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Who cares about American power?


At Public Books, Alex Cacioppo examines the curious reaction among the left-leaning US litterati to Noam Chomsky’s new book, Who Rules the World?, about the persistence of US political and military power in a changing geopolitical landscape. Specifically, Cacioppo deconstructs a review published in the New York Review of Books. The review’s curious assertions seem to indicate, according Cacioppo, that the liberal commentariat is rather more comfortable with America’s superpower status than they let on. Here’s an excerpt from Cacioppo’s article:

Most intriguing of Roth’s omissions is Chomsky’s citation of a study conducted by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival, and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War—human rights organizations from the United States, Canada, and Germany, respectively—that sought “to provide as realistic an estimate as possible of the total body count in the three main war zones [Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan] during 12 years of ‘war on terrorism.’” Their “conservative estimate” is that the global war on terror “killed about 1.3 million people, a toll that ‘could also be in excess of 2 million.’” There was “virtually no mention of it” in the news media, leading to Chomsky’s devastatingly succinct question: “Who cares?” In ignoring this passage, one may assume that Roth is among those who does not care.

Roth concedes that “it is useful to read Chomsky because he does undermine the facile if comforting myths that are often used to justify US action abroad—the distinction between, as Chomsky puts it, ‘what we stand for’ and ‘what we do.’” His “polemic” offers a viewpoint “held not only by American critics on the left but also many people around the world who are more likely to think of themselves as targeted rather than protected by US military power.” These are hard truths, which Roth makes sound as civil and courteous as a parlor room discussion.

A pattern emerges. Roth would have Chomsky toe the line, mouthing quiet criticisms of American means while always praising American ends. But the emeritus linguistics professor and world renowned dissident has his own agenda. One only hopes that Americans—most especially, our future president—are listening.

Image: The aircraft carrier USS George Washington. Via Public Books.