By Noam Chomsky, written following his trip to the Gaza Strip on October 25-30, 2012.
(Ashraf Amra / APA Images)
Posted Friday, March 31, 2006
The Israel Lobby?, ZNet (March 28, 2006). An excerpt:
I've received many requests to comment on the article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (henceforth M-W), published in the London Review of Books, which has been circulating extensively on the internet and has elicited a storm of controversy. A few thoughts on the matter follow.
Failed States video interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now (March 31, 2006). An excerpt:
And Bush administration policies have, again, consciously been carried out in a way, which they know is likely to increase the threat of terror. The most obvious example is the Iraq invasion. That was undertaken with the anticipation that it would be very likely to increase the threat of terror and also nuclear proliferation. And, in fact, that's exactly what happened, according to the judgment of the C.I.A., National Intelligence Council, foreign intelligence agencies, independent specialists. They all point out that, yes, as anticipated, it increased the threat of terror. In fact, it did so in ways well beyond what was anticipated.
Chat With Chomsky, The Washington Post (March 24, 2006). An excerpt:
The term "globalization," like most terms of public discourse, has two meanings: its literal meaning, and a technical sense used for doctrinal purposes. In its literal sense, "globalization" means international integration. Its strongest proponents since its origins have been the workers movements and the left (which is why unions are called "internationals"), and the strongest proponents today are those who meet annually in the World Social Forum and its many regional offshoots. In the technical sense defined by the powerful, they are described as "anti-globalization," which means that they favor globalization directed to the needs and concerns of people, not investors,financial institutions and other sectors of power, with the interests of people incidental. That's "globalization" in the technical doctrinal sense. Latin America is now exploring new and often promising paths in rejecting the doctrinal notions of "globalization," and also in the remarkable growth of popular movements and authentic participation in the political systems. How successful this will be is more a matter for action than for speculation.
Chomsky Calls for Iraqi Reparations, by Margot E. Edelman, The Harvard Crimson (March 22, 2006). An excerpt:
Famed linguist and provocative public intellectual Noam Chomsky criticized the Iraq War at an Institute of Politics (IOP) policy group yesterday, calling the occupation a bungled version of Nazi Germany in Vichy France. "America had endless resources to rebuild the place," he said. "But instead they have created a catastrophe. Take the Nazis. They had no problem running occupied territories.
Science in the Dock, discussion with Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Krauss & Sean M. Carroll, Science & Technology News (March 1, 2006). An excerpt:
People that are called intellectuals, their record is primarily service to power. It starts off in our earliest historical records, in the Bible for example. If you look at what the prophets were doing, they were what we would call dissident intellectuals. They were giving geopolitical critique, they were warning that the [Hebrew] kings were going to destroy the country. They were calling for support for suffering people, widows and orphans and so on. So they were what we call dissident intellectuals. Jesus himself, and most of the message of the Gospels, is a message of service to the poor, a critique of the rich and the powerful, and a pacifist doctrine. And it remained that way, that's what Christianity was up until Constantine. Constantine shifted it so the cross, which was the symbol of persecution of somebody working for the poor, was put on the shield of the Roman Empire. It became the symbol for violence and oppression, and that's pretty much what the church has been until the present. In fact, it's quite striking in recent years, elements of the church--in particular the Latin American bishops, but not only them--tried to go back to the Gospels.
The Backbone Campaign audio interview, Dismantling Empire, Building Democracy (March 20, 2006). Noam has been nominated for the Departments of Peace, Defense and State for the backbone cabinet.
Latin America and Asia Are at Last Breaking Free of Washington's Grip, The Guardian (March 15, 2006). An excerpt:
The prospect that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence has troubled US planners since the second world war. The concerns have only risen as the "tripolar order" - Europe, North America and Asia - has continued to evolve. Every day Latin America, too, is becoming more independent. Now Asia and the Americas are strengthening their ties while the reigning superpower, the odd man out, consumes itself in misadventures in the Middle East.
An Interview with Noam Chomsky, with Aryeh Weinstein, The Harvard Review of Philosophy, vol. 10 (June 4, 2002), pp. 41-47. An excerpt:
I think [Richard Posner's Public Intellectuals is] one of the silliest books I've ever looked at. Also, kind of interesting is his attempt to explain why people become engaged in this activity. So, why do I spend a lot of my time doing this? It must be because I'm trying to gain fame or fortune or something like that. Is that the way a human being acts? If you see a hungry child in the street and you give him a piece of bread is it because you're trying to gain fame and fortune? If you are involved in certain actions because you are part of a state and you think those actions are wrong and want to change them, is that any different than trying to help a child? Why does that have to be accounted for in terms of the gain that you get from it in some crazed economic model? That's absurd.
The Hour video interview, "The Cutting Edge of the Political Left", with George Stroumboulopoulos (March 13, 2006).
Why the End of the Cold War Doesn't Matter, by Doug Stokes, Review of International Studies, Vol. 29, No. 4 (October, 2003), pp. 569-585. Abstract:
Orthodox narratives of US foreign policy have been employed as uncontested modes of historical interpretation with US post-Cold War foreign policy in the Third World characterised by discontinuity from its earlier Cold War objectives. Chomsky's work adopts an alternative revisionist historiography that views US post-Cold War foreign policy as characterised by continuity with its earlier Cold War objectives. This article examines the continuities of US post-Cold War policy in Colombia, and explains this in terms of the maintenance of US access to South American oil, the preservation of regional (in)stability and the continued need to destroy challenges to US-led neoliberalism.
Discerning the Patterns of World Order, by Mark Laffey, Review of International Studies, Vol. 29, No. 4 (October, 2003), pp. 587-604. Abstract:
In this article I argue that Chomsky's political writings, widely ignored in the discipline, are a significant resource for thinking about contemporary world politics, how we should analyse it, and to what ends. This claim is defended through an analysis of recent efforts by IR scholars to interpret the post-Cold War order. When viewed through the analytic perspective articulated by Chomsky, disciplinary accounts of the post-Cold War world as liberal and peaceful are shown to be insufficiently attentive to the empirical record. Chomsky's political writings are also shown to be compatible with standard accounts of critical social science.
Moral Truisms, Empirical Evidence, and Foreign Policy, Review of International Studies, Vol. 29, No. 4 (October, 2003), pp. 605-620. Abstract:
Many studies of world politics fail to take evidence seriously or consider basic moral truisms (for example, that the standards we apply to others we must apply to ourselves). This commentary illustrates these assessments in relation to two subjects which have attracted much interest in the West recently--terrorism and just war to combat terrorism. The evidence shows that the United States has engaged extensively in terrorism and that application of just war principles would entitle the victims of that terrorism to use force against the United States to defend themselves if the United States is accorded that right.
Too Polemical or Too Critical?, by Eric Herring and Piers Robinson, Review of International Studies, Vol. 29, No. 4 (October, 2003), pp. 553-568. Abstract:
This special section breaks an important silence in British international relations journals toward Noam Chomsky's political writings. Behind this silence lies the bigger matter of the silence in these journals about the issues contained in Chomsky's work. These issues include the use and sponsorship by the United States of terrorism on a massive scale for many years; the failure of most Western academics to take any interest in those US actions; and the dereliction by Western academics of their duty to help those who are trying to stop the United States from acting in this way. Once we started to read Chomsky's work, we concluded that there was a great deal to be learned from it. However, when we began to draw on it, we came up against widespread hostility towards his work combined with both ignorance and misrepresentation of precisely what he writes. In order to explore this undue marginalisation, we solicited a number of articles, including one from Chomsky, which resulted in this collection.
CounterPunch interview, The Hopeful Signs Across Latin America, with Bernie Dwyer (March 7, 2006). An excerpt:
What's happening is something completely new in the history of the hemisphere. Since the Spanish conquest the countries of Latin America have been pretty much separated from one another and oriented toward the imperial power. There are also very sharp splits between the tiny wealthy elite and the huge suffering population. The elites sent their capital, took their trips, had their second homes, sent their children to study in whatever European country their country was closely connected with. I mean, even their transportation systems were oriented toward the outside for export of resources and so on. For the first time the Indian population is becoming politically quite active. They just won an election in Bolivia which is pretty remarkable. There is a huge Indian population in Ecuador, even in Peru, and some of them are calling for an Indian nation. Now they want to control their own resources. In fact, many don't even want their resources developed. Many don't see any particular point in having their culture and lifestyle destroyed so that people can sit in traffic jams in New York.
From Prensa Latina news agency:
Chomsky Slams US Troops in DR Santo Domingo, Mar 10 (Prensa Latina) The outstanding linguist US Noam Chomsky criticized his nation's military presence in the southern Dominican Republic coast, asserting any country should never admit foreign troops in its soil. "It is inconceivable that the US, France or Spain allow soldiers from abroad on their territory. Those are prerogatives of imperialist violence and must not be tolerated," he said. Chomsky recognized it is very easy to censure a small nation for obeying the larger one, while referring to US military presence in Barahona, where the New Horizons 2006 program is being developed. The US intellectual said military intervention and economic strangulation is not successful, and is forcing integration of the people.
Khaleej Times article, New World Relationships (March 10, 2006). An excerpt:
The prospect that Europe and Asia might move toward greater independence has troubled US planners since World War II. The concerns have only risen as the 'tripolar order'--Europe, North America and Asia-- has continued to evolve. Every day, Latin America, too, is becoming more independent. Now Asia and the Americas are strengthening their ties while the reigning superpower, the odd man out, consumes itself in misadventures in the Middle East.
Two Chomskyan Poems
You, Noam Chomsky
Colorless green ideas sleep furiously in the fan-shaped eyes, that welcomed only the color of the relevant world, wearing a face of man,
their green (in violent sleep, the nightmare day) draining to white or vagueness in a stretch of fear.
Address yourself, Ideas, to sleep. Furiously sleep, Ideas, green, colorless, involved in green, careless of responsibility.
Let all fury, entangled with your grammar, be a colorless green.
Sister Mary Jonathan, O.P. College English, No. 26, 1965, p. 395
Coiled Alizarine for Noam Chomsky
Curiously deep, the slumber of crimson thoughts: While breathless, in stodgy viridian, Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
John Hollander The Night Mirror, New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1971
Binghamton University audio talk, Imminent Crises: Paths Toward Solutions (March 8, 2006). An excerpt:
The selection of issues that should rank high on the agenda of concern is naturally a subjective matter, but there are at least two that demand high priority because they are literally matters of survival. One of them is the threat of nuclear war, and the second is environmental disaster, both of which are very real. [talk begins at 3:27]
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language, by Ray Jackendoff and Steven Pinker, Cognition, Vol. 97, No. 2 (September, 2005), pp. 211-225. Abstract:
In a continuation of the conversation with Fitch, Chomsky, and Hauser on the evolution of language, we examine their defense of the claim that the uniquely human, language-specific part of the language faculty (the "narrow language faculty") consists only of recursion, and that this part cannot be considered an adaptation to communication. We argue that their characterization of the narrow language faculty is problematic for many reasons, including its dichotomization of cognitive capacities into those that are utterly unique and those that are identical to nonlinguistic or nonhuman capacities, omitting capacities that may have been substantially modified during human evolution. We also question their dichotomy of the current utility versus original function of a trait, which omits traits that are adaptations for current use, and their dichotomy of humans and animals, which conflates similarity due to common function and similarity due to inheritance from a recent common ancestor. We show that recursion, though absent from other animals' communications systems, is found in visual cognition, hence cannot be the sole evolutionary development that granted language to humans. Finally, we note that despite Fitch et al.'s denial, their view of language evolution is tied to Chomsky's conception of language itself, which identifies combinatorial productivity with a core of "narrow syntax." An alternative conception, in which combinatoriality is spread across words and constructions, has both empirical advantages and greater evolutionary plausibility.
The Evolution of the Language Faculty: Clarifications and Implications, by W. Tecumseh Fitch, Marc D. Hauser & Noam Chomsky, Cognition, Vol. 97, No. 2 (September, 2005), pp. 179-210. Abstract:
In this response to Pinker and Jackendoff's critique, we extend our previous framework for discussion of language evolution, clarifying certain distinctions and elaborating on a number of points. In the first half of the paper, we reiterate that profitable research into the biology and evolution of language requires fractionation of "language" into component mechanisms and interfaces, a non-trivial endeavor whose results are unlikely to map onto traditional disciplinary boundaries. Our terminological distinction between FLN and FLB is intended to help clarify misunderstandings and aid interdisciplinary rapprochement. By blurring this distinction, Pinker and Jackendoff mischaracterize our hypothesis 3 which concerns only FLN, not "language" as a whole. Many of their arguments and examples are thus irrelevant to this hypothesis. Their critique of the minimalist program is for the most part equally irrelevant, because very few of the arguments in our original paper were tied to this program; in an online appendix we detail the deep inaccuracies in their characterization of this program. Concerning evolution, we believe that Pinker and Jackendoff's emphasis on the past adaptive history of the language faculty is misplaced. Such questions are unlikely to be resolved empirically due to a lack of relevant data, and invite speculation rather than research. Preoccupation with the issue has retarded progress in the field by diverting research away from empirical questions, many of which can be addressed with comparative data. Moreover, offering an adaptive hypothesis as an alternative to our hypothesis concerning mechanisms is a logical error, as questions of function are independent of those concerning mechanism. The second half of our paper consists of a detailed response to the specific data discussed by Pinker and Jackendoff. Although many of their examples are irrelevant to our original paper and arguments, we find several areas of substantive disagreement that could be resolved by future empirical research. We conclude that progress in understanding the evolution of language will require much more empirical research, grounded in modern comparative biology, more interdisciplinary collaboration, and much less of the adaptive storytelling and phylogenetic speculation that has traditionally characterized the field.
The Faculty of Language: What's Special About it?, by Steven Pinker and Ray Jackendoff, Cognition, Vol. 95, No. 2 (March, 2005), pp. 201-236. Abstract:
We examine the question of which aspects of language are uniquely human and uniquely linguistic in light of recent suggestions by Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch that the only such aspect is syntactic recursion, the rest of language being either specific to humans but not to language (e.g. words and concepts) or not specific to humans (e.g. speech perception). We find the hypothesis problematic. It ignores the many aspects of grammar that are not recursive, such as phonology, morphology, case, agreement, and many properties of words. It is inconsistent with the anatomy and neural control of the human vocal tract. And it is weakened by experiments suggesting that speech perception cannot be reduced to primate audition, that word learning cannot be reduced to fact learning, and that at least one gene involved in speech and language was evolutionarily selected in the human lineage but is not specific to recursion. The recursion-only claim, we suggest, is motivated by Chomsky's recent approach to syntax, the Minimalist Program, which de-emphasizes the same aspects of language. The approach, however, is sufficiently problematic that it cannot be used to support claims about evolution. We contest related arguments that language is not an adaptation, namely that it is "perfect," non-redundant, unusable in any partial form, and badly designed for communication. The hypothesis that language is a complex adaptation for communication which evolved piecemeal avoids all these problems.
Audio version of the Amnesty lecture War on Terror, RDS, Dublin (January 18, 2006). An excerpt:
The word 'terror' is one that rightly arouses strong emotions and deep concerns. The primary concern, naturally, should be to take measures to alleviate threat: it has been severe in the past, and it'is likely that it will be even more so in the future. To proceed with this in some serious way we should have established a few guidelines; here are several simple ones. The first is that facts matter, even if we don't happen to like them. The second is that elementary moral principles matter, even if they have consequences that we would prefer not to face. And the third is that relative clarity matters. So it's pointless to seek a truly precise definition of 'terror', or for that matter of any other concept outside of the hard sciences and mathematics, and often not even there, but we should seek enough clarity at least to be able to distinguish terror from two notions that lie uneasily at its borders: aggression, at one end; legitimate resistance, at the other. Terror finds its place somewhere between those two.
World of Ideas audio lecture, Noam Chomsky on Biolinguistic Explorations (February 19, 2006). [lecture begins at 2:36]
Logical Syntax and Semantics, Language (January-March, 1955).