By Wajahat Ali
Ali’s ZSpace page
September, 01 2008
Although mainstream media refuses him airtime, the New York Times states Chomsky remains one of the most “influential” intellectuals alive, constantly sought by students, universities, activists, academic symposiums, and world leaders.
ALI: In 1969 you published American Power and the New Mandarins, a critique of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and South East Asia. Many have drawn parallels between the current war in Iraq and our military actions in Vietnam. Are these parallels presumptuous or are there significant similarities?
CHOMSKY: The primary similarities have to do with how the wars are viewed in the U.S. (and the West generally). Apart from the margins, opinions range from “hawk” to “dove.” In both cases, the hawks say that with more commitment the U.S. could win. The doves, in both cases, take the stand expressed by Barack Obama about Iraq—a “strategic blunder,” too costly to ourselves—or by the prominent liberal historian and Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger. In 1966, when Vietnam was coming to be seen as a venture that was too costly for the U.S. Schlesinger explained that “we all pray” that the hawks will be right and that more troops (the “surge” of the day) will bring victory. If they prove to be right, we may all be praising “the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government” in winning victory while leaving “the tragic country gutted and devastated by bombs, burned by napalm, turned into a wasteland by chemical defoliation, a land of ruin and wreck,” with its “political and institutional fabric” pulverized. But escalation probably will not succeed, he felt, and will prove to be too costly for ourselves, so perhaps strategy should be rethought. The position of the doves on Iraq is rather similar. If, for example, General Petraeus could achieve anything like what Putin achieved in Chechnya, he would be elevated to the Pantheon, to applause from liberal doves.