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Excerpt: "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."

Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)
Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)

The Paranoia of the Superrich and Superpowerful

By Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian, TomDispatch

04 Febuary 13


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.

oes 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). your social media marketing partner


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-46 # brux 2013-02-04 13:44
>> 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-producin g region.

Existentially I don't see anything wrong with this.

What are these countries doing with their oil wealth. Saudi Arabia is spreading Wahabi Islam all over the world to create revolution ... so maybe we should have invaded Saudi Arabia.

Considering that WWII was won by controlling energy resources, strategically the US must control or at least manage this oil because if we do not Russia, China or a new Islamic super power will at some point.

How we do this is the question.

I'd be much happier with a US that feeds and educates people, but we seem to be as "fascist" as the countries we defeated in WWII - that is the problem, but Chomsky never seems to speak in those plain terms.

I don't think it is paranoia to look at history and realize that it has been driven by conquest and control of resources, the problem is that the US has lost its way as far as our democratic tradition of freedom ... we have been co-opted by the very dictators we have embraced ... our business and government that is.

But to look after our continued survival and military dominance, as un-Liberal and Progressive as some might say that sounds, is pure pragmatic survival.
+52 # bmiluski 2013-02-04 15:27
What is very very wrong with this is that it cost the lives of American men and women to that a very few at the top could line their pockets. Ask yourself, have oil prices gone down since we invaded Iraq?
-51 # brux 2013-02-04 17:00
Being overthrown or invaded with cost more lives. I realize America as the policeman of the world has problems, and my fellow Liberals do not agree with me on this, but we would be in such worse shape that we are without a strong military and giving up control of the world's resources.

Would you like to try begging China for oil, or Iran.
+55 # dkonstruction 2013-02-04 15:36
So, in other words, we can invade any country we want if we don't like what they are doing or how they are using their resources?

Does this then also mean that other countries have the right to invade us if they don't like what we are doing with and how we are using our resources (e.g., oil and natural gas)?
-44 # brux 2013-02-04 17:03
It's real easy to make up some silly argument and then throw it at me. Maybe you don't now the history of this area or the oil industry. Things are the way they are for a reason ... the military may be an organized form of theft, but we do pay for the oil. Your whole argument is foolish and over-emotional. I am not pro-overthrowin g government, I'm just saying it does not happen for no reason and there is a semi-reasonable history that brought things to where they are.

Things can be improved and evolve, but now by whining, crying and demanding the whole steady state system be thrown out to usher in chaos.
+14 # dkonstruction 2013-02-05 09:47
I hardly think it is a "silly argument" to respond to someone's suggestion/reco mmendation/advo cacy that the US has the right to invade another country because we do not like how they are using or might be using their oil resoources with a serious question regarding whether they believe that this means that other countries should have the same right vis-a-vis the US and our use of our oil/natural gas resources.

Since you do not respond to my "silly argument" i assume that you are saying that only the US (or are there some other countries you would add?) has this right.

If this is your position i think it is a very dangerous argument/positi on to be making/taking. It's like our drone program. If we have the right to invade other countries with the use of drone bombs against someone we consider a "terrorist" what prevents other countries from exercising the same "right"? Or does all of this hinge on "american exceptionalism" which justifies our taking actions for which we deny other countries the similar right?
-4 # brux 2013-02-07 12:11
We've never invaded a country because we do not like what it is doing with its resources ... maybe it's not your argument that is silly, it's your facetious phrasing of it.
+7 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-02-06 19:56
#BRUX did not have the courage to answer your question. And of course, since you question the morality of his position, you are coming up with simply "silly" ideas. You just "whine and cry." He is suggesting that morality is for kids and that you are not fully grown up, not like him. He, in his own mind classifies himself as a fully functional person, minus of course the human qualities.
0 # brux 2013-06-13 23:15
I agree that morality goes against what I said ... but the world does not run on morality, it is driven by money and force. You are a prisoner of your logic, and your logic will get you and your loved ones killed while you stick to it just for the sake of the illusion of clarity.

The moral world is created by civilized men, but civilized men if they do not impress their ideas on others are outnumbered and over-powered and civilization loses. I can tell you have not thought about this, and it seems are probably so frightened to think about it that you will not. OK, that's just the way you are, you have to feign superiority and contempt ... it's kind of like whistling in the dark . hope it makes you feel better.
+36 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-02-04 15:52
A great philosopher once said, "the military is nothing more than a highly organized form of theft." So, is it your belief that in the interest of stealing oil
(who owns Iraqi oil-Bush Cheney?)it is just fine to have murdered and incapacitated in excess of 500,000 military service men and women and civilians? Do you have a conscience?
-49 # brux 2013-02-04 17:05
How many Americans do you estimate might die if we the price of oil goes to $5-$10 a gallon? Have you thought of that.

You holier than thou blabbermouths would be the first ones to run down the supermarket and loot the shelves when deliveries do not come and scarcity occurs and prices explode.

Engage your thinking process and quit grandstanding for the votes of the uninformed her on RSN.
+26 # X Dane 2013-02-05 00:19
In The Scandinavian countries, that IS THE PRICE. It is 9 DOLLARS a gallon!!!! and the countries are doing very well, because people are making decent wages. They can afford to vacation in the south of Europe, which has warmer summers.

You obviously do not recognize that gas has been subsidized here for years. in, I think, all the European countries, the price is the same as in Scandinavian. We here in the US, have been babied for years.

But our salaries are also depressed, so the wealthy can live high on the hog.
The Wall Mart family make BILLIONS, but they pay their employees peanuts, they could easily afford to pay decent wages, and still live well, but they are greedy vultures.
-10 # brux 2013-02-06 00:17
XDane ... that's a good point, but they also have oil from the north sea too, they have an educated industrialized socialistic type economy. I wish we had that here. The issue is also they do not nor do they have to use as much as we do since in some way we pay for their military security at some level.

I expect I would agree with you on most social issues, but I am looking ahead at what can be changed and what is likely to be changes. Comparing today with the Utopian ideal is interesting, but we are nowhere close so it's not exactly relevant.
+2 # Ray Kondrasuk 2013-02-05 07:11
Sexist, brux.

You'll find an occasional uniformed him on RSN, too...
+14 # dkonstruction 2013-02-05 10:56
Quoting brux:
How many Americans do you estimate might die if we the price of oil goes to $5-$10 a gallon? Have you thought of that.

You holier than thou blabbermouths would be the first ones to run down the supermarket and loot the shelves when deliveries do not come and scarcity occurs and prices explode.

Engage your thinking process and quit grandstanding for the votes of the uninformed her on RSN.

In fact, the true cost of oil is far more than even $5-$10 a gallon. This is one of the problems with traditional economics as they do not count "external" costs in their calculations. so, while the cost at the pump may be xx $ this in no way refelcts the true cost since it "externalizes" and thus doesn't count all of the very real costs that come from pollution and other forms of environmental degradation as well as the associated increased health-care costs. If we in fact "priced" commodities to reflect the true costs there would probably be a much greater clammer for alternatives.
-6 # brux 2013-02-07 12:09
Whoopee, you understand the word externalization ... they are all over the place, you cannot just trot out the word to support your own pet theories.

If you had to pay $10/gallon your life would probably be far more difficult than it is today. That money to ensure we have energy keeps you going whether you like it or admit it or not.

It is true that for the market to work there should be correct signals, but that problem is not so directly tied to the quote paranoia of the rich and super powerful, that is how we ordered our system, and it has mostly worked on the macro scale.

Try to figure out a different way to do things that can be agreed on and phased in without hurting lots of people - it ain't so easy as posting on RSN d'-.
+19 # bibi 2013-02-04 18:03
Where's your sense of right and wrong? If someone stole your resources, how would you like it? So if you had a stack of dough under your mattress and weren't using it, and I decided I had better use for it, it's ok for me to come and steal it? If this is how everyone thought, would that be ok with you?
-8 # brux 2013-02-06 00:50
Your analogy between people just doesn't apply.
In fact the governments and religions of these countries are stealing their citizen's lives every day and brainwashing them. The problem with well-meaning Liberals is that they always do this "assume equality" in all of their arguments - because they know no better, when it does not mostly apply.
-6 # brux 2013-02-07 12:06
The thing is people steal my resources all the time ... it's called life. I have to pay taxes and part of that goes to other people of course ... but I don't care, I overall benefit from it.

Same with most of these countries, problems yes, but most people benefit from US military cohesion of the worldwide markets and trade system, the peace and stability that comes from a single mostly fair system.
+3 # PGreen 2013-02-05 10:22
"Existentially I don't see anything wrong with this."
Even if you don't agree with American Exceptionalism, (I don't care for it myself) I question your notion that the struggle for resources is an inevitable historical drama. That the likelihood may or may not be true is almost incidental to the point that if we continue to follow the path of exploitation and imperialism, we will destroy ourselves. The likelihood is great-- greater than its alternative-- that if we don't endorse peaceful models that are sustainable, both environmentally and economically, we won't be around to worry about historically inevitable resource wars-- the earth will be gone. We have to take the lead in proposing such initiatives, to "walk the walk," as they say. Granted we've lied so often that it is hard for anyone to trust us, but if we lead by altruistic example (sorry Ayn Rand, but you're killing us) then we have a chance.
-4 # brux 2013-02-06 00:53
I did not say I approved of it or liked I, just that to ignore the issue does not work. Personally I think we have already destroyed ourselves. Most of our lives are degraded by the mess the governments of the world have made of things, and we have it pretty good.

I agree about leading, but there is no sign that we are, and even if we do countries in the middle east are not going to follow, without some serious help.
+1 # wendy 2013-02-05 12:58
Not sure why your comment generated so many thumbs down responses. I think your point about our democracy being co-opted by big business (with the government in their pockets) is well taken and you're position is more pragmatic than anything esle. I may not agree with every point you've expressed. For instance with big business running things, isn't there a significant amount money from the US and other western states going into spreading christianity as much as Arab states are spreading islam? well, maybe not as much but there's a lot of christian evangelizing going on out there. Is all this good or bad or neither? And do we have a right to invade and control the world? I supposed I'd rather have the US in control than Saudi Arabia or China. But that's because I am an American, and "better the devil you know" as they say.
-2 # brux 2013-02-06 00:57
Wow. ... thank you so much, I think it is reasonable of course of I would not have written it. Say anything different from towing the sometimes unthinking Liberal or what gets put up as Liberal line and you get jumped on all over the place.

> I supposed I'd rather have the US in control than Saudi Arabia or China

You and me both ... bet everyone else too, but if we lose our focus we might not even have the choice. The fact that many Chinese and Middle Easterners are coming here and not to many Americans are going over there does say something.

We should get American back to where it was, but it has always been ready to preserve itself, and today part of that is making sure to the best of our ability there is no one that is going to invade us to cause the world to fall apart that we have to save it ... like twice in the last century's world wars.
+4 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-02-06 20:24
#BRUX: You forgot one thing. History. With time, all Imperialism fails. 9/11 was a classic example of the U.S. messing around in countries that we have no business in. Those who plotted against us, 9/11, wanted to bankrupt us. And of course, Bush and Cheney used 9/11 to get the U.S. into a war where they and their corporate interests could laugh all the way to the bank. And they did laugh their way to the bank. And, they were laughing at the U.S. citizens and allies for being so immoral and stupid.
-1 # brux 2013-02-07 12:02
I disagree with you there ... it's like saying eventually bad people will disappear because in the long run evolution will weed them out ... but if they breed before the consequences of their badness overcomes them - there is no real bad outcome. Same with imperialism .... the people who benefit do not care what happens to the country - it's up to all of us to care, and obviously Americans do not - or they do not agree enough to demand an end to it - because it is not a simple decision.
+2 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-02-06 22:28
#BRUX: Face it, we get more often than not get the poor from other countries. Remember where it says, "give me your huddled masses," I wanted to transfer my citizenship to Canada. I'm sick of the U.S. started war after war. Checked out my chances with a well-known Canadian immigration lawyer. I'm doing well. Retired, more money than I need. Have owned rental properties for 35+ years. His legal position: "forget it." Canada does not want retirees. Even if the net worth looks good. Now, if I were a millionaire +, extremely high net worth, Canada immigration officials "want to talk to me."
-3 # brux 2013-02-07 12:03
Because you'd move to Canada and be a drain on their healthcare system. So what? ... sorry but what does that have to do with anything?
+2 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-02-06 18:53
Brux:I do not believe killing and disabling 500,000 maybe 600,000 people is as you say, pragmatic. A comic once said, "God never promised you a rose garden." We are part of the animal world. Some animals eat grass, some others eat other animals.Some eat both grass and their fellow creatures. It is an animal world of murder created and permitted by Nature. Where God screwed up, the enlightened human can fix. It is the human quality of intelligence that can make this a better world for all of us by establishing and enforcing honorable laws and not "new laws just for themselves." If it is true that the prisons and streets are filled with people who made new laws "just for themselves," why is Cheney and Bush not in prison? It is murderous thugs like Bush and Cheney that give the human race a bad name. OK, let's not forget Kennedy who authorized Agent Orange in Vietnam.
0 # brux 2013-09-20 15:59
Ignoring all your God talk ... the world is the way it is because of equilibrium .... there is an order and an equilibrium to the world today. It is not sustainable and it is not fair, or pretty, but it works enough to be the best we got.

If you want things to change, you have to not only come up with something better, but you have to come up with a way to get people behind you and a way to crossover to it without complete collapse. No one has such a thing, no one is even thinking about it.
+3 # kyzipster 2013-02-07 10:34
There is a cause and effect no doubt but absolutely no moral justification. There's another cause and effect that needs to be considered. Keeping oil as cheap as possible through military force and by propping up fascist dictatorships has only made the US unwilling to face the future because our corporations are only concerned with short term profit. The country should have embraced the path that Carter laid out for us to become more energy independent but instead voters embraced Reagan and 30 years later, nothing much has changed.

This has made us weak as a nation and we will become weaker as our dependence on a limited resource remains the same. We are unprepared for a major disruption in oil supply. We are impotent when it comes to Iran or Saudi Arabia (our trusted fascist ally). $7 per gallon gas would send our economy into a tail spin, putting us in a recession that we may never fully recover from, making the crash of 2008 seem like better times.
-1 # Nick Reynolds 2013-02-09 11:48
Actually, Chomsky's a little naive here. The US didn't invade Iraq for its oil. That was just an additional reason. The main reason was George W. Bush wanted to be re-elected, or more accurately not defeated for re-election, as was his father. Either way, it's an American disgrace and unfolding tragedy.
+20 # MidwestTom 2013-02-04 13:56
I agree with everything that Noam presents, the question, which he does not address, is how does it end? Do we totally bankrupt ourselves supporting out military? Or do we conquer the world thus ensuring the acceptance of our printed money? Do our super-wealthy rule the world using the rest of us as foot soldiers to enforce their power? Or do we reach a point where our money is worthless, and our country slowly sinks into lawlessness, as we cannot afford adequate honest police.

With the drastic growth of Homeland Security I suspect that the government is projecting the latter view, as Obama's campaign promise of "a civilian army the size and power of our regular army" is coming true before our eyes. I do not believe that anyone in Washington wants to back away from the "World Ruler" stance.
+22 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-02-04 15:45
When Rome collapsed, which took about a century (everything happened more slowly then), it did so by overextending its military, which depended upon conquest for funding. As other services starved, local regions drifted away from an empire that could no longer afford to hang onto them. America has long committed itself to aping Rome, of which one striking evidence was the 'Greek' Revival architecture, mostly Roman in fact, generally applied to power institutions: i.e., Government & banks. & the USA is dwindling as did Rome: but everything happens more quickly now....
-1 # brux 2013-02-06 01:01
Rome mostly collapsed because it got too big to rule. First it split in to, and then it just fizzled into the dark ages.

It was nothing they did, we are predisposed to think we are conscious and all-powerful, but that is an egotistical myth of humans.

It was math - population and distance that did Rome in. Today, it is corruption, but those in the power seat have enough technology perhaps to drive through that and dominate us all, and the US despite what Americans fear is still on the right side of that line, or can easily be if we revive democracy.

I really like Chomsy, but he never really delves deeply into these questions from all angles, he has this kind of simplied minded pious view of how things should be .. and if it were possible I might agree with him, but the world is what it is now, and we have to deal with what it is not what we want it to be.
+2 # Depressionborn 2013-02-07 20:43
Just recently DHS put in a solicitation for 7,000 “personal defense weapons” that shoot 5.56 NATO ammunition that have “fire select” capability along with high capacity 30 round magazines. Remember these are for “homeland” use, not foreign.
+12 # Robert B 2013-02-04 14:10
Seeing the same photo of the same woman with the same purple thumb over and over and over should have made everyone suspicious. Smelled like Bush propaganda to me.
+48 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-02-04 14:14
Our nation is crumbling from within. We are not in danger of some foreign nation. We, the people of this nation are in danger of harm and neglect from 'our' government---wh ich we all know is NOT our government but it has been purchased at a bargain price by the top 1% in terms of wealth in this sorry nation. Read the Declaration of Independence. It is our right--our DUTY, to alter or abolish the government which is not serving the needs of the people to have rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Pretty tough to be happy if you have no job, no home, no way to care for your children and the environmental pollution is sickening you. Our electoral system is so corrupt that we can't do much by voting for one crook or the other. We need to get out on the streets in mass numbers to stop the greedy insanity of the wealthy people who are to blame for this awful situation.
+2 # Depressionborn 2013-02-07 13:07
The middle class suffers

Yes, corruption has become endemic to the political and financial elites. Insider deals and cronyism from Karl Rove's republicanism, lies by a lapdog media, and the crimes of reckless bankers are now rampant, having replaced the pillars of trust, transparency, truth, and reality that are the true foundation of prosperity and a successful middle class. Elites used the Crisis of 2008 to enable much of it, a Reichstag fire their made to order favorite enabler.
The cause may be simply a combination of greed and power, corrupted corporations a tool, not the cause. Certainly powerful, the elite cabal was able to destroy a common folk tea party by convincing a lot of good people that bigger government is the answer, not the problem; EU is corrupted more, government there is huge. I think we have a problem.
+23 # L mac 2013-02-04 14:17
...this is a great article. Much food for thought.
+18 # giraffee2012 2013-02-04 14:22
Thanks Noam for telling the truth of the Irag invasion. The obfuscatory and sanitized label "democracy” was as untrue as WMD - neither was a convincing reason to invade.
+20 # tedrey 2013-02-04 15:18
In a country where a majority of the people don't trust America, take their own religion seriously, and want to keep control of their own resources, a really fair democratic election would produce a government which doesn't trust America, takes its own religion seriously, and wants to keep control of their own resources. The American government frowns on that kind of democracy, and consistently overthrows it.
+1 # brux 2013-02-04 17:30
Democracy is just not so simple. Look at Egypt, the majority Muslim population supports an oppressive Muslim government ... so you would just leave it at that, right? What about the rights of the minority ... are they not worth protecting. How far does the world slide before the US waits to do something about it, and what if it becomes too late?

In Venezuela, for example, I trust the democratic process there, but not in the Middle East. Too bad the US government seems to be against democracy in Venezuela ... we would have a better image if we were not so consistently selfish and anti-democratic , but first things first.
+20 # grouchy 2013-02-04 15:26
I suspected the scam from the start since they actually started the lies early on, dreaming up several rationalization s to invade which were shot down until they dreamed up the WMD gig. The big scare. The way I came up with my suspicions was by using a Chomsky method of reverse questioning of "now what could be the reason for this idea?" I could come up with "Oil" which logically went to the top of the list. CORRECT! Now if the history books will only get it right! And in an ideal world, the Bushie Bunch would also be in prison for it all too.
+23 # womyn 2013-02-04 15:58
I was adamantly opposed to both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars
because I am a critical thinker and well know the US' hegemony motives, read the innocuously named "Project for a New American Century" ( )published before 911, which IS the BLUE PRINT for the ongoing, never ending wars!
I did my best to educate my community in California, once a liberal progressive state, but the propaganda won! The majority of Americans supported both of these wars.
Six years ago, I left the US because I am a conscientious objector to the US' foreign policies! I could no longer bear living is a war mongering country!
+4 # brux 2013-02-04 17:32
I'd love to know where did you move? I do not mean that facetiously either. I am not crazy about the US, but there are reasons things are the way they are, and one of them is the uninformed state of the public. I just do not know where there is to go, unless you have some connection to the one of the European social democracies?
-31 # brux 2013-02-04 17:08
We are in a much stronger position vis-a-vis Iran since we have forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, let along Saudi Arabia ... Syria, etc. This part of the world is festering slagheap of corruption and abuse ... most of you do not know what you are even saying or what the results of what you support would bring to use and these other countries.
+18 # SpaketheRaven 2013-02-04 20:15
We would be in a much stronger position vis-a-vis Iran if we hadn't gotten greedy back in 1953 and engineered (via our CIA and England's intelligence service) the overthrow of the popular elected prime minister Mohammed Mossaddegh in order to control (read steal) their oil. And how did that work out in the long run? About as well as our invasion or Iran. Before that bit of villainy, the Iranians admired the U.S. And what do they think of us now? They think we are greedy, crooked, untruthful, and hypocritical. And guess what. They are right.
+4 # Ray Kondrasuk 2013-02-05 12:25
See "Argo".

The first five minutes are brutally frank about the CIA overthrow of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.
+2 # brux 2013-02-06 01:03
Not necessarily, in 1953 we were in the cold war and did not have your almighty prediction power. There were numerous times when we might have done things better in Iran, including ousting the Shah at some point, but we didn't.

The myth is that we are all powerful, and Iran was really the first time the CIA every tried that,
+4 # dkonstruction 2013-02-05 10:59
Quoting brux:
We are in a much stronger position vis-a-vis Iran since we have forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, let along Saudi Arabia ... Syria, etc. This part of the world is festering slagheap of corruption and abuse ... most of you do not know what you are even saying or what the results of what you support would bring to use and these other countries.

Iran has not attacked another country in more than 200 years (not since it was Persia) not to mention the fact that it is hard, if not impossible, to make the case that "this part of the world" (i.e., the US) is not also a "festering slagheap of corruption and abuse"
-2 # brux 2013-02-06 01:04
> Iran has not attacked another country in more than 200 years

So what ... remember how Mussolini recalled the greatness of Rome over 100 years after its fall ... your comment is irrelevant.
+9 # paradoctor 2013-02-04 17:45
Good old Chomsky, as bracing as ever. I am, with him, amused by Morgenthau's detection of a 'transcendent' purpose to USA foreign policy, meaning one that is counter to the evidence.
+3 # FDRva 2013-02-04 17:50
The premise of the declining Dr. Chomsky is flawed.

Wall Street rules the roost--with their London partners--not the 'big bad oil companies' of the 1970s.

Like the subsidized/bail ed out Detroit Auto firms--today's oil companies are Hedge Fund property.

And--so far--President Obama is just barely black enough to deflect criticism from this sweet-heart arrangement with Wall Street's ugliest.
+11 # reiverpacific 2013-02-04 18:48
All I can say is that anybody who couldn't see that Iraq was about oil -and the US's "friendship" with the likes of Saudi Arabia must be on some substance that takes them somewhere I don't want to go; -or have been opiated by Fox and the owner-media.
And anybody who thinks it's OK belongs in the armpit (to be nice) of selective history.
You must have conveniently forgotten that the US/UK/BP conspired to overthrow the Mossadegu democratically elected and highly popular Iranian regime in 1953 which if left to it's own devices, may well have led to a measure of democracy in the Middle East.
So faux-democracy is OK for the US ?!
You must be shit-scared of the new and progressive left emerging from under the long-held US yoke in South and Central Americas, as Venezuela alone is sitting on a vast pool one of the remaining easily accessible oil in the world. Are you fine with invading them too?
And talking of "Festering slagheaps of corruption", start with the Dulles brothers, United Fruit (Chiquita -I've seen this up close and personal and had my life threatened by the minions of the latter for bucking against it, which was arming right wing death squads in Columbia just for one) and continue through the CIA operations under their Black Budget all over the world -I've also seen it in Indonesia- to Iran/ Contra to this day and hide your head in the sand from that.
You "brux" for one, know nothing of what you write. Experience counts for a lot.
+6 # 2013-02-04 19:32
Rob Carter NB: I constantly remind viewers, USA WW II power rise was due to:- 1) They sat on AXIS fence selling to both side till they saw the allies would win, then USA Joined the apparent winner side, half way through the war, when both sides were thoroughly bashed up and depleted of Gold and War stocks. All that gold was gone to the CUNNING YANKEE DOODLE. This 250 year old baby Nation had its first blush of employment wealth and thus claimed DADDY WORLD'S POWER BASE unduly overconfident in its $1 note reverse, dream of a New World American Order. This has repeated as long as recorded history from Moses till now. IT IS NOT A WINNING PROPOSITION FOR ANY UNILATERAL LED NATION and never will be.
To be continued....
+5 # 2013-02-04 19:33
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. Rob Carter NB: as Chomsky says taken for granted: we possess ChinaBut in fact the "Allies" as described in Roosevelt's words 'Cairo Convention' & Truman's 'Potsdam Convention' & Tokyo Bay Emperor Hirohito's Tokyo Bay 1945 'Surrender Instrument' were all consistent with International Law, the War Act, the League of Nations handover to United Nations 'International Protocols', was USA, USSR, UK, & Kuomintang China. T

to be Contd...
+5 # 2013-02-04 19:35
hen UK began the said planning for post-war rehabilitation as the "Moral Rearmament Committee" whose manifesto USA promptly adopted, stole and called theirs, then initiated the Marshall Plans, Hollywood Disney brainwash plan, the IBRD and so on. Including usurping the War law, abusing the UN Trust, usurping USA Agency that never existed, claim of a belligerent Army in Occupation as a 'Military Occupation Government' right under War Law, one that was never agreed by "WE THE ALLIES" culminating in phony international jurisprudence rulings by USA Politicians arguing where the War Law required all War ends as a 'TREATY" and that 'INSTRUMENT" is not synonymous with 'TREATY' (presumably meaning US English had already usurped UK-Internationa l Oxford English. Thus the totally ILLEGAL USA "1951 San Francisco peace treaty with Japan" the consequences of which are kindling for WW III South China Seas and Japan and Oshkosh seas. The treaty was signed or accorded by just 2 of "WE THE ALLIES" 4 Nations, Never UN or UNSC adopted USA Usurped authorities accorded by 51 Nations in all, and abused thereafter to create USA/Japan Guam and a lot of evils of sovereign breach.
+11 # hoodwinkednomore 2013-02-04 19:56
The paranoia of the wannabe super rich and wannabe super powerful may be what the great Noam Chomsky is writing about here, as well.

And as far as your, 'we are in a much stronger position...' well, with over 200 veteran suicides per day, we may be in the strongest position to debunk all support for war! Furthermore, since the US war machine has decided to permit women to serve in combat roles, could it be that not enough young men are willing to risk their lives anymore....Coul d it be that American young men (and women) are waking up to the fact that fighting the rich man's war just isn't worth the cost, afterall; and if he/she survives it fighting for services after coming home is an often times unwinnable battle, not to mention absolutey degrading beyond belief. All for the super rich man's oil interests? To term it "pure pragmatic survival..." give me a break.

"This part of the world is [a] festering slagheap of corruption and abuse..." sounds like you are talking about the CIA, Wall St. and the Pentagon. Just why do you think that we murderded Bin Laden and dumped his body out at sea?--b/c he would have been quite a whistleblower!!
+7 # babaregi 2013-02-05 06:08
VA report last Friday: 22 suicides per day, 70% of those 50 years or older.
+7 # charsjcca 2013-02-04 21:14
America has so many programs and initiatives that assist so many people with respect to so many issues I am not sure what I want to believe. Should I be angry at the less fortunate because they are so? Or should I turn that anger against those who inherited wealth beyond their means to spend? These are difficult questions I am faced. If I have anger is it appropriated placed?

What I am willing to say is that if the superrich or superpowerful are unwilling to relinquish the status willingly I am hard pressed to find a remedy that is humane.
+4 # Douglas Jack 2013-02-04 23:03
Thanks Noam for putting these truths into focus. US hegemony is based in control over populations, energy & physical resources. We need to ask, "What for?" The answer is inevitably a control of an artificial colonial artificial mechano-sphere which we believe is the source of our wealth. Colonists (those who have invaded or are raised with the self-righteousn ess of invaders) believe the mechano-sphere is the source of human livelihood & wealth in the same way that; artificial-scie nce believes that supposed human advancements are the foundation of knowledge.

There was a time when the natural-science of humanity's worldwide 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generatin g') ancestors considered the biosphere & life itself as the center of knowledge/intel ligence with humans as an integral part. Indigenous 3-dimensional polyculture orchards for example produce 100 times or 10,000% more food, materials, energy & water-cycle than 2-D 'agriculture' (L 'ager' = 'field'). Agriculture creates massive scarcity, but dominant institutional mind-control insists upon the opposite. Working in harmony with each other & with nature, life reveals its truths & abundance. Its considered by ethnohistorians that; indigenous people worked only one hour per day at what we would call livelihood, but spent the rest of time in exploring relationships.
-4 # brux 2013-02-06 01:11
Chomsky does not talk about any of that stuff. The fact is that you are right about the bygone way of life, but it is bygone because of the primacy of violence and militarism. That rests on technology, economics, mass media, etc ... but it is not going away and, face it, there is nothing that can control it.

Also, indigenous peoples while they did live in harmony with nature, could lose that harmony at any time ... remember Easter Island, Greenland, etc. We have leveraged so much - all cultures have to engage in this military mode of civilization we have about destroyed ourselves, but finding a way to move out of that mode is different that just bashing it with no solution ... and Chomsky, brilliant as he is, has ZERO solutions.
+5 # Bakiel 2013-02-05 02:31
Noam Chomsky has made a very accurate diagnosis of the state of World. His perlustration of Euro-American Spiritual inaptitude is vivid and sharply contrasted. The inability of the socalled super powerful to recognise spiritual laws of relativity is what is cousing America's demise. The writing is on the wall. This litrary masterpiece has prophetic and historichal relevance which will have a definite impact on the future. No one can live on this planet with impunity the is a universal corrective force governing every existing entity on this planet. That is why ancient: Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece,Rome are no longer with us anymore.
+1 # frankscott 2013-02-06 21:31
chomsky is wonderful but he and many others love the notion that we invaded iraq because of oil...was iraq refusing to sell us oil? our rulers hate chavez too but does venezuala refuse to sell us oil? hussein was the only arab leader who openly supported palestinians in deed and not simply words, even to the point of financing the families of those who died in acts of terror - to israel - and acts of revolution - to many arabs - and was on the israeli hit list...that means the usa as well and the lobby and the neo-con-colonia l right worshippers of that unholy land...this is rarely mentioned by the oil-believers who may understand but may also be afraid...and as someone already pointed out: oil is so much cheaper now that we destroyed iraq? duh?
0 # brux 2013-06-14 01:17
great points frankscott.

oil is not that much cheaper now, and it's only not so high because the worldwide slowdown has decreased demand for energy.

i think we moved on iraq because of its strategic location and resources, combined with the fact that it is in the middle east, adjacent to iran and yes, saddam hussein was opening supporting the palestinians.

when the stars align such and we can accomplish something with limited loss of life, and despite what some say, this was limited compared to other military operations, like WWII, Korea and Viet Nam, it's a no-brainer, the US is going to go for it.

what we need is a reconciliation between the military and the civilian spheres. some here are such purists they never want to see any war, but things will never change if there is not some driving force. also, the US must maintain its soldiers trained and its equipment tested and ready.

this is how the military operates, and we need our military.

we also need a civilian sphere, and it is that and the public sphere that are being hurt by the total emphasis on economics and military. the funding and manning of military infrastructure is a price we must pay as Americans, so we should be willing to do that - it's just money. no one is forcing people to join the military.

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