Хорошо бы Америке подправить свою Конституцию, написанную еще в те времена, когда ее внешняя политика была столь несущественна, что с ней легко справлялся один человек.
A denunciation of American foreign policy aims, past and present.
Reviewed by Andrew J. Bacevich
Sunday, January 4, 2004; Page BW03
HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL
America's Quest for Global Dominance
By Noam Chomsky. Metropolitan. 278 pp. $22.
Fans of Noam Chomsky, identified on the dust jacket of this volume as "the world's foremost intellectual activist," will find much to like about his latest broadside against U. S. foreign policy. Hegemony or Survival bears all the earmarks of a typical Chomsky work. An impassioned polemic, it catalogues and recounts all of the real, alleged and imagined errors, inconsistencies and hypocrisies that have marred American statecraft over the past century. Readers already convinced that American power is and has always been a malevolent force will delight in Chomsky's findings. Readers searching for a reasoned explication of U.S. policy will be disappointed. Indeed, they will be wasting their time.
The book itself is an overcooked stew concocted for the most part of stale leftovers. American democracy, Chomsky announces yet again, is a fraud, little more than a mechanism for "controlling the general population." Senior U.S. officials use the world beyond our borders as one means of control, fabricating crises abroad to "frighten the populace into obedience." This process of manipulation is one in which the press is complicit, since the media offer the public a sanitized version of reality that nurses the myth of an innocent America surrounded by a sea of enemies. At once fearful and conditioned to "accept their meaningless and subordinate lives," Americans blindly defer to elites who promise safety. Thus are members of that elite empowered to pursue an agenda serving their own interests: "to institutionalize a radical restructuring of domestic society that will roll back the progressive reforms of a century, and to establish an imperial grand strategy of permanent world domination."
In the hands of the present Bush administration, with its disregard for international norms and its militaristic tendencies, this grand strategy has created conditions in which the very survival of the planet is now at stake. Recent developments, above all the Iraq War, affirm what Chomsky has known all along: The United States is a terrorist state -- odious, immoral, drunk on its own wild ambitions, and a threat to all mankind. As a consequence, Americans today find themselves trapped in a "nightmare" of the nation's own making. Awakening from that nightmare requires that the United States abandon its ambitions of global hegemony and accept the imperative of radical political reform -- blandly described here as "constructive alternatives of thought, actions, and institutions."
Yet if the reputed crimes of George W. Bush and his henchmen provide the nominal justification for this book, Chomsky makes it clear that they are acting in ways consistent with a longstanding tradition. His indictment includes major excursions to denounce Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon (especially), Ronald Reagan and even Bill Clinton -- each and every one of them a reckless and brutal mountebank. Tossed in for good measure are ritual denunciations of Israel, castigated as "an offshore US military and technology base" and collaborator with successive administrations in denying peace to the Middle East.
Reading Chomsky is a little like listening to AM talk radio, albeit with an inverted ideological slant. Chomsky's universe is the mirror image of the hard-core right-winger's: Intrigues and conspiracies abound; members of an all-powerful elite collude to muzzle the people, who are good and true; readily available solutions to pressing problems are suppressed because they do not serve the interests of the nefarious master class. In this world, adversaries are by definition motivated by sheer malice. Discourse (if it can be called that) entails the recitation of a handful of simple truths, depicted as beyond dispute. Challenges to the validity of those truths are not engaged but denounced. The tone alternates between shrill and smug and self-righteous. It is a child's world, intolerant of ambiguity. In the end Chomsky's purpose is identical to that of Rush Limbaugh and his sundry imitators: not to inquire or to learn but to reaffirm the self-evident -- an enterprise that to all but true believers quickly becomes tedious and annoying. Worse, the enterprise leads to a dead end.
No doubt Chomsky is correct that in its relations with the rest of the world the United States has been guilty of inconsistency and mendacity and of deploying its professed ideals to disguise acts of naked self-interest. In several respects, that is, the United States does not differ appreciably from other great powers in history -- hardly a revelation at this point, however much neoconservatives may insist otherwise.
So, too, Chomsky is right in noting that America today has arrogated to itself something akin to imperial prerogatives. Similarly, he is correct in suggesting that the United States has no intention of forfeiting its position of global dominance -- also something less than a novel observation, considering the torrent of recent commentary celebrating, bemoaning or otherwise taking stock of the American empire.
But in one crucial respect, Chomsky, with his ill-concealed contempt for his countrymen, is dead wrong. Far from having that empire foisted upon them, the American people were from the outset complicit in its creation. Americans today take great satisfaction in being number one. Rightly or wrongly, they have come to believe that preserving American freedom and democracy -- both, contra Chomsky, quite genuine -- and sustaining America's material abundance require remaking the world in our own image.
Ongoing events in Iraq hint at the extent to which such notions are misguided -- or at a minimum are likely to entail enormous costs. Extracting ourselves from the mess we're in will entail engaging citizens in a serious conversation about forging an alternative approach to policy that will secure American freedom at an affordable cost. That's a dialogue to which Noam Chomsky has nothing to contribute. •
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of international relations at Boston University and is the author of "American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy."