Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Chomsky's Folly
The problem with Noam Chomsky, and I used to be a fan, is that he has no issue with passing judgement (often in hindsight) about policy decisions made in the US, but never offers any alternate solution. I cannot concur that every single US leader in history, and almost every single policy decision taken, has had malicious intentions for the world at large. He has lost a lot of crediblity in his approach over the past few years, and it seems he has painted himself into a corner of incessant criticism.

He continues in the Independent this morning, describing the Iraqi invasion as one that should have been "easy: and that the antecedent was oil:

"Iraq is different. It is the last corner of the world in which there are massive petroleum resources, maybe the largest in the world or close to it. The profits from that must flow primarily to the right pockets, that is, US and secondarily UK energy corporations. And controlling that resource puts the US in a very powerful position to exert influence over the world."

However, he offers a weak alternative to the current occupation problems:
Dealing with terror, Chomsky believes, requires a "dual programme" along the lines of "what the British did in Northern Ireland". He says: "The terrorist acts are criminal acts so you apprehend the guilty, use force if necessary and bring them to a fair trial. They want to appeal to the reservoir of understanding for what they're doing, even from people who hate and fear them. If they can mobilise that reservoir they win. We can help them mobilise that reservoir by violence or we can reduce it by dealing with legitimate grievances.

"Every resort to violence has been a gift to the jihadists. Respond with violence which hits civilians and you're giving a gift to Osama bin Laden; you're giving him the propaganda weapon he wants so he can say, 'We have to defend Islam against the Western infidels trying to destroy it. We're fighting a war of defence'.

Is that a realistic alternative? Firstly, comparing Iraq to Northern Ireland is futile. The incessant, daily bombings, the suicide approach and the fury of the insurgents cannot be compared to the IRA's campaigns. Secondly, not responding to the violence would be a red rag to a bull to the insurgents, who would take it as a sign of impending victory and no doubt become markedly emboldened. Chomsky's view of the insurgents as rational individuals falls short of the mark. It simplistic at best.