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Debate between Noam Chomsky and William Buckley Essay


Chomsky won this debate. He was well-versed with the subject matter, and provided evidence for his remarks. This individual also incorporated counterarguments in his assertions. Chomsky understood that this was a complex subject matter that needed to be analyzed bit by bit.

Why Chomsky was the better debater

The best thing about Chomsky’s arguments is that he backs them up with evidence. It is a fact that everyone has a right to an opinion; however, the opinion is worthless if it lacks evidence to support it. He affirms that the US had been hypocritical in its interventions in Vietnam because they had material interests in doing so.

He supports this argument by citing other imperialist interventions such as the ones done by colonialists. Chomsky then ties this in with US actions in the war, and thus provides a backing for his claim that the US’s actions were imperialistic and pretentious (Youtube, 2011). This political analyst was quick to draw the line when he felt that the question asked by his host was inappropriate.

Sometimes a debater may be manipulated into taking on a totally different stance. Such a person should realize this as soon as possible, and should give reasons for refusing to engage with the host. For example, when talking about the similarities between Auschwitz and the Vietnam War, Buckley prods Chomsky to debate about the war.

Chomsky explains that debating about the virtues of the Vietnam War is like talking about Auschwitz’s virtues, which was simply unacceptable. Therefore, he backed up his reasons for choosing not to talk about the good qualities of the war.

Chomsky also responds to counterarguments very well. This is indicative of the fact that he has mastered the subject matter. It is easy to hold an opinion about something and look for several facts to back them up; however, it takes great intellect to think about the counterarguments and respond to them appropriately.

Chomsky uses the subject of imperialists to expound upon a position he was taking at some point in the debate. Buckley counters his argument by claiming that not all intervening powers act in such a manner. Chomsky then responds to this counterargument by explaining that there are certain exceptions in history such as the Belgians in Congo who did not behave in a deceitful manner.

Throughout the debate, Chomsky appears to be an authority in the subject. He does not distort or exaggerate things, and maintains a calm and polite tone throughout the debate. This is true even when Buckley keeps cutting him off from time to time. At some point in the debate, the two of them start talking about Nazi Germany and the communists; they then tie this in with Greece.

Buckley makes incorrect statements that Chomsky easily points out. He calmly informs Buckley that his historical facts have been mixed up. This was someone who had analyzed political trends around the world, and could not be sidetracked by a misinformed counterpart. By the end of the debate, one ends up supporting Chomsky’s view point over Buckley’s.

Buckley claimed that the US engaged in necessary interventions. His explanations were not adequate because they were not historically backed. For instance, he alleges that the US needed to fight off Vietnamese terrorists, which was a false premise. On other hand, Chomsky claimed that the US was acting imperialistically with regard to the Vietnam intervention.

He supported this by using other instances like Greece as example. He had a firm grasp of past and present political facts, so he ended being the better debater of the two. Chomsky was an intellectual and realized the complications of the subject at hand.

The arguments made by Chomsky are quite logical. He states, in a straight forward manner that he does not support the Vietnam War because of its hypocrisy. The US claims that it is pursuing its national interests in Vietnam, but is essentially covering up its real reasons, which are business interests (Youtube, 2011).

Buckley, on the other hand, seems to be so preoccupied with a need to defend the war that he sometimes makes illogical statements. At one time, he suggests that the US would be right to take on another country if failure to do so may present it with another situation in the future which would cause it to engage in war.

This argument does not hold water because if the US is counting on a future reason to attack another country, then it has no basis to do so. Another example of how Chomsky’s arguments were logical was when he argues that the US was not listening to the Vietnamese. This makes sense because he explains how the same thing had happened during the communist civil war.

The communists had mass support among the Soviets, and this made it difficult for one to impose another directive upon them. Similarly, the people of Vietnam had their political goals. It did not matter whether the US thought that it knew what was best for Vietnam; all that mattered was that their will was not what the people of Vietnam wanted. In this regard, Chomsky makes audiences focus on the key question in the war.

A good debater must be one who focuses on the issues under discussion. He should stay away from emotional statements or fallacies. In other words, the person should not attack the character of his opponent, but should criticize the policies or processes under analysis. Sometimes Buckley went overboard by attacking Buckley.

At some point, he states that he would smash Chomsky in the face if he lost his temper. Although this was meant as a joke, it still qualifies as a personal attack against Chomsky. The latter individual appeared a little intimidated by those words, so they should not have been said at all.

Buckley was also guilty of oversimplifying complicated problems. At the beginning of the interview, Chomsky asserts that everyone is guilty of wrong-doing by allowing the Vietnam to go on. Buckley then responds to this statement by stating that “if someone points out everyone is guilty of everything, then nobody is guilty of anything” (Youtube, 2011).

This claim is an oversimplification of the matter under discussion. In essence, Buckley is saying that there is no instance when an entire society can be held to account, yet this is not true. There are particular instances when whole societies are wrong and hence guilty about something.

In certain scenarios, Buckley fails as a debater because he over generalizes. For instance, when they were talking about the French in relation to South Vietnam, Buckley claimed that these actions were not unique in history as the same had been done by the communists in Greece. Such a statement was an overgeneralization because he was trying to make connections between two scenarios that both involved a developed nation and a weaker nation engaging in ideological cooperation.

The situation between the Soviets in Greece and the French in Vietnam were quite different from each other, so he had no basis to make such a sweeping comparison. Chomsky was quick to point out that the only similarity between these two scenarios was that the ideologies being perpetuated by the dominant nations were against popular opinion. Therefore, Chomsky still found a similarity between the two situations, but did not go on to assert that the two situations were the same.


Buckler does more to derail Chomsky than to analyze the Vietnam War; he tries to pock holes in Chomsky’s arguments but fails when Chomsky responds to these tactics through solid intellectual facts.


You Tube (2011). Naom Chomsky Vs. William F. Buckley, 1969. Retrieved from

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Debate between Noam Chomsky and William Buckley." December 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/debate-between-noam-chomsky-and-william-buckley/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Debate between Noam Chomsky and William Buckley'. 7 December.

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