Hegemony or Survival
|Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance|
|Publication date||November, 2003|
|Dewey Decimal||327.73/009/0511 22|
|LC Classification||E902 .C47 2003|
Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance is a study of the "American Empire" written by the American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky, then a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was first published in the United States in November 2003 by the company Metropolitan Books, and later republished in the United Kingdom by Penguin Books.
Chomsky's main argument in Hegemony or Survival is that the socio-economic elite who control the United States have pursued an "Imperial Grand Strategy" since the end of World War II in order to maintain global hegemony through military, political and economic means. He argues that in doing so they have repeatedly shown a total disregard for democracy and human rights, in stark contrast to the U.S. government's professed support for those values. Furthermore, he argues that this continual pursuit of global hegemony now threatens the existence of the human species itself because of the increasing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Drawing historical examples from 1945 through to 2003 to support his argument, Chomsky looks at the U.S. government's support for regimes responsible for mass human rights abuses, including ethnic cleansing and genocide, namely El Salvador, Colombia, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, South Africa and Indonesia. He also discusses U.S. support for militant dissident groups widely considered "terrorists", particularly in Nicaragua and Cuba, as well as direct military interventions, such as the Vietnam War, NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Afghan War and Iraq War, in order to further its power and grasp of resources. In doing so, he highlights that U.S. foreign policy – whether controlled by Republican or Democratic administrations – still follows the same agenda of gaining access to lucrative resources and maintaining U.S. world dominance.
Mainstream press reviews in the U.S. and U.K. were largely negative, although one review in Asia was more positive. In a speech before the UN General Assembly in September 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez openly praised the work. Sales of the book surged after the recommendation, its rank on Amazon.com rising to #1 on paperback and #6 hardcover in only a few days.
|This section requires expansion. (April 2012)|
Noam Chomsky (1928–) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Becoming academically involved in the field of linguistics, Chomsky eventually secured a job as Professor of Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the field of linguistics, he is credited as the creator or co-creator of the Chomsky hierarchy, the universal grammar theory, and the Chomsky–Schützenberger theorem.
Politically, Chomsky had held radical leftist views since childhood, identifying himself with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism. He was particularly known for his critiques of U.S. foreign policy and contemporary capitalism, and he has been described as a prominent cultural figure. His media criticism has included Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), co-written with Edward S. Herman, an analysis articulating the propaganda model theory for examining the media. According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992, and was the eighth most cited source overall. Chomsky is the author of over 100 books.
Chomsky's first chapter, entitled "Priorities and Prospects", provides an introduction to the U.S. government's global dominance at the start of 2003. Moving on, he looks at the role of elite propaganda – employed by both government and mass media – in shaping public opinion in both the U.S. and its ally, the United Kingdom. Citing Walter Lippman and James Madison, he highlights the historical role that shaping public opinion has had in these two liberal democracies, allowing a wealthy elite to thrive at the expense of the majority. As evidence for the manner in which the media has shaped public opinion on foreign policy, he turns to the role of the U.S. government in protecting its economic interests in the Central American nation of Nicaragua, first by supporting the military junta of General Somoza and then by supporting the Contra militias, in both instances leading to mass human rights abuses against the Nicaraguan populace which were ignored by the mainstream U.S. media. Chapter two, "Imperial Grand Strategy", looks at the U.S. government's belief that it should take part in "preventative war" against states who threaten its global hegemony, ignoring the fact that such actions are forbidden under international law. Chomsky argues that the targets of U.S. preventative war must be "virtually defenseless", "important enough to be worth the trouble" and also there must be "a way to portray it as the ultimate evil and an imminent threat to [U.S.] survival." Using the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an example, he discusses the manner in which the U.S. government and media portrayed the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein as a threat to both the U.S. and other Middle Eastern states, something which Chomsky argues it was not.
Chapter three, "The New Era of Enlightenment", explores further examples of U.S. interventionism in world affairs. Criticising the standard U.S. government claim that such interventionism is for humanitarian purposes, Chomsky instead maintains that it is an attempt to further the power of U.S. capitalism, with little interest in the welfare of the people involved. Using the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo as an example, he argues that western forces intervened not to protect Albanian Kosovans from Serbian aggression (as they claimed), but to humiliate and weaken Serbian President Slobodan Milosovic, who had remained resistant to western demands for years. He asserts that western criticism of foreign human rights abuses is politically motivated, highlighting the fact that while the U.S. were intervening in Kosovo, they were simultaneously backing, and funding, the governments' of Turkey, Colombia and Indonesia, all of whom were involved in widespread human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing. In the fourth chapter, "Dangerous Times", Chomsky focuses primarily on U.S. interventionism throughout Latin America, which the government has defended through its Monroe Doctrine. He discusses the U.S. campaign to topple the socialist government of Fidel Castro in Cuba, highlighting both its its economic embargo of the island and its financial backing for militant groups that attack Cuban targets, including the perpetrators of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the bombing of Cubana Flight 455. He furthermore discusses the U.S. government's role in training Latin American right wing paramilitary squads, who have perpetrated widespread human rights abuses across the region.
Chapter five, "The Iraq Connection", looks at the background to the 2003 Iraq War, beginning with an analysis of the activities of the Reagan administration in the 1980s, who focused their military efforts in Central America and the Middle East. Chomsky argues that the Reagan administration utilized fear and nationalist rhetoric to distract the public from the poor economic situation that the U.S. was facing, finding scapegoats in the form of the leftist governments of Libya, Grenada and Nicaragua, as well as the international drug trade. He then goes on to examine the long relationship that the U.S. has had with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, noting that the U.S. government actively supported Hussein throughout the Iran-Iraq War, Al-Anfal Campaign and the Halabja poison gas attack, only turning against their former ally after his Invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Proceeding to critique the idea that the Bush II administration was genuinely concerned about threats to U.S. security, he highlights their attempts to undermine international efforts to prevent the militarization of space, the abolition of biological warfare and the fight against global pollution, as well as the fact that they ignored all warnings that the Iraq invasion would cause a worldwide anti-American backlash. Exploring the dismissive attitude that the U.S. took towards those European governments who opposed the war, namely France and Germany, he then critiqued the idea that the U.S. wanted to install a democratic government in Iraq, instead merely wanting to install a puppet regime that would be obedient to U.S. corporate interests.
In the sixth chapter, "Dilemmas of Dominance", Chomsky explores the relationship that the U.S. has had with Eastern Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union and with East Asia since the Second World War. In the former, Chomsky argues, the U.S. has allied itself with the capitalist reformers who have advocated privatization and neoliberalism at the expense of the welfare state, leading to increased poverty and demographic decline across the region. In the latter, he has explored the role that the U.S. has played – through the likes of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 – in supporting capitalist development, but trying to ensure its own economic hegemony at the same time. Chapter seven, "Cauldron of Animosities", opens with a discussion of U.S. support for the increasing militarization of Israel and its illegal development of nuclear weapons, something Chomsky believes threatens peace in the Middle East by encouraging other nations like Iran and Iraq to do the same. He explores the longstanding western exploitation of the Middle East for its oil resources, first by the British Empire in the early 20th century and then subsequently by the U.S. post-World War II, and then looks at the U.S.' role in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, continually supporting Israel both militarily and politically, furthering human right abuses against the Palestinian people and repeatedly sabotaging the peace process.
The eighth chapter, "Terrorism and Justice: Some Useful Truisms", looks at what Chomsky calls "a few simple truths" regarding the criteria that is accepted for a conflict to be internationally recognized as a "just war". He argues that these truisms are continually ignored when it comes to the actions of the U.S. and her allies. Exploring the concepts of "terror" and "terrorism", he argues that the U.S. only use the term to refer to the actions of their enemies, and never to their own actions, no matter how similar they may be. As an example of such double standards, he highlights the public outcry at the killing of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American murdered by Palestinian "terrorists" in 1985, contrasting it with the complete U.S. ignorance of the Israeli military's killing of a disabled Palestinian, Kemal Zughayer, in 2002. Focusing in on the Afghan War – widely described as a "just war" in the U.S. press – he criticizes such a description, arguing that the conflict was opposed by the majority of the world's population, including the people of Afghanistan itself.
In the final chapter, "A Passing Nightmare", Chomsky turns his attention to one of the greatest threats to human survival – weapons of mass destruction. He argues that rather than helping to eradicate nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry, the U.S. has actually continually increased its number of nuclear warheads, thereby encouraging other nations, such as Russia, China, India and Pakistan, to do the same, putting the entire world in jeopardy of nuclear holocaust. Discussing the role of the U.S. in creating ballistic missile defense systems and encouraging the militarization of outer space, he notes that the U.S. government have continually undermined international treatise to decrease the number of weapons of mass destruction, because the American socio-economic elite believe that "hegemony is more important than survival." However, he argues that there is still hope for humanity if the citizens of the world – the "Second Superpower" – continue to criticize and oppose the actions of the U.S. government.
Main arguments 
U.S. Imperial Grand Strategy 
Chomsky's primary argument in Hegemony or Survival is that the government of the United States has pursued an "Imperial Grand Strategy" in order to maintain its status as the world's foremost superpower since at least the culmination of the Second World War. Having adopted the term "Imperial Grand Strategy" from the international affairs specialist John Ikenberry of Princeton University, he quotes Ikenberry on the nature of this doctrine and the manner in which it ignores international law, considering the "rule of force" to be more important than the "rule of law". Quoting liberal statesman Dean Acheson (1893–1971), Chomsky asserts that the purpose of this strategy is to prevent any challenge to the "power, position, and prestige of the United States".
Noting that economic decision making in the United States is highly centralized among a select socio-economic elite who control big business, he argues that this elite play a dominant role in this Imperial Grand Strategy because they consistently maintain a strong influence over successive U.S. governments. As a result, he declares, U.S. foreign policy has focused on gaining and maintaining unrestricted access to markets, energy supplies and strategic resources across the world. Chomsky goes on to categorize the specific purposes of the doctrine as:
- containing other centers of global power within the "overall framework of order" managed by the United States; maintaining control of the world's energy supplies; barring unacceptable forms of independent nationalism; and overcoming "crisis of democracy" within domestic enemy territory.
Chomsky proceeds to argue that as a part of this strategy, the U.S. has regularly engaged in "preventative war", which he highlights is illegal under international law and could be categorised as a war crime. Preventative war refers to conflict waged to prevent a nation ever reaching the stage where it could become a potential threat, and according to Chomsky, under the regimes of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush it has actively involved attacking "an imagined or invented threat" such as Grenada and Iraq. He differentiates this "preventative war" from "preemptive war", which he argues can be justifiable under international law in cases of self-defence. Examining examples of preventative war waged by the United States, he notes that all of the nations that have been attacked have shared the same three characteristics: 1) they are "virtually defenseless", 2) they are "important enough to be worth the trouble" and 3) there has been a way to portray them as "the ultimate evil and an imminent threat to our survival."
The Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq 
Chomsky argues that the Republican neoconservative administration of President George W. Bush, elected to the presidency in 2001, differed from earlier administrations in one key respect: it was open about adhering to the Imperial Grand Strategy, outright declaring that it would be willing to use force to ensure U.S. global hegemony despite international condemnation. Chomsky sees this as being in contrast to previous administrations, who had never explicitly informed the public that they adhered to such a doctrine. Instead, earlier administrations had discussions their intentions within elite circles known only to specialists or readers of dissident literature. Thus, where once only the socio-economic elite and their left-wing critics knew of the Imperial Grand Strategy, now the entire American populace are potentially aware of it. He considers this to be a "significant difference."
In Chomsky's view, the invasion of Iraq by a U.S. and U.K. coalition must be seen in the wider context of the U.S. government's Imperial Grand Strategy. He claims that the Iraq invasion fits the three criteria that he has highlighted for being classified as a U.S. target for pre-emptive war. Considering the country to be "virtually defenseless" against the superior might of the western armed forces, he also noted that securing control of the country would be an important move for the U.S. socio-economic elite, gaining unlimited access to the country's lucrative oil resources and asserting their own military might to intimidate other nations into compliance. Government and media propaganda also set out to forge an erroneous link between Iraq President Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, playing on the American people's horror of the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore they also wrongly claimed that the Iraqi government was developing weapons of mass destruction to be used against the U.S. or her allies. Chomsky remarks that the 2003 invasion of Iraq is particularly significant because it signals the "new norm" in international relations, and that in future the U.S. might be willing to wage a preventative war against "Iran, Syria, the Andean region, and a number of others."
Academic reviews 
Writing in the International Affairs journal, Michael T. Boyle of the Australian National University reviewed Hegemony or Survival alongside Immanuel Wallerstein's The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World (2003), considering both to be "well-considered if imperfect arguments" that the Bush administration's foreign policy was in keeping with a long history of U.S. interference in global affairs. Praising its "prescient" appearance and its analysis of the historical evidence, Boyle did, however, offer some criticism of the book. In stressing the Bush administration's continuity with earlier presidencies, Boyle argued that Chomsky had neglected to highlight the differences between the Bush administration and its predecessors, in particular its willingness to break relationships with long-standing allies. Furthermore, Boyle opined that Chomsky had failed to offer a "compelling explanation" for why the U.S. government was willing to declare war on Iraq in 2003, a conflict that was far costlier and riskier than the 1980's military adventures in Nicaragua and Grenada.
Press reviews 
Views in the U.S. press were mixed. In a review for The New York Times, the former reporter Samantha Power described the book as a "raging and often meandering assault" on U.S. foreign policy. Believing that Chomsky divides the world into two camps, the oppressor and the oppressed, she asserts that in Hegemony or Survival he portrays the United States as "the prime oppressor, [who] can do no right", meanwhile overlooking the crimes of the oppressed. Arguing that he completely ignores the concept that the U.S. might undertake any foreign interventions with good intentions, she asserts that his book is not easy to read, and that his "glib and caustic tone" are distracting. Furthermore she highlights problems with his use of end notes, particularly when some of these notes simply reference his earlier publications. Although disagreeing with his arguments, she believed that reading his book was "sobering and instructive", having value in illustrating how many non-Americans viewed the U.S. and highlighting many of the "structural defects" in U.S. foreign policy. Carol Armbrust discussed Chomsky's book critically in The Antioch Review, claiming that his writing style was "a monumental turnoff" and that only those who already agreed with Chomsky's leftist political views would read the book. Claiming that his opinions constituted "conspiracy theories", she compared his arguments to adding "two and two" together and getting "minus six".
Views in the British press were largely negative. Writing in The Observer, the journalist Nick Cohen wrote disparagingly of Hegemony or Survival, describing Chomsky as a "master of looking-glass politics", exemplifying a trend in the western Left for being more interested in anti-Americanism than in opposing the "fascist" regime of Saddam Hussein. Focusing his critique primarily on Chomsky and his readership than the book itself, he refers to its "convoluted prose", putting forward an argument that is "dense and filled with non sequiturs". In a shorter review also published in The Observer, Oliver Robinson described the work as an "unequivocally incensed, if meandering" study of U.S. foreign policy.
Piyush Mathur reviewed the work for Asia Times Online, a joint Thai-Hong Kongese publication. Praising the book, Mathur argued that by being a U.S. citizen who was willing to criticise his own government, Chomsky was showing "a way beyond parochialism" that avoided nationalistic or ethnocentric intentions. Highlighting Chomsky's "wry humor and sarcasm", he notes that the author "successfully shows that the American emperor, while preaching modesty to the rest, himself struts about rather ostentatiously." Mathur also turned his attention to the most prominent press reviews of the book that appeared in the U.S. and U.K., those of Power and Cohen. He argues that the former's review was "hardly charitable", and that she had narrowly framed Hegemony or Survival as a critique purely of the Bush administration, something Mathur highlighted it clearly was not. Turning to Cohen's "venomous" review, he highlights that it actually dealt very little with Chomsky's book, instead offering a diatribe against the Left, one which consisted of a "thoroughly convoluted vagueness". Ultimately, Mathur notes that the "strangely defensive and rather parochial posture" adopted by Power and Cohen was "entirely in line" with the reception that Chomsky had received from the Anglo-American world.
Hugo Chávez's endorsement 
In September 2006, the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez held up a Spanish-language copy of Hegemony or Survival during his speech at the United Nations. Chávez praised the work as an "excellent book to help us understand what has been happening in the world throughout the 20th century". He urged everyone present to read it, including those in the United States, remarking that "I think that the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States, because their threat is right in their own house." A vocal anti-imperialist and prominent critic of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in his native Latin America, Chávez went on to describe U.S. President Bush as the "devil" in his speech.
In the U.S., demand for the book dramatically increased. Within a week, sales of the book had risen tenfold. It reached number 1 on amazon.com's best-seller list, and number 6 in the best-seller lists of the bookstore chains Borders Group and Barnes & Noble. A prominent critic of Chomsky's political views, Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, told The New York Times that he believed most of those buying Hegemony or Survival would not read it, remarking that "I don't know anybody who's ever read a Chomsky book". Furthermore, he related that the MIT professor "does not write page turners, he writes page stoppers. There are a lot of bent pages in Noam Chomsky's books, and they are usually at about Page 16."
In response to Chávez's endorsement, Chomsky told The New York Times that he would be "happy to meet" the Venezuelan President, asserting that he was "quite interested" in what his administration had achieved and thought many of Chávez's views to be "quite constructive." This meeting ultimately came about in August 2009, when Chomsky visited the Latin American country. In a press conference to commence the meeting, Chávez made reference to the intellectual's work, remarking "Hegemony or survival; we opt for survival", before comparing Chomsky's thesis with the concept of "Socialism or Barbarism" advocated by the German Marxist Rosa Luxemburg in the early 20th century. Speaking through an interpreter, Chosmky replied that "I write about peace and criticize the barriers to peace; that's easy. What's harder is to create a better world... and what's so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela is that I can see how a better world is being created." He subsequently went on to Venezolana de Televisión, where he commented on the U.S. government's role in orchestrating the 2009 Honduran coup d'état then in full-swing to overthrow leftist President Manuel Zelaya. He also expressed his cautious support for the leftist reforms been implemented by the Venezuelan government, remarking his opinion that their moves "toward the creation of another socio-economic model could have a global impact if these projects are successfully carried out".
In the summer of 2011, Chomsky did however express criticism of Chávez's government over the controversial imprisonment of judge María Lourdes Afiuni, who had been detained since December 2009. The American asserted that he was "convinced that she must be set free, not only due to her physical and psychological health conditions, but in conformance with the human dignity the Bolivarian revolution presents as a goal." In December 2011, Chomsky reiterated this position, sending a letter to Chávez asking him to include the judge in his "Christmas-time pardons".
See also 
- "The Accidental Bestseller, Publishers Weekly, 5-5-03, accessed 05-03-11. "Chomsky's controversial political works...became mainstream bestsellers."
- Arnove, Anthony (March 1997). "In Perspective: Noam Chomsky". International Socialism. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
- Matt Dellinger, "Sounds and Sites: Noam Chomsky", The New Yorker, Link, 3-31-03, accessed 1-26-09
- "Noam Chomsky". Web.archive.org. 2010-05-28. Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
- "Chomsky is Citation Champ". MIT News Office. 1992-04-15. Retrieved 2007-09-03.
- Hughes, Samuel (July/August 2001). "Speech!". The Pennsylvania Gazette. Retrieved 2007-09-03. "According to a recent survey by the Institute for Scientific Information, only Marx, Lenin, Shakespeare, Aristotle, the Bible, Plato, and Freud are cited more often in academic journals than Chomsky, who edges out Hegel and Cicero."
- Robinson, Paul (1979-02-25). "The Chomsky Problem". The New York Times. "Judged in terms of the power, range, novelty and influence of his thought, Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive today. He is also a disturbingly divided intellectual."
- "Books". chomsky.info. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 1–10.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 11–49.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 51–72.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 73–108.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 109–143.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 145–156.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 157–185.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 187–216.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 217–237.
- Chomsky 2003. p. 125.
- Chomsky 2003. p. 11.
- Chomsky 2003. p. 14.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 15—16.
- Chomsky 2003. p. 14.
- Chomsky 2003. p. 12.
- Chomsky 2003. p. 17.
- Chomsky 2003. p. 16.
- Chomsky 2003. pp. 17–22.
- Boyle 2005.
- Power 2004.
- Armbrust 2005.
- Cohen 2003.
- Robinson 2004.
- Mann 2003.
- Mathur 2004.
- Carroll 2006.
- Rich 2006.
- The entire text of Chávez's speech translated into English can be found at Chávez 2006.
- BBC News 2006.
- Suggett 2009.
- Carroll 2011.
- Romero 2011.
- Lopez and Philips 2011.
- Armbrust, Carol (2005). "Review of Hegemony or Survival". The Antioch Review (Ohio: Antioch College) 63 (3): 594–595. doi:10.2307/4614867. JSTOR 4614867.
- Boyle, Michael T. (2005). "Review: Hegemony or survival: America's quest for global dominance". International Affairs 81 (1). doi:10.2307/3569230. JSTOR 3569230.
- Media articles
- "Chavez boosts Chomsky book sales". London: BBC News. 25 September 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Carroll, Rory (25 September 2006). "Chávez boosts Chomsky sales". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Carroll, Rory (3 July 2011). "Noam Chomsky criticises old friend Hugo Chávez for 'assault' on democracy". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Chávez, Hugo (20 September 2006). "Hugo Chavez Speech at United Nations". Newsmax Media. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Cohen, Nick (14 December 2003). "By the left... about turn". The Observer (London). Retrieved 08 July 2012.
- Lopez, Virginia; Phillips, Tom (21 December 2011). "Noam Chomsky pleads with Hugo Chávez to free judge in open letter". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 17 August 2012.
- Mathur, Piyash (10 July 2004). "A case against self-annihilation". Asia Times Online (Hong Kong). Retrieved 08 July 2012.
- Power, Samantha (04 January 2004). "The Everything Explainer". The New York Times (New York City). Retrieved 08 July 2012.
- Robinson, Oliver (23 May 2004). "Why do they hate us?". The Observer (London). Retrieved 08 July 2012.
- Romero, Simon (2 July 2011). "Noted Leftist Urges Chávez to Release Ailing Judge". The New York Times (New York City). Retrieved 08 July 2012.
- Suggett, James (28 August 2009). "Noam Chomsky in Venezuela: 'A better world is being created'". Rabble.ca (Canada). Retrieved 08 July 2012.
- The American Empire Project
- Amazon.com's book reviews and description
- Barnes & Noble's editorial reviews and overview
- OnTheIssues.org's book review and excerpts