One of you asked me about Noam Chomsky recently. I have never devoted much time or energy to him, though my readings of him indicate that he is a brilliant scientist, and a complete idiot on matters of politics. Still, since you asked, let's look at his column running today in the Sydney Morning Herald:
It will be some time before even preliminary assessments of the consequences can be made. Every effort must be dedicated to minimising the harm, and to providing the Iraqi people with the huge resources required for them to rebuild their society, post-Saddam - in their own way - not as dictated by foreign rulers.
Well, here's a preliminary assessment that can be made: The coalition -is- making every effort to minimize harm, at the risk of US military lives. The rules of engagement being used here, as well as the extrodinary expense invested in precision weapons, instead of simply carpet bombing, both indicate total American commitment to that ideal. Our rules of engagement don't permit returning fire against buildings that might be inhabited, for example. We are taking special pains to accept surrenders that might turn into ambushes--even though we have lost lives to such ambushes. Chomsky is not preaching to the choir, he's preaching against the choir.
There is no reason to doubt the near-universal judgement the war in Iraq will only increase the threat of terrorism and the development and use of weapons of mass destruction, for revenge or deterrence.
No reason at all? I've got a few reasons. Here's one: the threat of terrorism may just be reduced by the destruction of the Iraqi intelligence service, which--it is now a matter of record, since one of their officers was killed in the bunker strike that seems to have hit Hussein's family and ruling generals as well--coordinates with Palestinian terrorists. The threat of weapons of mass destruction being developed and used may be lessened by the end of a government that has developed and used them as a matter of policy. More to the point, though, the war isn't about preventing weapons of mass destruction from being developed and used--we develop them ourselves, though we don't use them, at least not yet. The point was to prevent them being -developed- by people likely to pass them to terrorists, who were the ones we wanted to keep from -using- them.

It is also absolutely foolish to elide, the way Chomsky does, use "whether for revenge or deterrence." Using a weapon for "revenge" means you set off a WMD in a way designed to cause terrible harm. Using a weapon for "deterrence" means you do NOT use it. You own it, yes; you keep it handy, yes; but if you use the thing, it's no longer a deterrence. It's a war, which is what a deterrence is meant to prevent. Chomsky shows his cards here by making the ownership of a weapon morally equivalent to the use of that weapon for revenge. It's like equating owning a shotgun for home defense with shooting your boss.

It is true that North Korea may now feel the need for nukes to keep GIs off the streets of Pyongyang. That's a real problem--one that my mind often turns to. It is not at all clear, though, that the DPRK didn't feel that need already: their every action on the subject for twelve years seems to have been directed at it. If they are to be restrained, it will need better thinking and stronger wills than Chomsky's. Wishful thinking won't do it.
In Iraq, the Bush Administration is pursuing an "imperial ambition" that is, rightly, frightening the world and turning the United States into an international pariah.
Well, now. An international pariah. I'm accustomed to seeing our policy described as "unilateral," in spite of a coalition of about fifty nations providing support of one kind or another. That was, I thought, enough of a stretch. Now we're a pariah! No one will trust us again--except:








Costa Rica

Czech Republic


Dominican Republic

El Salvador














Marshall Islands














Solomon Islands

South Korea





United Kingdom


As per the White House, the coalition represents a population of about 1.23 billion people. Now, about .25 billion of that is our own people here in the USA--I'm guessing the White House is including San Francisco--but that still leaves about a billion people in states that are in fact allied to us here. Chomsky is living in a fantasy world, one in which despair is eternal.
The avowed intent of current US policy is to assert a military power that is supreme in the world and beyond challenge. US preventative wars may be fought at will; preventative, not pre-emptive. Whatever the justifications for pre-emptive war might sometimes be, they do not hold for the very different category of preventative war; the use of force to eliminate a contrived threat.
Yes to everything except that last line. A preventative war is not the use of force to eliminate a "contrived" threat, but a developing threat. Pre-emptive war tends to assume that you're about to be hit, so you hit first. Preventative war takes note of a developing threat, and gets it while it can be gotten with minimal loss of life. Pre-emptive war means waiting until a dictator has nuclear weapons and you get word that he's about to launch them against, say, Israel. Preventative war means taking out his reactor before he develops the weapons. Which is better? M. Chomsky?
That policy opens the way to protracted struggle between the United States and its enemies, some of them created by violence and aggression and not just in the Middle East. In that regard, the US attack on Iraq is an answer to Osama bin Laden's prayers.
Yes, we've all noted his celebratory messages. Wait, we haven't? Oh, that's because he's either dead or hiding in the mountains of the Afghan/Pak border, with the 82nd Airborne breathing down his neck, his chief lieutenant being interrogated by the CIA, his network disrupted, his training camps destroyed, and a huge bounty on his head. Protracted struggle with the United States will tend to do that to you. The enemies of the United States, insofar as they are real enemies and not just involved in diplomatic disagreements with us, are tyrants, dictators, and murderers. Bring them on: we'll clear the world of them.
For the world the stakes of the war and its aftermath almost couldn't be higher. To select just one of many possibilities, destabilisation in Pakistan could lead to a turnover of "loose nukes" to the global network of terrorist groups, which may well be invigorated by the invasion and military occupation of Iraq. Other possibilities, no less grim, are easy to conjure up.
They sure are. We have bunches of guys who spend their entire careers doing just that. They work for West Point, Annapolis, the CIA, the DIA, various think-tanks, the US Military, and others. If Pakistan falls, you can bet we have a plan for dealing with it--one that likely involves Navy SEALs. In fact, we probably have ten plans, and the resources to carry them out. The president--whoever he might be on the occasion--need only choose among them if the time comes.

But don't let's write off Gen. Mushareef yet. He's wilier than many seem to credit him. No need to borrow trouble, or spend our days dreaming of grim possibilities. Courage, sir. All is not lost--indeed, things are better than they've been in quite a while.
Yet the outlook for more benign outcomes isn't hopeless, starting with the world's support for the victims of war and murderous sanctions in Iraq.
What's this? A sign of hope? In Chomsky?
A promising sign is that opposition to the invasion has been entirely without precedent.
Of course. It's great that people are against fighting dictators, and are willing to take Saddam's word over that of the US government. That's just what I'd call a promising sign too.
By now, the only way for the United States to attack a much weaker enemy is to construct a huge propaganda offensive depicting it as the ultimate evil, or even as a threat to our very survival. That was Washington's scenario for Iraq.
So, depicting Iraq's government as evil was just a propaganda tool? What about the rape rooms, sir? It's impossible to even begin a list of Iraqi atrocities and crimes against humanity, for lack of knowing where to start and what to include.

There's more, if you want it. I personally feel that enough has been said to make the half of my point I was concerned about, which is that Chomsky is a political fool: quod erat demonstrandum. The other half of the point, that he is a brilliant scientist, I will leave to the man himself.

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