Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chomsky on America's Anti-Communist Ideology

On page 8 of At War With Asia, Noam Chomsky writes, “The ideology of anti-Communism has served as a highly effective technique of popular mobilization in support of American policies of intervention and subversion in the postwar period . . . It is an ideology adapted to an era when the civilizing mission of the white race can no longer be invoked. Thus when the United States conquered the Philippines from its own population at the turn of the century. It was stoutly bearing the White Man’s burden, whereas today in Indochina it is defending the Free World against the savage Communists. In fact, in both cases, it is merely fulfilling the prophecy of Brooks Adams who proclaimed, three-quarters of a century ago, that ‘Our geographical position, our wealth , and our energy pre-eminently fit us to enter upon the development of Eastern Asia and to reduce it to part of our own economic system.’ Although many American scholars and ideologists refuse to admit it, the Vietnam war is simply a catastrophic episode, a grim and costly failure in this long-term effort to reduce Eastern Asia and much of the rest of the world to part of the American-dominated economic system. The foreign editor of Look magazine put the matter quite accurately when he wrote that in Vietnam ‘we have overreached ourselves. America’s historic westward-driving wave has crested’ – temporarily, at least.”


Chomsky begins badly by calling our resolve to oppose the Communist ideology an ideology of its own. Chomsky is not technically wrong. All sorts of political tendencies have been referred to as ideologies, but here we see him referring to an IDEOLOGY, capital letters, a system no one quibbles about calling an ideology: COMMUNISM, and he doesn’t call it an ideology. Instead he calls the opposing of it an ideology. And I take him to be dismissive of American anti-Communism. I take him to hold it in contempt.

Anti-Americans love to refer to the Philippines. That was our one half-hearted attempt at empire and it ended almost as soon as it began. Knowledgeable historians refer to it as evidence that we as a nation have no empirical ambitions. Yes, after the Spanish-American war we took the Philippines, but at the time the justification wasn’t considered to be empire but to keep it out of the hands of others. Even so, even if others did want it, we couldn’t in good conscience keep it and so set about a schedule of independence. Chomsky, however, suggests that the Philippines was part of an ongoing policy of empire. This is demonstrably false. He should have this episode in better perspective. Tying the Philippines to Anti-Communism – as the same ideology is absurd as anyone who has study the histories of the Philippines and Anti-Communism should know. Our isolationism provides a much better insight. Yes, we had some people in government who would have liked us to become an Empire, but they were not terribly influential and their views would have come athwart a population what was predominately isolationist. So who are these ideologists Chomsky is referring to? The small number that wanted us to be an empire? They failed. Surely not the people at large who were isolationists and in whom the desire for empire didn’t exist.

We now have ample evidence that what Chomsky wrote about in regard to our desire for an Asian empire was false. Plenty of people cried during our war in Vietnam, just as they did about our war in Iraq, to end it and come home. An empire was never a consideration in anyone’s mind except Leftists who don’t seem to have truth as their highest priority. If our heart was in it and if we shut up our anti-American media, which we could have done if we were the totalitarian ideology Chomsky implies that we are, we could have defeated the Communist Vietnamese. In fact we did that at Tet but the anti-American media turned our victory into defeat.

And we mustn’t forget that a policy was created during the Truman administration to oppose all Communist aggression; so in Korea and Vietnam first came the Communist aggression, and then followed our opposition to it. Chomsky turns that around. He ignores the Communist aggression or implies that we were using that pretense, not real aggression on the Communists part, to further our hankering after empire.

And about Brooks Adams (1848-1927). He was indeed a famous Anti-Capitalist – very influential in his day. The Dictionary of American Biography, says among other things, “He received recognition abroad, and The Law of Civilization was translated into French and German, the Economic Supremacy into German, and The New Empire into German and Russian. In whatever he wrote he showed a gift for generalization with a tendency to carry it beyond reasonable bounds.” http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/faculty/hodgson/Courses/progress/BrooksAdamsBio.html Could Brooks Adams have had an influence in Chomsky’s life? That would explain a lot.

The idea that Vietnam was part of a “long-term effort to reduce Eastern Asia and much of the rest of the world to part of the American-dominate economic system” is interesting. It would imply that there were Neocons back then trying to advance Wilson’s ideas. Of course Chomsky is wrong here as well. He is also wrong about Liberal-Democracy being dominated by America. We are the model, but we have to compete just like everyone else. We may be on top most of the time, but others may outcompete us from time to time. We won’t necessarily stay at the top in the free economic competition that is part and parcel of Liberal Democracy. We can see that Chomsky doesn’t have this reality in mind, but something more sinister, something more conspiracy-theory Fu-Manchuish.


Anonymous said...

those activist in the philippines who are anti americans are the slaves,followers of the asias longest runing communistsim the CPP-NPA-NDF they been posion thier minds just to leave thier jobs and rally and join the rebel movement they only want to destroy my mother land and give way to communist dictatorship system how shame is thet to my country how ever there are people hre that still love america and then still praise them also i'm one of it remember the political killings happen thereis the prt of the plan of the reds just to gain power and use the khermerouge type of government and cleanse the mind of the people that who loves democracy let us not believe from them the filippino activist is also part of their campgin just to to have populrity,sympaty,and solicate fund that they use in printing of communist logos,ralies, arms,ammunation,medical supplies,and other anti goverment activity here are the organizations that are link to them beware of these people BAYAN,KMU,BAYAN MUNA,KABATAAN,MIGRANTE,they are disguise as activist, soliicate more funds and use the reform to actract people and join in there movement until they will pioson you and join the reds movement well beware of them KILL THE COMMUNIST rise the democracy we love democracy we love america

Lawrence Helm said...

I agree with you.

See comments at http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2009/03/communist-party-of-philippines.html


Anonymous said...

"after the Spanish-American war we took the Philippines, but at the time the justification wasn’t considered to be empire but to keep it out of the hands of others. Even so, even if others did want it, we couldn’t in good conscience keep it and so set about a schedule of independence."

That is simply wrong. By the time the U.S. imperial forces intervened in the Philippines, the local nationalist revolutionary forces were already on the verge of victory against the Spanish colonizers.

In the guise of a civilizing mission, the U.S. imposed its will on the islands, killing 600,000 people (out of a population of 6 million!) and ultimately frustrated the Filipinos' national aspirations.

U.S. colonizers wanted to keep the Philippines "out of the hands of others," as you mentioned, because it was interested in the Philippines as a source of raw materials, a market for its surplus product and a field of investment for its surplus capital.

The U.S. colonial regime improved the system of transportation and communications and imposed its own school system with English as the medium of instruction in order to tighten its political, economic, cultural and military control of the Philippines.

It took several years of lobbying and mass actions from the Filipino people to pressure the American colonialists into even just considering the independence of the Philippine islands as an option.

And it took the grave circumstances of crisis in the U.S. motherland (the Great Depression) for the U.S. government to take concrete steps for setting what you call "a schedule of independence."

But this handing over of independence doesn't even make false what you call "an ongoing policy of empire."

The law that "set about a schedule of independence" for the Philippines made sure that among so many privileges, U.S. citizens and corporations would retain their property rights in the Philippines and that the U.S. government would be able to station its troops and occupy large areas of Philippine territory as its military bases.

Those who opposed this continued subservience to U.S. imperial interests were demonized as "savage communists" who were then imprisoned, tortured, disappeared, and salvaged.

Anonymous said...

During the U.S. war of conquest against the Philippines, Gen. Robert Hughes (commander of the U.S. occupying forces in the Visayan islands) brutally massacred civilians saying, "The women and children are part of the family, and where you wish to inflict a punishment you can punish the man probably worse in that way than in any other."

600,000 to 1.4 million Filipinos were killed during the Philippine-American War.