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US as a failed state?

An excerpt from Noam Chomsky’s new book Failed States is available at The Independent Online. Not surprisingly I don’t agree with this analysis.

Chomsky has three main criticisms of the US as a ‘failed state’:

1. It fails to protect its own citizens. US failures are contributing to the likelihood of nuclear war and environmental disaster by not committing to the abandonment on nuclear weapons and not signing the Kyoto accord.

2. It acts like a terrorist state in believing it is above the law. In particular, in its mission to bring conditional democracy that accords with US interests to a ‘suffering world’ – as an example Iraq must be ‘sovereign and democratic, but within limits’. It should therefore accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court and let the UN take the lead in international crises;

3. It is failing as a democracy. The US suffers from a serious ‘democratic deficit’ that deprives formal democratic institutions of real substance. The claim is that most ordinary US citizens oppose the policies cited in 1. and 2. While this may not be so ‘we cannot be very confident about the state of public opinion on such matters because of another feature of the democratic deficit: the topics scarcely enter into public discussion and the basic facts are little known’.

None of these points make much sense to me. US democracy is now working efficiently in pressuring US leaders on both Iraq and in dealing with greenhouse gas issues. I would not want the US to unilaterally abandon its holdings of nuclear weapons when other regimes (Pakistan, India, China, North Korea) won’t do so.

The US have acted unwisely in Iraq – its leader and Prime Minister Blair agree this is so – but it has not acted illegally and its motives were sound in seeking the removal of a hideous regime. Is the UN is the most effective agency in the world today to deal with international terrorism? Did the US not attempt sanctions via the UN against Iraq and has it not attempted – successfully it seems – to deal with current issues involving Iran through the UN?

US citizens have the right to throw out leaders that they don’t want and on the basis of current opinion polls look like doing just that – it is hard to buy the ‘democracy deficit’ viewpoint.

7 comments to US as a failed state?

  • patrick

    “its motives were sound in seeking the removal of a hideous regime”

    Harry, have you forgotten already?

    Its motives were not, in fact, to remove a hideous regime (otherwise we would be tramping off to Burma, and Uzbekistan and Bulgaria and many other places).

    Its motives were, in fact, to stop said regime from using nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction, which posed an imminent threat to the West in general and America in particular. They were the motives.

    I agree with some of your criticisms of Chomsky, but let’s not rewrite history here.

  • conrad

    Sorry to go off topic a bit, but you might find an inteview with Chomsky done by Ali G a little amusing.

  • hc

    The claimed WMDs were a motivation but were they going to give Saddam a US war service pension. No-one at the time of the invasion was under any doubt that Saddam was to be removed – because of claimed WMDs and his support for terrorism.

  • civitas

    “Its motives were not, in fact, to remove a hideous regime”

    actually, the invasion in March 2003 was very much to remove the saddam regime. In fact, Saddam was told prior to the invasion that he would be removed if he didn’t comply with the UNSC resolutions.

    “Its motives were, in fact, to stop said regime from using nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction, which posed an imminent threat to the West in general and America in particular.”

    No, this was not the motive. Saddam was required to PROVE to the UN that he had done with his wmd what he said he had. It was non-negotiable and in the absence of such proof, hostilities were resumed.

  • patrick

    Civitas, you are being disingenuous. The reason for regime change was the WMDs.

    See Here, here and here.

    I quote the relevant passages for you, from the president and Colin Powell:

    “The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.”

    “The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep.”

    “We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater.”

    “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.”

    The United States will not and cannot run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world.”

    This clearly demonstrates that the main reason for going to war was the threat posed by WMDs.

  • patrick

    I reiterate, as before, if regime change was simply the name of the game, there are a hundred countries to pick from. The stated reason was the threat, not Saddam’s dictatorship, cruelty, etc. however horrible they were.

  • civitas

    “Civitas, you are being disingenuous. The reason for regime change was the WMDs.”

    No it wasn’t, and there’s a very long writeen record of exactly why there was a regime change in Iraq, you can read that record in the UNSC resolutions. Resolutions were very specific in what they required Saddam to do.

    “This clearly demonstrates that the main reason for going to war was the threat posed by WMDs.”

    None of what you quoted in any way disputes the UNSC resolutions. Personally, I’m glad there is a permanent record that cannot be run away from.

    “I reiterate, as before, if regime change was simply the name of the game, there are a hundred countries to pick from.”

    with 17 binding UNSC resolutions against them? Resolutions that they’re ignoring?

    “The stated reason was the threat, not Saddam’s dictatorship, cruelty, etc. however horrible they were. “

    Actually, the world well recognized the cruelty of Saddam’s regime but that wasn’t enough to get the resolutions against Iraq.