Book Review: Noam Chomsky's Who Rules The World?

The eminent linguist Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at MIT, pours invective at the accepted political narrative promulgated by the then-Obama Administration. Written before the possibility of President Trump’s electoral victory cast its ominous shadow over American politics, Chomsky’s book peels apart the hypocrisy of the American government, evident (provided, that is, one had the requisite information) since the onset of the Cold War. In an incisive and searing analysis of contemporary American policies, Chomsky persuasively substantiates his point: that America, for all its talk of morality and freedom, actively works against the proliferation of the values treasured at home. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the subsequent end of the ideological conflict, America has found itself embroiled in one military quagmire after another, destabilizing and radicalizing the very regions and peoples it criticizes for harboring terrorist intent – showing that a leopard does not easily change its spots.
The one thing that strikes a reader is the firmly anti-American stance of Chomsky. To be specific, his tone is not anti-American-ideal, but simply opposed to American foreign policy. Most of the book censures American actions, from its sponsored massacres in Latin America, to its abortive Bay of Pigs Invasion, to its contemporary support of the mass Israeli project of resettlement in the Occupied Territories – a project that has seen prolonged rapine and murder targeted at the Palestinian population imprisoned there. There is much sense in what Chomsky writes, and in his perspective the issues that America faces today are altogether not that surprising. They are merely the consequences of illegitimate interventionism in other regions of the world, interventions which are commonly skimmed over and even omitted in the mainstream media; salient issues like the Iranian nuclear threat and the heightening radicalism and violence of Islamic Fundamentalism have their beginnings in the American realpolitik pursued during the Cold War.

The explosive nature of the current wave of civil protests against Donald Trump seems to mirror Chomsky’s disgust at America’s hypocrisy and Janus-faced political machinations. One comes away from Chomsky’s book thinking that he would have approved of such public outcry against the policies Obama himself sanctioned – such as the liberal use of drones for the purposes of assassination and his firm commitment to backing Israeli actions in the Middle East. Yet the emotional intensity of the current protests seem to stem from the public’s disgust at Trump’s obvious manifestations of impropriety, to take for instance his own actions and words against women. Many of the liberal perpetrators of such unrest firmly approve of Obama – yet this seems to be more a result of their rejection of Trump than because of any personal approbation they might have for Obama. What is conveniently forgotten is that Obama had shown himself as much of a vicious proponent of violence around the world, although undertaken to preserve America’s predominant position in global politics. Yet violence is violence; Trump may be a lesser politician, but his no matter his apparent proclivity towards making radical or ‘tough’ decisions, it would be difficult to prove that these are in essence more violent than what Obama had himself sponsored.

Who Rules the World?’ aggressively deconstructs the layers comprising American Exceptionalism; that is, the idea that America is somehow unique – a beacon of liberty and proponent of moral propriety in what would otherwise be a global order functioning as a Hobbesian state of nature. Conventional American thinking takes it for granted that America is a country built according to ideals, that it discharges its bilateral and multilateral relations according to reasonable values and that it polices the world by invoking a respect for the so-called impartial rule of law. It is thought that leadership by the US is somehow inherently better than by that of any other country simply because of its moralistic conception of world order. Chomsky shows that this is not so. America is a country that, just like any other, thrives on falsifying information and destroying its enemies as completely as its old adversary, the Soviet Union, the main difference being that its skill at propaganda is far more developed. It foments violence under the guise of promoting democracy and freedom, always careful not to reveal the fact that such governments (even those erected through democratic institutions like elections) as it allows must first and foremost be friendly toward the United States, above all else. From the CIA sponsored overthrow of the Shah’s government in Iran to the death of the South Vietnamese Ngo Dinh Diem at the hands of American-supported warlords, America’s security was always and everywhere placed before the destruction and disorder in other lands.

Perhaps the average American finds that this is justified, for no country can really be expected to look out for others at the expense of itself; if this is so, then there is no need to continue to farce. America can then refrain from propagandizing, for its ideals are mere chaff when compared to the fundamental rule of self-interest. Chomsky’s book is essential reading for those who wish to understand America’s penchant for dissemblance, for therein lies the beginning of the comprehension of the foundation of the world order.

Reading Description: Empirical and Argumentative

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