The New York Times once described Noam Chomsky as “arguably the most important intellectual alive” and “perhaps the clearest voice of dissent in American history.”
And in his new book, Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire, Chomsky proves just that. A collection of his conversations conducted from 2010 to 2012, the book explores all of the immediate threats to the U.S. and the dangers they pose to the “U.S. empire.” In it, he says that our decline could be the cause of our general belief of “entitlement [that] continues right to the present. It’s also part of the intellectual culture.”
In other words, our self-righteousness and world-policing is not only demonstrated through our government’s actions, but through our culture, making us many more enemies than friends.
But, surprising many, he doesn’t fault Bush or even Obama for the start of our belief in this entitlement, but says it actually began with Clinton’s foreign policy. It was just less abrasive and more discreet, he says.
His new book also features what almost seems like support for Iran — something not heard by almost anyone today He writes that “one of the charges against Iran, the big foreign policy threat, is that it is destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. How? By trying to expand its influence into neighboring countries. On the other hand, we ‘stabilize’ countries when we invade them and destroy them.”
In those sentences Noam Chomsky proves his importance in the world of international relations and politics in general, because he concisely describes our foreign policy in a way that few Americans but most non-American would — that we destroy to stabilize and when we stabilize, it is for us, not them.
Chomsky isn’t just one of the most notable intellectuals of our time, but rather a jack of all trades. His work as a linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian and — what intrigues and excites all of us the mostmost intriguing of all — political critic and activist are what make this man extraordinary. And he has proven so through his constant critique of American foreign policy, regardless of the backlash he often faces.
It was perhaps in 2001, when Chomsky compared the September 11 attacks to Clinton’s bombing of a factory in Khartoum, Sudan that resulted in up to tens of thousands of Sudanese deaths (as the supply of necessary drugs was consequently cut off), that his criticism of the U.S. policy gained a large audience. At the time of course, his comparison was found to be absurd, and as usual, he was faced with an onslaught of criticism, but he has continued to prove himself to be the a man who will dare to say what many observers of U.S. foreign policy are quietly thinking.
And although he describes the 9/11 attacks as nothing less than an atrocity, he says that it pales in comparison to the atrocities carried out by the U.S — the ultimate rogue nation, according to him. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when hatred for the U.S drives some extremists to take drastic measures in acts of vengeance.
“We should recognize that in much of the world the United States is regarded as a leading terrorist state, with good reason,” Chomsky explains.
Chomsky also received criticism when he made a statement regarding Osama Bin Laden’s death, saying, “We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic,” expressing what very few (myself included) were thinking but were unwilling to say in fear of being labeled as “anti-American” (also, considering I’m a Muslim, I’d likely be called ‘terrorist’ as well considering the U.S’ current state of xenophobia combined with Islamophobia).
He has also objected to Israel’s foundation as a Jewish state, though he hasn’t condemned its existence and supports a two-state solution — and is lucky that he is Jewish, or like Hagel, would be considered an Anti-Semite (although it is noteworthy to point out that Israeli officials have barred him from the West Bank as of 2010).
In the end, Chomsky’s words may not hold true for everyone, as is indicated by the massive amount of hatred and backlash he receives, but he isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and that is what makes him particularly exceptional.