Noam Chomsky argues that the Cold War was ‘scarcely more than a pretext to conceal the standard refusal to tolerate Third World independence, whatever its political cast,’” a view that he castigates for its foolishness. His criticism is understated: The argument is perfect idiocy — magically transformed to unsurprising truth when we restore the words that he excised, and read that as the example of Cuba illustrates, “the Cold War framework served as scarcely more than a pretext…” The context is discussion of how the pretext of “defense from the Russians” was exploited to undermine unacceptable forms of independence, whatever their political cast, particularly when it was feared that departures from the prescribed model of development might influence others. The Cold War itself, as distinct from the framework exploited as a pretext, was a major conflict, as is crystal-clear from the discussion, which Bromley again blatantly misrepresents. So it proceeds, as can readily be ascertained by comparison with the original.

There are journals where such practices are expected. Is it really necessary here as well?

Noam Chomsky
Cambridge, MA

Bromley Responds to Chomsky:

Noam Chomsky’s search for bad faith once again blinds him to genuine argument. Chomsky knows that the Cold War is conventionally understood as the superpower rivalry based on different and conflicting social systems. He argues, by contrast, that for the United States the Cold War was primarily a war against the Third World, that it had many of the features of North-South conflict and that the conventional view (which in descriptive terms I largely share) “was scarcely more than a pretext.” In this context, the meaning of “Cold War” in the phrase “Chomsky argues that the Cold war was scarcely” might be ambiguous, except that I later state: “The Cold War was considerably more than another example of North-South conflict, or a pretext for US intervention, since the existence of the Soviet Union and the model of development it attempted was radically incompatible with the liberal capitalist order — far more so than radical nationalist experiments in the South”! (Where is the misrepresentation now?) More seriously, it is this substantive disagreement about the Cold War which separates Chomsky and me, something he wholly ignores with misdirected accusations of bad faith and sarcasm. When will Chomsky learn that disagreement need not be malicious, that real arguments exist, and that it is long past time to approach intellectual and political disputes in a more mature manner?

Simon Bromley
Leeds, England

How to cite this article:

"Letters (Summer 1996)," Middle East Report 199 (Summer 1996).

For 50 years, MERIP has published critical analysis of Middle Eastern politics, history, and social justice not available in other publications. Our articles have debunked pernicious myths, exposed the human costs of war and conflict, and highlighted the suppression of basic human rights. After many years behind a paywall, our content is now open-access and free to anyone, anywhere in the world. Your donation ensures that MERIP can continue to remain an invaluable resource for everyone.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This