The Electronic Intifada has on its front page a ludicrous, factually challenged and logically flawed attack on John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s work — work that has been pivotal in shifting the debate on US Middle East policy. It is not clear to me what EI was hoping to achieve with this self-defeating move. But I don’t blame the author of the article — the fellow is clueless, he has cobbled together his screed from arguments and quotes randomly lifted from Noam Chomsky’s writings — I blame EI’s political and editorial judgment. At a time when Israeli colonization is intensifying, with the land in the grip of a neo-Fascist government, one’s priorities must be seriously upside down to spend precious time impugning the invaluable work of allies. It appears for some supporters of Palestine the need to feel self-righteous takes precedence over the imperative to be effective. Now, it is pointless to respond to someone who freely purloins others’ work, misuses sources, and constructs a slipshod argument. But I’ll give two illustrative examples of the kind of deliberate distortions that keep resurfacing in these ideological assaults on M & W (in both cases the specific claims have been ‘borrowed’ from Chomsky):
Chomsky has long maintained that the war in Iraq was for oil. He always adduces the same evidence to support his case. A state department document from 1945, a quotes from Zbigniew Brzezinski and another from George Kennan. Chomsky argues that Middle East oil is ‘a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history’ (State Department), and anyone who controls Iraq’s vast oil reserves gains ‘critical leverage’ (Brzezinski), indeed ‘veto power’ (Kennan), over competitors. All of this is indisputable: the United States would no doubt like to control Iraqi oil; it recognizes the ‘critical leverage’ the control affords it; and the critical leverage no doubt would grant it ‘veto power’. Now here is the problem: The State department document Chomsky cites is about Saudi Arabia, not Iraq. And it recommends that, precisely because Saudi oil is so important, US must always maintain friendly relations with the kingdom. Also, it does not follow that regime change is the only means to achieve these goals. Indeed, all of these claims have been just as true the past half century, but they did not necessitate war. The US has long preferred shoring up authoritarian regimes which could ensure its dominance and maintain a stable flow of oil.