Noam Chomsky: America’s Real Foreign Policy –  A Corporate Protection Racket

Posted on by

Yves here. Noam Chomsky sets forth a compelling account of America’s foreign policy priorities. As Chomsky documents, the US has long seen independent nation states, particularly those with strong popular support, as a threat to its interests.

By Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his recent books are Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Power Systems, Occupy, and Hopes and Prospects. His latest book, Masters of Mankind, will be published soon by Haymarket Books, which is also reissuing twelve of his classic books in new editions over the coming year. His website is Originally published at TomDispatch

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. — and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a “received standard version,” common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse.  It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the U.S. and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine.  One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989?  Answer: everything continued much as before.

The U.S. immediately invaded Panama, killing probably thousands of people and installing a client regime. This was routine practice in U.S.-dominated domains — but in this case not quite as routine. For first time, a major foreign policy act was not justified by an alleged Russian threat. 

Instead, a series of fraudulent pretexts for the invasion were concocted that collapse instantly on examination. The media chimed in enthusiastically, lauding the magnificent achievement of defeating Panama, unconcerned that the pretexts were ludicrous, that the act itself was a radical violation of international law, and that it was bitterly condemned elsewhere, most harshly in Latin America.  Also ignored was the U.S. veto of a unanimous Security Council resolution condemning crimes by U.S. troops during the invasion, with Britain alone abstaining. 

All routine.  And all forgotten (which is also routine).

From El Salvador to the Russian Border

The administration of George H.W. Bush issued a new national security policy and defense budget in reaction to the collapse of the global enemy.  It was pretty much the same as before, although with new pretexts.  It was, it turned out, necessary to maintain a military establishment almost as great as the rest of the world combined and far more advanced in technological sophistication — but not for defense against the now-nonexistent Soviet Union.  Rather, the excuse now was the growing “technological sophistication” of Third World powers.  Disciplined intellectuals understood that it would have been improper to collapse in ridicule, so they maintained a proper silence.

The U.S., the new programs insisted, must maintain its “defense industrial base.” The phrase is a euphemism, referring to high-tech industry generally, which relies heavily on extensive state intervention for research and development, often under Pentagon cover, in what economists continue to call the U.S. “free-market economy.” 

One of the most interesting provisions of the new plans had to do with the Middle East.  There, it was declared, Washington must maintain intervention forces targeting a crucial region where the major problems “could not have been laid at the Kremlin’s door.”  Contrary to 50 years of deceit, it was quietly conceded that the main concern was not the Russians, but rather what is called “radical nationalism,” meaning independent nationalism not under U.S. control.

All of this has evident bearing on the standard version, but it passed unnoticed — or perhaps, therefore it passed unnoticed.

Other important events took place immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, ending the Cold War.  One was in El Salvador, the leading recipient of U.S. military aid — apart from Israel-Egypt, a separate category — and with one of the worst human rights records anywhere.  That is a familiar and very close correlation. 

The Salvadoran high command ordered the Atlacatl Brigade to invade the Jesuit University and murder six leading Latin American intellectuals, all Jesuit priests, including the rector, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría, and any witnesses, meaning their housekeeper and her daughter.  The Brigade had just returned from advanced counterinsurgency training at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and had already left a bloody trail of thousands of the usual victims in the course of the U.S.-run state terror campaign in El Salvador, one part of a broader terror and torture campaign throughout the region.  All routine.  Ignored and virtually forgotten in the United States and by its allies, again routine.  But it tells us a lot about the factors that drive policy, if we care to look at the real world.

Another important event took place in Europe.  Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to allow the unification of Germany and its membership in NATO, a hostile military alliance.  In the light of recent history, this was a most astonishing concession.  There was a quid pro quo.  President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker agreed that NATO would not expand “one inch to the East,” meaning into East Germany.  Instantly, they expanded NATO to East Germany. 

Gorbachev was naturally outraged, but when he complained, he was instructed by Washington that this had only been a verbal promise, a gentleman’s agreement, hence without force.  If he was naïve enough to accept the word of American leaders, it was his problem.

All of this, too, was routine, as was the silent acceptance and approval of the expansion of NATO in the U.S. and the West generally.  President Bill Clinton then expanded NATO further, right up to Russia’s borders.  Today, the world faces a serious crisis that is in no small measure a result of these policies.

The Appeal of Plundering the Poor

Another source of evidence is the declassified historical record.  It contains revealing accounts of the actual motives of state policy.  The story is rich and complex, but a few persistent themes play a dominant role.  One was articulated clearly at a western hemispheric conference called by the U.S. in Mexico in February 1945 where Washington imposed “An Economic Charter of the Americas” designed to eliminate economic nationalism “in all its forms.” There was one unspoken condition.  Economic nationalism would be fine for the U.S. whose economy relies heavily on massive state intervention.

The elimination of economic nationalism for others stood in sharp conflict with the Latin American stand of that moment, which State Department officials described as “the philosophy of the New Nationalism [that] embraces policies designed to bring about a broader distribution of wealth and to raise the standard of living of the masses.” As U.S. policy analysts added, “Latin Americans are convinced that the first beneficiaries of the development of a country’s resources should be the people of that country.”

That, of course, will not do.  Washington understands that the “first beneficiaries” should be U.S. investors, while Latin America fulfills its service function.  It should not, as both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations would make clear, undergo “excessive industrial development” that might infringe on U.S. interests.  Thus Brazil could produce low-quality steel that U.S. corporations did not want to bother with, but it would be “excessive,” were it to compete with U.S. firms.

Similar concerns resonate throughout the post-World War II period.  The global system that was to be dominated by the U.S. was threatened by what internal documents call “radical and nationalistic regimes” that respond to popular pressures for independent development.  That was the concern that motivated the overthrow of the parliamentary governments of Iran and Guatemala in 1953 and 1954, as well as numerous others.  In the case of Iran, a major concern was the potential impact of Iranian independence on Egypt, then in turmoil over British colonial practice.  In Guatemala, apart from the crime of the new democracy in empowering the peasant majority and infringing on possessions of the United Fruit Company — already offensive enough — Washington’s concern was labor unrest and popular mobilization in neighboring U.S.-backed dictatorships.

In both cases the consequences reach to the present.  Literally not a day has passed since 1953 when the U.S. has not been torturing the people of Iran.  Guatemala remains one of the world’s worst horror chambers.  To this day, Mayans are fleeing from the effects of near-genocidal government military campaigns in the highlands backed by President Ronald Reagan and his top officials.  As the country director of Oxfam, a Guatemalan doctor, reported recently,

“There is a dramatic deterioration of the political, social, and economic context.  Attacks against Human Rights defenders have increased 300% during the last year.  There is a clear evidence of a very well organized strategy by the private sector and Army. Both have captured the government in order to keep the status quo and to impose the extraction economic model, pushing away dramatically indigenous peoples from their own land, due to the mining industry, African Palm and sugar cane plantations.  In addition the social movement defending their land and rights has been criminalized, many leaders are in jail, and many others have been killed.”

Nothing is known about this in the United States and the very obvious cause of it remains suppressed.

In the 1950s, President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles explained quite clearly the dilemma that the U.S. faced.  They complained that the Communists had an unfair advantage.  They were able to “appeal directly to the masses” and “get control of mass movements, something we have no capacity to duplicate.  The poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich.”

That causes problems.  The U.S. somehow finds it difficult to appeal to the poor with its doctrine that the rich should plunder the poor.

The Cuban Example

A clear illustration of the general pattern was Cuba, when it finally gained independence in 1959.  Within months, military attacks on the island began.  Shortly after, the Eisenhower administration made a secret decision to overthrow the government.  John F. Kennedy then became president.  He intended to devote more attention to Latin America and so, on taking office, he created a study group to develop policies headed by the historian Arthur Schlesinger, who summarized its conclusions for the incoming president.

As Schlesinger explained, threatening in an independent Cuba was “the Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own hands.”  It was an idea that unfortunately appealed to the mass of the population in Latin America where “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes, and the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” Again, Washington’s usual dilemma.

As the CIA explained, “The extensive influence of ‘Castroism’ is not a function of Cuban power… Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change,” for which his Cuba provides a model.  Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a “showcase” for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.

The State Department Policy Planning Council warned that “the primary danger we face in Castro is… in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries… The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the U.S., a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half” — that is, since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, when the U.S. declared its intention of dominating the hemisphere.

The immediate goal at the time was to conquer Cuba, but that could not be achieved because of the power of the British enemy.  Still, that grand strategist John Quincy Adams, the intellectual father of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny, informed his colleagues that over time Cuba would fall into our hands by “the laws of political gravitation,” as an apple falls from the tree.  In brief, U.S. power would increase and Britain’s would decline.

In 1898, Adams’s prognosis was realized. The U.S. invaded Cuba in the guise of liberating it.  In fact, it prevented the island’s liberation from Spain and turned it into a “virtual colony” to quote historians Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.  Cuba remained so until January 1959, when it gained independence.  Since that time it has been subjected to major U.S. terrorist wars, primarily during the Kennedy years, and economic strangulation.  Not because of the Russians.

The pretense all along was that we were defending ourselves from the Russian threat — an absurd explanation that generally went unchallenged.  A simple test of the thesis is what happened when any conceivable Russian threat disappeared.  U.S. policy toward Cuba became even harsher, spearheaded by liberal Democrats, including Bill Clinton, who outflanked Bush from the right in the 1992 election.  On the face of it, these events should have considerable bearing on the validity of the doctrinal framework for discussion of foreign policy and the factors that drive it.  Once again, however, the impact was slight.

The Virus of Nationalism

To borrow Henry Kissinger’s terminology, independent nationalism is a “virus” that might “spread contagion.” Kissinger was referring to Salvador Allende’s Chile.  The virus was the idea that there might be a parliamentary path towards some kind of socialist democracy.  The way to deal with such a threat is to destroy the virus and to inoculate those who might be infected, typically by imposing murderous national security states.  That was achieved in the case of Chile, but it is important to recognize that the thinking holds worldwide. 

It was, for example, the reasoning behind the decision to oppose Vietnamese nationalism in the early 1950s and support France’s effort to reconquer its former colony.  It was feared that independent Vietnamese nationalism might be a virus that would spread contagion to the surrounding regions, including resource-rich Indonesia.  That might even have led Japan — called the “superdomino” by Asia scholar John Dower — to become the industrial and commercial center of an independent new order of the kind imperial Japan had so recently fought to establish.  That, in turn, would have meant that the U.S. had lost the Pacific war, not an option to be considered in 1950.  The remedy was clear — and largely achieved.  Vietnam was virtually destroyed and ringed by military dictatorships that kept the “virus” from spreading contagion.

In retrospect, Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy reflected that Washington should have ended the Vietnam War in 1965, when the Suharto dictatorship was installed in Indonesia, with enormous massacres that the CIA compared to the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.  These were, however, greeted with unconstrained euphoria in the U.S. and the West generally because the “staggering bloodbath,” as the press cheerfully described it, ended any threat of contagion and opened Indonesia’s rich resources to western exploitation.  After that, the war to destroy Vietnam was superfluous, as Bundy recognized in retrospect.

The same was true in Latin America in the same years: one virus after another was viciously attacked and either destroyed or weakened to the point of bare survival.  From the early 1960s, a plague of repression was imposed on the continent that had no precedent in the violent history of the hemisphere, extending to Central America in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan, a matter that there should be no need to review.

Much the same was true in the Middle East.  The unique U.S. relations with Israel were established in their current form in 1967, when Israel delivered a smashing blow to Egypt, the center of secular Arab nationalism.  By doing so, it protected U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, then engaged in military conflict with Egypt in Yemen.  Saudi Arabia, of course, is the most extreme radical fundamentalist Islamic state, and also a missionary state, expending huge sums to establish its Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines beyond its borders.  It is worth remembering that the U.S., like England before it, has tended to support radical fundamentalist Islam in opposition to secular nationalism, which has usually been perceived as posing more of a threat of independence and contagion.

The Value of Secrecy

There is much more to say, but the historical record demonstrates very clearly that the standard doctrine has little merit.  Security in the normal sense is not a prominent factor in policy formation.

To repeat, in the normal sense.  But in evaluating the standard doctrine we have to ask what is actually meant by “security”: security for whom?

One answer is: security for state power.  There are many illustrations.  Take a current one.  In May, the U.S. agreed to support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Syria, but with a proviso: there could be no inquiry into possible war crimes by Israel.  Or by Washington, though it was really unnecessary to add that last condition.  The U.S. is uniquely self-immunized from the international legal system.  In fact, there is even congressional legislation authorizing the president to use armed force to “rescue” any American brought to the Hague for trial — the “Netherlands Invasion Act,” as it is sometimes called in Europe.  That once again illustrates the importance of protecting the security of state power.

But protecting it from whom? There is, in fact, a strong case to be made that a prime concern of government is the security of state power from the population.  As those who have spent time rummaging through archives should be aware, government secrecy is rarely motivated by a genuine for security, but it definitely does serve to keep the population in the dark.  And for good reasons, which were lucidly explained by the prominent liberal scholar and government adviser Samuel Huntington, the professor of the science of government at Harvard University.  In his words: “The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen.  Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.”

He wrote that in 1981, when the Cold War was again heating up, and he explained further that “you may have to sell [intervention or other military action] in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has been doing ever since the Truman Doctrine.”

These simple truths are rarely acknowledged, but they provide insight into state power and policy, with reverberations to the present moment.

State power has to be protected from its domestic enemy; in sharp contrast, the population is not secure from state power.  A striking current illustration is the radical attack on the Constitution by the Obama administration’s massive surveillance program.  It is, of course, justified by “national security.” That is routine for virtually all actions of all states and so carries little information. 

When the NSA’s surveillance program was exposed by Edward Snowden’s revelations, high officials claimed that it had prevented 54 terrorist acts.  On inquiry, that was whittled down to a dozen.  A high-level government panel then discovered that there was actually only one case: someone had sent $8,500 to Somalia.  That was the total yield of the huge assault on the Constitution and, of course, on others throughout the world.

Britain’s attitude is interesting.  In 2007, the British government called on Washington’s colossal spy agency “to analyze and retain any British citizens’ mobile phone and fax numbers, emails, and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet,” the Guardian reported.  That is a useful indication of the relative significance, in government eyes, of the privacy of its own citizens and of Washington’s demands.

Another concern is security for private power.  One current illustration is the huge trade agreements now being negotiated, the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic pacts.  These are being negotiated in secret — but not completely in secret.  They are not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers who are drawing up the detailed provisions.  It is not hard to guess what the results will be, and the few leaks about them suggest that the expectations are accurate.  Like NAFTA and other such pacts, these are not free trade agreements.  In fact, they are not even trade agreements, but primarily investor rights agreements.

Again, secrecy is critically important to protect the primary domestic constituency of the governments involved, the corporate sector.

The Final Century of Human Civilization?

There are other examples too numerous to mention, facts that are well-established and would be taught in elementary schools in free societies.

There is, in other words, ample evidence that securing state power from the domestic population and securing concentrated private power are driving forces in policy formation.  Of course, it is not quite that simple.  There are interesting cases, some quite current, where these commitments conflict, but consider this a good first approximation and radically opposed to the received standard doctrine.

Let us turn to another question: What about the security of the population? It is easy to demonstrate that this is a marginal concern of policy planners.  Take two prominent current examples, global warming and nuclear weapons.  As any literate person is doubtless aware, these are dire threats to the security of the population.  Turning to state policy, we find that it is committed to accelerating each of those threats — in the interests of the primary concerns, protection of state power and of the concentrated private power that largely determines state policy.

Consider global warming.  There is now much exuberance in the United States about “100 years of energy independence” as we become “the Saudi Arabia of the next century” — perhaps the final century of human civilization if current policies persist. 

That illustrates very clearly the nature of the concern for security, certainly not for the population.  It also illustrates the moral calculus of contemporary Anglo-American state capitalism: the fate of our grandchildren counts as nothing when compared with the imperative of higher profits tomorrow.

These conclusions are fortified by a closer look at the propaganda system.  There is a huge public relations campaign in the U.S., organized quite openly by Big Energy and the business world, to try to convince the public that global warming is either unreal or not a result of human activity.  And it has had some impact.  The U.S. ranks lower than other countries in public concern about global warming and the results are stratified: among Republicans, the party more fully dedicated to the interests of wealth and corporate power, it ranks far lower than the global norm.

The current issue of the premier journal of media criticism, the Columbia Journalism Review, has an interesting article on this subject, attributing this outcome to the media doctrine of “fair and balanced.” In other words, if a journal publishes an opinion piece reflecting the conclusions of 97% of scientists, it must also run a counter-piece expressing the viewpoint of the energy corporations.

That indeed is what happens, but there certainly is no “fair and balanced” doctrine. Thus, if a journal runs an opinion piece denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for the criminal act of taking over the Crimea, it surely does not have to run a piece pointing out that, while the act is indeed criminal, Russia has a far stronger case today than the U.S. did more than a century ago in taking over southeastern Cuba, including the country’s major port — and rejecting the Cuban demand since independence to have it returned.  And the same is true of many other cases.  The actual media doctrine is “fair and balanced” when the concerns of concentrated private power are involved, but surely not elsewhere.

On the issue of nuclear weapons, the record is similarly interesting — and frightening.  It reveals very clearly that, from the earliest days, the security of the population was a non-issue, and remains so.  There is no time here to run through the shocking record, but there is little doubt that it strongly supports the lament of General Lee Butler, the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, which was armed with nuclear weapons.  In his words, we have so far survived the nuclear age “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” And we can hardly count on continued divine intervention as policymakers play roulette with the fate of the species in pursuit of the driving factors in policy formation.

As we are all surely aware, we now face the most ominous decisions in human history.  There are many problems that must be addressed, but two are overwhelming in their significance: environmental destruction and nuclear war.  For the first time in history, we face the possibility of destroying the prospects for decent existence — and not in the distant future.  For this reason alone, it is imperative to sweep away the ideological clouds and face honestly and realistically the question of how policy decisions are made, and what we can do to alter them before it is too late.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Ruben

    The title of the post is a bit misleading since Chomsky stresses two drivers of foreign policy: state power and corporate protection.

    The State is comparable to a parasite, it feeds from the social fabric and when it is too large it becomes the dominant force forming a monstrosity that is half parasite half healthy private tissue. There are examples though of kind and useful State enterprises such as Switzerland, Vanuatu, Vermont, Cost Rica, and probably even New Zealand to a certain limited extent.

    But I disagree with Chomsky that the large State rackets currently gracing the Earth with their unlimited ambition and vanity will destroy civilization because of global warming and/or nuclear war. They will probably destroy themselves and the unfortunates that happen to be in their way but a lot of civilized people in the southern half of the planet will survive and rebuild civilization and will learn not to extrapolate public power to such an extent that it becomes a threat to decent private individuals and the ecosystems we depend on.

    1. weinerdog43

      I disagree. The entire point of Chomsky’s article is that the USA is run, by, for and at the behest of Corporate America for a very long time. State power and corporate protection are one in the same. While the State certainly has the power to perform all manner of illegal and reprehensible acts, it is doing so because the corporate paymasters want it to do so. Witness the idiotic efforts to go back to Iraq despite 80% disapproval ratings from the American people.

  2. JM Hatch

    The recently released documentary Whitey: United States of America Vs. James Bulger goes on and on about how Bulger corrupted the FBI. Why surprise at Bulger running the FBI and not the other way around? Is the FBI any more immune to corruption than any other government organ?

    Bulger is nothing more than a Wall Street Banker, but instead of hiring the US Marines or Congress to provide protection, he just reached out to the men in his Boston Rolodex. That’s all Harvard Business School really does, give a higher end Rolodex listing the thugs in Congress & K-street, the Executive Branch, & even SOCUS; along with a membership card to insure the other party will pick up the phone when called. A Harvard or Princeton Man is a made man in the old time Mafia sense of the word, one born to the right family so he doesn’t have to work as a solder first.

    US Marine Corp. General Smedley Butler long ago set it all down….
    I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

    The people are so busy trying to keep their head above water they have no time to perform their duty in a democracy, which is to properly control and supervise their government. They allow the government to get away with 18,000 page & growing PPACA legislation. I nag some of my friends about their complete lack of interest in politics. “I’m not interested in politics.” This is a little bit like an antelope saying to a hyena, “I’m not interested in hunting.” See if the hyena cares.

    1. hunkerdown

      Politics has little or nothing to do with policy *unless those who control policy want that appearance*. Did your parents never introduce you to the tooth fairy?

  3. Skeptic

    A little more on the Marine’s Marine, General Smedley Butler, author of WAR IS A RACKET:

    “Smedley Darlington Butler[1] (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) was a United States Marine Corps major general, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history….By the end of his career, Butler had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.”

    They do not give his book to recruits. Few Marines probably have ever even heard of him. Another glaring example of Americans ignorant of their true history.

  4. Jim Haygood

    ‘The U.S. is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.’

    This was once true. But as Chomsky hints in his discussion of government secrecy, since 9/11 much more information is classified. At the same time, the black budget has metastasized to $50 billion or more.

    Congress has an absolute Constitutional obligation to review and monitor all expenditures which they authorize. But except for a handful of caucus and committee leaders who are briefed verbally in secret, most members are regularly voting a massive blank check for the security state. They have no knowledge, or even the right to ask, how these funds are being spent.

    For all practical purposes, the U.S. is a sham democracy in a post-constitutional era. If you feel the need to wave a flag on Friday, fly it upside down. This is an emergency.

    1. BillyBob

      And yet “… a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” According to Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7, we are supposed to know where every dime comes from and goes, down to the last pen and paperclip.

      1. Jim Haygood

        From the GAO:

        DOD’’s [Dept. of Defense’s] financial management is on GAO’’s High Risk List since 1995 because of pervasive deficiencies in its financial and related business management systems, processes, and controls.

        DOD’’s deficiencies have impaired DOD’s ability to sustain a full audit of its financial statements to ensure basic accountability.

        Congress has mandated full DOD auditability for all DOD’s financial statements by 2017.


        Ha ha ha — 22 years to fix a multi-trillion accounting discrepancy. It’s an elaborate charade. With ‘black budget’ spending salted all through DOD appropriations, it’s impossible by design to audit the unclassified budget, and will remain so.

        If Sarbanes-Oxley applied to government (as it certainly should), Chuck Hagel would be in a cage now.

        1. FederalismForever

          Medicare has similar problems. The GAO accountants have not been able to issue a “clean opinion” on Medicare’s accounts for over a decade.

    2. Deaf Smith County

      “The U.S. is an unusually open society…” and a salient reason is that with command of public relations, pioneered by Edward Bernays and raised to an art form which is controlled by the economic interests that own the MSM , it is in fact cheaper and profitable to be so. It’s ironic but with those same skills Stalin could have dispensed with the trouble and expense of the Gulag; just simply marginalize any vocal opposition with a Soviet version of Fox News, the editorial page of the WSJ and AM talk radio while continuing e to lie like hell with their daily support. The Third Reich had Dr. Goebbels, it really didn’t need so many rampaging Gestapo agents.

    3. Doug Terpstra

      Indeed, a key insight. On the US as an unusually, uniquely open society, I think Chomsky is “cynically naive”. One might say the truth — open secrets — are hiding in plain site (or plane sight in the case of 911, in which Chomsky is a steadfast coincidence theorist), but it is so twisted and camouflaged by concerted propaganda and continual covert ops that NC’s transparency is as distorted as Alice’s looking glass. I had trouble wading thru Chomsky’s self contradictions after that.

    4. Carolinian

      It’s still a democracy if the people choose to take their power back at the ballot box. Your assertion hasn’t really been put to the test.

      Chomsky has always been a “Deep Stater” but, as his various examples show, he is somewhat living in the past. We are an empire at the end of its string…about to go the way of the British Empire. I believe when the shaky edifice finally tumbles it will be more like the fall of the Soviet Union than the rise of the Nazis. Regimes have been known to exhaust their ideas and just collapse.

      That might be naive, but it’s overstating to believe that the totalitarian state is already here.

      1. hunkerdown

        Ideas? Pull the other one! Joachimism has been debunked as a principle by which to organize a secular society. What the USSR exhausted was their ability to serve their own people’s basic needs AND defend against exogenous turmoil because of some Hollywood actor and entourage banging on the walls just like during the Dade County recounts in 2000. eeping the economy on a war footing for far too long, and their people haven’t been soaking in over two centuries of a culture strong in servility, hierarchy, and ambition.

        Not that I would have wanted Gore or Lieberman anywhere near The Button either.

        Ambition and despotism are reliably comorbid. We need better stories.

  5. Dino Reno

    We have passed the point of no return.
    The last time carbon dioxide was at the current 400 parts per million in the atmosphere–a hundred million years ago– the ocean level was 85 feet higher than it is today. The last time it was at 700 ppm, our ultimate destination in about 200 years, mass extinction was on the menu. Nothing on the horizon is going to stop this train from arriving at its final destination.
    The Constitution is now a relic of an era now past. It was an exceptional period in human history that lasted about as long as those before it in Greece and Rome. We are now back to the normal state of affairs characterized by feudalism at home and Empire aboard. Align yourself with rich and powerful interests for protection. Only in that way can you survive if the State takes a interest in you.
    Happy Fourth Everyone!

    1. Ulysses

      “Align yourself with rich and powerful interests for protection. Only in that way can you survive if the State takes a interest in you” WTF?!!??

      I sure hope this is not meant as serious advice. This kind of defeatism is exactly what allows the rich and powerful to become even more so as we are kicked in the teeth. The Stasi gave Erich Honecker all the information required to crush any resistance. Yet his regime collapsed in a heartbeat. Why? Because when push came to shove, even his most trusted soldiers refused orders to fire on the dissidents.

      They can jail us by the thousands, but I still feel confident that if enough of us continue to press for change, TPTB know in their secret, fearful hearts that the most of the American military, and their militarized police counterparts, will refuse to slaughter American civilians with the brutality necessary to crush a major uprising.

      In any case, I for one will certainly choose to follow Jimmy Cliff’s suggestion and die as “a free man in my grave,” rather than live as “a puppet or a slave!”

      1. toldjaso

        When they close the borders to keep inside “American citizens” — rounded up as slaves for “mining” and “mineral” extraction to further enrich top-out-of-sight “Oligarchs” and “Merchant Priests” — it won’t be “American” or even English-speaking brutal thugs&killers who “keep in line” the 99% on orders of the master race. To see the position “Americans” are meant to assume, when gold-laden “China” becomes more obviously the “center of the New World Order” [who “predicted” it, cui bono?] read every word of “BABYLON’S BANKSTERS: The Alchemy of Deep Physics, High Finance and Ancient Religion” by Joseph P. Farrell (2010). To see America’s future — beyond the “miraculous prophesies” of Edgar Cayce [an early mind-control recruit?] revealed in U.S. Navy maps showing the continental split initiated by BP’s “Macondo disaster” in anticipation of the “unintended consequence” pending along the New Madrid Fault Line — PAY special attention to “PART TWO” of Farrell’s book, which reveals ancient templates for current speculation, such as “The Bullion Trust and the Temple” and “Mining, Slavery, Mercenaries, and Implications” among other Mysteries *Babylonian*.

        What’s coming has been in the works for a long, long, long, time. The families who adopted Chinese girls made available as a result of the “one-child policy” are birds of a feather, who’ll be sitting pretty when the “Chinese princelings” come a-courting “American” globalist brides of tribal blood. It’s “payback time” dontcha know? — what some phallic supremacists call: “America’s long night in the barrel.” Ask a soldier.

    2. Jackrabbit

      Align yourself with rich and powerful interests for protection . . .

      Betray your fellow citizens by hitching your wagon to a state-sanctioned oligarch. What could go wrong? The non-Constitutional ‘system’ that we have now is managing things just swell. And selfish oligarchs will treat their lackeys so well – especially when the sh!t hits the fan. Also my kids and grandkids will no doubt LOVE to live under such a system because . . . exceptionalism!

      H O P

    3. hunkerdown

      I’ll *probably* pass unless there’s something positive in it for me.

      “The fear of death is the beginning of slavery.” -Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

    4. flora

      “Don’t be taken in when they pat you paternally on the shoulder and say that there’s no inequality worth speaking of and no more reason for fighting. Because if you believe them they will be completely in charge in their marble homes and granite banks from which they rob the people of the world under the pretense of bringing them culture. Watch out, for as soon as it pleases them they’ll send you out to protect their gold in wars whose weapons rapidly developed by servile scientists will become more and more deadly until they can with a flick of the finger tear a million of you into pieces.”
      ― Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, – aka The Marat Sade

    5. Nathanael

      Align yourself with the competent and those with resources and popular support.

      That isn’t necessarily those who are rich and powerful today, Dino Reno. This is an important point.

    1. MtnLife

      Depressing. What I don’t understand is, with the prevalence of cell phone video, why is there no video of the officers refusing to accept the FOIA request? Seems to me that video proof of an officer refusing to follow the law would have been damning, not only to his career but all those officers who were complicit in “aiding and abetting” the original 2 in their harassment and intimidation of the group.

  6. Tonto

    Each new Chomsky tour de force reminds us that his coauthor from way back is still alive and kicking. Chomsky wrote The Political Economy of Human Rights with Ed Herman, . Herman never became as much of a rock star as Chomsky but he’s just as pissed.

    Chomsky said he got away with writing as he did because he worked at a geek school rather than an institute of elite indoctrination. Same goes for Herman, a Wharton economist.

  7. James Levy

    I am struck by the frames of reference issues that emerge from Chomsky’s paper. We spend a lot of time around here arguing whether or not Obama or Bush or Kerry or Cheney are idiots or not, how clever or stupid they are, and whether or not their policies make any sense. What is really astonishing to me is the blinkered frame of reference that circumscribes their decision-making. The ship of civilization is going down. Basic competencies are disappearing–we see this in the Ebola disaster in Africa, and the inability of a nation like Nigeria what has a couple hundred thousand soldiers and spends billions on “defense” being utterly helpless in the face of armed gangs of crazed Islamic extremists. We see it in Europe with the generational crisis of unemployment and mass emigration, and we see it in America with health care and homelessness and hunger. Societies that should be able to do basic things no longer have the will or the energy to do so, or those who run them could not be bothered doing so because it might inconvenience them (not dethrone them, just inconvenience them). Yet the Power Elites in every society seem blithely unconcerned. They think their policies make sense, and people here at Nakedcapitalism echo this idea that they are acting rationally for them (ah, but they do not exist in a vacuum, folks). Surely, someone with a Princeton or Harvard education should understand that the destruction wrought by hurricanes and epidemics and nuclear exchanges cannot be confined to those beneath them. Yet they seem to feel completely immune. Narcissism, indeed. How we awaken then from this self-absorbed state is anyone’s guess. How we replace them if we can’t is the great looming problem of the 2020s.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Power Elites in every society seem blithely unconcerned.

      There is no accountability (this is what happens to weak institutional structures over time). Runaway moral hazard seems likely to lead to some sort of collapse. We have already had massive failures (Iraq and GFC) and the stakes have now grown as TPTB have doubled-down instead of reforming.

      Unfortunately, it appears that the hope for humanity is that a collapse occurs BEFORE bonehead elites destroy the world. Q: What does the collapse ‘look like’ and what emerges on the other side?

      H O P

    2. TimR

      Maybe their black budgets are being used to build extensive underground bunkers? :-)
      Civ can wipe itself out up top, then the Cheneys and such will come back up and mill around in the debris, delighted by the lack of riff-raff

    3. hunkerdown

      Surely, someone with a Princeton or Harvard education should understand that the destruction wrought by hurricanes and epidemics and nuclear exchanges cannot be confined to those beneath them.

      Perhaps they’re banking on that an uneasy and perhaps merely temporary alliance with the creative class will provide them with all the hard and soft power necessary to keep things down (Internet of Things, Big Data, social network psychology experiments, multilateral “better dead than red” pacts, enhanced interrogation, and the vested entitlement complex of the aristocracy). It’s possible they could be right, if people don’t do much to stop them while they can reasonably exert force on the machine, and most signs are that they love the machine as long as they can fantasize about driving the coach someday instead of pulling it.

      1. Nathanael

        No. These elites are actually being stupid. Groupthink? Lead poisoning? Who knows. Don’t assume that they’re clever; they’re dump.

        There are smart elites out there. Look up Nick Hanauer; he’s smart. Unfortunately, they’re a minority. Most graduates of Harvard, even, are highly educated idiots who simply mouth groupthink. It’s harder to get independent thinkers than you might imagine.

  8. Communal

    Since US dollar is pegged to OPEC oil, America should be responsible for global poverty and socio-economic welfare of everybody on this planet till Triffin Dilemma is resolved.

  9. Eureka Springs

    ” In fact, there is even congressional legislation authorizing the president to use armed force to “rescue” any American brought to the Hague for trial — the “Netherlands Invasion Act,” as it is sometimes called in Europe. ”

    Well this explains SO much. War crimes, accusations/ trials, will only be met with a crime of war. Seriously, how can any member nation in organizations such as the UN, much less US Senate or House, remain a member with a straight face? This is like being a member of your local animal shelter fully knowing the board rounds up scores of critters and shoots or bombs them for fun in the night….and if you say or do anything about it they will do the same to you! But you or they are still somehow exceptional!

    This is no democracy, sham be damned… at home or abroad…. it’s lawless monstrosity run entirely amuck.

    1. James Levy

      I’m just speculating, but it may be the psychological response of a society that from its inception was dominated by a general feeling that all white male Americans were equal. If all of “us” are equal, then we need someone to be superior to, and that was the rest of humankind. Americans in the 19th century were considered bumptious assholes by civilized Europeans for making claims about the greatness and uniqueness and overall wonderfulness of America that bore no relation to reality in those days. Americans displaced their need to feel different/better than others onto blacks and onto foreigners. Americans revel in their international lawlessness and haughty refusal to accept the laws and judgments that apply to anyone else. It demonstrates our superiority. It is brilliantly stated by Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now: I disdain your bourgeois morality; I get the job done, and who the fuck has a big enough cock to stop me!!!

      In short, we are a deeply pathological society with H-bombs.

      1. hunkerdown

        I just quit Facebook because, by and large, Americans of the 21st century *are* bumptious, vapid assholes. Anecdata: a FOAF is quitting Japan for Kazakhstan, which she calls a more civilized country.

        The scapegoats are now those white males, conveniently enough for poetic justice, Schädenfreude, call it what you will. Also conveniently, economically disadvantaged white males are numerous and have very little ability to achieve planned outcomes. It’s the perfect recipe for unresolvable discord.

      2. Nathanael

        Yeah. Important point: they got away with this when it worked mstly in the 19th century). But we’ve gotten to the point where these idiots don’t get the job done at all. Kurtz dies.

  10. Working Class Nero

    I like how Chomsky is brave enough to challenge his own choir’s attitudes towards nationalism. To the universal imperialist, Manifest Destiny-ist, full-spectrum dominatrix there are no independent nations, only provinces and regions to be controlled and exploited. The antidote to imperialism is nationalism; Mahatma Gandhi was after all an Indian nationalist.

    So there is no better example of the wizardry of US ideological power than their ability to program so many supposed US imperialist critics chant the mantra of the evils of nationalism. Imagine bacteria convincing doctors that any use of antibiotics was evil and it would only half as audacious as the global US hegemon convincing its critics to reject nationalism and support globalization.

    1. Carolinian

      Well for the Europeans at least nationalism does have a nasty little history. Perhaps that’s why they are so willing to go along with our bs. It is puzzling. When I traveled in Europe many years ago attitudes toward Americans seemed downright hostile for the most part. Only the Irish were well disposed toward an American tourist.

      Now they seem to have embraced us completely, learning English, our movies dominating their cinemas. Perhaps this sort of global homogenization is part of the problem, contributing to “there is no alternative.” Call it Hollywood conquers the world rather than the Pentagon.

      However I do think Chomsky sees too much through a corporacracy lens. Even the Middle East is, according to him, about American economic interests and little else. Nationalism may be a defense against empire, but it can have some bloody results on its own.

      1. Working Class Nero

        A national border provides protection in both directions. The more well-known aspect is protecting internal citizens from external threats. But the opposite is also true. A national border acts as a limit on the projection of internal national sovereignty and power upon others. When a nation projects its power outside its borders then we are no longer talking about nationalism but are now in the realm of imperialism or colonialism. But while imperialists may defend their actions on quasi-nationalist rhetoric, just as they may state make appeals to justice and peace, but the fact is that nationalism is the opposite of imperialism.

        So clearly Hitler stopped being a nationalist the moment he invaded Poland at which point he became an imperialist. And WW1 was the inevitable result of the clash of multiple imperialisms between the British, French, German, Russian, and American attempts to carve up and dominate the world.

    2. EmilianoZ

      Chomsky is OK with nationalism in developing countries, but I’ve never heard him encourage nationalism in 1st world countries. Very different situations.

      1. Working Class Nero

        So Chomsky is OK with poor countries protecting themselves from US hegemony but not first world ones? I wouldn’t want to speak for him but he is clearly an anarchist which means he is going to support moves towards a smaller and more local form of government. So in terms of resistance to a US global empire, I am sure he would support local nationalisms. And in fact he supports Scottish independence, which is surely a first world nationalist movement.

        1. EmilianoZ

          You can see the Scottish independence movement as nationalist,but you can also see that as a nation (UK) degenerating into tribalism Iraqi style.

          It’s hard to imagine Chomsky supporting Marine Le Pen.

    3. James Levy

      World War I, National Socialism, and Socialism in One Country (add in Italian and Japanese nationalism circa the 1930s also) were so disastrous that most of us on the Left fall in line with Kantian internationalism as a hell of a lot better than the alternative. Actually, the proper term is cosmopolitanism, which I would argue is quite different from the internationalism of neo-liberalism in that it implies both humanist ethics and a respect for the local. A cosmopolitan outlook does not demand conformity or dominance the way neoliberal ideology does. It does not imply an us-versus-them mentality, which is endemic to most nationalist projects (a glimpse at what happened to Gandhi and now India clarifies that).

      1. Working Class Nero

        If we break things down to their most fundamental level, there is an inevitable yin-yang balance to be maintained between universalism and particularism in human affairs. The fact that you can create a label “cosmopolitan” means you have created an “us” and by definition you have also then created a “them” the anti-cosmopolitans. The fact that we define our “us” and “them” differently than our enemies do doesn’t fundamentally make us any different from them.

        But it is true that the US cleverly uses the feel-good nature of Kantian cosmopolitanism to suppress resistance to its global project. One possible way around this is a theory of cosmopolitan nationalism where the basic equality and independence of nation-states is maintained as a bulwark against the various imperialisms of the most powerful nations.

  11. PaulArt

    My theory about why the American populace have generally been gung-ho supporters of perpetual war is because they have always dished it out to others and watched it on CNN from their couches sipping beer. Give them a taste of their own medicine and they will understand what war really is. This happened more or less during Vietnam where the draft forced everyone into the war and made them understand what it was like and that is why we had a lot of protests etc. The middle class broadly understood Vietnam was bad because their sons and daughters were forced to participate. It would be good to bring that back in some form. A few carpet bombing runs by the Chinese maybe in the red states will make the morons there understand what price one must pay for jingoism. Americans in many ways have never seen or experienced war on their front porch. I very sincerely hope that in my time I will live to see GOPer White Caucasian Jackasses bombed out of their lawn chairs in Kansas and Montana along with their stupid flag pins and stars and stripes. It is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

  12. FederalismForever

    Chomsky’s diatribes are so tiresome and one-sided. For example, Chomsky simply cannot deal adequately with the following fact pattern: A situation in which the U.S. takes a strong action somewhere in the globe, in order to prevent another great power from taking a similar action in that same place, with the end result being that the other great power has become an even greater threat to the U.S.

    Consider the Monroe Doctrine. As originally formulated and understood, the main point was to prevent other hostile great powers from getting a foothold in North America. Both James Monroe and John Quincy Adams had spent much time in Europe, and saw first-hand how European populations had to constantly deal with war, or the threat of war, since so many great powers were clustered together on the same continent. On this rationale, President Polk’s war with Mexico is somewhat more defensible, if the result was to prevent France, Russia or Great Britain from setting up shop here in North America. This was not idle speculation. Napoleon III would invade Mexico while the U.S. was preoccupied with its Civil War, and Russia was lusting after the Pacific Coast. Moreover, Russia was one of the Holy Alliance that had an expressed intent of wiping out Democracies – just like Catherine the Great had crushed Poland in 1793. If Russia had gone to war with Mexico instead, then the U.S. would have had to deal with an actively hostile power on the same continent. But Chomsky NEVER gives this side of the story. (To be clear, I’m not saying the war with Mexico was a just war. I’m only saying there are nuances that make it more understandable, and even somewhat defensible, as a matter of realpolitik.)

    Chomsky also has trouble dealing fairly with a situation in which a foreign country has previously contracted with a U.S. corporation (e.g., an oil company) to build an infrastructure project in that foreign country. Typically, the foreign government will be on best behavior during the negotiations and early construction phase, and will readily agree to, say, a 99-year ground lease term, and an ongoing 50/50 split of the proceeds generated from the project. Quite often, sometime later (and, needless to say, only after the project has been fully constructed), the foreign government will come to view this previously agreed-upon arrangement as intolerably unjust and exploitative. Whereas in the beginning the foreign government was happy with a 50 percent concession, it then starts demanding a higher percentage, conceivably even 100 percent! (Another name for this 100 percent concession level is “nationalization”.) But woe to any U.S. corporation that seeks to protect its rights under its contract with the foreign government! Doing so is a sure way to earn Chomsky’s undying scorn. And if the U.S. government were to take action too, on behalf of the U.S. citizens who own interests in the U.S. corporation? Don’t even ask! (But this fact pattern can be found in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, etc. etc.)

    One aspect of the U.S. being such an “open society” – if only on a relative/comparative basis – is it makes someone like Chomsky possible. Due to things like Freedom of Information Act requests, which, needless to say, have no equivalent in most other more repressive and restrictive societies, people like Chomsky and Howard Zinn can make a career out of digging up and reporting each and every dark and unpleasant event in America’s history. Thus, the U.S. is constantly at a propaganda disadvantage compared to more closed/oppressive societies, where digging up the dirt on the government’s activities is so much more difficult, if not life threatening.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Companies should not enter into contracts with unreliable partners.

      And why should my tax dollars (putting aside MMT considerations for now) be used defending contracts of foreign companies operating overseas, PARTICULARLY since most multinationals go to great lengths to pay little or nothing in the way of taxes? If they get in trouble, let them hire their own mercenaries or be more selective about the deals they enter into.

      1. FederalismForever

        I think U.S. companies have learned some painful lessons given their sad history of dealing with foreign governments as counter-parties on infrastructure and energy contracts. I’m focused more on how Chomsky relates the history of U.S. companies who operate overseas. He almost invariably presents the U.S. multinational as an entity engaged in purely exploitative activities, as if the arrangement between the U.S. multinational and the host country is a zero sum game wherein all profits realized by the U.S. company are necessarily at the expense of the host country. But this is a bad analysis where the U.S. multinational has used valuable patents and other IP to construct local infrastructure or energy utilities. Done right, all parties can end up better off. But when the host country instead elects some populist leader who rails against U.S. corporate imperialism, and then “nationalizes” the utility, or fails to make the scheduled payments under the contract, the fact is the U.S. corporation has a legitimate claim. Of course, the devil is in the details, and these facts, in themselves, in no way justify U.S. government meddling in the host country’s politics. All I’m saying is there are nuances favorable to the U.S. multinational which Chomsky routinely neglects.

        Consider Saudi Arabia. The Saudi family was more than happy to let U.S. oil companies come in and hunt for deposits for several decades before finally discovering the mother lode around 1950. Then, U.S. companies did practically ALL of the construction, using patents and other valuable IP that were almost wholly US-owned. The arrangement worked quite well for a while, only to have the Saudi family continue to demand a greater percentage of the profits (despite the fact that they had contributed none of the valuable patents or other technology that made the operation feasible), and then finally nationalize completely in the 1970s or so. How would Chomsky describe this set of facts? Whatever feelings we may have about U.S. oil companies from an environmental perspective, haven’t the U.S. oil companies been wronged by the actions of the Saudi government?

        This basic pattern occurs over and over again when you look into infrastructure construction and development throughout Latin America or other foreign countries. Yet, Chomsky will invariably spin things as though the U.S. multinationals were simply exploiting the local resources, etc.

        I don’t know whether we should spend taxpayer dollars today to defend contracts entered into by today’s tax-dodging U.S. multinationals. But I strongly suspect that if the U.S. had been more diligent in defending the contractual rights of its U.S. multinationals in the past, it likely would have a lot more tax revenue to fund worthwhile domestic projects today. Just think of all the worthwhile projects that could be funded if the U.S. still received fifty percent of Saudi oil revenues?

        1. Working Class Nero

          What you are describing (using government power to enforce private contracts in foreign countries) is the most basic recipe for imperialism. Undoubtedly in each case there would be claims of by both sides a malfeasance. The only logic way to settle these disputes is through local sovereignty. If a company gets burned in a foreign country then the proper response is for it and other companies to refuse to work in and blacklist that country.

          The alternative is the multiple 20th century tragedies that we experienced, when for example Nixon overthrew Allende. It all started when huge amounts of US investments flowing into Chili, strongly encouraged by JFK’s administration. Naturally these companies starting trying to manipulate local politics and in order to protect themselves the Chileans eventually nationalized many of these investments. So PepsiCo, ITT Corporation, Anaconda Copper, and others appealed for US action and Augusto Pinochet was the result.

          So the protection of foreign contracts by powerful governments is the very root of imperialistic evil. And if the US continues its decline it might not be too long from now that American’s are on the receiving end of, for example, Chinese government displeasure about how their companies are being unfairly forced to respect what they consider unjust local labor laws in the US.

          1. Nathanael

            In fact, the original companies which hired their own mercenaries were the British East India Company, the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch West India Company… this *is* imperialism. But at least they hired their own mercenaries.

            I really have no sympathy for imperialist corporations which can’t even be bothered to hire their own mercenaries and come whining to the US taxpayer to protect them.

    2. Mark Lovas

      I’m not sure what the big conclusion is which your comment is supposed to lead us to. Is it that the USA is, in some sense, better than Chomsky allows? (Where the “USA” actually means the powerful, or those who make decisions about war, peace, and investments.) Or, is your point that Chomsky omits details? Details which would what? Details which make possible a more “positive” (I don’t know what that means really) view of
      the decisions of those who decide for the USA? You actually raise several points, and I cannot discuss them all. However, you remarks about the war in Mexico may be representative: what exactly do you think? Are you saying that the decision to go to war was logical from a certain point of view?–Though it is a point of view which you don’t actually think is defensible? And that Chomsky makes an error of omission, by failing to point this out? –If that’s so, it surely depends upon the broader purposes of this little essay. I wonder whether you are objecting to Chomsky’s tone, or his disrespect for the notion of “the U.S.”? I myself think that “the U.S.” is a rather complicated entity, and wonder whether I have a completely different notion here from you. I can’t imagine myself complaining that my country is at a “propaganda disadvantage”. Insofar as the U.S. has done bad things and this is known, that doesn’t hurt me; on the contrary, it hurts me not to know and not to face up to what has been done. Of course, I would not grant that it is me who has done these things, or my family, when it comes to that. So, that’s why there’s complexity about what “the U.S.” is. I cannot see how lying about the truth is helpful to a country or any other entity. I cannot see how failing to face up to the fact of an action and its consequences is any sort of help. What you call “propaganda purposes” seems to be lying or distortion or silence about things that need to be acknowledged.

      1. FederalismForever

        Re: what I think about the war with Mexico. I’m not completely sure. I don’t have an answer. On one hand, there is an overwhelming case that President Polk provoked the war, and wanted to expand the Slave Power, etc., and that the war was, as Ulysses S. Grant wrote, one of the most unjust wars in history. I’m also aware that U.S. troops under Zachary Taylor committed many atrocities.

        And, yet, there are additional considerations which militate against this view. For one thing, Mexico at that time simply could not adequately defend all the territory it was claiming under the 1819 Adams-Otis treaty. Apache and Comanche were routinely raiding villages and towns throughout the Southwest. Moreover, there is no doubt that Britain, Russia and France were lusting after that territory. In short, if the U.S. had not annexed that territory (through conquest), one of the other three great powers likely would have instead. Suppose it was Russia, with a Tsar who is actively hostile to democracy and has vowed to wipe out every democracy from the face of the earth. Isn’t this where the Monroe Doctrine makes sense? Why wait for Russia to conquer Mexico and set up shop on the Pacific Coast and the Southwest, with an intention to eventually move east and wipe out America’s burgeoning democratic experiment? I readily admit that if this involves a U.S. war with Mexico to claim that territory first, a host of ethical questions come into play. But if that action prevents future generations from frequent and ongoing wars with a local rival great power – such as the wars that routinely took place on the European continent – isn’t there some room for the claim that the Monroe Doctrine is sound U.S. policy? Coming back to Chomsky, my only point is that Chomsky never reveals the surrounding context of U.S. actions that he hates. He would never even consider whether President Polk might have had some more defensible motives for going to war with Mexico. Chomsky has no theory of statecraft. He just likes to make a list of all the terrible actions the U.S. has taken a part in, and then present them without any surrounding context.

        1. Jackrabbit

          If you know the history of that time, the “surrounding context” is rather predictable.

        2. Mark Lovas

          “statecraft”? Well, I’m not sure what you mean by that, either; to be honest. But, I rather suspect that statecraft is different from a craft of justice, and I think that attempts to discover a discipline of politics or international politics or how to run a state (“statecraft”) which ignores
          justice will be bankrupt. I realize that experts or specialists in international relations or whatever may regard that as naive. But that’s what I think, and that’s where I think there’s a difference between you and me–and, for that matter, Chomsky, who is amazingly adept at finding the most simple and direct proofs that various policies and actions are simply not just. Along the way he may demonstrate paradoxes and contradictions which arise within the official views, but I suspect that his respect for justice is the unifying force behind his sarcasm and his criticisms. Anyway, it’s a point that C. frequently makes that if you’ve got power, you should be held up to higher standards than people without power. I wonder if you’re missing that. When you point to the importance of “context”, I think you’re saying Chomsky is unfair. But I see it like this: There is a guy with a big stick, whose beating people with it, and he’s justifying his actions with explanations that make no sense. And you say that there are all sorts of complexities behind his behavior. (A simple analogy, but it brings out the prominence of justice/injustice in what I hear C. saying.)

        3. James Levy

          You are dealing in speculation that is just hysterically ahistorical. Russia was not going to conquer Mexico, and had no capacity to do any such thing. They could not govern Alaska adequately. You are just making that shit up to make US illegality look somewhat reasonable.
          By your own logic, given enough context everything is understandable. I mean, Stalin and Mao had reasons for what they did. The Soviet Union certainly felt justified crushing dissent because the capitalist powers invaded their country, intervened in their Civil War, and then cut them off economically and diplomatically. Given the deep desire on the part of the West for “regime change”, the government felt completely justified in defending the revolution by any means necessary.

          Get the point?

          Chomsky is making a normative argument. You don’t have to believe it, but it is clear, consistent, and doesn’t involve ah, shucks special pleading and the moral relativism of “they do it, too.” His theory of statecraft is that nations should not pull a Guatemala or a Nicaragua or a Mexico on other nations. And this being his country, he excoriates those who have given other nations the “Mosaddegh treatment” in our name. That you cling to some vestige of American Exceptionalism like a life preserver is your issue, not Chomsky’s.

          1. FederalismForever

            If a Russian invasion is too speculative and ahistorical, just substitute France. As stated, Napoleon III actually invaded and occupied Mexico while the U.S. was engaged in its Civil War. Nothing speculative about it.

            It’s easy to take Chomsky’s normative stance and relentlessly criticize everything the U.S. does, but actual quality governance and statecraft requires a resolve to focus on the surrounding context, something Chomsky apparently isn’t capable of.

      2. hunkerdown

        Lying, yep. Just dealt with some libertard today who claimed that Venezuela collapsed due to “socialism”. He refused to acknowledge US policy as a contributor, AT ALL. I asked him about it three times and I got a big list of numbers as a response, as if they have sod-all to do with anything.

    3. Carolinian

      Do you have any idea what happened to Guatemala as a result of our intervention to support a banana company? The Dulles brothers were monsters.

      And btw we are still messing with Central America. We stood aside while the government of Honduras was overthrown during Hillary stint as sec state. Now children are fleeing from Honduras and filling border patrol detention facilities.

      Chomsky’s history lesson is of course correct. I just think he shouldn’t focus on the corporate angle to the exclusion of other factors. There are many other fingers in the foreign policy pie, not just corporate interests. And I also think this wave of imperial hubris could be on the wane. Things seem very out of the U.S. control at the moment.

      1. FederalismForever

        The CIA’s role in the Guatemala coup and long civil war is without question a low point in American foreign policy. I only cited it because the Arbenz’ government’s unilateral decision to seize/expropriate/nationalize tens of thousands of acres that it had previously sold to United Fruit Company is another example of a foreign government reneging on contracts it had previously made to a U.S. corporation.

        1. Nathanael

          The original contracts were generally considered to have been made under duress, through a combination of threats and bribery — reasons for which anyone can invalidate contracts under *our* legal system.

  13. Jesus F. Christ

    Takes action. You need to be more specific. Are you referring to sanctions? Intervention? Reprisals? Countermeasures? Sanctions are multilateral, and under Charter Article 53, always subject to UNSC direction and supervision. Intervention not under UNSC authority is illegal under the non-intervention principle, A/RES/36/103, affirmed by the ICJ as a “sanctified absolute rule of law.” Reprisals are prohibited by humanitarian law. Countermeasures are actions persuant to Articles 22 and 49 through 53 of the draft articles on state responsibility for internationally wrongful acts. Countermeasures are carefully circumscribed to subordinate them to the UN Charter and peremptory norms of law, to fundamental human rights, and to applicable dispute settlement procedures.

    Because the fact pattern is, Iran retrades a corporation’s deal in ’53 and the U.S. government, through its puppet on behalf of the U.S. citizens who own interests in the corporation, ties you to bedsprings heated white-hot, hangs weights on your balls and pours boiling water on them, pulls out your fingernails, toenails and teeth, surgically amputates your arms and legs and sends your sad wiggling trunk back to your family, or feeds you to lions. And Guatemala retrades the deal in ’54 and the U.S. government protects investors so-called contractual rights with genocide.

    How much more fucking diligent do you want them to be?

Comments are closed.