September 14, 2012

Threatening Us By Their Existence

Basic Training, Fort Dix, 1951
Photograph by Elliott Erwitt

Noam Chomsky lectures on Modern-Day 
American Imperialism: Middle East and Beyond
YouTube video posted by Boston University

Excerpts below from Noam Chomsky's lecture on Modern-Day American Imperialism: Middle East and Beyond given at Boston University on April 24, 2008.  Transcription courtesy of Steve Lyne and published on Scribd. by npmanuel.

A major scholarly work on the Bush Doctrine (George W. Bush doctrine), the preemptive war doctrine, is by John Lewis Gaddis, the most respected historian of the Cold War period. It's on the roots of the Bush Doctrine. And he traces it right back to John Quincy Adams, who is his hero - the great grand strategist. In particular, to Andrew Jackson's invasion of Florida, which conquered Florida from the Spanish. That was strongly approved by then Secretary of State Adams in a famous state paper in which he advocated the principle of preemptive war on the basis of the thesis that expansion is the path to security, as Gaddis puts it. So if we want to be secure (after all, we want to defend ourselves), we have to expand - at that time expand into Florida. We were being threatened by what were called runaway slaves and lawless Indians, who were in the way. They were threatening us by their existence,  by barring our expansion. And as Gaddis points out, there's a straight line from that to George Bush. And now "expansion is the path to security" means we take over the world, we take over space, take over the galaxy. There's no limit to how much you have to expand to guarantee security, and that's been the principle from the beginning.

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... And that was lucidly explained by Woodrow Wilson, who is one of the most brutal and vicious interventionists in American history. The probably permanent destruction of Haiti is one of his many accomplishments. Those of you who study international relations theory or read about it know that there is a notion of Wilsonian idealism. The fact that that notion can exist is a very interesting commentary on our intellectual culture and scholarly culture if you look at his actual actions. Fine words are easy enough. But these are some of his fine words which he was smart enough not to put into print. He just wrote for himself. He said, "Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down [...] Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused."

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... The Cold War was a kind of a tacit compact between the superpower and the smaller power, the United States and Russia. The compact was that the United States would be free to carry out violence and terror and atrocities with few limits in its own domains, and the Russians would be able to run their own dungeon without too much U.S. interference. So the Cold War in effect was a war of the United States against the Third World, and of Russia against its much smaller domains in Eastern Europe. And the events of the Cold War illustrate that. Each great power used the other's threats as a pretext for repression and violence and destruction, the United States way more than Russia if you look at the record, reflecting their relative power. But that's essentially the picture. In fact, for the United States, the Cold War was basically a war against independent nationalism in the Third World - what was called "radical nationalism." "Radical" means "doesn't follow orders." So, there's this constant struggle against radical nationalism, and in particular, the leading thesis all the way through is that even the smallest place if it becomes independent is a serious danger. It's what Henry Kissinger called a virus that might infect others. Like, even a tiny place - Grenada, or something. If it has successful independent development, others might get the idea that we can follow, the rot will spread as Acheson put it. So you've got to stamp it out right at the source. It's not a novel idea. Any mafia don will explain it to you. The Godfather does not tolerate it when some small storekeeper doesn't pay protection money. Not that he needs the money. But it's a bad idea. Others might get the idea. And in particular small, weak countries have to be - we have to crush them with particular violence because there it's easy. Nobody can stop you. And others get the point. That's a large part of international affairs right to the present.

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... So we have to maintain the huge public subsidy to high-tech industry called the Defense Industrial Base.

We have to have a massive military. But it has different targets. As they pointed out, before this, we were aimed at a weapons-rich target: namely, Russia. Now we are aiming at a target-rich region: namely, the Third World. There aren't many weapons, but there are a lot of rich targets there. So, that's what we need the major military forces for. In fact, that's pretty much what it was in the past, too, but now it's openly conceded. ...

... The problems were independent nationalism and they continue to be so. But now it's said open and clear because the pretext is gone. We have to also be concerned now about what they call the "technological sophistication" of Third World powers. It's a really overwhelming threat. Kind of like Hillary Clinton a year or two ago saying that if Iran attacks Israel with nuclear weapons, we'll obliterate Iran. The chance of Iran attacking Israel with nuclear weapons is somewhere below an asteroid hitting Israel. But it doesn't matter. It's a nice throwaway line. But that's the kind of threat we have to worry about. It's kind of like Ronald Reagan in 1985 strapping on his cowboy boots and declaring a state of national emergency because of the threat posed to the national security of the United States by the government of Nicaragua, which was only two days away from Harlingen, Texas. So we really had to tremble in terror. Well, that's standard. It had to increase after the Cold War with the main pretexts gone, and it has.

This is all consistent with a conception of aggression that has developed through the period and right up to today - it's very lively today. Aggression has a meaning, but that meaning doesn't apply to us. For U.S. leaders, aggression means resistance. So, anyone who resists the United States is guilty of aggression. And that makes sense if we own the world. So any active resistance is aggression against us. ...

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So our current George Bush, after 9/11, asked, "Why do they hate us?" and went on to explain that they hate our freedoms, and so on. You remember that. But what the press should have reported is that he was just repeating a question that President Eisenhower asked in 1958. President Eisenhower asked his staff why there's "a campaign of hatred against us" among the people of the Middle East. And the National Security Council, the highest planning agency, had provided an answer. They said of the people of the Middle East that their perception is that the United States supports brutal tyrannies, blocks democracy and development, and does so because we want control of their oil. And then they went on to say, yes, the perception is more or less correct and that's the way it ought to be. And so therefore there is a campaign of hatred against us. And so it continues.

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