Thursday, March 20, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
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...the government of the world must be entrusted to satisfied nations, who wished nothing more for themselves than what they had. If the world-government were in the hands of hungry nations, there would always be danger. But none of us had any reason to seek for anything more. The peace would be kept by peoples who lived in their own way and were not ambitious. Our power placed us above the rest. We were like rich men dwelling at peace within their habitations.



History does not come neatly packaged into distinct periods, but by imposing such a structure upon it, we can sometimes gain clarity without doing too much violence to the facts. One such period was initiated with the Second World War, a new phase in world affairs in which "the United States was the hegemonic power in a system of world order" (Samuel Huntington). This phase was visibly drawing to a close in the 1970s, as the state capitalist world moved towards a tripolar structure with economic power centered in the United States, Japan, and the German-based European Community. As for the Soviet Union, the military build-up initiated after Soviet weakness was dramatically revealed during the Cuban missile crisis was beginning to level off, and Moscow's capacity to influence and coerce, always far inferior to that of the hegemonic power, was continuing to decline from its late 1950s peak. Furthermore, internal pressures were mounting as the economy stagnated, unable to enter a new phase of "post-industrial" modernization, and broader sectors of the population demonstrated their unwillingness to submit to totalitarian constraints. Plainly, Europe and Japan posed a greater potential threat to U.S. dominance than the fading Soviet Union.

These developments were reasonably clear by the late 1970s, but a different conception was needed as a rationale for the policies then being implemented to maintain U.S. global dominance and to provide a needed shot in the arm to high technology industry: the picture of a fearsome Soviet Union marching from strength to strength and posing an awesome challenge to Western Civilization. These illusions lacked credibility at the time, and became completely unsustainable through the next decade. Meanwhile the observations of the preceding paragraph have become virtual truisms.1

This pattern has been standard through the postwar era -- and, in fact, it illustrates far more general regularities of statecraft and the ideological structures that accompany it. As if by reflex, state managers plead "security" to justify their programs. The plea rarely survives scrutiny. We regularly find that security threats are contrived -- and once contrived for other purposes, sometimes believed -- to induce a reluctant public to accept overseas adventures or costly intervention in the domestic economy. The factors that have typically driven policy in the postwar period are the need to impose or maintain a global system that will serve state power and the closely-linked interests of the masters of the private economy, and to ensure its viability by means of public subsidy and a state-guaranteed market. The highly ramified Pentagon system has been the major instrument for achieving these goals at home and abroad, always on the pretext of defense against the Soviet menace. To a significant extent, the threat of the Soviet Union and other enemies has risen or declined as these ends require.2

Strategic theory and the policy sciences are supple instruments, rarely at a loss to provide the required argument and analysis to buttress the conclusion of the moment.

We can, then, identify a period from World War II, continuing into the 1970s, in which the U.S. dominated much of the world, confronting a rival superpower of considerably more limited reach. We may adopt conventional usage and refer to this as the Cold War era, as long as we are careful not to carry along, without reflection, the ideological baggage devised to shape understanding in the interests of domestic power.

One of the themes of the essays that follow is the significance and implications of these changes in the world order, but with a particular focus: with regard to U.S. policies and those most affected by them.

There is a striking imbalance in the "post-Cold War" international system: the economic order is tripolar, but the military order is not. The United States remains the only power with the will and the capacity to exercise force on a global scale, even more freely than before, with the fading of the Soviet deterrent. But the U.S. no longer enjoys the preponderance of economic power that enabled it to maintain an aggressive and interventionist military posture since World War II. Military power not backed by a comparable economic base has its limits as a means of coercion and domination. It may well inspire adventurism, a tendency to lead with one's strength, possibly with catastrophic consequences.

These features of the international system have been manifest in the varying reactions of the industrial powers to the collapse of the Soviet empire, and in the early post-Cold War U.S. military operations, the invasion of Panama and the response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In the latter case, just unfolding as these words are written, the tension between economic tripolarity and military unipolarity is particularly evident. Despite the very hazardous possible consequences of military conflict, the virtually instinctive U.S. government reaction was to direct the confrontation to the arena of force, undercutting possible diplomatic opportunities and even expressing deep concern that others might be tempted to seek to "defuse the crisis" by diplomatic means, achieving the goals sought generally by the international community but without a decisive demonstration of the effectiveness of U.S. military power and resolve.3

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1 For discussion at the time, see my Towards a New Cold War (Pantheon, 1982), particularly the introduction and chapter 7. This is generally presupposed in what follows, along with further comment on these matters in my Turning the Tide (South End, 1985), On Power and Ideology (South End, 1987). The quoted phrase is from a report to the Trilateral Commission in M.J. Crozier, S.P. Huntington, and J. Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy (New York University, 1975).

2 See references of note 1; also William A. Schwartz and Charles Derber, et al., The Nuclear Seduction (U. of California, 1990).

3 Thomas Friedman, "Behind Bush's Hard Line," NYT, Aug. 22, 1990. See chapter 6 for further discussion, and chapter 1, section 5, for background. 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 8:00 PM


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