Noam Chomsky's Who rules the world?

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 09.11.16

The United States (US) has been fast losing the American century since 1945 despite still
dominating the world. This is the central theme of Noam Chomsky’s book,
Who Rules the
published by Penguin Random House in 2016. Chomsky is an author of numerous
best-selling books, a professor emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and a known critic of the foreign policy of the US. This opinion
piece discusses certain themes of Chomsky’s book.

On page 58, Chomsky mentions the pinnacle of the US success: “The United States had
long been by far the richest country in the world. The [Second World] war ended the Great
Depression, and American industrial capacity almost quadrupled, while rivals were
decimated. At war’s end the United States had half the world’s wealth and unmatched
security.” This paragraph gives four messages. First, if there had been no Second World
War, the Great Depression (1929-1939) afflicting the US would have continued denying the
US all the wealth and prosperity that it amassed. Secondly, the much-acclaimed hegemony
of the US was ephemeral, as it for just six years (1939 to 1945). Thirdly, the US still craves
for the revival of the glory of wealth and security it enjoyed in 1945. Fourthly, the rise of the
US was both meteoric and incidental.

On page 59, Chomsky writes: “There was a period of euphoria after the collapse of the
superpower enemy, replete with excited tales about ‘the end of history’ and awed acclaim
for President Bill Clinton’s foreign policy, which had entered a ‘noble phase’ with a ‘saintly
glow,’ as for the first time in history a nation would be guided by ‘altruism’ and dedicated to
‘principles and values.’ Nothing now stood in the way of an ‘idealistic New World bent of
ending inhumanity’, which could at last carry forward, unhindered, the emerging
international norm of humanitarian intervention.”

Then from page 69 to 83, Chomsky gauges different reasons for the US decline except two
reasons. First, the US cannot win a war if it does not resort to mass killings of innocent
civilians, as the US won the Second World War by killing innocent civilians of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki in August 1945. Secondly, the US cannot win a cold war if a third party is not
ready to do its bidding, as the US emerged successful out of the Cold war in 1991 only
when Afghans laid down their lives for one decade (1979-1989) to defeat the former Soviet
Union in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, these two reasons or events favouring the US militate against its own
legitimacy as the sole superpower of the world. In his book, Chomsky has failed to gauge
that the crisis of legitimacy is the main reason for the US decline. The legitimacy is
questioned not only by those who were losers such as Japanese or Russians, or who
suffered for being the third party such as Afghans, but also by those who were bystanders
such as the Chinese. This is why perhaps many in the rest of the world do not believe in the
US altruism, principles and values, and instead look askance at the US version of a
humanitarian intervention. And that is why hegemony of the US is being challenged in one
realm or the other.

On page 229, Chomsky writes: “The Clinton doctrine [February 1999] affirmed that the
United States is entitled to resort to the ‘unilateral use of military power’ even to ensure
‘uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,’ let alone
alleged ‘security’ or ‘humanitarian’ concerns.” This paragraph lays emphasis on unilateral
military action for a humanitarian intervention, but practically, the US has preferred to work
in a coalition. Supposedly, the US has learnt a lesson from the demise of the former Soviet
Union: never go into the war alone. That is, make coalitions to let the allies share the stakes
to help brave the ravages of the war, such as the ongoing war on terror that has engulfed
several countries through suicide bombings after they allied with the US.

On page 250, Chomsky writes: “The next target of sledgehammer was Iraq. The US-UK
invasion, utterly without credible pretext, is the major crime of the 21st century. The
invasion [in 2003] led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in a country where
the civilian society had already been devastated by American and British sanctions [in
1990] that were regarded as ‘genocidal’ by the two distinguished international diplomats
who administered them, and resigned in protest for this reason.” This paragraph mentions
the two Gulf wars.

It is known that in August 1990 Iraq attacked Kuwait under the main ruse of declaring
Kuwait its historical part; however, it is not known why exactly the US and the UK reacted so
brutally against Iraq in 1991 by even destroying its retreating army to create the highway of
death — officially known as Highway 80 between Kuwait city and Basra, Iraq — and by
continuing with sanctions against Iraq, interdicting even chlorine (used for water
purification), leading to the death of more than 500,000 Iraqis, mainly children owing to
diarrhea and gastroenteritis by the end of 1995. One explanation could be that by attacking
Kuwait in 1990, Iraq invited the invocation of the Eisenhower Doctrine announced in
January 1957 in the wake of the Suez Canal crisis of 1956 to protect the territorial integrity
of a Middle Eastern country, and the Carter Doctrine announced in January 1980 to use
the military to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf threatened by the impending
influence of the former Soviet Union in the Middle East.

Interestingly, on page 245, Chomsky writes: “China is constructing a modernised version of
the old silk roads, with the intent not only of integrating the region under Chinese influence,
but also of reaching Europe and the Middle Eastern oil-producing regions...Gwadar will be
part of China’s ‘string of pearls’, bases being constructed in the Indian Ocean for
commercial purposes but potentially also for military use, with the expectation that China
might someday be able to project power as far as the Persian Gulf for the first time in the
modern era.” This paragraph shows that the US again perceives a challenge to its influence
in the Middle East, this time coming from China. Interestingly, the dwindling American
century and the climbing Chinese century are fast approaching each other.

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