Book Review from the March 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs. By Noam Chomsky, Pluto Press, 2000.
Over the years, Chomsky has been described in various ways: as “the medic trying to cure a national endemic of selective amnesia”; as “the most dangerous man in the US”; as “the little boy who told the emperor he was naked” and, more recently by the New York Times, as “an exploder of received truths”. In this, his latest book, we find Chomsky very much living up to this long-standing reputation.
It is often said that if you’ve read one Chomsky book, you’ve read them all, which is perhaps true in so far as he is a relentless critic of US foreign and domestic policy, sinking his teeth deeper into the same old foe like a vengeful rottweiler with each new publication. Rogue States is no departure from the norm—it’s Chomsky doing what he does best.
Through skilful analysis of internal documents combined with historical context, a meticulous scrutiny of the activities of the US State Dept and a thorough gleaning of the quality broadsheets both sides of the pond, Chomsky again sets himself the task of gauging the US and its allies by the standards they use as justification for the interference in the lives of others.
The Balkans, East Timor and Colombia come in for close scrutiny in separate chapters which reveal the extent of US collusion in the ongoing misery there. In Kosovo, observes Chomsky, the US “has chosen a course of action that undermines—perhaps destroys—promising democratic development”. The Clinton regime’s praise for Colombia as “leading democracy” is stringently challenged by Chomsky. Citing Colombia’s human rights record as one of the worst in the world, Chomsky provides ample proof that the Clinton/Blair doctrine of “new humanism”—the self-styled “historic mission of bringing justice and freedom to the suffering people of the world”—is a total sham. Colombia, notorious for its state terror, produces 300,000 refugees and 3,000 deaths per year at the hands of its security forces, yet is presently the biggest recipient of US military aid in Latin America. The same favoured nation status is reserved for Turkey, whose security forces, in their persecution of the Kurdish people, have destroyed 3,500 villages and created three million refugees. Meanwhile, the US is keen to promote the redeeming qualities of resource-rich Indonesia ahead of the political fate of East Timor at the hands of the former.
Chomsky further reveals the US to be wholly contemptuous and dismissive of UN resolutions and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights it helped to bring into existence and to be severely lacking in any credible justification for its policies beyond its own borders. In the regard, Chomsky further highlights the US passion for free trade, pointing to the developing countries compelled not only to accept US cigarettes and other drugs and commodities but also to advertise them under threat of trade sanctions.
Sanctions and indeed debt “is a very powerful weapon of control” says Chomsky, with half the world subject to US unilateral sanctions, a cruel form of economic coercion condemned repeatedly by the UN. In a chapter on the paranoiac US relationship with Cuba, Chomsky reminds us that Cuba has suffered 40 years of embargoes—the longest in history, and in spite of two-thirds of the US population opposing the sanctions and in breach of WTO rules, all of which is dismissed with the defence that Cuba is a threat to US national security.
Though this can at times be a hard-going book for the uninitiated, the mountains of information make it an indispensable reference work and guide to the methods the powerful use to further their own interests to the detriment of so many. It is moreover an invaluable tool for deciphering the rhetoric the powerful use to rationalise their excesses.