Scholarly polemicist Noam Chomsky's latest book Hegemony or Survival argues that America's strategy for the future is nothing less than the maintenance of American hegemony through the use or threat of military force--a strategy that threatens to leave the world a more dangerous and divided place. He goes on to claim that the only other world superpower with any chance whatever of curbing America's ideologically driven quest for global dominance is World Public Opinion. Recent books on American involvement in Middle East affairs, books such as Dilip Hiro's Iraq, Rampton and Stauber's Weapons of Mass Deception, and, more recently, The Guardian sponsored The War We Could Not Stop have also drawn attention to the propaganda war waged upon the American public by the Bush administration. For Chomsky this is by no means a new development. He sees American foreign policy historically showing a remarkably pattern of hypocrisy, racism, exploitation, and cynical manipulation of public opinion by successive US administrations. What is new and disturbing about the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq, he says, is the precedent America and Britain have set for establishing new norms of international law. The concept of "preventative war" must have its victims and those victims must be weak, yet important enough to be worth the trouble. Any country that is opposed to US interests but is capable of defending itself--i.e., those with nuclear capabilities--will be left alone. He leaves us with the terrifying assessment that the clear and catastrophic message to opponents of American hegemony is to get nuclear--quick. It's the only way to keep the bully off our backs.
One of Chomsky's special talent remains his ability to undermine comforting platitudes--such as the idea that we Westerners have become more "humanitarian" over the last few decades or that we have been making steady moral progress. As with Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival is relentlessly damning of the American political and economic elite and highly sceptical of the idea that virtue is to be found there. But if you're looking for a more balanced and hopeful examination of America's excursion into modern empire building and the problems it poses try Michael Ignatieff's Empire Lite. --Larry Brown