Monday, June 18, 2007

“Hegemony or Survival”

By Noam Chomsky

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

Noam Chomsky was a professor of linguistics and philosophy at MIT before he retired. He is in his seventies today. In his younger days he was and anti-war activist.
There seems to be two types of individuals that all governments hate whether these governments are Communist, Socialist, Fascist, Totalitarian, Dictatorship or Capitalist - those that propose perpetual peace and who actively campaign against war and the military and those who fight for the rights of workers and working people and/or minorities. Mussolini’s fascist Italy and Adolf Hitler Nazi Germany and even labor conceived Russia and China, all outlawed labor unions as a first priority.
Mr. Chomsky it seems is both of the above and consequently he is not liked by this country’s government.
He is often adopted by those countries that are negative to U.S policies but if he went to live in any of those countries it would be only a matter of time before he found himself in one of their prisons. And I am sure that he realizes this fact.
He seems to be very well informed on politics, foreign policy, economics and history along with business and trade relations.
Mr. Chomsky I would say is from the Marxian school of economic thought. And like Karl Marx he comes to his explanations via certain dogmatic presumptions of his own. He doesn’t favor Capitalism and he is not very supportive of the powerful or the corporate established order. Whatever the Capitalist world does he presumes the worst possible motivation and begins from that point and follows his intuition down hill from that point forward.
This book was published in 2003 and unfortunately just about everything that Professor Chomsky predicted then is the established fact of today. And that is somewhat scary.
My first problem with the book was the word “hegemony”. I had never heard of that word. The word hegemony means - dominance, leadership, authority etc.
So the book is about the United States of America’s quest for global leadership. The sub-title says “America’s Quest for Global Dominance”.
So is that a good thing or a bad thing?
To Mr. Chomsky it is a bad thing ... a very bad thing. He makes a very good case to back up his opinions and he provides about 50 pages of notes and references at the back of the book. On the last page of the book is what appears to be an ad for the American Empire Project. Which is a project started by writers, authors, historians and such who are NOT in favor of the United States of America pursuing an Empire.
One thing that I noticed in Mr. Chomsky’s writing technique - and this may be just a quirk of mine and of little interest to anyone else - is a tendency to quote anonymous sources. For example, Mr. Chomsky may say, “and a prominent and well respected Ethiopian diplomat said ...” and then in quotes he relates this prominent Ethiopian diplomat’s statement. I thought that was kind of humorous. I don’t really like that technique. I can understand this technique if in quoting this man you may put his life or even his political future in jeopardy but this didn’t always seem to be the case. So why not just quote the gentleman and give his name or just paraphrase or simply put what this unnamed individual had to say in your own words instead of quoting unnamed people? Why use quotes to reference nobody at all? I skipped over this the first time that I noticed it but after seeing it done several times I began to question the results of such a technique. I really don’t think that the impression this technique leaves is positive on the reader - not on this reader anyway.
One of the main contentions of this book is - I guess one would say - hypocrisy. Mr. Chomsky elaborates on the point that one man’s terrorist is another man freedom fighter.
He brings up a point that was better established in Howard Zinn’s personal accounts of the evolution of his radicalism. Howard in his young adult life participated in the art of dropping bombs from high altitudes onto indiscriminate unknown populations during WWII. Howard after reflecting upon this past duty in his later years came to the conclusion that such an activity was not very “nice” ... or moral or decent. He suffered severe guilt and remorse due to his participation in this activity and thus became an anti-war activist or war resister.
I first read about this notion in researching the armament industry. Believe it or not there was a time in the history of war when people were concerned about the morality of killing non-combatants or civilians during a military encounter.
When the idea of tossing a bomb out of a WWI by-plane came into practice many parts of humanity were shocked. How could anyone just throw a bomb out the window or over the side? What if it landed on a farm house or a barn or on a church or on a group of small schoolchildren? Could not such an action be considered an act of terrorism as opposed to an act of war or self-defense?
Adolf Hitler and his antics in WWII pretty much put a stop to this kind of sentimentalism. And now after Hiroshima and Nagasaki very few Americans even recognizes the legitimacy of such an argument.
But Mr. Chomsky returns to this theme again and again and again. He consistently points out U.S. and the Free World’s double standard on this issue. He suggests or admonishes that when “we” do it; it is fine, but when the other guy does it is an atrocity. Once again he makes a very good case - even going back to George Washington and the Iroquois Indians.
Adolf Hitler in his Mein Kampf was also very prone to point out America’s genocidal tendency when it came to the American Indian. The difference being that Adolf was pointing out U.S genocide as one of this country’s positive attributes. As we all know today Adolf viewed genocide as a reasonable and appropriate tool for purifying the world and its human miscreants and defectives.
Mr. Chomsky describes America’s past in a highly different and extremely negative perspective. He is scathing and unapologetic in his criticism. He is logical and intellectual. You will find no patriotic disclaimers in this book.
But strangely enough Mr. Chomsky does say some favorable things. He seems to indicate a feeling that moralistic humankind is progressing. He points out the speed at which an anti-war movement was mounted in the U.S. and around the world with America’s most resent expedition. One gets the subliminal message that he actually does believe that goodness and peace-loving people will eventually triumph over hatred and war and the seeming multi-national Military Industrial Complex. Why else would he have written this book in the first place?
In one area I am even more of a cynic than he is. Mr. Chomsky feels that the war in Iraqi was primarily due to the America’s need to dominate the Middle East’s oil reserves.
I believe that oil was merely a secondary issue. The re-establishment of war as a viable diplomatic tool thus providing economic stabilization to a massive home war industry, I feel was first. Iraqi was an acceptable choice but anywhere would have been sufficient. Mr. Bush’s job and duty to his supporters and backers is already a success whether this war is won or lost. Victory is inconsequential. The military Industrial Complex here and abroad has been salvaged and sustained. War will continue to be the business as usual for today and for many, many years into the future. The precedent has been reset and the world mentality has been adjusted accordingly – once again.