An active mind

<strong>What We Say Goes: Conversations on US Power in a Changing World</strong>

Noam Chomsky <em

Will there ever again be a public intellectual who commands the attention of so many across the planet? During the Vietnam War, Chomsky’s arguments helped define the responsibilities of the intellectual to society. He has since been an unstinting critic of US foreign policy, exposing in particular the effects of its efforts to oppose socialism in Latin America.

This series of interviews with David Barsamian is a thorough tour of today’s geopolitical horizon. For Chomsky, the greatest threat to civilisation is not global warming, peak oil or terrorism (though these are hardly to be taken lightly) but nuclear war. The Bush administration’s flouting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and weapons programmes of non-signatories such as India, Pakistan and Israel, have led to instability.

The argument against Chomsky is that, in his eagerness to condemn actions of the US, he lets its enemies off too lightly. His explanation for the rise of Hezbollah in the Middle East suggests this objection can be discounted: Lebanon lacks a deterrent against invasion, and the behaviour of Israel and the US reinforces the notion that such a deterrent is necessary. Chomsky is essentially an anarchist, and his distrust of power is general.

Matthew Taunton is a Leverhulme Fellow in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA, and is currently working on a book about the cultural resonances of the Russian Revolution in Britain.

This article first appeared in the 25 February 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Pakistan reborn