Posted 1 year ago on Dec. 29, 2011, 11:57 a.m. EST by flip
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Egypt Independent: What is your view on the unfolding of events regarding the military’s transitional period? And where do you think the US stands on this?
Noam Chomsky: From the outset, there has been every reason to expect that the US and the military, which are of course closely allied, would do what they can to limit functioning democracy.
Egypt Independent: For what particular reasons, in your opinion?
Chomsky: The military, for obvious reasons: they want to maintain the maximum of political control and protect their considerable economic interests. The US government, for a range of reasons: The narrowest is that they are well aware of Egyptian public opinion, as reported in polls run by the most prestigious US polling agencies, and the last thing they want is for those opinions to be reflected in policy, as would happen in a functioning democracy. The broader reason is that in general, democracy is considered a threat to power interests, at home as well. Abroad, it is well-established in mainstream scholarship that the US has supported democracy if and only if it conforms to strategic and economic interests, and there isn’t the slightest evidence that these understandable, if deplorable, commitments have changed.
Egypt Independent: Why the continued statements from Washington condemning military brutality and advocating the flourishing of democracy?
Chomsky: Of course there is a rhetorical commitment to democracy and all good things, but only the most naïve take such protestations seriously, on the part of any state. And practice, including very recent practice, fully accords with the traditional doctrines.
Egypt Independent: What do you mean by “traditional doctrines?”
Chomsky: When a favored dictator is endangered, as happens over and over, Washington follows a fairly straightforward procedure: Support him as long as possible. If it is no longer possible, for example, if the army turns against him, then issue ringing declarations about our yearning for democracy and then work hard to keep the former system of domination and control in place, as much as possible. Examples abound: Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier, Chun, Ceausescu, Mobutu, Suharto, and others. That the same procedure was followed in the case of Mubarak should surprise no one.
Egypt Independent: Do you sense that the US would be willing to compromise principles such as human rights in order to maintain interests such as Israel and the Camp David accords?
Chomsky: Principles such as “human rights” cannot really be compromised, because they are not seriously upheld in the first place — except, of course, with regard to enemies, or where major power interests are not at stake. The evidence on this is overwhelming, not just for the US of course, so much so that it is superfluous even to recall some of the numerous examples. US power centers, state and private, have longstanding strategic and economic concerns in the region, which they continue to regard as vital. Government policies reflect these concerns, as did those of Britain and France in their days in the sun (and still, even as minor powers). And the same is true of others.
Egypt Independent: With regards to the US, do you believe everyone is on the same page across the board? i.e: state department, congress, white house, defense etc.
Chomsky: Systems of power are not homogeneous, so there are some differences within the government and the business-based power centers that have an enormous role in setting domestic and foreign policy. But the spectrum is not very broad. There are of course those who depart from the consensus, those whom Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy called “wild men in the wings.” And there are forces outside, including public opinion when large segments of the public are organized and active. But within the operative spectrum, only restricted options are tolerated, as the record clearly reveals.