Noam Chomsky's Forum Replies
for the week of Jan 11-18th

 

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Replies from Noam Chomsky.

Apologies, but lots of deadlines right now, so will have to be brief this time around.

 

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(Note from the editor, remember, what follows is Noam's idea of brief replies...)

1. To Nicholas the Maoist, who says that my criticism of the "Leninist Worker's State" failed "to address the question, what would be a better idea to use in the place of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Democratic Centralism."

Lenin would surely have been the first to recognize that there was no "Leninist Worker's State," and I gave no criticism of this non-existent entity. One can raise questions about why Lenin, Trotsky, and their successors made no effort to facilitate a "worker's state," but that the didn't seems evident, at least if the term has a meaning remotely similar to their own articulated doctrines. As for the monstrosity they did create, one vastly preferable alternative would have been what Lenin himself called for shortly before taking power, in "State and Revolution."

The rest is so remote from anything that we have discussed, or that seems to me worth pursuing further, that I'm afraid I'll have to drop it.

Noam Chomsky

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2. To J. Fernandez, on whether sanctions would have been justified against Hitler, if they would have harmed the population and increased support for Hitler.

If those were the sole consequences, and the goal was to weaken Hitler and support anti-Nazi forces, then sanctions would not have been the right policy, by definition. The actual policies followed by the West ranged from support to tolerance for the consolidation of fascism, on the general assumption expressed by the European Division of the State Department in 1937 that the rise of fascism is the natural reaction of "the rich and middle classes, in self-defense" when the "dissatisfied masses, with the example of the Russian revolution before them, swing to the Left," and that fascism "must succeed or the masses, this time reinforced by the disillusioned middle classes, will again turn to the left." Support for Mussolini was far more extreme, and the stand of Britain -- a much bigger player in Europe -- went far beyond that just quoted. There is good reason to suppose that anti-fascist policies, including sanctions, would have helped "the masses" that were so feared to destroy this plague long before it carried out some of the worst crimes of history.

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3. To unidentified, who asks: "What were the changes that made us [US-Iraq] enemies?"

There's no disagreement on the answer: Iraq's conquest of Kuwait in August 1990. What is controversial is something else: why did Saddam take that step, and why did the US take that to be the crime that mattered. On these questions, I've given my own interpretation elsewhere, at the time and since: in Z, other articles, books. More recent information tends to confirm that interpretation, I believe.

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4. To Chris, on "succesful anarchist or anarchist-tending societies during the Spanish Civil War" and what "made them fail?"

What made them fail was that they were destroyed, by Communist-led military forces with the support of the Western democracies and the fascist powers, after about a year, in which they appeared to be generally quite successful. There are important questions about all of this, including the question whether they might have survived by following a different course. The question was sharply debated within anarchist circles at the time (Vernan Richards, Abad de Santillan, Camilo Berneri, and others). It's come up in the forum recently, and I've given my own interpretation, which I won't repeat.

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5. To Miah King, on whether it "would it be possible and constructive to find a way of combining the classical theories of Capitalism and Socialism."

If capitalism involves production under private ownership with wage labor, and socialism involves democratic control of production by working people and elimination of wage labor, then evidently they are not compatible. If someone has a different concept of "capitalism" and "socialism" in mind, then they could well be compatible -- so-called "social democracy" would presumably take something like that view. It would be more useful, I think, to reformulate the question so that it does not reduce to choice of terminology but focuses on the (very real) issues.

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6. What are (A) my "thoughts about the porn industry and women's portrayal in the media as passive and submissive," (B) "how should progressives deal with sexism?," and (C) should pornographers "be allowed to perpetuate misogyny"?

On (A), it's a disgrace. On (B), if the term "progressives" is not utterly devoid of meaning, then progressions are dedicated to overcoming sexism. On (C), if the question is whether people should be forcefully prevented from expression (pornographers, fascists, warmongers, pacifists, racists, advocates or opponents of slavery or rental of people, proponents or opponents of abortion rights, etc.), then progressives will answer "no," again if the term "progressive" has any meaning worth defending. As for "the solutions toward abolishing the exploitation by the porn/advertising industry of women's bodies," a number of questions are intermingled. One is what right industries have to do anything, or even exist, in anything like their contemporary form, whether they are exploiting women or doing anything else. If we decide to put that fundamental issue aside and focus (temporarily) on something narrower, then at this level of generality the question falls together with the question of how to abolish industries engaged in racism, pollution, war, thought and attitude control, etc. It's unanswerable in general terms. Depends on the moment, on circumstances, on choices. There are lots of serious problems to overcome, and there's no general technique for ranking them. People have to decide on the basis of their own evaluations, concerns, talents, place in the world, etc.

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7. To unidentified, referring to "your article, aptly titled, "A call to action on sanctions and the U.S war against the people of Iraq" dated 08/01/99."

First, it's necessary to correct a misunderstanding, made by many others (so I've found from a flood of correspondence and calls from around the world). It was not my article: or Ed Herman's, Howard Zinn's, Ed Said's. The "call to action" was written and distributed by Robert Jensen, at the U. of Texas, with only minor suggestions for change by the people he approached to be listed as signers. As is commonly true, in this case too the people who do the real work and deserve the credit are generally unknown, more's the pity. I presume I'm speaking for the other signers too in saying that we agreed to sign for the usual ugly reasons: unless there are familiar names, it won't be picked up (as it has been) by newspapers abroad, occasionally here, and recirculated by lots of others. Profound flaw in the culture and society, but we have to live with that while addressing immediate issues.

The specific question raised was: what is "U.S foreign (or other) policy towards South Africa and what is your opinion on the Southern Africa problems?" That's pitched at too broad a level for me to try to comment. In general, early post-war policy was for Africa to be "exploited" by Europe for its reconstruction in a "cooperative development" project; and current policy, as expressed for example in the Orwellian-titled "Africa Growth and Opportunity Act," is to reorganise the project to grant the US a larger role in "cooperative development" of a similar sort. Beyond these generalities, we'd have to turn to more specific issues -- and on those I'm not the person to comment anyway, for the most part.

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8. To Joseph, on my reaction to his thoughts on why "America has, basically, no reason to fear Europe" (meaning unification of Europe).

I'd first suggest that the question be reframed. America is not a meaningful entity. What financiers on Wall St. want and fear is not what you and I want and fear. Thus president Richard Grasso of the NY Stock Exchange told a gathering honoring Clinton that Martin Luther King was smiling down on him from heaven, "recognizing what you've done for this country" by benefiting "my little corner of southern Manhattan." I can think of some people in southern Manhattan who might see things differently.

Same with Europe. Opinion is not "overwhelmingly" in support of the specific form of unification that is proceeding. The labor movement, for example, is much more diverse in its reactions. The current form of unification places enormous power in the hands of unaccountable central bankers, whose commitments are to fiscal policies that will cause Mr. Grasso's constituency to bask in the light of heaven, as they see it, but are likely to prove quite harmful to the general population. As to whether "America" should fear or welcome that outcome, depends on which "America" we mean.

On a single currency, one can have no judgment in isolation. Depends on the institutional controls for the monetary and financial policies of which currency unification is one part. The price for Europeans could be severe -- e.g., preventing countries from democratically deciding to carry out stimulative or social policies that are overruled by central bankers with other constituencies to serve. Recall also that Europe is far more diverse and less mobile than the US. It's a lot easier for workers who lose jobs in Massachusetts to look for work in Arizona than it is for Portiguese to find jobs in Finland. That's part of the richness of Europe, but a concomitant barrier to US-style unified labor market. What concerns disturbs elite sectors here is that the Euro may come to challenge the dollar as a reserve currency for international transactions, and that unified Europe will become a large player in world affairs generally. These developments carry a range of anticipated advantages and disadvantages to the US-based financial/manufucturing/service sectors, which are being addressed in all sorts of ways, including a rash of mergers and acqusition, strategic alliances and outsourcing. No one understands much about the course it will take, for the simple and sufficient reason that it depends a lot on how popular forces respond. We're not looking at the course of an avalanche with no human intervention.

On European willingness to play "second fiddle," again attitudes seem to me far more diverse than your comments suggest. Also, it's highly misleaing to speak of "Europe" as having the option to "simply collect the fruits of a system of international trade, finance and investment, presently guaranteed and enforced by the Americans,..." The large majority of Americans don't "collect those fruits," and why should we expect Europe to be different?

On Europe's adopting "her assigned role of reliable second partner to the US," "the striking case [being] the Middle East," I don't quite see it that way. True, England is almost reflexively following US policy, to the extent that analysts sometimes refer to "The US Treasury (meaning the US/UK Treasuries"), but England isn't Europe. On Iraq, US/UK are pretty much isolated. Same on Iran. Same on the Israel-Palestinian "peace process." There are also sharp differences on how to exploit Central Asian oil; official US goverment policies runs counter even to the US majors. When we go beyond narrow sectors of (often linked) power, the diversity increases notably.

I think what you say about the tendency of European leaders to subordinate themselves to US policy designs is real, and the cases you mention are important. But the question arising in the minds of policymakers is whether European unification won't grant them the basis for taking more independent stands. Those are the fears, as they have always been -- one aspect of the ambivalence about European union.

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9. To unidentified, on ability of press to regard Pinochet's economic policies as "outstanding" despite a 44% poverty rate.

That's true, but recall that it was much worse. After a few years of forced free market extremism under the gun, the whole system collapsed and Chile suffered its worst economic disaster in years, maybe ever. The state had to take over more of the economy than it controlled under Allende. Recovery took place, but in complicated ways. One core element of the economy is a nationalized copper mine, after all. The rest is based mostly on primary exports, or lightly processing, which doesn't bode well for the future. The impact of the privatized social security system is yet to hit, but the army, which continues to rule in effect, made clear its own expectations: it kept the old state system for itself, denying it to the rest. And there's no country in Latin America that is subject to harsher restriction on freedom of expression and association, as America's Watch has just reported in a useful review. A sensible article by David Lehman in the Times Literary Supplement (quite conservative journal) describes the country as a "postmodern nightmare," a "mockery" for the general population. Realistic, I think.

On a coalescing of center-left forces in Latin America, it's not impossible, and could well be spurred by the economic failures and corruption of the neoliberal regimes forced on the region. A unified region would be better placed to deal with IMF, US government, etc. But the real problem in Latin America is internal. The societies do not control their wealthy classes. They hold world records for inequality. The rich live in the world of London-Paris-New York elegance and the poor in misery. As compared with East Asia, imports are far more geared toward luxury consumption than inputs for production. And so on, across the board. Europe and the US have preferred it this way, in fact used force to keep it that way. Were this conceivable, an honest look at the US development model as compared with the Soviet development model, analyzing comparable cases, would lead to results that would be highly unacceptable to western ideologues (which is why the only comparisons that are carried out are idiotic -- I've written about this, if you are interested).

But unity of the like-minded is always to the good, and one element in overcoming deep structural and institutional problems.

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10. To Raul Saavedra, on reasons for exaggerating Iraq's role as global threat.

Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world. It's also unique in the Arab world in that it has potentially rich agricultural resources. Also a very rich and ancient culture, a high level of scientific and technological development, etc. It was also the first oil-producer to escape the US-UK condominium (in 1958). Ever since then, it's obviously been a potential threat. The US/UK have tried to absorb it into their system, particularly in the '80s, but Iraq's takeover of Kuwait was intolerable. From 1958, official US/UK policy had been "ruthlessly to intervene" if any force, even indigenous political development, would lead to a nationalist Kuwait that would follow its own interests instead of serving as a source of wealth to Britain (in the condominium, the US took the bigger prizes, leaving the smaller ones to UK). By now the threat of Iraqi independence and regional influence is quite real. And the US/UK are following policies laid down explicitly long ago. One of the best ways to understand what was happening in 1990-91 is to look at the declassified record from the late '50s, when Iraq broak out of the condominium and Kuwait was granted nominal independence, with the British in charge, in an effort to keep the "rot" of independent nationalism from spreading. It's rather intriguing that this obvious suggestion has been totally ignored by the media, largely ignored by scholarship.

I think the goals remain as they have been: an "iron-fisted military junta" that will rule Iraq just as Saddam had done, but this time obedient to the masters.

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11. To unidentified, on Harris's "The Linguistic Wars," framed as a debate between George Lakoff and me in the late 60's early '70s, and our attitudes towards the presentation.

Lakoff will have to speak from himself, but I presume he would share my view that this is simply an effort to "sell" a book by making the topic look exciting to gossip-mongers. I was preoccupied with different and slightly more significant wars in those years. And though there was (and remains) plenty of disagreement about the form that linguistic theory should take, it didn't break down into two "warring sides," and I had virtually no involvement in the debates. What time I could spend then on these topics -- which wasn't a lot -- I used to work along lines that I thought were probably right. In Harris's version, I was a contestant in his war by secret operations and by virtue of referring to work (on the other side of his "war") when it seemed appropriate: to evaluate, accept, modify, criticize. My sole direct involvement in his "war" was to fly down to Texas for a meeting in 1968 on the pleas of the organizer, a former student, that I respond to a wave of criticism. I agreed, flew down, gave a talk, spent the evening with some friends, flew home. That's the "war."

Did either Lakoff or I respond in print somewhere? I didn't, though I had a long correspondence with Harris about it (as I do with innumerable others about their manuscripts). But didn't think the published version merited response. I don't know whether Lakoff responded; not to my knowledge.

All of this is part of the sillier side of academic culture, in my opinion. I've never seen any reason to become involved in it, in this case or many others. One can discuss some decisions about priorities, but these seem to me pretty clear.

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12. To unidentified on effects of "great disparity of wealth on the economy."

The argument you sketch from the opponents doesn't seem very persuasive, to put it politely. Of course if wealth is used productively it can generate more wealth; if it is buried in the ground it cannot. But we don't have to discuss that point.

Suppose that a more equitable distribution of wealth convinces the more productive not to work. Then total wealth production declines, a good or bad outcome depending on innumerable other associated factors. But notice what underlies the premise. It's based on the assumption that people only do productive, creative, exciting work if they gain wealth from it: work is something to be abhorred, undertaken only under the lash, and the natural human condition is to vegetate unless driven to action by the lash or the chance to buy a Mercedes. If a society is governed by such pathological principles, it already has deep problems. Surely that's not the way humans are. The ones I know, at least, would not prefer to vegetate rather than do challenging work if they had the chance. Nor are children like that, as anyone who has looked at a child (or remembers childhood) knows.

So I think the model described reveals far deeper problems than inequality. In fact, its presuppositions are deeply pathological.

Why should we prefer relative equality of wealth? One rather superficial reason is the general finding that relative equality yields higher productivity and economic growth (the World Bank will be happy to provide you with the statistical tables -- one of the factors, they suggest, in the East Asia "miracle" as compared with the Latin American disaster). Another is that relative equality makes possible relatively equal access to the benefits life has to offer: not just creative work, but also enjoyment of and participation in the arts, in democratic decision-making, etc. It's for these reasons that as far back as Aristotle, relative equality has been regarded as a necessary condition for democracy. But the moral arguments seem so elementary it seems perverse to go on in this instrumental style. If you have two children, is it fair for one of them to get all the care, the opportunities, the good food, etc., while the other is Cinderella in the kitchen? Do we have to look at questions of productivity growth to answer that question?

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13. Is development of defensive weaponry counterproductive?

Several questions have to be disentangled before it's possible to proceed. First of all, what is "defensive weaponry"? The classic recent example is SDI-"star wars"-type systems. What could be a clearer example of "defensive weaponry"? The answer, as widely understood, is that SDI, had it not been fantasy (carried out for other reasons), would have been a first-strike weapon.

A second question is what the goals have been. Without knowing that one can't decide whether the policies were counterproductive. And they vary. For SDI, it was probably much as explained publicly by the Reagan administration to the business world: not a way to allow us to huddle in safety under the blows of the Evil Empire, by one of the many devices undertaken to pour huge public subsidies into high tech industry, to overcome massive management failures and "reindustrialize" America.

Goals vary. Take my own university as an example. During World War II it was involved in development of radar technologies, which helped save England from destruction by the Nazis. If so, it was not at all counterproductive, on the basis of the ends sought -- the right ones in this case.

A decade later the offshoots of the same labs were working on the SAGE air defense system, allegedly to protect the US against Russia bombers. I was around at the time, but refused to accept clearance and didn't see what was going on inside. But it was a pretty open affair, despite security, and my strong suspicion is that few people involved in the design and development thought the system was going to have any significant defensive capability, especially in the new era of missiles. Maybe it would stop a World War I bomber piloted by Snoopy. So was it counterproductive? If you think the goal was to stop Russian bombers, then yes, it was counterproductive. If you think the goal was to lay the basis for the modern computer industry at public expense, then it wasn't in the least counterproductive. When SAGE reached a high enough level of sophistication and development, commercial spin-offs began, including the first major producer of main-frames. IBM shifted from typewriters to computers in large measure as a result of this and similar federal projects. Recall that close to 100% of computer research and about 85% of electronics research generally was federally (publicly) funded in the '50s. That was hardly counterproductive, in terms of the ends sought.

Let's move to the present. This week's Business Week exults over the dynamism of the economy, based on information technology, telecommunications, computers, internet. Where did these come from?

One reason for huge military budgets is to sustain "the defense industrial base" -- aka high tech industry. That's not the only reason. It's also useful to have technology to destroy "much weaker enemies rapidly and decisively," before there's a popular reaction, as current military doctrine dictates. That takes high tech military production too. It's even being deployed now to control the vastly expanding system of control of superfluous persons (the "justice system").

Talk of waste is dubious. True, there are cost overruns, etc., but the arguments that it is counterproductive seem weak, in part because of unspoken assumptions about the ends sought, in part because it is assumed, on the basis of theoretical models with little known relevance to the real world, that resources that are not directed to "the defense industrial base" through public funding will be used productively in the private economy. There's also an interesting historical record on the dynamic effect on the economy of military production from the early 19th century.

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14. My opinion of "Trance formation of America" by Cathy O'Brian.

Never heard of it I'm afraid.

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15. To Andrej Grubacic, on N. Bobbio's "Left and Right" and "Future of Democracy."

Haven't read the books, so can't comment. If you're interested, Bobbio and Perry Anderson have a (very polite) interchange about the books in the current issue of "New Left Review." I read it, but wasn't inspired to look further, so can't comment.

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16. My opinions on "TIME magazine's" series on corporate welfare.

I saw one article, which wasn't bad. I was surprised. It didn't cut very deep, and was misleading as you say (blaming government), but still it had information that could be useful to readers and that I was surprised to see there.

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17. My opinion on Laura Lane's article on the Ebonics issue in Z '98.

The Z issue is surely lying around the house in the chaos, but can't find it right now (4AM, incidentally, so I'm keeping quiet). In general, it's not an issue of linguistics. If the distribution of power and wealth were to shift from the southern Manhattan of Richard Grasso to East Oakland, "ebonics" would be the prestige variety of English and he'd be talking a dialect that would be denounced by the language police. There are real questions: should children be taught in their own language or in the prestige dialect of the community in which they will have to make their way. There's no single answer to that; depends on circumstances. But linguistics has no more to say about it than it does about whether one ought to speak Hungarian or Chinese.

It tells us something that the issues elicited hysteria when they arose in Oakland. I've been in parts of the country that looked to me lily-white and pretty well off, where I could barely understand what people were saying to each other in the streets. Gave talks at the local university, where I was told that students had to be given courses on "standard English" so that they could have interviews with IBM and the right corporate law firms, etc. They deal with the matter as they do, without arousing self-righteous furor about the collapse of civilization, somehow. Why should that be?

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18. "What is the use of trying to influence public policy within a given State," if "the very notion of the `Nation-State' has become (in practice) somewhat obsolete?"

Multinationals surely don't regard the nation state as obsolete. They want it to be strong and powerful, and under their control, so it can work for their interests. Should those at the wrong end of the stick grant them a monopoly in this domain?

That's not to say that every action has to be national. A worker's action in a plant is not national (or need not be). The campaign against the MAI was, and had to be, international. I think it's a mistake to seek "the precise form that such a model would take." Different models are appropriate to different circumstances.

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19. To Arthur Pierson, another query on the "Call to Action" that I "co-authored."

As noted in another response, I didn't co-author it; rather, co-signed it. The credit for writing and organizing and distributing it (very effectively) belongs to Robert Jensen, not the few of us who agreed to sign to help with the publicity.

The question raised has to do with the sentence in the Call that reads:"Preparations should begin for all the possible strategies..."

Taken literally, that's far too broad. Thus no one intends that we should prepare to set off nuclear bombs in all major cities -- though that's a "possible strategy." Or to sit alone and pray in silence, which is another "possible strategy" (and a nonviolent one).

So I wouldn't myself choose the reformulation that you propose: "Preparations should begin for all possible non-violent strategies..." Nonviolent strategies can often be pointless or harmful to the aims sought.

We should seek legitimate and appropriate strategies, but then come the hard question of what these are. To take the issue you raise, are violent strategies ever legitimate and appropriate?

A pure pacifist would say No. Personally, I don't agree. I think such strategies may be legitimate and appropriate -- in the war against Hitler, for example. It's true that a heavy burden rests on any advocacy of violence. But I've never been convinced by the pacifist argument that that burden can never be met, even in principle.

Would violence be in order in the present case? Surely not, I think, nor has anyone suggested that.

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20. To Ivo, on Savimbi's request for US aid.

The US did strongly support Savimbi's UNITA, as you say. I doubt very much that it does now. The chaos in Africa is not favorable to US interests, and I think Washington planners would like to see it settled, particularly in Angola, with its enormous resource endowment. Where is UNITA getting arms? The standard argument is from sale of diamonds, which it controls. Maybe. Arms are doubtless also coming via the many alliances that cross-cut the region, and are tearing it to shreds.

Evaluation of the situation is not so simple. There are intricate class-ethnic distinctions that don't line up simply, and have to be sorted out. That the situation is a monstrosity is clear. What we can hope to do about it seems much less so to me.

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 21. To unidentified, on whether the "no fly zone attacks on Iraq" are legitimate.

The question should be whether the no fly zones are legitimate. If they are, then it should be legitimate to sustain them against Iraqi attack. Are they? It's a sordid affair, and the intentions and actions on all sides are so disgraceful that terms like "legitimate" are hard to articulate. But within that sordid context -- and it is within that context that the question is raised -- I think the no fly zones that the US was pretty much forced to institute by popular pressure are legitimate, in principle. I'm all in favor of preventing Saddam from unleashing his merciless brutality once again against southern Shi'ites and Kurds in the north. Do the zones offer any protection? Yes, I think they do. It's a rotten situation, and the motives and intentions are shameful, but that's no argument for making people suffer still more.

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22. To Max Clixby, on recent Australian initiatives with regard to East Timor.

I read them as rather ambiguous. Australia has agreed to "autonomy" (as did the Indonesian foreign minister), and perhaps an eventual referendum on self-determination, meanwhile continuing to extend de jure recognition to the Indonesian occupation and to continue with joint exploitation of Timor's oil. It's a step, but I'd like to see a much more forthright one. How would we feel about a proposal that Kuwait could have "autonomy" under Iraqi occupation, and maybe an eventual referendum on independence, while the Taliban and Iraq exploit its oil?

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23. To Sean, on an article I wrote as a child protesting fascism.

It was an editorial for the school newspaper on the fall of Barcelona, early 1939, concerned with the spread of fascism through Europe. There have been efforts to find the newspaper, but with no results as far as I know.

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 24. To unidentified, with a family history of engagement in the two World Wars, a 4 year old son, and a "relatively simple" question: "what must I do to keep him from War?"

I wish I knew. I had the same question about my children, now about my grandchildren. I don't think there is any simple answer as to what can be done. There are a lot of factors that lead to war, and other disasters. We have to find constructive ways to overcome them. They are very diverse, some are more within range than others. It's likely to be a long haul, which is not too surprising. The goal has not yet been approached in human history.

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25. To Derek Darves, whose Marxist-Leninist teacher says that my "anarchist syndicalist" critique of Russia is similar to that of the State Department.

Interesting conclusion. The State Department is happy about Russia's current course: Clinton praises Russia effusively for its magnificent achievements, admittedly with some flaws. But what your teacher means by "anarchist syndicalist" -- usually called "anarchosyndicalist" criticism would be no less harsh than before. Anarchist criticism of the Bolshevik State was much like that of left Marxists: its reliance on wage labor and labor discipline, its terror and atrocities, its murderous attack on the popular revolution (including anarchist collectives) in Spain, its support for neo-Nazi generals in Argentina. A long list. Is that what bothered the State Department? Sometimes generalizations are in order, but we should try to be at least minimally serious, not just shout random slogans, as the teacher you describe appears to be doing, according to your report.

But I'd accept the term "anarchosyndicalist," as an array of thoughts and ideals that ought to be taken very seriously, and could be well adapted to a complex industrial society. If your teacher means that, she's right. In response to your specific queries, under such forms of social organization regulation of "wealth polarization," "environmental degradation," and "resource distribution" would be matters of democratic decision in free communities, in which wage labor (renting people) has been eliminated (in conformity with deeply-rooted ideals of mainstream American history), factories and other operations are run by their participants and the communities with which they engage (another view that is as American as apple pie), and so on. That only partially addresses your question: with regard to process. With regard to outcome of the process, I have my ideas, as you have yours -- probably pretty much the same ones. They should be tried out in a democratic forum of people who are essentially equal and bound by social ties. One would hope for sensible outcomes, but they can't be guaranteed -- nor can we be confident about what the right answers are. A lot of experimentation will be in order.

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26. To unidentified, on "why the US would choose to send its message [that "What we say goes"] in this manner," that is by bombing and sanctions.

Seems to me pretty clear. The US is playing its strong cards, as is generally done in "games" (i.e., conflicts), including the "game of nations." The comparative advantage of the US is force and violence. By using it, we frighten people into accepting our will. Seems straightforward.

It's true, and generally agreed, that the sanctions have done little to weaken Saddam vis-a-vis the Iraqi population. That is, they've probably left him in greater control of a desperate population. And surely the US is aware of that, as you say, and is also "angered by the defiance of the Iraqi regime." You ask, reasonably, "why wouldn't it punish the Iraqi regime, instead of punishing the Iraqi civilian population as its actions seem to be doing." But Washington has been clear about the answer. It's goal is an "iron-fisted Iraqi junta" that would rule Iraq just as Saddam did, with an "iron fist." True, it would be better to have someone not named "Saddam Hussein," because he's now an embarrassment, which is why discussion here of his monstrous crimes -- and monstrous they are -- consistently manages to overlook the fact that they were committed with US support and connivance. Post-1990, US policy has been that the regime should stay -- to ensure "stability."

In December 1998, Madeleine Albright made the interesting comment that "we have come to the determination that the Iraqi people would benefit if they had a government that really represented them." So there has been a sudden religious conversion in Dec. 1998, and the US no longer wants an iron-fisted junta run by a Saddam-clone, but a democratic government. Even if we are willing to suspend disbelief and assume a "born again experience," the statement tells us a lot -- as does the reaction to it (zero, to my knowledge).

Suppose the US does radically shift position, favoring a democratic alternative to Saddam. Then sanctions and bombing surely wouldn't make any sense. Nor would it be possible to frighten the region into understanding that "What we say goes" -- we'll use force to obtain our will, so watch out. But that's not the world we are discussing.

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27. To Ryan, who was glad to see my article in February's issue of "In These Times," and asked why I chose that forum.

Answer: I didn't. They were interviewing people, including me. What appeared was a statement in response to a query, along with others.

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28. Apologies for brevity and terseness. Time's tight.

Noam Chomsky

 

Hey! Did you click to find out more about ZNet Forums, including thousands of messages and dozens of forums -- chomskychat, ehrenwrite, askalbert, and zinnzine among them?

You had 29 chances to click while reading the above chomsky posts (there are hundreds more in noam's forum, by the way). If you didn't click one of those 29 times, well...I guess the forums just aren't your cup of tea. Too bad, it would have been nice to have you join the discussions.

Okay, here is your 30th chance, last one on this page...do it.

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