Friday, January 9, 2009

Does Chomsky mean what he says? (2)

ON page 27 of At War with Asia, Chomsky writes, “I mean to suggest that the Cold war is highly functional for the American elite as well as for its Soviet counterpart, who, in a similar way, sends its armies into Czechoslovakia to ward off Western Imperialism. It serves to proved an ideology for empire and to mobilize support for the government subsidized system of military state capitalism. It is predictable, then, that opportunities to end the Cold War will be side-stepped, and that challenges to Cold war ideology will be bitterly resisted.”

And then on pages 28 and 29 Chomsky writes, “Senator Arthur Vandenberg, twenty years ago, expressed his fear that the American Chief Executive would become ‘the number one war lord of the earth.’ That has since occurred. The clearest example, perhaps, was President Johnson’s decision to escalate the war in Vietnam in February 1965, in cynical disregard of the expressed will of the electorate. . . .”


I wrote about Gaddis, 1991 book, The United States and the End of the Cold War, that he had written a recent book on the subject of the Cold War but before I read the new book, I wanted to read this old one I already had, expressing his views at the end of the Cold War. I am more familiar with Gaddis’ books than Chomsky’s, but I happened to have this book of Chomsky’s on the Cold War, and though it was written in 1970, it was not repudiated by him and therefore seemed a good place to start. I must confess that I am not impressed with what I’ve read so far. The above is an example. He has preconceived ideas of our Liberal Democracy and makes a very cynical prediction: The Cold War will go on and on because it supports both Liberal Democracy and Soviet Communism. This predication was proved false with the failure of Soviet Russia in 1989, 19 years after Chomsky wrote his book.

That Chomsky was wrong about the Cold War is unremarkable. The failure of the USSR caught everyone by surprise, but what is unique about Chomsky’s error is that he believed that Capitalistic self-interest would keep the U.S. from wanting to defeat the USSR. Reagan telling Gorbachev, “tear down that wall,” was not on Chomsky’s horizon. Also, the dictatorship of the Proletariat was not as dependent upon the threat of military conflict as Chomsky surmised.

Now as to President Johnson being viewed as “the number one war lord of the earth,” I find that hard to take seriously. Johnson was the not very good at leading a war. His concerns were domestic and not international. The whiz kids he inherited from Kennedy weren’t as helpful as he hoped. He was out of his depth. Aside from it being a ludicrous suggestion, there is nothing that Johnson did in regard to Vietnam that was counter to the Containment Strategy formulated by Kennan. One can with good justification observe that Johnson’s “tactics” weren’t as effective as they should have been, but he didn’t back away from the containment “strategy.”

No comments: