Thursday, March 20, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Introduction Segment 2/3
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In the evolving world order, the comparative advantage of the United States lies in military force, in which it ranks supreme. Diplomacy and international law have always been regarded as an annoying encumbrance, unless they can be used to advantage against an enemy. Every active player in world affairs professes to seek only peace and to prefer negotiations to violence and coercion -- even Hitler; but when the veil is lifted, we commonly see that diplomacy is understood as a disguise for the rule of force. With the current configuration of U.S. strengths and weaknesses, the temptation to transfer problems quickly to the arena of forceful confrontation is likely to be strong. Furthermore, though the United States cannot regain the economic supremacy of an earlier period, it is committed to maintaining its status as the sole military superpower, with no likely contestant for that role. One consequence will be exacerbation of domestic economic difficulties; another, a renewed temptation to "go it alone" in relying on the threat of force rather than diplomacy.

The Gulf conflict brought these issues to the fore. Aside from England, which has its own interests in Kuwait, the other major industrial powers showed little interest in military confrontation. The reaction in Washington was ambivalent. War is dangerous; defusing the crisis without a demonstration of the efficacy of force is also an unwanted outcome. As for the costs, plainly it would be advantageous for them to be shared, but not at the price of sacrificing the role of lone enforcer. These conflicting concerns led to a sharp elite split over the tactical choice between preparation for war and reliance on sanctions, with the Administration holding to the former course.

In the past, the United States and its clients have often found themselves "politically weak" (that is, lacking popular support in some region targeted for intervention) though militarily and economically strong, a formula commonly used on all sides. Under such conditions, it is natural to prefer military force, terror, and economic warfare to the peaceful means dictated by international law. With lagging economic strength, the temptation to resort to force is only heightened.

It is fitting that the first two occasions for the use of force in this (partially) new era should have been in Central America and the Gulf. Political analysts and advisers often draw a distinction between "our needs" and "our wants," the former exemplified by the Middle East, with its incomparable energy resources; the latter by Central America, of no major strategic or economic significance, but a domain in which the U.S. rules by tradition. In the case of mere "wants," tactical preferences may vary. Our "needs" in the Middle East, it is regularly argued, legitimate extreme measures to preserve U.S. dominance and to ensure that no independent indigenous force (or foreign power, had this been a serious possibility in the postwar era) might gain substantial influence over the production and distribution of the region's petroleum resources. To the extent feasible, these are to be dominated by the United States, its allies and regional clients, and its oil corporations -- a doctrine that might virtually be regarded as "Axiom One of international affairs," I suggested in writing about this matter in the mid-1970s, at the time of the first oil crisis.4

These features of the international system also have their conventional expression (the United States must bear the burden of enforcing good behavior worldwide, etc.). But such ideological fetters must be removed if there is to be any hope of gaining a realistic understanding of what lies ahead.

There is, indeed, a "New World Order" taking shape, marked by the diffusion of power in U.S. domains and the collapse of the Russian empire and the tyranny at its heart. These developments leave the U.S. as the overwhelmingly dominant military force and offer the three economic power centers the attractive prospect of incorporating the former Soviet system into their Third World domains. These must still be controlled, sometimes by force. This has been the responsibility of the United States, but with its relative economic decline, the task becomes a harder one to shoulder.

One reaction is that the U.S. must persist in its historic task, while turning to others to pay the bills. Testifying before Congress, Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger explained that the emerging New World Order will be based on "a kind of new invention in the practice of diplomacy": others will pay the costs of U.S. intervention to keep order. A respected commentator on international economic affairs describes the Gulf crisis as a "watershed event in US international relations," which will be seen in history as having "turned the US military into an internationally financed public good," "an internationally-financed police force." While "some Americans will question the morality of the US military assuming a more explicitly mercenary role than it has played in the past, the 1990s there is no realistic alternative...." The tacit assumption is that the public welfare is to be identified with the welfare of the Western industrial powers, and particularly their domestic elites.5

The financial editor of a leading conservative daily puts the essential point less delicately: we must exploit our "virtual monopoly in the security a lever to gain funds and economic concessions" from German-led Europe and Japan. The U.S. has "cornered the West's security market" and others lack the "political challenge the U.S." in this "market." We will therefore be "the world's rent-a-cops" and will be "able to charge handsomely" for the service; the term "rent-a-thug" would be less flattering but more appropriate. Some will call us "Hessians," the author continues, but "that's a terribly demeaning phrase for a proud, well-trained, well-financed and well-respected military"; and whatever anyone may say, "we should be able to pound our fists on a few desks" in Japan and Europe, and "extract a fair price for our considerable services," demanding that our rivals "buy our bonds at cheap rates, or keep the dollar propped up, or better yet, pay cash directly into our Treasury." "We could change this role" of enforcer, he concludes, "but with it would go much of our control over the world economic system."6

Go to the next segment.

4 "The Interim Agreement," New Politics, no. 3, 1976; see Towards a New Cold War, chapters 11, 8. See the latter, and chapter 8 below, for several examples from the foreign affairs literature making the distinction between "needs" and "wants" in essentially these terms.

5 Mary Curtius, "US asks allies to help pay for its continued leadership," Boston Globe, Sept. 20; David Hale, chief economist of Kemper Financial Services, Chicago, "How to pay for the global policeman," Financial Times (London), Nov. 21, 1990.

6 William Neikirk, "We are the world's guardian angels," Chicago Tribune business section, Sept. 9, 1990. 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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