Will a declining America Start Having to Obey the same Rules as Everybody Else? (Chomsky)

Noam Chomsky writes at Tomdispatch.com:

[This piece is adapted from “Uprisings,” a chapter in Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire, Noam Chomsky’s new interview book with David Barsamian (with thanks to the publisher, Metropolitan Books).  The questions are Barsamian’s, the answers Chomsky’s.]

Does the United States still have the same level of control over the energy resources of the Middle East as it once had?

The major energy-producing countries are still firmly under the control of the Western-backed dictatorships. So, actually, the progress made by the Arab Spring is limited, but it’s not insignificant. The Western-controlled dictatorial system is eroding. In fact, it’s been eroding for some time. So, for example, if you go back 50 years, the energy resources — the main concern of U.S. planners — have been mostly nationalized. There are constantly attempts to reverse that, but they have not succeeded.

Take the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example. To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it’s maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region. You’re not supposed to say this. It’s considered a conspiracy theory.

The United States was seriously defeated in Iraq by Iraqi nationalism — mostly by nonviolent resistance. The United States could kill the insurgents, but they couldn’t deal with half a million people demonstrating in the streets. Step by step, Iraq was able to dismantle the controls put in place by the occupying forces. By November 2007, it was becoming pretty clear that it was going to be very hard to reach U.S. goals. And at that point, interestingly, those goals were explicitly stated. So in November 2007 the Bush II administration came out with an official declaration about what any future arrangement with Iraq would have to be. It had two major requirements: one, that the United States must be free to carry out combat operations from its military bases, which it will retain; and two, “encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments.” In January 2008, Bush made this clear in one of his signing statements. A couple of months later, in the face of Iraqi resistance, the United States had to give that up. Control of Iraq is now disappearing before their eyes.

Iraq was an attempt to reinstitute by force something like the old system of control, but it was beaten back. In general, I think, U.S. policies remain constant, going back to the Second World War. But the capacity to implement them is declining.

Declining because of economic weakness?

Partly because the world is just becoming more diverse. It has more diverse power centers. At the end of the Second World War, the United States was absolutely at the peak of its power. It had half the world’s wealth and every one of its competitors was seriously damaged or destroyed. It had a position of unimaginable security and developed plans to essentially run the world — not unrealistically at the time.

This was called “Grand Area” planning?

Yes. Right after the Second World War, George Kennan, head of the U.S. State Department policy planning staff, and others sketched out the details, and then they were implemented. What’s happening now in the Middle East and North Africa, to an extent, and in South America substantially goes all the way back to the late 1940s. The first major successful resistance to U.S. hegemony was in 1949. That’s when an event took place, which, interestingly, is called “the loss of China.” It’s a very interesting phrase, never challenged. There was a lot of discussion about who is responsible for the loss of China. It became a huge domestic issue. But it’s a very interesting phrase. You can only lose something if you own it. It was just taken for granted: we possess China — and if they move toward independence, we’ve lost China. Later came concerns about “the loss of Latin America,” “the loss of the Middle East,” “the loss of” certain countries, all based on the premise that we own the world and anything that weakens our control is a loss to us and we wonder how to recover it.

Today, if you read, say, foreign policy journals or, in a farcical form, listen to the Republican debates, they’re asking, “How do we prevent further losses?”

On the other hand, the capacity to preserve control has sharply declined. By 1970, the world was already what was called tripolar economically, with a U.S.-based North American industrial center, a German-based European center, roughly comparable in size, and a Japan-based East Asian center, which was then the most dynamic growth region in the world. Since then, the global economic order has become much more diverse. So it’s harder to carry out our policies, but the underlying principles have not changed much.

Take the Clinton doctrine. The Clinton doctrine was that the United States is entitled to resort to unilateral force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.” That goes beyond anything that George W. Bush said. But it was quiet and it wasn’t arrogant and abrasive, so it didn’t cause much of an uproar. The belief in that entitlement continues right to the present. It’s also part of the intellectual culture.

Right after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, amid all the cheers and applause, there were a few critical comments questioning the legality of the act. Centuries ago, there used to be something called presumption of innocence. If you apprehend a suspect, he’s a suspect until proven guilty. He should be brought to trial. It’s a core part of American law. You can trace it back to Magna Carta. So there were a couple of voices saying maybe we shouldn’t throw out the whole basis of Anglo-American law. That led to a lot of very angry and infuriated reactions, but the most interesting ones were, as usual, on the left liberal end of the spectrum. Matthew Yglesias, a well-known and highly respected left liberal commentator, wrote an article in which he ridiculed these views. He said they’re “amazingly naive,” silly. Then he expressed the reason. He said that “one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers.” Of course, he didn’t mean Norway. He meant the United States. So the principle on which the international system is based is that the United States is entitled to use force at will. To talk about the United States violating international law or something like that is amazingly naive, completely silly. Incidentally, I was the target of those remarks, and I’m happy to confess my guilt. I do think that Magna Carta and international law are worth paying some attention to.

I merely mention that to illustrate that in the intellectual culture, even at what’s called the left liberal end of the political spectrum, the core principles haven’t changed very much. But the capacity to implement them has been sharply reduced. That’s why you get all this talk about American decline. Take a look at the year-end issue of Foreign Affairs, the main establishment journal. Its big front-page cover asks, in bold face, “Is America Over?” It’s a standard complaint of those who believe they should have everything. If you believe you should have everything and anything gets away from you, it’s a tragedy, the world is collapsing. So is America over? A long time ago we “lost” China, we’ve lost Southeast Asia, we’ve lost South America. Maybe we’ll lose the Middle East and North African countries. Is America over? It’s a kind of paranoia, but it’s the paranoia of the superrich and the superpowerful. If you don’t have everything, it’s a disaster.

The New York Times describes the “defining policy quandary of the Arab Spring: how to square contradictory American impulses that include support for democratic change, a desire for stability, and wariness of Islamists who have become a potent political force.” The Times identifies three U.S. goals. What do you make of them?

Two of them are accurate. The United States is in favor of stability. But you have to remember what stability means. Stability means conformity to U.S. orders. So, for example, one of the charges against Iran, the big foreign policy threat, is that it is destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. How? By trying to expand its influence into neighboring countries. On the other hand, we “stabilize” countries when we invade them and destroy them.

I’ve occasionally quoted one of my favorite illustrations of this, which is from a well-known, very good liberal foreign policy analyst, James Chace, a former editor of Foreign Affairs. Writing about the overthrow of the Salvador Allende regime and the imposition of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1973, he said that we had to “destabilize” Chile in the interests of “stability.” That’s not perceived to be a contradiction — and it isn’t. We had to destroy the parliamentary system in order to gain stability, meaning that they do what we say. So yes, we are in favor of stability in this technical sense.

Concern about political Islam is just like concern about any independent development. Anything that’s independent you have to have concern about because it might undermine you. In fact, it’s a little ironic, because traditionally the United States and Britain have by and large strongly supported radical Islamic fundamentalism, not political Islam, as a force to block secular nationalism, the real concern. So, for example, Saudi Arabia is the most extreme fundamentalist state in the world, a radical Islamic state. It has a missionary zeal, is spreading radical Islam to Pakistan, funding terror. But it’s the bastion of U.S. and British policy. They’ve consistently supported it against the threat of secular nationalism from Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt and Abd al-Karim Qasim’s Iraq, among many others. But they don’t like political Islam because it might become independent.

The first of the three points, our yearning for democracy, that’s about on the level of Joseph Stalin talking about the Russian commitment to freedom, democracy, and liberty for the world. It’s the kind of statement you laugh about when you hear it from commissars or Iranian clerics, but you nod politely and maybe even with awe when you hear it from their Western counterparts.

If you look at the record, the yearning for democracy is a bad joke. That’s even recognized by leading scholars, though they don’t put it this way. One of the major scholars on so-called democracy promotion is Thomas Carothers, who is pretty conservative and highly regarded — a neo-Reaganite, not a flaming liberal. He worked in Reagan’s State Department and has several books reviewing the course of democracy promotion, which he takes very seriously. He says, yes, this is a deep-seated American ideal, but it has a funny history. The history is that every U.S. administration is “schizophrenic.” They support democracy only if it conforms to certain strategic and economic interests. He describes this as a strange pathology, as if the United States needed psychiatric treatment or something. Of course, there’s another interpretation, but one that can’t come to mind if you’re a well-educated, properly behaved intellectual.

Within several months of the toppling of [President Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt, he was in the dock facing criminal charges and prosecution. It’s inconceivable that U.S. leaders will ever be held to account for their crimes in Iraq or beyond. Is that going to change anytime soon?

That’s basically the Yglesias principle: the very foundation of the international order is that the United States has the right to use violence at will. So how can you charge anybody?

And no one else has that right.

Of course not. Well, maybe our clients do. If Israel invades Lebanon and kills a thousand people and destroys half the country, okay, that’s all right. It’s interesting. Barack Obama was a senator before he was president. He didn’t do much as a senator, but he did a couple of things, including one he was particularly proud of. In fact, if you looked at his website before the primaries, he highlighted the fact that, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, he cosponsored a Senate resolution demanding that the United States do nothing to impede Israel’s military actions until they had achieved their objectives and censuring Iran and Syria because they were supporting resistance to Israel’s destruction of southern Lebanon, incidentally, for the fifth time in 25 years. So they inherit the right. Other clients do, too. 

But the rights really reside in Washington. That’s what it means to own the world. It’s like the air you breathe. You can’t question it. The main founder of contemporary IR [international relations] theory, Hans Morgenthau, was really quite a decent person, one of the very few political scientists and international affairs specialists to criticize the Vietnam War on moral, not tactical, grounds. Very rare. He wrote a book called The Purpose of American Politics. You already know what’s coming. Other countries don’t have purposes. The purpose of America, on the other hand, is “transcendent”: to bring freedom and justice to the rest of the world. But he’s a good scholar, like Carothers. So he went through the record. He said, when you study the record, it looks as if the United States hasn’t lived up to its transcendent purpose. But then he says, to criticize our transcendent purpose “is to fall into the error of atheism, which denies the validity of religion on similar grounds” — which is a good comparison. It’s a deeply entrenched religious belief. It’s so deep that it’s going to be hard to disentangle it. And if anyone questions that, it leads to near hysteria and often to charges of anti-Americanism or “hating America” — interesting concepts that don’t exist in democratic societies, only in totalitarian societies and here, where they’re just taken for granted.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.  A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of numerous best-selling political works, including recently Hopes and Prospects and Making the Future.  This piece is adapted from the chapter “Uprisings” in his newest book (with interviewer David Barsamian), Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books). 

Excerpted from Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire, published this month by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright (c) 2013 by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian. All rights reserved.

Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com

31 Responses

  1. The apologist’s dilemma: Refrain from repeating the refrain here, and hope observations like these by Engelhardt and Chomsky (that socialist unAmerican) just slide by unremarked, in the hope that no one will pay much attention, or load up the usual comfortable doses of Conventional Wisdom and Inevitability, to inject, insensibly, with as much savoir faire and confident elan as possible?

    It’s not, of course, that anyone of any significance, who might see suddenly in a different light on their own road to Damascus and maybe be in a position to act to change the underlying policy behaviors, anyone of Player significance that is, is in danger of encountering chains of thought like those that creep out of these impotent corners, the notion that “we don’t and can’t and don’t need to own the world” and “our policies may actually be ensuring that we will not be enduring.” It’s not even clear that the folks who surface these notions really even want them acted upon, after all. They profit from U.S., LLC too, after all.

    Better to just let it lie flopping and gasping for breath, or try to smother or strangle it? Hmmmmmm… Maybe a distraction…

  2. “Right after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, amid all the cheers and applause, there were a few critical comments questioning the legality of the act.”

    Yes. Firstly Osama Bin Laden was a criminal defendant in a United States District Court over the U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa and was therefore entitled to federal constitutional protections. There was no convincing proof he was a danger to anyone before he was shot – but a lot of conflicting versions appearing in the media.

    One of the suspects in the 1985 TWA hijacking in Beirut had to be lured to an offshore ship in international waters and taken directly to the U.S. so the arresting agents would not be obligated to leave him on foreign soil for possible extradition. By simply killing Bin Laden it avoided possible conflicts with the Pakistani government or other nations which may have had jurisdiction over Bin Laden.

    The British government conceded there was insufficient proof of Bin Laden’s complicity as of 2002 to charge him with the 9/11 attacks. Even after he made a public statement apparently admitting his role on an al-Jazeera tape just before the 2004 U.S. presidential elections, the courts would have to authenticate that videotape and the audio portion of it – which might not have been easy.

    One would also question why Bin Laden was not taken into custody and put on trial? This was done with Saddam Hussein and the FBI gained valuable intelligence information through questioning prior to his execution. There were regrets in some quarters that the CIA allowed Che Guevara to be summarily executed in Bolivia after his capture.

    The British government has conceded they could never legally engage in extrajudicial assassination of Irish Republican Army leadership and expressed surprise the Israeli government has done so on a regular basis.

    The most scary aspect of this is how far will extrajudicial assassination go? It could be an easy way to help resolve the ongoing drug trafficking-related violence in Mexico. It could be used in Syria, Iran, Iraq or Lebanon as it is in Yemen aginst suspected terrorist elements.

    The initial indication of the U.S. federal judiciary is that such a decision to kill is constitutionally delegated to the Executive Branch and cannot be subject to judicial review.

    • The most scary aspect of this is how far will extrajudicial assassination go?

      If it goes beyond targeting enemy commanders in a declared war, it will be a problem.

      When is it that the central legal and moral principle never finds its way into the discussion of these strikes? Yes, Mark, in a war, you are allowed to shoot the enemy. No, this does not violated the Constitution or international law.

      • If it goes beyond targeting enemy commanders in a declared war, it will be a problem.

        Like the killing of 16 year old American Abdulrahman al-Awlaki?
        link to esquire.com

        • “If it goes beyond targeting enemy commanders in a declared war, it will be a problem.”

          “Like the killing of 16 year old American Abdulrahman al-Awlaki?”

          Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was not targeted. He had the misfortune (and bad judgment) to be associating at the time with AQAP operatives who were targeted. It was a perfectly legitimate strike and did not in any way violate Joe from Lowell’s admonition above.

        • Like the killing of 16 year old American Abdulrahman al-Awlaki?

          No, because he was not targeted. He was killed accidently when he happened to go to meet with his father’s al Qaeda buddies when they were being targeted.

          To write a story about that strike and not mention that the target was Ibrahim al-Banna is, perhaps, the most dishonest piece of propaganda I have ever witnessed.

          link to aljazeera.com

      • “Has it been only commanders that are targeted?”

        Enemy commanders and important operatives are targeted (as opposed to what one would call ordinary “foot soldiers”)

  3. This would have been an excellent piece if it was written a decade ago. I suppose it is one of the inevitablities of age that one is slower to recognize changes when they happen at 90 than if they had happened at 40.

    In what universe is it forbidden to say that the Iraq War wasn’t about spreading democracy?

    In what universe is the phrase “losing China” never challenged?

    Where is the freak-out about “losing Latin America?” That region has made the greatest movement away from the American sphere of influence of any in the world since the end of the Cold War, and the reaction of the political class has been close to imperceptible. There is a small, determined cadre of neoconservatives, such as some of the National Review writers, who are running around with their hair on fire, trying to get us to care about the leftist governments in South America, and their efforts have been a complete failure. If Chomsky’s theory that it is 1949 forever were true, shouldn’t we be seeing something similar to the “Who lost China?” hearings about Brazil and Bolivia? Is it even remotely possible that any Cold War administration would have denounced the coup in Honduras and slapped sanctions on them until they replaced the coup regime with a democratically-elected president?

    How can one explain the claim that “every administration…support(s) democracy only if it conforms to certain strategic and economic interests,” given this administration’s response to the Egyptian Arab Spring? I wonder, what exactly were our strategic and economic interests in seeing a democratic overthrow of our core regional military ally?

    In the 1980s, Noam Chomsky was one of the most insightful critics of Cold War-era foreign policy. In the second decade of the 21st century, he remains so.

    • The original White House response to the Cairo protests was to stand by Mubarak. The White House is still standing behind Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The first White House statement on the Honduran coup was weak and non-committal. The Administration’s condemnation of that coup became stronger after they saw how the rest of the world was reacting. So, yes, the White House sometimes supports democracy when it feels it must.

      • The original White House response to the Cairo protests was to stand by Mubarak.

        The original White House response was to put pressure on Mubarak to give in to the protesters’ demands and negotiate a nonviolent solution.

        But so what? We’re now talking about whether the White House’s support for the mass movement that toppled a close security ally was fast enough and strong enough. Does that sound like the Cold War to you? Does that sound like the Bush White House’s response to the lawyers’ protest against Musharrif? Can you name one single case during the Cold War in which the U.S. government worked to encourage the military of an allied country to refuse orders to crush an uprising? Even one? Repeatedly moving the goal posts so you can keep saying “not good enough” isn’t the point. The question is about similarity to Cold War policies, and there is none.

        The White House is still standing behind Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

        Yes, the White House has not completely abandoned the concept of national interest, just moved away from it. Again, this is moving the goal posts.

        The first White House statement on the Honduran coup was weak and non-committal.

        Oh noes, it took three whole days before they denounced the illegal coup! You know, just like the 1956 Guatemalan coup…except, you know, exactly the opposite.

        So, yes, the White House sometimes supports democracy when it feels it must.

        The United States was one of the first nations in the world to recognize the revolutionary government in Tunisia that overthrew our former ally. I wonder, do you they felt that they “must” because of Tunisia’s awesome military might, or because of the weight it throws around in international trade?

      • I hate the rank dishonest of these critiques.

        Anything the administration does in support of indigenous democracy is weak and late and empty, except when it rises to a certain level like in Libya and Syria, at which point the strength of American support is just proof that the movement isn’t really about indigenous democracy at all. And also, hey, look over there. The U.S. didn’t really make an unprecedented break with a core regional military ally in Egypt because Syria. No, wait, that’s out of date now, so Bahrain.

        There is not set of facts that will get you to stray from your narrative. This isn’t an honest effort to understand and describe what is happening; it’s an effort to spin it.

        • So you’re assuming I didn’t support US intervention in Libya. Based on what?
          It’s clear that you feel compelled to spin everything in a way that makes the current administration look good.
          And you’re going to accuse others of being stuck in a small story?

  4. Noam Chomsky’s ever-predictable (and always amusing) ability to see nothing but malevolence behind every United States action in the world has reached the point where he has become a caricature of himself. Not for him the occasional realignment of his views to match reality. When there appears a mismatch between his views and reality, he realigns reality to match his views. Let’s examine some of his statements.

    “To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it’s maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region.”

    Here Chomsky sets up a false choice between “democracy” and “oil,” and states that the reason for the invasion was oil. One can quibble about whether or not Weapons of Mass Destruction or democracy, or a combination of both, were the reasons Saddam Hussein was deposed. One thing is pretty clear, however, it was not for oil. If the US had wanted oil, all we had to do was reverse our opposition to Saddam, reach a modus vivendi with him, and begin importing Iraqi oil. We didn’t need to go to war for that.

    “It (the US) had half the world’s wealth and every one of its competitors was seriously damaged or destroyed. It had a position of unimaginable security and developed plans to essentially run the world — not unrealistically at the time.
    Right after the Second World War, George Kennan, head of the U.S. State Department policy planning staff, and others sketched out the details, and then they were implemented.”

    When Chomsky refers to George Kennan, he is referring to US policy and actions during the 1947-48 period, several of which were the brainchild of Kennan. Among them were the Marshall Plan, which was a $16 billion program between 1948 and 1952, to assist Europe rebuild after World War II. The plan was offered to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, as well as to Western Europe, but Stalin would not allow the USSR or its satellites to participate. Another was the policy of “containment,” of the Soviet Union, which had shown aggressive tendencies (closing Western access to Berlin, installing communist governments in Eastern Europe, the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, threats to Turkey, etc.) In short, these were not US attempts to “run the world,” as Chomsky contends. They were valid attempts by the US to head off the certain pressure that Stalin would have exerted to bend the Western Europeans to his will and isolate the US from its Western European allies. These policies were hardly the malevolent maneuverings Chomsky would have us believe.

    “The Clinton doctrine was that the United States is entitled to resort to unilateral force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.””

    There is no so-called Clinton doctrine that states that the US is entitled to resort to unilateral force any time it wishes to ensure the access Chomsky mentions. It should be noted, however, that, as far as I can tell, Chomsky never criticized the “Brezhnev Doctrine” of the old Soviet Union, which stated that the US and the West had no right to undermine Socialist countries, but the USSR had the right to undermine Capitalist countries. Not a word from Chomsky on that one. (It would deter from his Narrative of a malevolent US.)

    “Right after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, amid all the cheers and applause, there were a few critical comments questioning the legality of the act. Centuries ago, there used to be something called presumption of innocence. If you apprehend a suspect, he’s a suspect until proven guilty. He should be brought to trial.”

    Chomsky makes the mistake here of considering Osama bin Laden a criminal, as if he had knocked off a Seven-Eleven convenience store or a bank in the United States, or even committed murder, rather than the Unlawful Enemy Combatant he was. He was not entitled to “Federal constitutional protections,” as one comment has it above. With his attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, both Acts of War, he was not entitled to have “Miranda Rights” read to him, or to a trial. It is amusing to imagine a Process Server accompanying the Seal team to his compound in Abottabad, in order to serve bin Laden a subpoena to appear in court for his hearing.

    • Bill, Cheney lobbied Congress to take sanctions off Saddam and failed. Your assertion that the administration could just have changed its posture toward Iraq is quite false.

      The only way to get Iraqi petroleum on the market was regime change, which was Cheney’s Plan B.

      You haven’t read my *Engaging the Muslim World*.

      • It is my understanding that in early 2001, Cheney and the oil industry lobbied Congress to lift, or at least modify, the sanctions against Iraq, Iran, and Libya, in order to get more oil flowing on to the market. The problem, as usual, was that AIPAC and the Israeli lobby played a tune on Congress’s jugular vein, and the lobbying effort was abandoned. I don’t think the Administration pushed Congress very hard on the issue. Nevertheless, I do not find it credible that the Iraq War was all about oil. In my opinion, it was far more ideological (Saddam Hussein, WMD, Evil) than the practical nexus of US national interest and oil would suggest.

        • Expressing vague doubts with no citation of evidence is not an argument.

          Cheney was lobbying to get the sanctions lifted while at Halliburton in 1998, and he was a serious as a heart attack.

          He failed because of AIPAC, which gave him the idea to join forces with them for regime change.

          Of course they did it for oil! They wanted to lower the price. They told Rupert Murdoch it would fall to $14 a barrel. They wanted to shift away from the Saudi Alliance to what they thought of as a secular Iraqi one, by removing Saudi’s swing producer advantage.

          Greg Muttit has revealed that BP was terrified in fall 2002 at being left out of the Iraq oil bonanza and pressured Blair over it.

          There isn’t really any doubt about it.

    • The Iraq War is much better-understood as being about bases than oil, fine. We wanted “an ally in the war on terror” from which we could “project power throughout the region,” and we needed to relocate the troops from those Saudi bases.

      This does not change the fact that it was carried out for imperial, geo-political purposes.

    • To add to Prof. Cole’s comments, Cheney and his acolytes in the Project for a New American Century, who all got jobs in the Administration, rejected anything short of US control of the oil of Iraq and Iran in their articles. Buying oil from Saddam Hussein was not acceptable. They claimed that the US could maintain global dominance – not something Chomsky made up, but what they really said – via the leverage that came from controlling the regimes that sat on these two critical pools of oil.

      Cheney also said in his American Petroleum Institute speech before he became VP that the state oil companies would be the main obstacle to the great increase of oil production needed for the expansion of the global economy in the next century. Now which states was he talking about? Obviously Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq and Iran mattered most. The neocons wanted to relocate the US bases from Saudi, a point of embarassment for the King, to Iraq. Bush and Cheney also insulted and embarassed Putin repeatedly during their time in office, and plotted the BTC pipeline to screw him out of the markets of Europe. So what we have here was the US trying to curry favor with the one state oil company that had a deep relationship with the US oil giants, invading two others, and marginalizing the last and making it as hostile as possible.

      We invaded Iraq for its place in what the neocons thought was a grand strategy for extorting compliance from countries desperate for what Cheney ADMITTED would become a scarce resource – which incoming scarcity Bush, Cheney, the GOP and the oil companies refused to inform the American public about. The US was trying to control everything from pipeline routes to nations, so it could make things harder for the producers and consumers that defied it, and easier for the ones that obeyed it. Investors logically would punish the former and reward the latter.

      In fact, that power has been exercised by Saudi Arabia every time it chooses to increase or decrease production due to political events – from the Reagan-Saudi scheme to crash oil prices to destroy the USSR (a historical fact), to the Saudi increase in production to cover the losses from Libya during its civil war. Before that, the state of Texas literally had the power to increase production quotas to stabilize the global economy during a crisis. Think about how much weaker America became after that era ended circa 1970.

    • You are also being ridiculously simplistic in saying that the Marshall Plan was the only foreign initiative the US was engaged in during the early Cold War. The new CIA was recruiting Nazis wholesale for their expertise in Eastern Europe – with many in Washington calling for “rolling back” Communism, you can’t help but see the utility in using those Nazis to organize covert actions and subversion.

      Furthermore, Kennan himself argued that the US needed to keep the rivaly with the USSR a European matter. Instead, it arrogantly took to viewing any Communist, Marxist, Socialist, or labor organizer anywhere on the planet as a beast to be bombed or assassinated. Our worst crimes, Bill, were all outside of Europe.

      I once read “The Pentagon Papers” to search for the moment when the US was inexorably committed to destoying Vietnam in order to save it. I found it in a State Dept. paper from ’47 or ’48. It literally rolled together the very different countries of Thailand, Burma, and the French and British colonies of Southeast Asia with the language of a corporate report read by wealthy idiots in a Wall Street boardroom, as one undifferentiated mass of brown people who needed new management to be kept under control. It was as if Coca-Cola was looking for a new advertising agency because “those people just don’t get it”.

      This dictating of how these people were to be governed violated both US and international law. Of course their analysis was shallow – they were trying to dictate events in every corner of the world, with no real guide but ideology.

      • Read my post carefully, SUPER390, and you will note that I did not say the Marshall Plan was the only initiative the US engaged in during the early Cold War. I was responding to Chomsky’s comment about Kennan, which certainly involved the Marshall Plan and, as I noted, the policy of Containment. I used those as examples; I did not state they were the only ones. They were, however, successful over the long haul.

    • Quite a flood of heavy-artillery reinforcement in support of the Narrative, there. Bring smoke on ’em, Chester!

      As to arguments over the existence vel non of the Clinton Doctrine and that tu quoque about the Brezhnev doctrine, nicely played. And the slam on Chomsky was a classic of understated dismissal.

      As to the really good stuff that the US is doing (forgive the hypostatization, I know it’s only a small fragment of us) as the latest extension of the United Fruit Doctrine, so aptly described by my man Gen. Smedley Butler as “nothing but a racket,” there’s a nice little video snippet here, albeit from that unAmerican, agenda’d al Jazeera, on one little bit. And I am just sure that GIs brought up on counter-whicheveritis are going to just go in and open up a can of whip-a55 on the whole drug business Down There: link to aljazeera.com

      And for another Left-Liberal screed to denigrate as “having an agenda,” how about this 2002 observation, which has only been trumped and outdated by tacking the Drug War flag to the military masthead:

      …not enough attention is being given to the long-term risks of U.S. military training and weapons transfers. The sale of F-16s to Chile may prompt its neighbours to seek similar technology.

      Spending money on high-tech weapons at a time of economic uncertainty and when basic human needs are not being met should be challenged by those in both the purchasing and the producing countries. Weapons and training have long shelf-lives. They are gifts that ‘keep on giving’ and not always for the good. Training given for counter-narcotics purposes can be identical to training given for counter-insurgency. How newly acquired skills are applied is entirely in the hands of the recipients, not those who originally funded the training. [See, e.g., Taliban, al Quaeda.} A share of responsibility for future acts weighs upon those who have brought new skills to a military force. The wisdom of consistently training large numbers of troops in a region with no serious cross-border conflicts should be challenged.

      If the U.S. military relationship with Latin America were restructured with the long-term promotion of human security as its goal, the relationship would be much different than that we see today. It would show greater concern for the role that the Latin American militaries play in relation to their own civilian institutions and not promote mission expansion beyond matters of national defence, and certainly not promote new roles in countries where the civilian government is trying to limit the role of the military. It would be more cautious about training and weapons transfers, and show more concern about the need to limit military expenditures in states where a significant percentage of the population lives in poverty.

      link to unidir.org

      Of course poverty, with its attendant upward wealth transfer to the present generation of the elect, satisfied with “Apres moi, le deluge,” is sort of one face of the overall strategy, right?

      Dulles and Wild Bill are dead. So. Nothing possibly could be behind that curtain…

      Interesting what you learn as you wander the wordspace. For instance, kind of interesting the crossovers you encounter.

      A filibuster, or freebooter, is someone who engages in an unauthorized military expedition into a foreign country to foment or support a revolution. The term is usually used to describe United States citizens who attempted to foment insurrections in Latin America in the mid-19th century, but is also applicable in the modern day.

      Filibusters are irregular soldiers who act without authority from their own government, and are generally motivated by financial gain, political ideology, or the thrill of adventure. The freewheeling actions of the filibusters of the 1850s led to the name being applied figuratively to the political act of filibustering in the United States Congress.[1] “Freebooter” is the more familiar term in British English, in which “filibuster” normally only refers to the legislative tactic.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

  5. One reason what I guess we might call “decapitation” is somewhat problematical is that it is so easily converted into a game of tit-for-tat. In pre-Clausewitz war days (I know, hardly a universal behavior, what with the original Assassins and all that), it was seen not only as bad form but maybe counterproductive to kill off enemy leaders, political and military, since “the enemy you know,” and all that, and if you snipe at them, they might do the same to you, or your family or friends…

    (Sub-rule in context: If you shoot at the king, general, Fearless Leader, Imam, warlord, whatever, you better be sure you kill him, and not just crank up his followers, and you ought to be pretty sure that picking him off will not cascade into something worse for the “interests” of the Home Team.)

    And as to re-casting the “rule of law” that some folks want us to think is being preserved and observed here, it’s pretty clear that “our” interpretation is as Chomsky observes: unidirectional and arbitrary. Everyone else, on penalty of “covert” death, has to observe and abide by what “we” decide. “We” who more and more are tiny self-selected bunch, claiming the mantles of High Purpose and Necessity, pretty much immune from the hurly-burly of policy arm-wrestling that might include a broader discussion of aims and interests and means, doing what they damm please behind a pretty skimpy G-string and pasties with some little labels called “AUMF” and “UNSC Resolutions” and “John Yoo” on them.

    There’s a reason Shakespeare put those words in Dick the Butcher’s mouth, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

    And for those who might be inclined to buy, wholesale, the repeated assertions that “our” drone assassinations are “legal,” please note a significant division of opinion. Like the views and argument laid out here: link to law.wustl.edu Among many others.

    • On the question of proportionality, which is the essence of her argument:

      According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s numbers, there have been fewer people killed in a decade of drone strikes against al Qaeda* than were killed by al Qaeda on the morning of September 11.

      It’s tough to argue that that represents a disproportionate response.

      *The total number of deaths from drone strikes is higher, but many of those were killed in close-air-support and tactical strikes as part of the conventional war in Afghanistan.

  6. I repsect a lot of what Chomsky has to say but this assumption of a declining America has no basis in any quantifiable set of facts.

  7. With all due respect to the “Research Professor International Dispute Resolution,” not even the UN claims that the attacks by al Qaeda do not provide legitimate cause for self-defense under the UN Charter.

    The recently-announced investigation into the legality of drone strikes by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism, for instance, isn’t even including that question in his report.

    • Joe, which UN are you talking about? The one whose Special Rapporteur had something quite different to say, as reported by the Guardian?

      Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur — US policy of using drone strikes to carry out targeted killings ‘may encourage other states to flout international law’

      The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the second world war, a United Nations investigator has said.

      Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama’s attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.

      In his strongest critique so far of drone strikes, Heyns suggested some may even constitute “war crimes”. His comments come amid rising international unease over the surge in killings by remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)….

      Heyns ridiculed the US suggestion that targeted UAV strikes on al-Qaida or allied groups were a legitimate response to the 9/11 attacks. “It’s difficult to see how any killings carried out in 2012 can be justified as in response to [events] in 2001,” he said. “Some states seem to want to invent new laws to justify new practices.

      “The targeting is often operated by intelligence agencies which fall outside the scope of accountability. The term ‘targeted killing’ is wrong because it suggests little violence has occurred. The collateral damage may be less than aerial bombardment, but because they eliminate the risk to soldiers they can be used more often.”….

      The Pakistani ambassador declared that more than a thousand civilians had been killed in his country by US drone strikes. “We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the war against terror. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them,” he said.

      Claims made by the US about the accuracy of drone strikes were “totally incorrect”, he added. Victims who had tried to bring compensation claims through the Pakistani courts had been blocked by US refusals to respond to legal actions.

      link to guardian.co.uk

      That UN?

      Speaking of patent dishonesty.

      • Once again – and see if you can follow this time – The recently-announced investigation into the legality of drone strikes by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism, for instance, isn’t even including that question in his report.

        Answering a question put to him a media appearance is not the same thing as including that subject in his report.

        Kindly make an effort to read, and understand what you just read, before you start throwing around accusations and doing your always-inappropriate touchdown dance.

  8. Noam Chomsky has said that international borders are a product of violence.

    Intrestingly, he once indicated in an interview that a one-state solution could have been possible in Israel before the Six-Day War and had support even in the Israeli intelligence services, however there was an insufficient amount of Palestinian nationalism at that time to make that idea a reality. Now he states that current conditions make such a one-state solution unlikely.

    In his 1980 foreward to Livia Rokach’s book “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism”, based upon Israel’s former prime minister Moshe Sharrett, Chomsky stated that Sharett’s “….defeat in internal Israeli politics reflected the ascendancy of the positions of Ben-Gurion, Dayan and others who were not reluctant to use force to attain their goals.” Chomsky also observed therein:

    “History, particularly recent history, is characteristcally presented to the general public within the framework of a doctrinal system based upon certain fundamental dogmas. In the case of the totalitarian societies, the point is too obvious to require comment. The situation is more intriguing in societies that lack cruder forms of repression and ideological control. The United States, for example, is surely one of the least repressive societies of past or present history with respect to freedom of inquiry and expression. Yet only rarely will an analysis of crucial historical events reach a wide audience unless it conforms to certain doctrines of the faith.”

    Dr. Chomsky’s basic gist was that the American public views Middle East politics via an intended and benign pro-Israel prism that skews the truth obscuring “…the real world that lies behind ‘official history’.”

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