Review: Imperial Ambitions–Conversations on the Post-9/11 World (American Empire Project) (Paperback)

4 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback

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4.0 out of 5 stars Call to arms for We the People (Intellectual Self-Defense),

October 23, 2005
Noam Chomsky
There are always gems to be found in anything that Chomsky offers (I agree with the Boston Globe’s assessment of him as “America’s most useful citizen”) but one can always be warned when the offering is interviews, double-spaced, over time.

In this instance, the Introduction is actually useful and I agree with David Barsamian when he describes Chomsky as an extraordinary distiller and interpreter of information, who represents all that intellectuals *should* be.

One aspect of the book that is new to Chomsky’s writing is his clear and distinct appreciation for the freedom’s that we enjoy in America. While we are all subject to the arbitrary declaration by the government that we are an “enemy combatant” with no rights, on balance Chomsky goes out of his way in this series of interviews to articulate his love for America and his appreciation of the privileges that attend one who is both a citizen and a tenured (now retired) professor.

As a long-time reader of Chomsky, I found some delight in his recollection of the beginnings of propaganda (in England, with the stated intent “to direct the thought of most of the world”) and I learned for the first time that Chomsky credits Walter Lippman with the phrase “manufacturing consent” that Chomsky used as the title of his most famous co-authored work.

Chomsky offers some fascinating geopolitical insights with his suggestion that the Trans-Siberian Railway might be extended to run down through North Korean into South Korea, and his views that ASEAN plus 3 (China, Korea, Japan) might rise to super-power status. I am especially taken with his view that China might be the power that saves America from itself, orchestrating a balance of power and sanity arrangement from that side of the world.

Chomsky returns to a familiar theme in this book, that of war crimes and the US being a very guilty party, but for the first time, I see Chomsky forgiving of the soldiers on the front lines, and even of their general officers, and placing all of the blame on the civilians that direct the military from the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This is new. I fully expect Americans to be brought up on war crime charges in the next ten years, and I expect the American public to support this when the evidence is presented in graphic terms.

Chomsky also returns to his theme of the US harboring terrorists and hence not being able to claim the high ground against other nations. I was impressed by how the Cubans gathered evidence on the Florida-based assassins and violators of US law, and how elegantly the Cubans presented this evidence to the FBI. I was dismayed but not surprised to find the FBI arresting the Cuban infiltrators rather than the assasins–this is the same FBI that has convicted fewer than five actual terrorists, each with an average jail sentence of 14 days, from thousands of arrests. So much for intelligent effective federal investigations.

The book concludes with a fascinating discussion of “intellectual self-defense” that is a call to arms for every intelligent American (we need to be concerned–that may only be about one fifth of us).

This is something of a quickie book, not at all as substantive as Chomsky’s usual works, but with many gems never-the-less. Certainly worth buying and reading.

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