9-11; Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated

In This Review


By Noam Chomsky
Seven Stories Press, 2002
96 pp. $8.95

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated

By Gore Vidal
Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002
160 pp. $8.00

Less remarkable but more widely read are the reflections of these two long-time critics of American foreign policy. Neither book represents its author's finest work. Chomsky has thrown a series of interviews into rough order and Vidal's essays fall considerably short of his usual polished standard. At first glance, Chomsky's truculent tu quoque and Vidal's elegiac regrets for lost republican serenity have little in common. Yet both share a common, bedrock assumption that American activism around the world exacerbates international problems. Virtually all of U.S. foreign policy difficulties can be traced to the evil consequences of Washington's past actions; indeed, American shortsightedness (and corporate greed) wantonly challenges the natural balance of power in the world. Nevertheless, Chomsky and Vidal write with verve, passion, and style that complement their controversial views. Outside the United States, even mainstream political figures and serious specialists often regard them as authoritative. If those who believe that American activism is necessary and beneficial for the world want a more sympathetic international hearing, they must argue as forcefully as Chomsky -- and write as well as Vidal.

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