One of the most erudite and informed people on the planet is Noam Chomsky, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of countless books and a lecturer par excellence. The May 2017 edition of the London Review of Books contains reviews of three books written by Chomsky and one about Chomsky entitled “Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals” written by Neil Smith and Nicholas Allott. My review of the reviews follows.
Chomsky has developed a powerful critique of the double standard that prevails in mainstream examination of American foreign policy. The United States and its proxies are allowed to overthrow elected governments, pass off the mass murder of civilians as “collateral damage,” and reduce ancient cities to rubble—all “because we say so”—”without a twinge of self-doubt or a hint of self-examination.”
Exceptional assumptions explain the belief that the expansion of NATO can be justified. “One can imagine,” Chomsky observes, “how the U.S. would react if the Warsaw Pact were still alive, most of Latin America had joined, and now Mexico and Canada were applying for membership.” The support of NATO as sacrosanct, long after its original purpose of providing a bulwark against Soviet invasion has passed, he says, is indeed puzzling.
Chomsky’s critics have often complained of his focus on his own country’s crimes and hypocrisies. His response is always the same: The U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, the one most able to wreak havoc on others and therefore the one most deserving of critical scrutiny. He maintains that he, as a privileged American intellectual, will be listened to. Since l967, when he published his essay “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” he has believed it is appropriate to take responsibility for misdeeds committed by one’s government in the name of its citizens. “We should apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others.”
There is no way one could read the London Review article without having his/her basic beliefs about the foreign policy of the U.S. government challenged.