Noam Chomsky: Ukraine Is a Diplomacy No-Go Zone

Yves here. I wonder whether Chomsky really believes he is giving a fair-minded account of the background to the war in Ukraine or whether he thinks this is as far as he can go in the current environment. He does give important history, of the US security guarantees to Russia when the USSR dissolved with its famous “not one inch further east” commitment. Chomsky omits that the US engaged in intense domestic political interference to manage to get the extremely drunk and unpopular Yeltsin re-elected in 1996, and the big reason Russia did not push back against the 1997 and 2004 NATO expansions, aside from the US owning Yeltsin in 1997, was that Russia had been economically prostrated in the 1990s by US-supported plutocratic looting.

Chomsky completely ignores the eight years of civil war in Donbass, where the two oblasts sought independence to escape anti-ethnic-Russian persecution by the Maidan governments. 1.5 million refugees fled to Russia and Belarus and 14,000 locals died. He also presents Minsk II as if Zelensky had something to do with as, as opposed to it having been agreed as Minsk Accords in 2014 and as Minsk II in 2015 by Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE (France and Germany mediated; the breakaway republics signed but in an observer capacity). Of course, the US made sure Ukraine didn’t follow through.

Chomsky also leaves out that Putin was opposed to the separatists’ 2014 declarations of independence and that Russia pressed them in Minsk to accept mere greater autonomy within Ukraine.

And in more obligatory demonization of Putin, Chomsky falsely depicts him and Russia as being uninterested in diplomacy despite negotiating with the US in late 2021 and having the US not even deign to provide written replies to detailed Russian proposals. In December 2021, Emmanuel Macron also tried to intervene to revive Minsk and Germany saddled up again. But Zelensky rejected the new Minsk effort on February 15 as Ukraine was moving more troops to Donbass and the OSCE reported the level of shelling from Ukraine increased markedly, lending credence to the Russian claim that Ukraine was about to launch a new major offensive on Donbass.

And again, if Russia is so uninterested in diplomacy, why were they pursuing negotiations, Clausewitz-style, in Istanbul in March as they were still prosecuting the war? Russia was pleased with the progress, which of course is why the UK and US ordered Zelensky to repudiate the commitments made.

And the claim about Russia not wanting to “integrate” with the West is sheer fabrication. Putin tried repeatedly to improve relations with Europe, including his not-entirely-a-joke suggestion that Russia join NATO. Putin is often seen in Russia as having been far too accommodating to Europe for too long, swayed by his time in Germany. What was Nord Stream II, if not an effort to increase integration with Europe? And Russia funded half the construction cost; the other half came from four major energy players.

There’s also the bizarre notion that “Putin” needs a escape hatch. Huh? Russia is winning the war and the public, even former moderates, are firmly behind it, united both by the recognition that this is an existential fight for Russia and having that view confirmed by the intensity of Russia-hatred across the West. Even though Russia has taken a hit, it’s doing even better in the economic war. The longer it goes on, the more Russia recovers from the initial shock while the costs to the collective Wes escalate. The one way to get regime change in Russia would be for Putin to declare a ceasefire and sit down for talks.

As for the US and diplomacy, we turn the mike over to former US Colonel Douglas MacGregor (hat tip Andrei Martyanov):

But other than that, how was the play?

By David Barsamian and Noam Chomsky. Originally published at TomDispatch

David Barsamian: Let’s head into the most obvious nightmare of this moment, the war in Ukraine and its effects globally. But first a little background. Let’s start with President George H.W. Bush’s assurance to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch to the east” — and that pledge has been verified. My question to you is, why didn’t Gorbachev get that in writing?

Noam Chomsky: He accepted a gentleman’s agreement, which is not that uncommon in diplomacy. Shake-of-the-hand. Furthermore, having it on paper would have made no difference whatsoever. Treaties that are on paper are torn up all the time. What matters is good faith. And in fact, H.W. Bush, the first Bush, did honor the agreement explicitly. He even moved toward instituting a partnership in peace, which would accommodate the countries of Eurasia. NATO wouldn’t be disbanded but would be marginalized. Countries like Tajikistan, for example, could join without formally being part of NATO. And Gorbachev approved of that. It would have been a step toward creating what he called a common European home with no military alliances.

Clinton in his first couple of years also adhered to it. What the specialists say is that by about 1994, Clinton started to, as they put it, talk from both sides of his mouth. To the Russians he was saying: Yes, we’re going to adhere to the agreement. To the Polish community in the United States and other ethnic minorities, he was saying: Don’t worry, we’ll incorporate you within NATO. By about 1996-97, Clinton said this pretty explicitly to his friend Russian President Boris Yeltsin, whom he had helped win the 1996 election. He told Yeltsin: Don’t push too hard on this NATO business. We’re going to expand but I need it because of the ethnic vote in the United States.

In 1997, Clinton invited the so-called Visegrad countries — Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania — to join NATO. The Russians didn’t like it but didn’t make much of a fuss. Then the Baltic nations joined, again the same thing. In 2008, the second Bush, who was quite different from the first, invited Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Every U.S. diplomat understood very well that Georgia and Ukraine were red lines for Russia. They’ll tolerate the expansion elsewhere, but these are in their geostrategic heartland and they’re not going to tolerate expansion there. To continue with the story, the Maidan uprising took place in 2014, expelling the pro-Russian president and Ukraine moved toward the West.

From 2014, the U.S. and NATO began to pour arms into Ukraine — advanced weapons, military training, joint military exercises, moves to integrate Ukraine into the NATO military command. There’s no secret about this. It was quite open. Recently, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, bragged about it. He said: This is what we were doing since 2014. Well, of course, this is very consciously, highly provocative. They knew that they were encroaching on what every Russian leader regarded as an intolerable move. France and Germany vetoed it in 2008, but under U.S. pressure, it was kept on the agenda. And NATO, meaning the United States, moved to accelerate the de facto integration of Ukraine into the NATO military command.

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was elected with an overwhelming majority — I think about 70% of the vote — on a peace platform, a plan to implement peace with Eastern Ukraine and Russia, to settle the problem. He began to move forward on it and, in fact, tried to go to the Donbas, the Russian-oriented eastern region, to implement what’s called the Minsk II agreement. It would have meant a kind of federalization of Ukraine with a degree of autonomy for the Donbas, which is what they wanted. Something like Switzerland or Belgium. He was blocked by right-wing militias which threatened to murder him if he persisted with his effort.

Well, he’s a courageous man. He could have gone forward if he had had any backing from the United States. The U.S. refused. No backing, nothing, which meant he was left to hang out to dry and had to back off. The U.S. was intent on this policy of integrating Ukraine step by step into the NATO military command. That accelerated further when President Biden was elected. In September 2021, you could read it on the White House website. It wasn’t reported but, of course, the Russians knew it. Biden announced a program, a joint statement to accelerate the process of military training, military exercises, more weapons as part of what his administration called an “enhanced program” of preparation for NATO membership.

It accelerated further in November. This was all before the invasion. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed what was called a charter, which essentially formalized and extended this arrangement. A spokesman for the State Department conceded that before the invasion, the U.S. refused to discuss any Russian security concerns. All of this is part of the background.

On February 24th, Putin invaded, a criminal invasion. These serious provocations provide no justification for it. If Putin had been a statesman, what he would have done is something quite different. He would have gone back to French President Emmanuel Macron, grasped his tentative proposals, and moved to try to reach an accommodation with Europe, to take steps toward a European common home.

The U.S., of course, has always been opposed to that. This goes way back in Cold War history to French President De Gaulle’s initiatives to establish an independent Europe. In his phrase “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” integrating Russia with the West, which was a very natural accommodation for trade reasons and, obviously, security reasons as well. So, had there been any statesmen within Putin’s narrow circle, they would have grasped Macron’s initiatives and experimented to see whether, in fact, they could integrate with Europe and avert the crisis. Instead, what he chose was a policy which, from the Russian point of view, was total imbecility. Apart from the criminality of the invasion, he chose a policy that drove Europe deep into the pocket of the United States. In fact, it is even inducing Sweden and Finland to join NATO — the worst possible outcome from the Russian point of view, quite apart from the criminality of the invasion, and the very serious losses that Russia is suffering because of that.

So, criminality and stupidity on the Kremlin side, severe provocation on the U.S. side. That’s the background that has led to this. Can we try to bring this horror to an end? Or should we try to perpetuate it? Those are the choices.

There’s only one way to bring it to an end. That’s diplomacy. Now, diplomacy, by definition, means both sides accept it. They don’t like it, but they accept it as the least bad option. It would offer Putin some kind of escape hatch. That’s one possibility. The other is just to drag it out and see how much everybody will suffer, how many Ukrainians will die, how much Russia will suffer, how many millions of people will starve to death in Asia and Africa, how much we’ll proceed toward heating the environment to the point where there will be no possibility for a livable human existence. Those are the options. Well, with near 100% unanimity, the United States and most of Europe want to pick the no-diplomacy option. It’s explicit. We have to keep going to hurt Russia.

You can read columns in the New York Times, the London Financial Times, all over Europe. A common refrain is: we’ve got to make sure that Russia suffers. It doesn’t matter what happens to Ukraine or anyone else. Of course, this gamble assumes that if Putin is pushed to the limit, with no escape, forced to admit defeat, he’ll accept that and not use the weapons he has to devastate Ukraine.

There are a lot of things that Russia hasn’t done. Western analysts are rather surprised by it. Namely, they’ve not attacked the supply lines from Poland that are pouring weapons into Ukraine. They certainly could do it. That would very soon bring them into direct confrontation with NATO, meaning the U.S. Where it goes from there, you can guess. Anyone who’s ever looked at war games knows where it’ll go — up the escalatory ladder toward terminal nuclear war.

So, those are the games we’re playing with the lives of Ukrainians, Asians, and Africans, the future of civilization, in order to weaken Russia, to make sure that they suffer enough. Well, if you want to play that game, be honest about it. There’s no moral basis for it. In fact, it’s morally horrendous. And the people who are standing on a high horse about how we’re upholding principle are moral imbeciles when you think about what’s involved.

Barsamian: In the media, and among the political class in the United States, and probably in Europe, there’s much moral outrage about Russian barbarity, war crimes, and atrocities. No doubt they are occurring as they do in every war. Don’t you find that moral outrage a bit selective though?

Chomsky: The moral outrage is quite in place. There should be moral outrage. But you go to the Global South, they just can’t believe what they’re seeing. They condemn the war, of course. It’s a deplorable crime of aggression. Then they look at the West and say: What are you guys talking about? This is what you do to us all the time.

It’s kind of astonishing to see the difference in commentary. So, you read the New York Times and their big thinker, Thomas Friedman. He wrote a column a couple of weeks ago in which he just threw up his hands in despair. He said: What can we do? How can we live in a world that has a war criminal? We’ve never experienced this since Hitler. There’s a war criminal in Russia. We’re at a loss as to how to act. We’ve never imagined the idea that there could be a war criminal anywhere.

When people in the Global South hear this, they don’t know whether to crack up in laughter or ridicule. We have war criminals walking all over Washington. Actually, we know how to deal with our war criminals. In fact, it happened on the twentieth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Remember, this was an entirely unprovoked invasion, strongly opposed by world opinion. There was an interview with the perpetrator, George W. Bush, who then went on to invade Iraq, a major war criminal, in the style section of the Washington Post — an interview with, as they described it, this lovable goofy grandpa who was playing with his grandchildren, making jokes, showing off the portraits he painted of famous people he’d met. Just a beautiful, friendly environment.

So, we know how to deal with war criminals. Thomas Friedman is wrong. We deal with them very well.

Or take probably the major war criminal of the modern period, Henry Kissinger. We deal with him not only politely, but with great admiration. This is the man after all who transmitted the order to the Air Force, saying that there should be massive bombing of Cambodia — “anything that flies on anything that moves” was his phrase. I don’t know of a comparable example in the archival record of a call for mass genocide. And it was implemented with very intensive bombing of Cambodia. We don’t know much about it because we don’t investigate our own crimes. But Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan, serious historians of Cambodia, have described it. Then there’s our role in overthrowing Salvador Allende’s government in Chile and instituting a vicious dictatorship there, and on and on. So, we do know how to deal with our war criminals.

Still, Thomas Friedman can’t imagine that there’s anything like Ukraine. Nor was there any commentary on what he wrote, which means it was regarded as quite reasonable. You can hardly use the word selectivity. It’s beyond astonishing. So, yes, the moral outrage is perfectly in place. It’s good that Americans are finally beginning to show some outrage about major war crimes committed by someone else.

Barsamian: I’ve got a little puzzle for you. It’s in two parts. Russia’s military is inept and incompetent. Its soldiers have very low morale and are poorly led. Its economy ranks with Italy’s and Spain’s. That’s one part. The other part is Russia is a military colossus that threatens to overwhelm us. So, we need more weapons. Let’s expand NATO. How do you reconcile those two contradictory thoughts?

Chomsky: Those two thoughts are standard in the entire West. I just had a long interview in Sweden about their plans to join NATO. I pointed out that Swedish leaders have two contradictory ideas, the two you mentioned. One, gloating over the fact that Russia has proven itself to be a paper tiger that can’t conquer cities a couple of miles from its border defended by a mostly citizens’ army. So, they’re completely militarily incompetent. The other thought is: they’re poised to conquer the West and destroy us.

George Orwell had a name for that. He called it doublethink, the capacity to have two contradictory ideas in your mind and believe both of them. Orwell mistakenly thought that was something you could only have in the ultra-totalitarian state he was satirizing in 1984. He was wrong. You can have it in free democratic societies. We’re seeing a dramatic example of it right now. Incidentally, this is not the first time.

Such doublethink is, for instance, characteristic of Cold War thinking. You go way back to the major Cold War document of those years, NSC-68 in 1950. Look at it carefully and it showed that Europe alone, quite apart from the United States, was militarily on a par with Russia. But of course, we still had to have a huge rearmament program to counter the Kremlin design for world conquest.

That’s one document and it was a conscious approach. Dean Acheson, one of the authors, later said that it’s necessary to be “clearer than truth,” his phrase, in order to bludgeon the mass mind of government. We want to drive through this huge military budget, so we have to be “clearer than truth” by concocting a slave state that’s about to conquer the world. Such thinking runs right through the Cold War. I could give you many other examples, but we’re seeing it again now quite dramatically. And the way you put it is exactly correct: these two ideas are consuming the West.

Barsamian: It’s also interesting that diplomat George Kennan foresaw the danger of NATO moving its borders east in a very prescient op-ed he wrote that appeared in The New York Times in 1997.

Chomsky: Kennan had also been opposed to NSC-68. In fact, he had been the director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff. He was kicked out and replaced by Paul Nitze. He was regarded as too soft for such a hard world. He was a hawk, radically anticommunist, pretty brutal himself with regard to U.S. positions, but he realized that military confrontation with Russia made no sense.

Russia, he thought, would ultimately collapse from internal contradictions, which turned out to be correct. But he was considered a dove all the way through. In 1952, he was in favor of the unification of Germany outside the NATO military alliance. That was actually Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin’s proposal as well. Kennan was ambassador to the Soviet Union and a Russia specialist.

Stalin’s initiative. Kennan’s proposal.  Some Europeans supported it. It would have ended the Cold War. It would have meant a neutralized Germany, non-militarized and not part of any military bloc. It was almost totally ignored in Washington.

There was one foreign policy specialist, a respected one, James Warburg, who wrote a book about it. It’s worth reading. It’s called Germany: Key to Peace. In it, he urged that this idea be taken seriously. He was disregarded, ignored, ridiculed. I mentioned it a couple of times and was ridiculed as a lunatic, too. How could you believe Stalin? Well, the archives came out. Turns out he was apparently serious. You now read the leading Cold War historians, people like Melvin Leffler, and they recognize that there was a real opportunity for a peaceful settlement at the time, which was dismissed in favor of militarization, of a huge expansion of the military budget.

Now, let’s go to the Kennedy administration. When John Kennedy came into office, Nikita Khrushchev, leading Russia at the time, made a very important offer to carry out large-scale mutual reductions in offensive military weapons, which would have meant a sharp relaxation of tensions. The United States was far ahead militarily then. Khrushchev wanted to move toward economic development in Russia and understood that this was impossible in the context of a military confrontation with a far richer adversary. So, he first made that offer to President Dwight Eisenhower, who paid no attention. It was then offered to Kennedy and his administration responded with the largest peacetime buildup of military force in history — even though they knew that the United States was already far ahead.

The U.S. concocted a “missile gap.” Russia was about to overwhelm us with its advantage in missiles. Well, when the missile gap was exposed, it turned out to be in favor of the U.S. Russia had maybe four missiles exposed on an airbase somewhere.

You can go on and on like this. The security of the population is simply not a concern for policymakers. Security for the privileged, the rich, the corporate sector, arms manufacturers, yes, but not the rest of us. This doublethink is constant, sometimes conscious, sometimes not. It’s just what Orwell described, hyper-totalitarianism in a free society.

Barsamian: In an article in Truthout, you quote Eisenhower’s 1953 “Cross of Iron” speech. What did you find of interest there?

Chomsky: You should read it and you’ll see why it’s interesting. It’s the best speech he ever made. This was 1953 when he was just taking office. Basically, what he pointed out was that militarization was a tremendous attack on our own society. He — or whoever wrote the speech — put it pretty eloquently. One jet plane means this many fewer schools and hospitals. Every time we’re building up our military budget, we’re attacking ourselves.

He spelled it out in some detail, calling for a decline in the military budget. He had a pretty awful record himself, but in this respect he was right on target. And those words should be emblazoned in everyone’s memory. Recently, in fact, Biden proposed a huge military budget. Congress expanded it even beyond his wishes, which represents a major attack on our society, exactly as Eisenhower explained so many years ago.

The excuse: the claim that we have to defend ourselves from this paper tiger, so militarily incompetent it can’t move a couple of miles beyond its border without collapse. So, with a monstrous military budget, we have to severely harm ourselves and endanger the world, wasting enormous resources that will be necessary if we’re going to deal with the severe existential crises we face. Meanwhile, we pour taxpayer funds into the pockets of the fossil-fuel producers so that they can continue to destroy the world as quickly as possible. That’s what we’re witnessing with the vast expansion of both fossil-fuel production and military expenditures. There are people who are happy about this. Go to the executive offices of Lockheed Martin, ExxonMobil, they’re ecstatic. It’s a bonanza for them. They’re even being given credit for it. Now, they’re being lauded for saving civilization by destroying the possibility for life on Earth. Forget the Global South. If you imagine some extraterrestrials, if they existed, they’d think we were all totally insane. And they’d be right.

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  1. Safety First

    I, too, recommend everyone reads Eisenhower’s “Cross of Iron” speech (you can find the link to the text on Wikipedia). Because it does not say what Chomsky thinks or wants us to think it says.

    In brief, the text goes something like this:

    – Here are the free nations, freely frolicking, because they are free and such. Also, NATO, which is just a “free association” between free nations for freedom.

    – Evil Soviets decide to threaten everyone for no reason beyond utterly irrational paranoia and fear. Including of NATO. [The specific bits referenced by Chomsky – that “the cost of a modern bomber is…a brick school in 30 cities” – explicitly are made in the context of, evil USSR is ginning up the arms race, please stop. Nothing to do with the US military-industrial complex or whatnot.]

    – What the evil Soviets should do is give up their sphere of influence, completely climb down from every diplomatic position they’ve had since 1945, force established Communist regimes or movements in Asia to cease to be, and then we, meaning the US, can be happy and won’t have to build all those bombers that you are forcing us to build.

    Stop me if you hear any echoes to modern-day rhetoric.

    I mean, yes, the speech is more complex, especially when you drill down to Eisenhower’s list of specific proposals (because the text of each one is carefully crafted in light of previous diplomatic discussions with the Soviets). But that’s the general idea, in any case.

    And remember, literally as Eisenhower is making this speech, McCarthy is starting (had already started) his crusade as the chair of the Subcommittee on Investigations. Which crusade Eisenhower was fully prepared to go along with – and this fact was also not lost on the Soviets, who covered McCarthy’s exploits in their own press – until McCarthy started to push the Army around. So – your President is talking about peace (at the expense of giving up nearly everything and trusting America’s word), but your Senator and mass media are conducting a rabid anti-communism crusade. Again, stop me if any parallels come to mind.

    I won’t even deal with the whitewashing of Kennan – the George Kennan, the same George Kennan who had done so much to bring about Truman’s hyper-aggressive anti-Soviet and anti-China (meaning Communist China) policies, and whose Long Telegram is a master class in getting literally every single thing wrong in the service of an Elves-of-Valinor-vs-Orcs-of-Mordor style narrative his bosses were pushing at the time.

    Look, the early years of the Cold War is a massive and complex field of study, and trying to compress certain things into an interview like this is bound to lead to some distortions or omissions. [For example, Khruschev’s first and most significant gesture of peace was not the arms reduction offer, but rather the dramatic change in Soviet doctrine of Socialism that the post-Stalin elites pushed through in 1956-1957, but fine, there is no space to go into all of that, so let’s just say “arms reductions”.] But there must be some kind of limit. I wager next he’ll be telling us that Kennedy was a peacenik of the most dovish kind (and that his brother didn’t work for good old Joe McCarthy back in the day)…

    1. H. Toin

      Thanks for the clarifications; we could have hoped he would have at least got those long past events a smidgen right.

      Chomsky has been overall unreadable since he developed TDS early in Trump’s presidency. I remember him wailing about the risk of Trump reneging on the INF treaty in 2019 as if it was a uniquely dangerous thing, wilfully omitting that George W was the first to end a nuclear arms treaty (ABM and START II treaties, 2002) and that Obama had launched a nuclear arms modernisation program exceeding a trillion dollars.

      And on top of what Yves wrote, Russian military incompetence? Doesn’t Chomsky consult any alternative news sources?
      At this point he’s just a propagandist for the Democrats (vote Biden!); a very nuanced one compared to others but one just the same. Doing his part to manufacture consent…

      1. Carolinian

        There was some interview where Chomsky said every morning he reads or scans the NY Times front to back in order to find the back pages stories that don’t get enough attention. In other words he’s endorsing the NYT as a source of information but criticizing its leadership and their priorities. I suspect he may not have ever heard of this site or others that, unlike the NYT, can afford to be contrarian.

        So on the one hand he’s lightly informed by webhead standards (but deeply informed by MSM standards) and this instutional bias also applies to his reluctance to concede the role of the irrational in our public affairs. Thus the MIddle East was to him all about oil and greed with the ethnic angle downplayed. It’s always about large scale conspiracies rather than the fragile egos of people like Dubya or Biden. Perhaps the loathing of Trump fits into this world view where everyone is rationally, if unethically, pursuing their interests. No space for someone who is, in Yves’ words, the “naked id.”

        1. hemeantwell

          Thanks for info re Chomsky’s establishmentarian conception of critical sources. Several weeks ago he was hailed for his brave stand in favor of negotiations against Putin the Irrational, but the accompanying interview was full of the ignorance that Yves has charted so well here. 20th century Chomsky didn’t bother trying to be cagey, so I don’t think that explains why he has come to support the apparatus he so usefully criticized back then. I’ll put my money on aging + never having thoroughly considered the anti-Soviet propaganda that was part of the manufactured consent he criticized.

          Re Kennan, in a 2013 article on US strategic doctrine Perry Anderson went out of his way, delightfully, to disabuse the reader of the virtue Kennan purportedly acquired after he tried to back off from the implications of his Mr. X article. Throughout his career he was an arch-reactionary but was fairly successful in covering his tracks. E.g.

          After the war, promoted to Deputy Commandant of the National War
          College, he declared that if Russian military industry should make faster
          progress than American, ‘we would be justified in considering a preventive
          war’, unleashing nuclear weapons: ‘with probably ten good hits with
          atomic bombs you could, without any great loss of life or loss of the
          prestige or reputation of the United States, practically cripple Russia’s
          war-making potential’.45 At the head of the Policy Planning Staff in the
          State Department, and as consigliere to Acheson, he initiated covert paramilitary
          operations in Eastern Europe; advocated, if need be, us military
          intervention in Southern Europe and South-East Asia; urged support for
          French colonialism in North Africa; supervised cancellation of reforms
          in Japan; endorsed repression in Latin America; proposed American
          seizure of Taiwan; exulted when us troops were dispatched to Korea

          Kennan,… argued on
          the eve of the Second World War that immigrants, women and blacks
          should be stripped of the vote in the United States. Democracy was a ‘fetish’:
          needed was ‘constitutional change to the authoritarian state’—an
          American Estado Novo.53 After the War Kennan compared democracy to
          ‘one of those prehistoric monsters with a body as long as this room and a
          brain the size of a pin’, and never lost his belief that the country was best
          governed by an enlightened elite immune to popular passions

          1. Lambert Strether

            > an enlightened elite immune to popular passions

            Hopefully the spectacle of our elites joyfully heading off to infect each other at superspreading events has disabused us of any such notion.

          2. podcastkid

            Yep, thank God for a chart. I work a lot (for my age), and am too whooped to say more things. And to finess more what I do say. At least I know I’m supporting the right outfit here (meager support, but I’m “conservative” enough to have only tried supporting one other blog with a monthly contribution).

            I see Dean Baker has an article: “Will CNN Put Trump Back in the White House?” Question is will MSM coax Americans to back up WWIII? It’s like media these days simply put a veneer of “smartness” on something, and it flies. It’s simply a look of authority [does Chris Coumo seem convincing? No, apparently he only has to come off as a well oiled robot]. The “look,” the “veneer”…whatever it is, it just seems to me a little too lite to endure many more years. But at the moment people lose any sense of what’s geopolitical. And the veneer’s also troublesome when it comes to seeing what science is saying…in addition to what McGovern, Smith, and Ritter are saying on geopolitical matters. Now I’m getting closer to my old peace roots, but there was an interlude there where I wasn’t aware of any Robert C. Aldridge type books being published. I still think that’s probably what Chomsky’s overlooking, the first strike thing. Of course, it is a total phantasm [and it wouldn’t be such a big thing at the no-achieving-level it’s at right now if it weren’t for accidents that might happen while the US is trying to get there; on their end seems to me Russia has not enough hypersonics on submarines for that to be a first strike thing, if any. Face it, they don’t communicate a posture that they’d try it anyway].

            phantasm, see definition 1c

            And yet Putin knows our MICIMATT stupidly keeps trying to inch toward the capability. Ray McGovern says ISMW SAMs in Aegis Ashore “capsules” can be replaced with Cruise missiles, which will fit at/in these installations where the former were sit’n prior. It’s hard to find a word for it, but I’d call’em “quivers” or “quiver compartments” instead…a little like HIMARS. I heard Ritter and Ray last night with Regis Tremblay, and it seems Ritter did write a book on this germane. What’s the title?

            1. RobertC

              Aegis Ashore and Mark 41 Vertical Launching System

              The missiles are delivered in sealed canisters [capsules] that are loaded into launch cells [quiver compartments].

              Aegis Ashore is intended for BMD only (SM-3 missiles) but the launch cells and associated combat system software are capable of upgrades to accommodate SM-2 (anti-air) and Tomahawk (strike) missiles. I don’t know if there are any treaty limitations on Aegis Ashore installations. I no longer know the command authorities or the manning policies so won’t speculate.

              I will speculate there are plans to accommodate the awesome (fearsome) SM-6 Missile Used To Strike Frigate During Massive Sinking Exercise In Pacific whose deployment will greatly annoy Russia. Perhaps Russia will follow China and include replicas of the Romanian and Polish installations in their targeting exercise ranges.

        2. Lucy

          “I suspect he may not have ever heard of this site…”

          A slightly funny anecdote: I’m a linguist and was having dinner with Chomsky a few years back. He actually brought Naked Capitalism up and said positive things about it (though I can’t remember the details). But that stamp of approval is a big reason why I read this site to this day!

          1. Carolinian

            I stand corrected! However going by this article I don’t think he’s been reading it lately. The notion that Russia is running an incompetent campaign is MSM propaganda and those who leaf through the Times every day seem to have bought the narrative or at least see no need to challenge it. Consent on that point has been manufactured.

            Meanwhile what I know about Ukraine has come from sites like this one that have a better track record on foreign policy than the dubious NYT. Many of us took up with the web back in the Iraq war days or, really, in the late Clinton days. If they couldn’t be trusted then why should we believe them now? That frog (respectable media reliability and professionalism) has been boiled.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            I myself wonder whether Chomsky ever heard of Acres USA or Charles Walters Jr. I wonder if he ever heard of a thing called National Farmers Organization. I wonder if he ever heard of someone named Butch Swaim. I wondered if he ever heard or saw the quote . . . ” Before there can be a revolution, there must first be a revolution between the ears”.

            I wonder if he ever even heard of Frederick Soddy.

            But since I don’t get to travel in Chomsky-adjacent social circles, I will never get to ask the Great Man these questions.

            1. Robert Gray

              > But since I don’t get to travel in Chomsky-adjacent social circles,
              > I will never get to ask the Great Man these questions.

              I don’t know whether this is still true (as he is now 93 years of age) but back in the day he was famously approachable, for a Great Man, providing comprehensive, thoughtful answers to email from complete strangers.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Hopefully some of those strangers asked good questions worthy of having been asked.

        3. Leroy R

          I have to wonder if regularly consulting the NY Times dates back to the days before the internet, when it was hard to find a good daily aggregation of printed information, for better or worse… WSJ too.

      2. Telee

        Many many acronyms are used on this site with the misunderstanding that people reading this site will know what they all mean. I admit there are many times I don’t know what they mean and look them up to decipher their meaning. This just happened when I read that Chomsky developed TDS early in Trump’s presidency. Looking up TDS I find that it means a medication is prescribed to be taken 3x a day. How does that mean that Chomsky since developing TDS is unreadable? I have listened to Chomsky’s recent interviews and think that his mind is still working. Although he might not be completely accurate I think his basic premises are correct and am not taken the advice that he has outlived his usefulness seriously.

        1. caucus99percenter

          TDS = “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” characterized by a belief that Trump posed such an exceptional threat that stopping him justified wholesale abandonment and betrayal of one’s formerly espoused standards and principles…

          1. Telee

            Thank you for explaining what TDS means. However, I don’t think Chomsky has abandoned all his standards and principles because he thought it was important to get Trump out of office. For me, that is a ridiculous assumption.

            1. caucus99percenter

              Other observers may see the situation as Chomsky having gone from exposing the process of “manufacturing consent” to refashioning himself into a tool of that process when it comes to Biden vs. Trump, or war with Russia.

        2. Stick'em

          Trump Derangement Syndrome is a recycled trope from the Dubya Bush days. Charles Krauthammer started Bush Derangement Syndrome 20 years ago:

          Now it is normal to call someone’s vehement anger at a public political figure “Putin Derangement Syndrome” or “Obama Derangement Syndrome” and so on.

          While we as a culture tend to thrive on hyperbolic statements, I don’t think it is hyperbole to note Dubya and Trump are two of the worst presidents in US history. It’s not derangement to be aware of this but rather a pretty accurate description of their astounding level of incompetence and malice.

          In Chomsky’s case, he labeled the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization on earth” about 5 years ago, which translates to intentional hyperbole on his part. He advocates voting against them with the LoTE (lesser of two evils) justification. Thus Chomsky’s position is vote for Biden and vote for Hillary.

          Many NC (Naked Capitalism) readers don’t see much difference practically speaking in the Republican and Democrat wings of the duopoly. The US is a one party state, but in typical American extravagance, they have two of them. So many of us (including me) don’t buy Chomsky’s “vote for Democrats” line.

          To be fair, I think Chomsky knows full well LoTE voting isn’t going to fix anything. He thinks it is a very small part of our political lives to vote but still important to engage in as citizens.

          Yes, Trump and Dubya are criminally (purposefully?) incompetent. So we shouldn’t vote for ’em. Thing is, we’re way past fixing things through voting. HillBillary and Biden and Obama are destroying the world too, just with a slicker sales gimmick.

          Chomsky doesn’t want to admit this out loud so he can maintain some sense of hope, some sense of optimism. He needs the crew reading the NYTimes to listen to him. The NC readership is way past this point.

          I grew up reading Chomsky, so don’t underestimate his importance. He’s really a brilliant man.

          However, I’ve gravitated to more of a Chris Hedges outlook on politics in recent years, which is a really depressing, American Empire in Late-Stage Decline view.

          Hedges is probably a more objective take on the state of things than some form of HillBillary/Obama/Biden hopium. It’s just objectivity is really bad for your mental health, so most Americans willingly choose not to see it.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Under a President Democrat we get more Free Trade and corruption.

            Under a Republican President we will get closer to Christian Sharia Law Gilead Republican governance.

            Enough of a difference to matter to Chomsky. Enough of a difference to matter to the readers here?

    2. Kilgore Trout

      This interview was a disappointment, for all the reasons cited by Yves. Chomsky gets so much wrong about Putin and Russia. On JFK, there is pretty good evidence that in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs fiasco (which may have designed to fail, with the intent that it would draw in US forces to finish the job) and Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy no longer trusted the Joint Chiefs, nor the CIA, and had initiated back-channel talks with Krushchev via Pierre Salinger on arms reduction. There is also evidence that Kennedy had signed an executive order a month before his assassination that would have begun the withdrawal of US “advisors” from Vietnam. James Douglass’ “JFK and the Unspeakable” is one source for these claims.

      1. YankeeFrank

        Many people who scoff at the clear conspiracy to assassinate JFK (and RFK, and even likely JFK Jr. — both would have re-opened the investigation into JFK’s death) point to the “fact” that he was not a dove – helped keep the Vietnam war going (which is itself largely false as Kilgore asserts above), etc. What they fail to get is the clear pattern within the US security state of coups and assassinations of any govt or leader who even slightly breaks from CIA/deep state orthodoxy. Its a real will-to-power type situation with these creeps. Dissent is for commies and JFK was making lots of noises and taking serious actions that overtly broke with the deep state, whatever the exceptions.

        Its really no longer a mystery whether the CIA was involved in the JFK and RFK assassinations. The biggest remaining question is how deeply Mossad was involved (I’m Jewish so therefore allowed to say it — although this means I must be self-hating ).

      2. Dave in Austin

        I can’t agree with that. The original Eisenhower-approved plan was based on using whatever level of force was needed, with a preference for “covert and not in the NYT” over more a public US involvement. Eisenhower and the JCS were realists. Kennedy cut back the air support and thought the invasion would still work. It didn’t and Kennedy hadn’t seriously gamed-out the second “what if” stage. To his credit he learned his lesson, but I don’t think he blamed the JCS although various pro-Kennedy leaks in the NYT suggested “the JCS didn’t tell him”.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          There is a passage in Daniel Glover’s Humanity, takes from archives, on the Cuban Missile Crisis that contradicts your assertion. Kennedy saw their conduct as reckless and far too willing to precipitate a nuclear war.

          A key incident, recounted in a 2015 post:

          Glover regards two events as having had a disproportionate impact on Kennedy’s and his inner circle’s decision-making. One was the fact that Barbara Tuchmman’s The Guns of August was a recent best seller. It depicted the onset of World War I as a combination of interlocked treaty obligations that the key protagonists felt they had to act on before they could communicate with each other. Tuchman saw the start of the war as what we would now call tight coupling, where pre-set mechanisms moved forward in a way that could not be interrupted.

          The second seminal event was that Kennedy and his team, on their first day in office, got a half-day briefing on what the impact of a nuclear would look like.

          After the US blockaded Cuba, Khrushchev sent ships on course to Cuba, presumably to break the cordon. Secretary of State Dean Rusk asked the Admiral in charge of the operation what the Navy would do when the Russian ships approached. He was told they’d first make a shot across the bow. Rusk said asked what would happen next if the Russians were not deterred. The Admiral got testy and told Rusk that the Navy had been running blockades since 1812 and it was basically none of his business.

          I can’t locate the book readily to give the exact wording but this is the spirit of Rusk’s dressing down:

          This is not about your pettifogging naval traditions. The stakes are much higher than that. This operation is a means for the President to communicate with Khrushchev. You will remain in constant contact. You will not take a single action unless it has been explicitly authorized by the President. Have I made myself clear?

          Rusk and Kennedy saw the Pentagon thought it was above civilian control and weren’t on with that.

  2. JohnA

    I fear Chomsky is well past his sell-by or best-before date.

    Zelensky is the opposite of a courageous man. He is a despicable lying coward, quite content to send thousands of soldiers to certain and absolutely avoidable deaths, while continuing to terrorise the civilian people Donbass with indescriminate shelling. And he has the chutzpah to wear military green in all his appearances on the world stage without putting a hair on his head or chin in danger.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      I know I don’t. The intro was what I came here to read, and was not disappointing.

      The really puzzling thing about Chomsky is, he knows better. There’s no speculating or guessing about it. He’s better than this and we know it. Somehow Trump broke his brain, like he broke so many weaker brains. Pity, but so it goes. I try to ignore all of his recent proclamations so as to not ruin my opinion of his past work.

  3. The Rev Kev

    The more time that passes the more I am less impressed with reputations and want to see what people do in the here and now. So with Chomsky, remember how to save the planet he told everybody that they had to vote for Biden? How did that idea of his work out? But here the omissions that he makes are surprising to say the least. Yves has noted a few but to refer to dyed in the wool Nazis as right-wing militias is just white (supremacist) washing and he cannot be so ignorant that he does not know who they really are. But the following bit was almost painful to read-

    ‘If Putin had been a statesman, what he would have done is something quite different. He would have gone back to French President Emmanuel Macron, grasped his tentative proposals, and moved to try to reach an accommodation with Europe, to take steps toward a European common home.’

    It was the Europeans that shut down every single line of contact with the Russians that they had and I mean every single one. And Macro has been in power for years and made no effort to deal with the Ukrainian problem so why does Chomsky think that a new effort would have succeeded now? Does he not realize that the foreign policy for the EU is run out of a basement room under the Pentagon? And he refuses to put the NATO-Russia war into any sort of global context so here John Mearsheimer leaves him in the dust. Is Chomsky afraid for his reputation if he gives a few home truths of the context for this war? That he is afraid that he will be socially isolated for pointing out a few home truths? I mean, at 93 years-old you would think that he could really give his opinion and say to hell with the consequences. Or does he really not know what is going on? Either way, not good.

  4. Balzac

    Chomsky, yet again, gives us important perspective with every additional day that he lives, a great gift for humanity. He blames NATO expansion, US aggression and Putin. All is valid and all are responsible including Ukraine’s government (what a hoard of putrid Jewish Nazis, that’s a thing now, plenty of jews support Azov). The blame should only be on the person pulling the trigger regardless of the circumstances. Obviously if put recent history together, USA is the defacto fascist regime but unfortunately, in this particular situation, Putin has failed in the famous Trolley Problem that so wonderfully illuminates the morality of our choices by Philippa Foot.

    Suppose Ukraine becomes NATO. Will nato then invade Russia? I think we should always support the scenario with less blood shed no matter what and not let jingoism cloud our judgment.
    Currently the scenario for less blood shed is different, Ukraine should give up and agree to all terms from Russia. US is preventing this and thereby directly being complicit in the barbaric acts of Russia.

    No single country is ever right because inherently, being a country is wrong. We are all part of the same planet and drawing borders will inevitably always leads to war.

    1. ambrit

      We may be “one planet,” but the real problem is who gets to make the decisions that inform how the planet is run. The big lesson I glean from a lifetime observing this maleficent maelstrom of malicious mendacity is that ‘One Size Does Not Fit All.’ Populations have different values and objectives. Globalism is but a more modern version of the policy that authoritarians have promoted since history began for the denizens of this orbiting ball of rock, “Do as I say or suffer.”

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      How do we stop Free Trade if we don’t have borders to stop it at and stop it with?

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      How many wars has Iceland caused by drawing its borders and being a country?

  5. Mark Gisleson

    I love Chomsky for the work he’s done, and respect him enough that I mostly just ignore him now. A great mind ravaged by age, the engine of his thoughts is no longer hitting on all cylinders.

  6. AGR

    Somewhat disappointed with the thread becoming an indictment of Chomsky. I can’t think of anyone, past or present, that I can say that I agree with completely on any issue, and Chomsky is no exception. I may have to re-read to try and discern nuances I probably missed…but my initial take-away in his arguments is there’s a long history of western war crimes, the western corporate medias “reporting” and dissemination distorts and “fogs” perception, and the hypocrisy and “doublethink”(aka cognitive dissonance) in western “justifications”.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Because he seems so desperate, after pointing out that diplomacy is the only way out, to the avoid saying that the positions of the West are untenable and immoral. Only diplomacy now matters.

      Also, and this is not to fault Chomsky, because it is the fault of the times, he goes on and on and on. It’s the endless baroque.

      Right now, only diplomacy matters, and Eisenhower has been dead too long to affect the (impending) peace talks in Ukraine.

      1. John Wright

        Chomsky suggests diplomacy was shortchanged by the Russians:

        “He (Putin) would have gone back to French President Emmanuel Macron, grasped his tentative proposals, and moved to try to reach an accommodation with Europe, to take steps toward a European common home.”

        But then Chomsky asserts.

        “The U.S., of course, has always been opposed to that.”

        One can suggest that Putin (and the Russian leadership) realized that pursuing more diplomacy was a “fools game” because of the very US opposition that Chomsky noted.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The Russian had been trying to negotiate since Minsk and up through February 15, 2022. It was Zelensky, with US support (Kamala Harris was on the dais) who nixed it. To blame the Russians for not trying diplomacy after they went that route for years is offensively false.

  7. DJG, Reality Czar

    The problem is that Chomsky thinks that he is talking sweet reason, and then he says:

    “On February 24th, Putin invaded, a criminal invasion. These serious provocations provide no justification for it.”

    And this ritualistic observation is repeated endlessly by others so that they can exonerate themselves.

    Meanwhile, we are hearing that Biden and his gang of merry goons (and Hunter!) want the war to drag on for years.

    So who are the criminals? Remind me.

    These weren’t criminal? The war on Iraq. The Afghanistan military stagnation. The hidden genocide sponsored by the U.S. in Yemen. The omnishambles of the U.S.-led coup in Libya. The eleventy-dimensional U.S. operation in Syria that no one other than Obama understands.

    Yes. Czechoslovakia 1968. Hungary 1956.

    Ahh, the good old days: Kissinger and Cambodia. The Chicago Boys in Chile. The coup in Brazil that had it under military rule for some twenty years.

    The mystery of the Colonels in Greece.

    Let’s start with the idea that all wars are criminal. Maybe that will get people to the negotiating table, because I don’t want to listen to Chomsky’s sermonizing on criminality and “justification” and sinfulness. It’s time for realism and a peace conference. Sermon time is over, rev.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      “Czechoslovakia 1968. Hungary 1956” were the old USSR. If Putin had had expansionist designs he would not have pushed the separatists to accept a federalized solution within Ukraine.

      1. David in Santa Cruz

        It is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, who hold 19 percent of the seats in the Russian State Duma, who have been pushing for reunification of Crimea, Donbass, and Luhansk with Mother Russia. President Putin has been, and is, the anti-communist moderate seeking a diplomatic solution within the Normandy Format, Minsk II, and talks with President Macron.

        Zalinsky was elected as a “peace candidate” in 2019 but was bullied via death threats by nationalist fascists and by the corrupt and russophobic Biden regime into continuing the post-Euro Maidan campaign against the formerly Russian regions, contributing to the 14,000 dead and 1.5 million displaced as refugees.

        The Special Military Operation of the Russian Federation appears to be defensive in nature against a NATO-sponsored military build-up and is in no way comparable to the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and the former Czechoslovakia in 1968. Chomsky’s view that the SMO is “illegal” appears to be motivated by a view of all war as illegal — as well as a neo-Cold-War conformist fear of being de-platformed.

    2. Oknotko

      “These weren’t criminal? The war on Iraq. The Afghanistan military stagnation. The hidden genocide sponsored by the U.S. in Yemen. The omnishambles of the U.S.-led coup in Libya. The eleventy-dimensional U.S. operation in Syria that no one other than Obama understands.”

      Pretty much all of which Chomsky condemned?

  8. Susan the other

    Chomsky is a consistent anti-war crusader. If we want to call Little Bush a war criminal then we have to call Putin one as well. Or Clinton, or Obama. This raises the question: What justifies war? That’s the question for the 21st century. Another question should be: What is the best replacement for war? One thing is becoming very clear – economics and politics both create the desperation that leads to war. Nobody ever goes on an economic offensive to eliminate desperation. The Battle Hymn of the Republic notwithstanding.

  9. BradN

    I will always appreciate Chomsky for bringing many things to light for me that I doubt I would have learned otherwise.
    His early work was intensely researched and took a great deal of effort.
    Effort which, unsurprisingly, I do not see him able to make anymore.
    I have increasingly disagreed (respectfully) with him on issues, especially those in regards to future consequences.
    His voice is always worth considering though.
    Yves makes many excellent points that should be understood but which go unexplored in this interview.
    (David is a horrible interviewer and deserves a good part of the blame with his irritating method of questioning.)
    As Chomsky sadly and inevitably fades away, it is very wonderful to me to have NC (ironically discovered because of that ludicrous PropOrNot nonsense) and its community to more than fill in the gap.
    Many thanks to Yves and all of you.

  10. Mike28

    Chomsky has an opinion that has been forged by extensive reading and observation and I respect that opinion. I don’t necessarily agree with some of it (ie: Putin being a war criminal) but there is more honesty in what he has to say than you’ll find in most of the propaganda we get regarding geopolitical events in the Ukraine.

    Recently I read something from Norman Finkelstein about the events leading up to the recent Russian attack on Ukraine. The moderator referenced Chomsky and said that Putin should not have invaded regardless of prior provocations. Finkelstein then said, “what was Putin supposed to do?” Putin had a choice of Russia either being a vassal of NATO and the U.S. and forfeiting its status as a great power or fight a risky war and possibly maintain that status. Finkelstein didn’t agree with war as a solution but he also didn’t seem to see any other way out. The interview is on his website and it’s worth reading.

  11. Aumua

    I had the great privilege of being able to take a class with Professor Chomsky a few years back here at the U of A, and it was great to be able to meet him and sit for weekly lectures on the topic of “What is Politics”. But, the guy is very old. Which isn’t to say that he should be dismissed out of hand but still, I don’t think he is completely immune to the ‘manufactured consent’ of today.

    On the topic of the Col. MacGregor video though, he had me until at the very end where he casually tosses in “globalist marxist elitist” … wait, what? For me that pretty much called into question everything else he was saying.

    1. YPG

      I actually heard that comment-or a very similar one- on the Grayzone Podcast and had the same response. It does render all the good analysis he lays out beforehand as somewhat mystifying. Right after he said it, Max Blumenthal said something like, “Our Marxist listeners are probably going to take issue with that.”

      Based on what I’ve been reading here and elsewhere, I think MacGregor does seem basically right. But I think that’s because he knows warfare, is my guess. One can be very good at warfare and still have otherwise naïve and reactionary politics. It’s kind of like how Bill Gates is allowed to have and propagate seemingly endless bad ideas just because he may have a had a couple of good ideas in the past. At least MacGregor isn’t a billionaire, so he’s limited to analysis and rhetorical influence.

  12. Telee

    While I welcome Col. MacGregor’s observations on the Ukraine war and other stances he takes, I am not a follower of his overall politics. He is a loyal Trump supporter, thinks the border has to be fortified to keep out the black and brown people and thinks fossil fuel production has been hindered by the unjustified concern about global warming. Yet I think when he talks about militarism, the US is a bully etc. I agree. Unlike the the evaluation that insists that Chomsky’s views are not to be considered because their are some flaws in the analysis, I would rather not dismiss everything he says because it is not 100% correct and he is old. I see plenty of flaws ( many straw man arguments) in many of the comments recommending that we totally dismiss his views.

  13. Eric Anderson

    Many talk about the narcissism being endemic to the US. However, it occurs to me upon listening to Colonel MacGregor that our general mindset more resembles Borderline Personality Disorder. Everything is black or white. Ally or enemy.

    And how could it be any other way? Our entire government is premised upon an adversarial system. Truth is derived from the struggle between two opponents. The common law system? Check. The two party system? Check.

    That this system leads to a serious reduction in the cognitive complexity of the average citizen seems too obvious to mention. To say that our leaders are bound to cater to the lowest common denominator in this system is just plain banal.

  14. Diogenes

    Look at a list of the most corrupt countries.
    Algeria, Philippines, Egypt, El Salvador are all LESS corrupt than Ukraine.
    Ukraine is 122 out of 180 (Lower the number, the less corrupt, Denmark least corrupt, US is 27.)

    Zelensky was supported by the 5 Ukrainian oligarchs, that profit from the corruption, as does Zelensky.
    Zelensky was voted in under the deceit that he was to garner a peace with Russia and the eastern provinces.
    Once elected, he backtracked, provocatively sought NATO membership, moved troops to the east.
    He rejected the Minsk accords.

    Russia, for its own reasons, invaded.
    See Mearsheirmer.

    Zelensky’s purpose is to protect his benefactors, and to protect Zelensky.
    Simply the usual and customary political sham.
    A reasonable reading of the Ukraine war is that Zelensky has masterfully duped the entire West.

    With the US donating $40b of help and weapons, Germany self-immolating, along with most of the EU, the British, and even Canada.
    What is the likelihood that the weapons will ever reach the Ukrainian army in the east?
    What few weapons that are left after the Ukrainian mob siphons them off will be the target of Russian missiles.
    To over-emphasize the point, those weapons that don’t go to other mobsters around the world will be sold on eBay.

    Zelensky has engineered one of the 21st century’s biggest swindles: he’s convinced the entire West to irreversibly damage itself economically to benefit the Ukrainian mob.
    All so the mob can continue its exploitation the 40+ million Ukrainian people.
    You can’t help but admire such manipulative skill.
    May he end as Mussolini ended.

  15. Paul Arenson

    I am confused like many on the left snd am one of the ones blaming Nato. But not exclusively. Some multi polistas like Grayzone seem to automatically lean toward pro Putin, pro Assad, etc. So I tend to follow Lievens, Jonathan Feldman, etc.

    I realize that Chomsky is too generous calling Zelensky courageous. But what is Yyves suggesting. I don’t think he is supporting Putin’s war or denying that Russia has committed atrocities. Or am I mistaken? What should the left do. Here in Japan the rightwing LDP and Japanese Communist Party both display Ukrainian flags ad nauseum and the JCP assures us they are not pacifists and support self defense, sidestepping the facts that both sides commit atrocities, but it seems a cold calculation to win votes.

    So where SHOULD we stand. I sent money to Ukrainian anarchists but had second thoughts as they are willing to compromise on the issue of getting Nato arms. There is s Ukranian feminist on Canada who supports neither Zelensky nor Russia. There is a Ukraianian pacifist in Kiev I think who has a similar stance and detests racism by Ukraine and neighboring Nato countries against non Ukrainians trying to flee.

  16. MFB

    One thing which ought to be remembered is that Chomsky is, and has always been, an anarchist. This means that he reserves the right to denounce any government which, he believes, does not live up to his standards (which are extremely high) from a moral perspective which is capable of saying that all government, whatever it does, is to be blamed for anything which goes wrong.

    This isn’t something which can be easily overcome by taking thought. It led him, for instance, to support the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese (something which he does his best not to allow anyone to remember) because Pol Pot was Maoist and Hanoi was Stalinist and that was enough for him. He’s been a courageous voice of criticism of the U.S. government’s policies in part because he doesn’t see them as possessing any real legitimacy, but there’s a certain irresponsibility about his positions which has made them less valid over time, quite apart from the effects of age. (I agree that he’s become less incisive as he gets older.)

    However, in fairness, a lot of the U.S. Left is simply committed to the Democrats, which I think is more disastrous than any of Chomsky’s current weakness or past mistakes. Also, in fairness, Chomsky takes nuclear war very seriously, which most of the U.S. Left doesn’t.

  17. ZT

    How does the caption in the title “Ukraine is a Diplomacy No-Go Zone” square with this quote from the interview?

    “There’s only one way to bring it to an end. That’s diplomacy. Now, diplomacy, by definition, means both sides accept it. They don’t like it, but they accept it as the least bad option. It would offer Putin some kind of escape hatch. That’s one possibility. The other is just to drag it out and see how much everybody will suffer, how many Ukrainians will die, how much Russia will suffer, how many millions of people will starve to death in Asia and Africa, how much we’ll proceed toward heating the environment to the point where there will be no possibility for a livable human existence. Those are the options. Well, with near 100% unanimity, the United States and most of Europe want to pick the no-diplomacy option. It’s explicit. We have to keep going to hurt Russia.”

    And what exactly is the issue with Chomsky’s comments here? The critiques from everyone on this article are so bizarre. His analysis is pretty sober and in line with how most people are viewing the conflict outside of the West. What glaring misrepresentation did he make, or what offending party did he absolve of responsibility? I’m guessing it has become cool to hate on Chomsky now?

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