I recently watched Noam Chomsky’s Distorted Morality, which features a speech he gave at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. While I disagree with his final conclusion, there are some things to be learned from his speech.
The thesis of his speech is that the War on Terrorism is a logical impossibility. He bases this thesis on the premise that the actions of America since the rise of international terrorism have been hypocritical. He cites our continuous defense of Israel in the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly, as well as our support of anti-government forces in Nicaragua as examples of American state-sponsored terrorism. Chomsky is notorious for his criticisms of American foreign policy, and this speech is certainly no exception. The hardest part to swallow is his claim that our invasion of Afghanistan constituted terrorism (or worse, aggression).
While it is hard to disagree that we have not been consistent in our fight on terrorism (assuming that we choose to classify all anti-government actions as terrorism and refuse to acknowledge freedom-fighters), his criticism of our invasion of Afghanistan actually distracts people from other parts of his argument that deserve serious attention and could lead to real changes. For example, our support of Israel in the United Nations is too extreme, giving them military latitude that no other states receive. Also, those the CIA has protected or helped elevate to power, and how they achieved those goals, needs to be debated (in fact many of our so-called allies should be evaluated).
There needs to be open criticism of government policies and Chomsky’s wealth of knowledge of American foreign policy makes him an ideal person for the job. Unfortunately, his extremism causes his arguments to get lost, as even moderate liberals balk at his criticism of accepted actions like the invasion of Afghanistan.