Must Read Books:
Deterring Democracy

Deterring Democracy. by Noam Chomsky. NY: Hill and Wang, 1991.

Note: The following are notes from the above book. I found the book seminal, eye-opening, life-changing. I recommend that you buy and read the entire book. Only by reading the entire book will you get the whole picture. The following quotes, I hope, will whet your appetite. --Colby Glass


"As if by reflex, state managers plead "security" to justify their programs. The plea rarely survives scrutiny. We regularly find that security threats are contrived... to induce a reluctant public to accept overseas adventures or costly intervention in the domestic economy. The factors that have typically driven policy in the postwar period are the need to impose or maintain a global system that will serve state power and the closely linked interests of the masters of the private economy, and to ensure its viability by means of public subsidy and a state-guaranteed market" (2).

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait... the virtually instinctive U.S. government reaction was to direct the confrontation to the arena of force, undercutting possible diplomatic opportunities..." (3).

"Diplomacy and international law have always been regarded as an annoying encumbrance, unless they can be used to advantage against an enemy. Every active player in world affairs professes to seek only peace and to prefer negotiations to violence and coercioin--even Hitler" (3).

"..the Gulf crisis.. a "watershed event in U.S. international relations," which will be seen in history as having "turned the U.S. military into an internationally financed public good," "an internationally financed police force"... the U.S. military [is] assuming a more explicitly mercenary role... The tacit assumption is that the public welfare is to be identified with the welfare of the Western industrial power, and particularly their domestic elites... We will therefore be "the world's rent-a-cops" and will be "able to charge handsomely" for the service; the term "rent-a-thug" would be less flattering but more appropriate" (5).


"...the structuring of values and operative choices, and measures to control the structuring of values--what we call 'propaganda' in the case of enemy states" (6).

Cold War: Fact and Fancy

"The great event of the current era is commonly taken to be the end of the Cold War, and the great question before us therefore is: What comes next?" (9)

During the cold war, the argument of the U.S. government was that we must, to defend and protect freedom around the world, vastly increase military spending. "To achieve these essential goals, we must overcome weaknesses in our society, such as "the excesses of a permanently open mind," "the excess of tolerance," and "dissent among us." We will have to learn to distinguish between the necessity of tolerance and the necessity for just suppression" ...Increased taxes are also necessary" (12-13).

The characteristic understanding of the situation was that "for the past fifty years American foreign policy has been formed in response to the threat posed by this country's opponents and enemies" (William Hyland). "Thus, we had no "genuine choices" when we invaded South Vietnam, overthrew the democratic capitalist government of Guatemala in 1954 and have maintained the rule of murderous gangsters ever since, ran by far the most extensive international terror operations in history against Cuba from the early 1960s and Nicaragua through the 1980s, sought to assassinate Lumumba and installed and maintained the brutal and corrupt Mobutu dictatorship, backed Trujillo, Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier, the generals of the southern cone, Suharto, the racist rulers of southern Africa, and a whole host of other major criminals; and on, and on. We could do nothing else, given the threat to our existence" (13-14).

"..the similarity of themes [in U.S. public relations].. reveals the extent to which worship of the state has become a secular religion for which the intellectuals serve as priesthood. The more primitive sectors of Western culture go further, fostering forms of idolatry in which such symbols as the flag become an object of forced veneration, and the state is called upon to punish any insult to them and to compel children to pledge their devotion daily.." (19).

"For the United States, the Cold War has been a history of worldwide subversion, aggression, and state terrorism, with examples too numerous to mention... the Cold War has provided a large part of the underpinnings for the system of public subsidy, private profit, that is proudly called Free Enterprise" (21).

"The Great Depression had put an end to any lingering beliefs that capitalism was a viable system. It was generally taken for granted that state intervention was necessary in order to maintain private power... New Deal measures had failed... the Depression was overcome only by the far more massive state intervention during the war.. this lesson was taught directly to the corporate managers who flocked to Washington to run the quasi-totalitarian wartime command economy" (21).

"The call in NSC 68 for "sacrifice and discipline" and cutback in social programs... The need for.. controls over unions, churches, schools, and other potential sources of dissidence... business had been deeply perterbed by the increasing politicization and organization of the general public--what was later called [by the Trilateral Commission] a "crisis of democracy" under the partially similar conditions of the post-Vietnam period. The same had been true immediately after World War I. In each case, the response was the same: Wilson's Red Scare, the post- World War II repression mislabeled "McCarthyism" ... Wars and other crises have a way of making people think and even organize, and private power regularly calls upon the state to contain such threats to its monopoly of the political arena and cultural hegemony" (22).

U.S. "political leadership has often failed to pursue apparent opportunities to reduce the threat of superpower confrontation... in 1952.. the Kremlin put forth a proposal for reunification and neutrilization of Germany, with no economic policies and with guarantees for "the rights of man and basic freedoms" ... the U.S. and its allies objected... the proposal was rejected with quite unreasonable demands...

"Had the Kremlin proposal been implemented, it would have eliminated whatever military threat the Soviet Union might have posed to Western Europe. There would probably have been no Soviet tanks in East Berlin in 1953, no Berlin Wall, no invasion of Hungary or Czechoslovakia-- but crucially, no ready justification for U.S. intervention and subversion worldwide, for state policies of economic management in the service of advanced industry...

"For years, these matters were off the agenda; even to mention the facts was to risk being castigated as an apologist for Stalin" (25).

"Other Soviet proposals were also left unexplored... "in January 1960, Nikita Khrushchev... announced a planned reduction by one-third [the Soviet armed forces] over the next two years." A few months later, U.S. intelligence verified huge cuts in active Soviet military forces... The tactical air force was cut in half.. naval air fighter-interceptors, about 1500 aircraft, were removed from the navy... In 1963, Krushchev.. withdrew more than 15,000 troops from East Germany, calling on the U.S. to undertake similar reductions of the military budget and of military forces in Europe and generally, and to move towards further reciprocal cuts... President Kennedy privately discussed such possibilities... [but] fail[ed] to respond to Khrushchev's initiatives...

"In the mid 1970s Soviet military spending began to level off... President Carter proposed a substantial increase in military spending and a cutback on social programs...

"Gorbachev's proposals in 1985-6 for a unilateral ban on nuclear weapons tests, the abolition of the Warsaw pact and NATO, removal of the U.S. and Soviet fleets from the Mediterranean, and other steps to reduce confrontation and tension were ignored [by the U.S.] or dismissed as an embarrassment. The virtual or sometimes complete international isolation of the United States on disarmament issues has.. been regularly suppressed [by the U.S. media]" (26-7).

In sum, "for the USSR the Cold War [was] primarily a war against its satellites, and for the U.S. a war against the Third World. For each, it.. served to entrench a particular system of domestic privilege and coercion... Throughout history, the standard device to mobilize a reluctant population has been the fear of an evil enemy" (28).

"If we have in mind the historical Cold War, not the ideological construct, then it is not true that the Cold War has ended. Rather, it has perhaps half-ended; Washington remains a player as before" (28-9).

"Defense against the Stalinist hordes no longer sells. The problem of the disappearing pretext was recognized years ago, but the efforts of the 1980s to overcome it--invoking lunatic Arab terrorists or Hispanic narcotraffickers for example--have too short a half-life to be truly effective" (32).

Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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