History Noam Chomsky Deterring Democracy

ISBN 13: 9780099135012

Deterring Democracy

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9780099135012: Deterring Democracy

From World War II until the 1980s, the United States reigned supreme as both the economic and the military leader of the world. The major shifts in global politics that came about with the dismantling of the Eastern Bloc have left the United States unchallenged as the pre-eminent military power, but American economic might has declined drastically in the face of competition, first from Germany and Japan and more recently from the newly prosperous countries elsewhere. In this book, Noam Chomsky points to the potentially catastrophic consequences of this imbalance. He reveals a world in which the United States exploits its advantage ruthlessly to enforce its national interests - and in the process destroys weaker nations. Deterring Democracy offers a devastating analysis of American Imperialism, drawing alarming connections between its repression of information inside the US and its aggressive empire-building abroad.

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About the Author:

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston. A member of the American Academy of Science, he has published widely in both linguistics and current affairs. His previous books include At War with Asia, American Power and the New Mandarins, For Reasons of State, Peace in the Middle East?, Towards a New Cold War, Fateful Triangle: The U.S., Israel and the Palestinians, Pirates and Emperors, The Culture of Terrorism, Manufacturing Consent (with E. S. Herman), and Necessary Illusions.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Deterring Democracy
ONE Cold War: Fact and Fancy THE great event of the current era is commonly taken to be the end of the Cold War, and the great question before us therefore is: What comes next? To answer this question, we have to begin by clarifying what the Cold War has been. There are two ways to approach this prior question. One is simply to accept the conventional interpretation; the second is to look at the historical facts. As is often the case, the two approaches yield rather different answers. 1. The Cold War as Ideological Construct According to the conventional understanding, the Cold War has been a confrontation between two superpowers. We then find several variants. The orthodox version, which is overwhelmingly dominant, holds that the driving factor in the Cold War has been virulent Soviet aggressiveness, which the United States sought to contain. On one side of the conflict, we have a "nightmare," on the other, the "defender of freedom," to borrow the terms of the ultra-right John Birch Society, right-wing fundamentalist preachers, and liberal American intellectuals, who responded with awe and acclaim when these words were used by Václav Havel in addressing Congress in 1990.1 A critical variant argues that the perception of a Soviet threat was exaggerated;the dangers were less extreme than we thought. US policies, while noble in intent, were based on misunderstanding and analytic error. A still sharper critique holds that the superpower confrontation resulted from an interaction in which the United States also played a role (for some analysts, a major role) and that the contrast is not simply one of nightmare versus defense of freedom, but is more complex--in Central America and the Caribbean, for example. According to all variants, the essential doctrines guiding US policy have been containment and deterrence, or, more ambitiously, "rollback." And the Cold War is now at an end, with the capitulation of one antagonist--the aggressor throughout, according to the orthodox version. The orthodox version is sketched in stark and vivid terms in what is widely recognized to be the basic US Cold War document, NSC 68 in April 1950, shortly before the Korean War, announcing that "the cold war is in fact a real war in which the survival of the free world is at stake."2 It merits attention, both as an early expression of the conventional understanding in its orthodox variant and for insights into historical realities that lie beyond these ideological constructs. The basic structure of the argument has the childlike simplicity of a fairy tale. There are two forces in the world, at "opposite poles." In one corner we have absolute evil; in the other, sublimity. There can be no compromise between them. The diabolical force, by its very nature, must seek total domination of the world. Therefore it must be overcome, uprooted, and eliminated so that the virtuous champion of all that is good may survive to perform his exalted works. The "fundamental design of the Kremlin," NSC 68 author Paul Nitze explains, is "the complete subversion or forcible destruction of the machinery of government and structure of society" in every corner of the world that is not yet "subservient to and controlled from the Kremlin." "The implacable purpose of the slave state [is] to eliminate the challenge of freedom" everywhere. The "compulsion" of the Kremlin "demands total power over all men" in the slave state itself, and "absolute authority over the rest of the world." The force of evil is "inescapably militant," so that no accommodation or peaceful settlement is even thinkable. In contrast, the "fundamental purpose of the United States" is "to assure the integrity and vitality of our free society, which is founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual," and to safeguard these values throughout the world. Our free society is marked by "marvelous diversity," "deep tolerance," "lawfulness," a commitment "to create and maintain an environmentin which every individual has the opportunity to realize his creative powers." It "does not fear, it welcomes, diversity" and "derives its strength from its hospitality even to antipathetic ideas." The "system of values which animates our society" includes "the principles of freedom, tolerance, the importance of the individual and the supremacy of reason over will." "The essential tolerance of our world outlook, our generous and constructive impulses, and the absence of covetousness in our international relations are assets of potentially enormous influence," particularly among those who who have been lucky enough to experience these qualities at first hand, as in Latin America, which has benefited so much from "our long continuing endeavors to create and now develop the Inter-American system." The conflict between the forces of light and darkness is "momentous, involving the fulfillment or destruction not only of this Republic but of civilization itself." "The assault on free institutions is world-wide," and "imposes on us, in our own interests, the responsibility of world leadership." We must seek "to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish." Since "a defeat of free institutions anywhere is a defeat everywhere," no corner of the world, however tiny and insignificant, can escape our ministrations. And surely "the idea that Germany or Japan or other important areas can exist as islands of neutrality in a divided world is unreal, given the Kremlin design for world domination." Five years after the USSR was virtually annihilated by the Axis powers, they must be reconstituted within a US-dominated alliance committed to the final elimination of the Soviet system that they failed to destroy. Given that "the integrity and vitality of our system is in greater jeopardy than ever before in our history," even in the darkest days of the War of Independence or when British troops captured Washington in 1814, it is clear that serious measures are in order; in fact, military spending nearly quadrupled shortly after, on the pretext that the invasion of South Korea was the first step in the Kremlin conquest of the world--despite the lack of compelling evidence, then or now, for Russian initiative in this phase of the complex struggle over the fate of Korea. The memorandum calls for a huge increase in armaments, while recognizing that the slave state was far weaker than the champion of freedom by any measure. Relevant data are presented in such a way as to obscure direct comparisons and selected to exaggerate the enemy's strength, the standard pattern throughout the Cold War era.3 Nevertheless, even the data presented show the US military budget to be double that of the USSR and its economic power four times as great, while in this early stage of rebuilding their farmore powerful economies, the European allies alone already matched the Soviet Union along with its satellites. Despite the disparity between the two opposite poles in economic level and military force, the slave state has enormous advantages. Being so backward, it "can do more with less"; its weakness is its strength, the ultimate weapon. It is both midget and superman, far behind us by every measure but with "a formidable capacity to act with the widest tactical latitude, with stealth and speed," with "extraordinary flexibility," a highly effective military machine and "great coercive power." Another problem is that the evil enemy finds a "receptive audience ... in the free world," particularly Asia. To defend Europe and protect the freedom that has traditionally reigned in Africa, Asia, and Latin America from the "Kremlin design," we must therefore vastly increase military spending and adopt a strategy aimed at the break-up and collapse of the Soviet Union. Our military forces are "dangerously inadequate," because our responsibility is world control; in contrast, the far weaker Soviet military forces greatly exceed their limited defensive needs. Nothing that had happened in the past years suggested that the USSR might face some security problems, in contrast to us, with our vulnerability to powerful enemies everywhere. We need vast military forces "not only for protection against disaster but also to support our foreign policy," though for public relations purposes, "emphasis should be given to the essentially defensive character" of the military build-up. Public relations aside, our actual stance must be aggressive in "the conflict which has been imposed upon us." "Given the Kremlin design for world domination," a necessary feature of the slave state, we cannot accept the existence of the enemy but must "foster the seeds of destruction within the Soviet system" and "hasten [its] decay" by all means short of war (which is too dangerous for us). We must avoid negotiations, except as a device to placate public opinion, because any agreements "would reflect present realities and would therefore be unacceptable, if not disastrous, to the United States and the rest of the free world," though after the success of a "rollback" strategy we may "negotiate a settlement with the Soviet Union (or a successor state or states)." To achieve these essential goals, we must overcome weaknesses in our society, such as "the excesses of a permanently open mind," "the excess of tolerance," and "dissent among us." We will have to learn to "distinguish between the necessity for tolerance and the necessity for just suppression," a crucial feature of "the democratic way." It is particularly important toinsulate our "labor unions, civic enterprises, schools, churches, and all media for influencing opinion" from the "evil work" of the Kremlin, which seeks to subvert them and "make them sources of confusion in our economy, our culture and our body politic." Increased taxes are also necessary, along with "Reduction of Federal expenditures for purposes other than defense and foreign assistance, if necessary by the deferment of certain desirable programs." These military Keynesian policies, it is suggested, are likely to stimulate the domestic economy as well. Indeed, they may serve to prevent "a decline in economic activity of serious proportions." "A large measure of sacrifice and discipline will be demanded of the American people," and they also must "give up some of the benefits" they enjoy as we assume the mantle of world leadership and overcome the economic recession, already in progress, by "positive governmental programs" to subsidize advanced industry through the military system. Notice that the noble purpose of the free society and the evil design of the slave state are innate properties, which derive from their very nature. Hence the actual historical and documentary record is not relevant to assessing the validity of these doctrines. Accordingly, it is unfair to criticize the memorandum on the grounds that no evidence is presented to support its conclusions, and to question such locutions as "it is apparent from the preceding sections," or "it has been shown above," on the same grounds. As a matter of logic, no empirical evidence is required; pure thought suffices to establish the required truths. In public discourse the same conceptions reigned, and still do. A characteristic expression of the conventional understanding is given by William Hyland, editor of Foreign Affairs, in the lead article of the Spring 1990 issue: For the past fifty years American foreign policy has been formed in response to the threat posed by this country's opponents and enemies. In virtually every year since Pearl Harbor, the United States has been engaged either in war or in confrontation. Now, for the first time in half a century, the United States has the opportunity to reconstruct its foreign policy free of most of the constraints and pressures of the Cold War ... . Since 1941 the United States has been fully entangled. Now as we move into a new era, a yearning for American nonentanglement may be returning in various guises ... . Can America at long last come home? ... The United States does in fact enjoy the luxury of some genuine choices for the first time since 1945. America and its allies have won the Cold War ... Thus, we had no "genuine choices" when we invaded South Vietnam,overthrew the democratic capitalist government of Guatemala in 1954 and have maintained the rule of murderous gangsters ever since, ran by far the most extensive international terror operations in history against Cuba from the early 1960s and Nicaragua through the 1980s, sought to assassinate Lumumba and installed and maintained the brutal and corrupt Mobutu dictatorship, backed Trujillo, Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier, the generals of the southern cone, Suharto, the racist rulers of southern Africa, and a whole host of other major criminals; and on, and on. We could do nothing else, given the threat to our existence. But now the enemy has retreated, so we can perhaps satisfy our "yearning for nonentanglement" in the affairs of others; though, as others add, our "yearning for democracy"4 may yet impel us to persist in our noble endeavors in defense of freedom. With choices available for the first time, we can turn to constructive programs for the Third World (as liberal humanists urge) or leave the undeserving poor to wallow in their misery (the conservative position). Expressing the more caring liberal view, Thomas Schoenbaum, executive director of the Dean Rusk Center of International and Comparative Law at the University of Georgia, calls for "more finely tuned and differentiated policies" in the "complex and heterogeneous areas" of the Third World. Constrained by the overwhelming imperative of resisting Soviet aggression throughout the world, we have been unable to develop such policies. But now, perhaps, we have reached "the end of the Cold War--and the good guys won." We may therefore hope that the Soviets will "mute their longstanding campaign to support communist revolutions and totalitarian regimes in the Third World," so that "the U.S. may be able to abandon its traditional posture--that priority should be given to stopping communist expansion--and adopt more positive policies."5 In other respects too the public record conforms to the conventions of NSC 68. In particular, it is widely recognized that the very existence of the Soviet Union constitutes aggression. Diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis, one of the most respected figures of liberal scholarship on the Cold War, explains that the allied intervention immediately after the Bolshevik revolution was defensive in nature, and for Woodrow Wilson, was inspired "above all else" by his fervent desire "to secure self-determination in Russia"--by forceful installation of the rulers we select. The invasion was defensive because it was "in response to a profound and potentially far-reaching intervention by the new Soviet government in the internal affairs, not just of the West, but of virtually every country in the world," namely, "the Revolution's challenge--which could hardly have been more categorical--tothe very survival of the capitalist order." "The security of the United Stat...

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