awkwardly

Tuesday

Tidbits from Noam Chomsky's latest book, Failed States:

From Ch. 4:
"In 1981, Samuel Huntington, professor of the science of government at Harvard University, explained the function of the Soviet threat: ' you may have to sell' intervention or other military action 'in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has done ever since the Truman Doctrine.'" [...a few pages later...] "Huntington's observations about the need to create misimpressions to control the domestic population illustrate what should be the merest truism: professions of benign intent by leaders should be dismissed by any rational observer. They are near universal and predictable, and hence they carry virtually no information. The worst monsters--Hitler, Stalin, Japanese fascists, Suharto, Saddam Hussein, and many others--have produced moving flights of rhetoric about their nobility of purpose. The same holds for 'Peace Institutes' and 'Endowments for Democracy.' If we are serious, we will ask about their actions, paying little attention to their words, an elementary observation that has inspired rich literature from Pascal to Zamyatin to Orwell."

From Ch. 5:
"The evidence concerning Washington's actual stance and role, virtuous declarations aside, is clear and compelling, surely by the standards of complex world affairs. Nonetheless, it is always possible that Washington's actions might have an incidental positive effect. It is hard to predict the consequences of striking a system as delicate and complex as a society with a bludgeon. This is often true of even the worst crimes. As noted, Osama bin Laden's atrocities are reported to have had a positive effect in spurring democratization in the Arab world. The terrible crimes of imperial Japan led to the expulsion of the European invaders from Asia, saving many millions of lives--in India, for example, which has been spared horrifying famines since the British withdrew and was able to begin to recover from centuries of imperial domination. Perhaps what many Iraqis and others see as another Mongol invasion will end up having positive consequences as well, though it would be disgraceful for privileged Westerners to leave that possibility to chance."

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