Monday, March 31, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
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Hill & Wang
2nd edition, 1992

This book went to press just as the US and Britain were about to launch their bombing of Iraq in mid-January 1991. Events since well illustrate its major theses.

Given the US role as global enforcer, elites face the task of maintaining obedience not only at home, where the "ignorant and meddling outsiders" must be reduced to their spectator status, but also in the former colonial domains ("the South"). As discussed in the text, these themes have long been common coin among the educated classes.

Decline in the capacity to control the domestic enemy by force has led to reliance on other means. In the South, violence remains a feasible option. Few in the South would contest the judgment of the Times of India that in the Gulf crisis the traditional warrior states -- the US and UK -- sought a "regional Yalta where the powerful nations agree among themselves to a share of Arab spoils... [Their] conduct throughout this one month [January-February, 1991] has revealed the seamiest sides of Western civilisation: its unrestricted appetite for dominance, its morbid fascination for hi-tech military might, its insensitivity to `alien' cultures, its appalling jingoism...." The general mood was captured by Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who wrote that in the Arab countries "the rich sided with the US government while the millions of poor condemned this military aggression." Throughout the Third World, "there is hatred and fear: When will they decide to invade us," and on what pretext?1

Within the US, the major issue remains the unraveling of the society under the impact of the Reagan-Bush social and economic programs. These reflected a broad elite consensus in favor of a welfare state for the rich even beyond the norm. Policy was designed to transfer resources to privileged sectors, with the costs to be borne by the general population and future generations. Given the narrow interests of its constituency, the Administration has no serious proposals to deal with the consequences of these policies.

It is therefore necessary to divert the public. Two classic devices are to inspire fear of terrible enemies and worship of our grand leaders, who rescue us just in the nick of time. The enemies may be domestic (criminal Blacks, uppity women, subversives undermining the tradition, etc.), but foreign demons have natural advantages. The Russians served the purpose for many years; their collapse has called for innovative and audacious devices. As the standard pretext vanished, the domestic population has been frightened -- with some success -- by images of Qaddafi's hordes of international terrorists, Sandinistas marching on Texas, Grenada interdicting sea lanes and threatening the homeland itself, Hispanic narcotraffickers directed by the arch-maniac Noriega, crazed Arabs generally, most recently, the Beast of Baghdad, after he underwent the usual conversion from favored friend to Attila the Hun after committing the one unforgivable crime, the crime of disobedience, on August 2, 1990.

The scenario requires Awe as well as Fear. There must, then, be foreign triumphs, domestic ones being beyond even the imagination of the cultural managers. Our noble leaders must courageously confront and miraculously defeat the barbarians at the gate, so that we can once again "stand tall" (the President's boast, after overcoming Grenada's threat to our existence) and march forward towards a New World Order of peace and justice. Since each foreign triumph is in fact a fiasco, the aftermath must be obscured as the government-media alliance turns to some new crusade.

The barbarians must be defenseless: it would be foolish to confront anyone who might fight back. Furthermore, the options have been limited by the notable rise in the moral and cultural level of the general population since the 1960s, including the unwillingness to tolerate atrocities and aggression, a grave disease called "the Vietnam syndrome." The problem was addressed in a National Security Policy Review from the first months of the Bush presidency, dealing with "third world threats." It reads: "In cases where the U.S. confronts much weaker enemies, our challenge will be not simply to defeat them, but to defeat them decisively and rapidly." Any other outcome would be "embarrassing" and might "undercut political support," understood to be thin.2 The intervention options are therefore restricted to clandestine terror (called "Low Intensity Conflict," etc., often assisted by mercenary states), or quick demolition of a "much weaker enemy." Disappearance of the Soviet deterrent enhances this second option: the US need no longer fight with "one hand tied," that is, with concern for the consequences to itself.

1. The "Gulf War" in Retrospect

Two crucial events of 1991 were the final breakup of the Soviet empire and the Gulf conflict. With regard to the former, the US was largely an observer, with little idea what to do as the system lurched from one crisis to another. The media ritually laud George Bush's consummate skill as a statesman and crisis manager, but the exercise lacks spirit. The response to Saddam Hussein's aggression, in contrast, was a Washington operation throughout, with Britain loyally in tow.

Holding all the cards, the US naturally achieved its major aims, demonstrating that "What we say goes," as the President put it. The proclamation was directed to dictators and tyrants, but it is beyond dispute that the US has no problem with murderous thugs who serve US interests, and will attack and destroy committed democrats if they depart from their service function. It suffices to recall Bush's esteem for Marcos, Mobutu, Ceausescu, Suharto, Saddam Hussein, and other favored friends, his actions in Central America, and the rest of the shabby record.3 The correct reading of his words, clearly enough, is: "What we say goes, whoever you may be." The lesson is understood by the traditional victims, as noted.

Go to the next segment.

1 On Third World reactions, see my articles in Z magazine, May, October 1991, and in Cynthia Peters, ed., Collateral Damage (South End, 1992).

2 Maureen Dowd, NYT, Feb. 23, 1991.

3 See references of note 1. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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posted by u2r2h at 3:44 AM


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