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Chomsky Interviewed by Irish Times

by RadiumSoda Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:45:45 AM EST

Interesting interview in the Irish Times with Noam Chomsky, January, 24, 2006.   link .  I thought Jerome might be interested in the EU economy discussion at the beginning, and offer a response.

 -- Q is a question from the Irish Times. --

 -- A is Chomsky's answer. --


-- snip --

Q Much of Ireland's foreign policy is now expressed through the European Union, and the United States has been ambivalent about the whole business of European integration, particularly the idea of a defence identity. What's your view of the course of European integration?

A It's ambiguous. Actually, the United States has been ambivalent about it since the 1940s. On the one hand, the US has always pressed for some form of European unification for obvious reasons. I mean, if IBM is investing in Europe, they'd rather have one location with once currency and one language and so on than installations in 20 different places.

A lot of this integration developed as a result of American multilateral corporations. In fact, the Marshall Plan was the framework in which multinational corporations developed. It's one reason why it was pressed. It's openly discussed by the Commerce Department , for example.

So yes, that's a pressure for integration. It's much better to have a big market with uniformity of practices and so on.

On the other hand, the US has always been concerned that Europe might go off in its own direction. It used to be called a " potential third force " during the Cold War. And by 1970 when the world had become economically tripolar -- three major economic centres: Japan - based, German - based Europe , and North America , roughly on a par -- these concerns became much more serious , and by now they're much more serious.

So the questions of European integration, there are several dimensions to them. They are the centre of the industrial, financial, commercial power of Europe. It's Germany and France, it's not a big secret.

You bring in the old Russian satellites, they're likely to be more subordinated to the United States.

Similarly, Spain and Italy are expected to be more subordinated even if they are not always so . So that's a way of diluting. It's the same with Turkey. The US has been pressing very hard for the inclusion of Turkey for years, not because they're in love with Turkey but because they want to ensure that the European Union is more controllable.

Same with the extension of NATO. NATO is basically under US control so if NATO extends, it extends the US control system.

So from an international point of view, it's [European enlargement] dubious . B ut from the domestic point of view, I think it's a good thing for Europeans to be able to cross borders without paying any attention to have the common currency, and so on . That's all to the good.

On the other hand, there are some things the European Union has done which I think are very negative.
For example, the power of the European Central Bank, which is so outrageous that even conservatives in the United States can't believe it. It's way more than the Federal Reserve. And it's harmed European growth. They're ultra - inflation conscious . They've kept interest rates too high, they've slowed growth, they're completely unaccountable. That's negative.

The one, I think, beneficial unplanned consequence of the European Union is that it's stimulating a kind of regionalism -- " Europe of the regions ", so - called - which is a good thing. So in regions of Spain and in England and other places there's a revival of local cultures, local languages, some degree of autonomy in Catalonia and the Basque country . Scotland has limited autonomy. You hear Welsh spoken in Cardiff, which you didn't used to do.

Those things are all positive. So like any complicated system it has positive and negative features to it.

Q The Europeans have a different view of security from America. If you compare, for example the Security Strategy the Bush administration came out with and the document that Solana and Co [European Union diplomacy] came out with, the whole concept of intervention is different. Do you think it's useful for the world to have an alternative vision of security like the European one?

A I don't think the US has a vision of security. It has a vision of dominance. So it acts quite consciously in ways that increase insecurity.

Take, say, the invasion of Iraq. They understood that it was likely to increase the threat of terrorism and proliferation. That's transparent and by now they agree that that happened. Their own intelligence services agree that the invasion substantially increased the threat of terrorism, which is going to be a long - term threat.

And it also, of course, increased proliferation. Take Iran. Nobody wants to see Iran get nuclear weapons, no - one sane. On the other hand, it's very understandable. One of Israel's leading military historians, Martin van Crefeld .
had an article in which he said " obviously we don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons and I don't know if they're developing them, but if they're not developing them, they're crazy " . The invasion of Iraq just instructed them to develop nuclear weapons.

How are you going to deter a powerful state that claims it can do anything it wants? It's got nothing to do with security. This goes way back. What Arthur Schlesinger called correctly " the most dangerous moment in human history " was in 1962, the [Cuban] missile crisis.

The missile crisis had a lot of complicated features, but one element of it was Washington's terrorist war against Cuba which was a factor that led to an effort at deterrence. It was a lunatic effort that could have set off a nuclear war , but , lunacy aside, the logic is understandable.

Was the terrorist war an effort to increase US security? No, we know what it was for because we have a rich documentary record. It was because of what the State Department called Cuba's successful defiance of US policies going back to the M u nroe Doctrine. It had nothing to do with security.

In fact, to talk about security is very misleading. States don't seek security, they seek power. And the effort to extend power can increase insecurity.

-- snip --

Q One of the issues that has become more acute since 9/11 is the whole question of how to engage with Islam. What do you think are the principles that should govern our engagement with Islam ? And is it possible to have an alliance of civilisations as opposed to a clash?

A As far as I know there are only two forces in the world that are pressing for a clash of civilisations. One is Osama bin Laden and the other is George Bush. Nobody else wants it.

It's basically two powerful forces and what does it mean? Does the US have any problems with Islam? One of the oldest US allies is the most extreme, brutal, fundamentalist Islamic state in the world, Saudi Arabia. Do they [the US] care? As long as Saudi Arabia manages the oil properly, they can do what they want.

The largest Muslim state in the world is Indonesia. The US did have, and Britain had, a confrontation with Indonesia when it was independent. As soon as the Suharto coup came along and killed a couple of hundred thousand people, destroyed the political system , introduced a regime of torture and massacre , and invaded East Timor , and so on , it was just fine. Suharto was our kind of guy as the Clinton administration called him.

A Muslim state? " Don't care ".

And in the 1980s, the US was pretty much at war with the Catholic church in central America. Where's the clash of civilisations?
US interactions -- or British or French , or whatever -- interactions with the Islamic world are based on other principles. I mean, you could try to create a clash of civilisations -- Osama and Bush are helping out in that endeavour -- but there's actually no reason for it. It's a matter of other considerations that dominate.

And I don't think 9/11 had anything to do with it. It's claimed it changed the world. I don't think it changed the world very much.

-- snip --

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Interesting interview. Nothing most of us haven't thought about ourselves, probably, but nonetheless, it is always of onterst to hear someone put things so clearly. What is disturbing is to hear that iraq is about destabilizing the world...for power. Makes me sick...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 06:19:03 AM EST
The whole interview is long and interesting. Chomsky's not the kind of guy who'll tell a journalist his time's up.

Apart from a few points where I'm not sure what he means or if I agree (gets his shoelaces knotted a bit on the EU), it's essentially good stuff. Chomsky's always had a clear reading of America's role in the world, imo. And this

I don't think the US has a vision of security. It has a vision of dominance. So it acts quite consciously in ways that increase insecurity.

is particularly clear and correct. And applicable to the Iran "situation".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 07:42:02 AM EST
dominance is difficult to establish in the context of genuine security.

i.e., why should people knuckle under and do what Bullyboy tells them to do, if they have security in their lives -- secure food, housing, shelter, safety for their families?  in order to get people to bow and scrape and get in line, Bullyboy Braggart either has to threaten them directly himself -- thus undermining their security -- or he has to terrify them with an exterior threat/enemy and convince them that he, and he alone, can save them from the Furrin threat to their security.  then they have to put up with whatever he does because the Other Guy is, eek, worse (and if this all sounds oddly familiar, it is the fundamental script for abusive relationships, i.e. bullying and dominance in the domestic realm).

I'd say the ruling classes of the US have been working on both these recipes for power, trying out the variations,  oppressing the labouring masses w/brute force worked pretty well until the Crash of 29 and the New Deal (anything to prevent Red revolution!), which gave the masses a lot more security.  along come Pearl Harbour and WWII, bingo, a supply of admirably hateworthy external enemies, and everyone gets in line -- plus the GDP boost and redistributive postwar programs like the GI Bill and suburban porkbarrel construction megaprojects create upward mobility for the masses, hence a feeling of security.  

the External Enemy route worked great for many decades;  after WWII ends, it's barely a year or two before Truman and the aircraft industry are hyping the Russian threat, and that segues into McCarthyism and the endless Cold War paranoia, Korea, Viet Nam...  which keeps the masses fat and happy in a war economy, plus scared spitless of Reds under their beds...

then the USSR scores one too many own goals -- in addition to all the sabotaging and destabilising and bearbaiting the US has been doing to it all those years -- and folds up like the paper tiger it was along.  the elites are left in a difficult position.  to abandon the war economy would be massively disruptive.  along comes the Reagan Revolution and massive, rapid undermining of the social contract, creating insecurity and fear all the way up into the middle class.  plus a frantic search for a new Enemy, and a new Pearl Harbour to focus the mind of the masses on that enemy but good (cf PNAC docs).  coincidentally or not, along comes 911 plus globalisation, so now we're in stick/stick mode, where in the 40's through 70's we were in stick/carrot mode (external stick, internal carrot).  external fear figures and a destabilised world order, plus internal insecurity.

it makes sense to me that the class who fancy themselves as kings and queens (whatever more palatable names they use today) are not interested in security -- except the security of their own grip on power, and that kind of security is won at the expense of the other kinds.  either they have to cow and immiserate their own people or, if they go the bread-n-circuses route on the home front, they have to scare the fat happy voters with Bogeymen from Abroad.  if people feel safe, they are less likely to do as they're told and more likely to ask questions -- this is why tenure was invented to preserve academic freedom :-)

I don't think it's coincidental that the "generation of rebellion" in the 60's were the children of security and affluence.  it was that sense of security that gave them the chutzpah to dream of a better world, instead of negotiating each his/her own desperate accommodation with the overlords for bare survival.  failing that sense of security, the other thing that sparks open revolt seems to be genuine despair:  a loss of security so complete that, having "nothing to lose," the disenfranchised will risk their lives just to strike a blow at the overlords (or whomever they think the overlords are, or sometimes just whomever they can reach or blame locally).

the intellectual and strategic space in between Fat Happy Rebels with an optimistic vision of making life better for all, and Thin Miserable Furious Rebels swearing to leave at least a scorch mark somewhere on the System with their last breath, is a vast gray area of fear, compromise, caution, grim endurance, selfish private manoeuvring, hoping that whoever gets smashed next won't be me, desperate attempts to believe elite rhetoric so as to stave off despair, etc....  in other words the mentality of survivors in a prison or camp:  take it one day at a time, keep yer head down, there's no percentage in trying anything, you'll never get enough people with you 'cos everyone else is thinking cautiously just like you are.  kick in a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome and Prisoners Dilemma and it's not surprising that the system works and that Bush and his merry men are laughing all the way to the offshore bank...

hey, The System Works.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 09:45:44 PM EST
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