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Chomsky Classic

Chomsky Classic

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Published by Michael Drew Prior
For very strong, truth-based criticism of the government of the USA, Chomsky is incomparable. His ability to clearly bring forward innumerable relevant facts and contexts is truly incredible. If any American President had one little bit of the positively directed intelligence and motivation that Noam Chomsky consistently shares, we would experience a new birth of good sense and goodness--rather than the travesty of violence that most Americans, deluded as they are, fail to notice is currently filling in for a decent and wise foreign policy. Really, what we could use, better than any particular kind of President of the U.S., is an American citizenry that is strongly motivated to see that the international relations of their country are conducted in a decent and good way--that would require a truly vast change.
For very strong, truth-based criticism of the government of the USA, Chomsky is incomparable. His ability to clearly bring forward innumerable relevant facts and contexts is truly incredible. If any American President had one little bit of the positively directed intelligence and motivation that Noam Chomsky consistently shares, we would experience a new birth of good sense and goodness--rather than the travesty of violence that most Americans, deluded as they are, fail to notice is currently filling in for a decent and wise foreign policy. Really, what we could use, better than any particular kind of President of the U.S., is an American citizenry that is strongly motivated to see that the international relations of their country are conducted in a decent and good way--that would require a truly vast change.

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Published by: Michael Drew Prior on Aug 25, 2013
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06/27/2014

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Chomsky Classic: We Have the Means to End Civilization as WeKnow It—How Revolutionary Pacifism Can Preserve the Species
 August 23, 2013
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Editor's Note:
The following is the text of lecture given by Chomsky upon being awarded theSydney Peace Prize 
[3] 
,November 1, 2011. It remains one of the most powerful and  persuasive arguments for recognizing the dangers that modern,industrialized warfare pose to the future of humankind.
] As we all know, the United Nations was founded “to savesucceeding generations from the scourge of war.” The words canonly elicit deep regret when we consider how we have acted tofulfill that aspiration, though there have been a few significantsuccesses, notably in Europe.For centuries, Europe had been the most violent place on earth,with murderous and destructive internal conflicts and the forgingof a culture of war that enabled Europe to conquer most of theworld, shocking the victims, who were hardly pacifists, but were“appalled by the all-destructive fury of European warfare,” in thewords of British military historian Geoffrey Parker. And [it] enabled Europe to impose on its conquests what AdamSmith called “the savage injustice of the Europeans,” England inthe lead, as he did not fail to emphasize. The global conquesttook a particularly horrifying form in what is sometimes called “the Anglosphere,” England and its offshoots, settler-colonial societiesin which the indigenous societies were devastated and their people dispersed or exterminated.But since 1945 Europe has become internally the most peacefuland in many ways most humane region of the earth — which isthe source of some its current travail, an important topic that I willhave to put aside.
 
In scholarship, this dramatic transition is often attributed to thethesis of the “democratic peace”: democracies do not go to war with one another. Not to be overlooked, however, is thatEuropeans came to realise that the next time they indulge in their favorite pastime of slaughtering one another, the game will beover: civilization has developed means of destruction that canonly be used against those too weak to retaliate in kind, a largepart of the appalling history of the post-World War II years.It is not that the threat has ended. US-Soviet confrontations camepainfully close to virtually terminal nuclear war in ways that areshattering to contemplate, when we inspect them closely. And thethreat of nuclear war remains all too ominously alive, a matter towhich I will briefly return.Can we proceed to at least limit the scourge of war? One answer is given by absolute pacifists, including people I respect though Ihave never felt able to go beyond that. A somewhat morepersuasive stand, I think, is that of the pacifist thinker and socialactivist A.J. Muste, one of the great figures of 20th century America, in my opinion: what he called “revolutionary pacifism.”Muste disdained the search for peace without justice. He urgedthat “one must be a revolutionary before one can be a pacifist” —by which he meant that we must cease to “acquiesce [so] easily inevil conditions,” and must deal “honestly and adequately with thisninety percent of our problem” — “the violence on which thepresent system is based, and all the evil — material and spiritual— this entails for the masses of men throughout the world.”Unless we do so, he argued, “there is something ludicrous, andperhaps hypocritical, about our concern over the ten per cent of the violence employed by the rebels against oppression” — nomatter how hideous they may be. He was confronting the hardestproblem of the day for a pacifist, the question whether to take partin the anti-fascist war.
 
In writing about Muste’s stand 45 years ago, I quoted his warningthat “The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will teach him alesson?” His observation was all too apt at the time, while theIndochina wars were raging. And on all too many other occasionssince.The allies did not fight “the good war,” as it is commonly called,because of the awful crimes of fascism. Before their attacks onwestern powers, fascists were treated rather sympathetically,particularly “that admirable Italian gentleman,” as FDR calledMussolini.Even Hitler was regarded by the US State Department as a“moderate” holding off the extremists of right and left. The Britishwere even more sympathetic, particularly the business world.Roosevelt’s close confidant Sumner Welles reported to thepresident that the Munich settlement that dismemberedCzechoslovakia “presented the opportunity for the establishmentby the nations of the world of a new world order based upon justice and upon law,” in which the Nazi moderates would play aleading role. As late as April 1941, the influential statesman George Kennan, atthe dovish extreme of the postwar planning spectrum, wrote fromhis consular post in Berlin that German leaders have no wish to“see other people suffer under German rule,” are “most anxiousthat their new subjects should be happy in their care,” and aremaking “important compromises” to assure this benign outcome.Though by then the horrendous facts of the Holocaust were wellknown, they scarcely entered the Nuremberg trials, which focusedon aggression, “the supreme international crime differing onlyfrom other war crimes in that it contains within itself theaccumulated evil of the whole”: in Indochina, Iraq, and all toomany other places where we have much to contemplate.

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