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Dissent to Barbarism: Review of Failed States by Noam Chomsky

Donald Paneth Jun 30, 2006

Failed States: The Abuse Of Power And The Assault On Democracy
By Noam Chomsky
Metropolitan Books, 2006
In Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, Noam Chomsky sketches the historical origins of the Bush administration’s “preemptive war” doctrine, beginning with Andrew Jackson’s conquest of Spanish-held Florida in the first Seminole war of 1818 (John Quincy Adams justified the war as selfdefense), the annexation of Texas in 1845, the blocking of Cuba’s liberation in 1898 and turning it into a “virtual colony” until 1959.

Chomsky is alarmed by aspects of U.S. nuclear policy, including its own violations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 and its discriminatory demands for Iranian non-proliferation, while granting exemptions to Israel, India and Pakistan.

Most disturbing are Chomsky’s references to a recent review in Foreign Affairs by a distinguished scholar of German history, Fritz Stern, of the descent in Germany from decency to barbarism.

“With implications for the here and now that no reader can fail to discern,” Chomsky writes, “Stern reviews Hitler’s demonic appeal to his ‘divine mission’ as Germany’s savior in a ‘pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics’ adapted to ‘traditional Christian forms.’”

Chomsky proceeds to analyze the results of the 2004 U.S. elections – “in fact, they barely took place in any serious sense of the term election” – and their outcome, which he characterizes as harmful to the general American population and threatening for the world and future generations.

In his presentation of possible solutions to immediate dilemmas and crises, Chomsky is less hopeful than usual. For example, in a previous book, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, he emphasized what the individual could do, from demonstrating to doing one’s own research to political organizing.

In Failed States, he shifts his proposals for action to the international arena. He urges that the United States accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court; sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols; let the United Nations take the lead in international crises; keep to the traditional interpretation of the U.N. charter; give up the Security Council veto; cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending.

The reader who wishes to know the score will find it in Chomsky’s new book. The world’s multiple crises have been allowed to become unmanageable. If and when they converge, the results will be calamitous and conclusive.