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Noam Chomsky in the Crimea

3 March 2014

12:03 PM

3 March 2014

12:03 PM

Go to London or of any other Western capital and here is what you will not see. You will not see mass demonstrations against the Russian invasion of the Ukraine swaying down the same streets in which the liberal-left marched against the invasion of Iraq. You will not hear prominent left-wing voices emphasizing that Putin is attempting more than an invasion; that the Russian Federation – and what a benign word ‘federation’ is for a revived Tsarist autocracy – is the last of the European empires, and is seeking to expand its borders, as empires always do.

In short, the activist left will not tell its followers that we are witnessing imperialism: not ‘cultural imperialism’ or ‘neo-colonialism’ or any of those other catchall, thought-forbidding phrases, but the real thing.

Ukraine has not committed crimes against humanity, so there is no duty on foreign states to intervene to protect its citizens. It does not menace its neighbours or threaten the international order by seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction. Moreover anyone with a sense of history knows that Putin is invading a region where the Russian empire in its Stalinist stage persecuted and deported native and Muslim Tartars.

Yet the same people who are the first to shout ‘Islamophobia’ and pledge their allegiance to endangered minorities stay silent. Just as they stay silent about the Syrian atrocities, although they would have been the first to march if the West had intervened after the Assad regime used chemical weapons.

Justifications for these hypocrisies are hard to find. Modern people admit to sexual behaviour their ancestors would have died rather than admit. But do not like to say that they are hypocrites, let alone explain their deceits. A few readers, however, have justified themselves by pointing to an argument by Noam Chomsky, in which he explained the double standards of his own career to his own satisfaction and the satisfaction of his easily pleased followers.

The Chomsky apologia is worth considering because it defends the rejection of universal values by millions of people in the rich world, many of whom will never have heard of Noam Chomsky, but feel as he does.


Chomsky divided his defence of concentrating his criticism on the West and ignoring crimes against humanity by others in two.

First, he said that the United States was the main cause of terror in the world – ‘the larger component of international violence’. I guess he lost many readers as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Before you dismiss them and say that Chomsky and his kind are hysterics, however, you must be careful not to make the same mistake as they do.

Human rights are not a competition. Western crimes are not diminished just because it is easy to prove that the United States or the West does not provide ‘the larger component of international violence’. To say in the Cold War that the West’s support of dictatorships in Latin America or Africa was not as bad as the crimes of Stalin, Mao or the Ethiopian colonels was back-covering relativism then. It put Western crimes into context but was meant to excuse them. America today still supports dictatorships. Today, the fact that Western-backed Saudi Arabia is a better place to live than, say, communist, North Korea is an irrelevance both to Saudis and North Koreans. In one area of coercive policy, meanwhile, America is as oppressive as any dictatorship. Per hundred thousand of population, its prison population is greater than Russia’s and far greater than China’s. That there is so little commentary on (let alone condemnation of) mass incarceration on a staggering scale shows how easily westerners accept an intolerable status quo, just because it has been like that for as long as anyone can remember.

The way to avoid double standard is so clear I feel embarrassed pointing it out. You stick by your values and praise or criticise without fear or favour. Chomsky, however, goes on to endorse double-standards. He presents a casuistic defence of hypocrisy, which many find comfort in. Even if, he says, America were responsible for only two per cent of the violence in the world rather than “the majority of it”, he would still concentrate all his criticism on American crimes because as a US citizen he can do something about American policy, but nothing about the crimes of others:

‘The ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.’

I will pass over the self-serving notion that Chomsky, brave man that he is, has taken the hard road while his opponents have chosen the easy life. It is not courageous to protest in a Western country against the actions of a Western government when Western societies protect your rights to protest, and to speak and to write freely. Instead you should consider the isolationist view conveyed by that glib little phrase “the atrocities of someone else”, which slips from his lips like a sneer.

Although there is something to be said for the notion that protest, like charity, should begin at home, Chomsky’s argument turns into the left-wing equivalent of the right-wing belief that we should not give aid to the poor world. When you rule out concern for the victims of ‘the atrocities someone else’ you prohibit lobbying for Western states to take in the refugees of ‘the atrocities of someone else’. You rule out organising diplomatic pressure, and investigating ‘the atrocities of someone else,’ and prosecutions in the international criminal court, and sanctions. In short, Chomsky rules out the idea of solidarity.

When solidarity goes, all kinds of contortions become possible. The worst elements of the Western left opposed Saddam Hussein, and wept hot tears for his victims. But when Saddam stopped being America’s de facto ally his crimes became “the atrocities of someone else,’ which they dismissed with a shrug. If Western governments were supporting Assad as a bulwark against radical Islam, the left would be marching against Baathist crimes. Equally, if NATO had intervened after Assad had used chemical weapons the left would also be marching – but this time against a ‘western war’.

As events have turned out, the West has done nothing worth mentioning in the Levant, so the mass murder in Syria can be dumped in the file marked ‘the atrocities of someone else,’ and forgotten.

The lack of principle on display shows the breakdown of any coherent far left project. We have seen alliances between western leftists and radical Islamists, even though radical Islam is a vicious movement of the religious right. Now we are seeing left-wing defences of Putin, even though Putin wants to make Russia a bulwark of reactionary politics.

I use the word ‘alliances’ because the indifference to ‘the atrocities of someone else’ Chomsky recommends always slips from neutrality to endorsement . Chomsky himself covered up for the intellectuals who justified the Serb atrocities against Bosnia’s Muslims . This morning we see the British anti-war movement declaring in favour of war when Russian troops march. The Economist has just denounced Britain’s part-time pacifists from the moral high ground – and when the Economist can look down on you from that exalted height anyone from the left should know that they are in trouble . How, it asks, is it 

[The] job of an ‘anti-war’ movement is to attack its own passive government while parroting the arguments of a thuggish, illiberal power threatening its neighbour with invasion.

The only answer is the answer Chomsky provides: the relativist Western left is interested only in the West, and cannot even think about ‘the atrocities of someone else’.

The people of the Ukraine may not have much to be grateful for, but they should be glad that they do not have the support of the relativist left. Its principles are pliable. Its morality is parochial. For believers trapped in its ever-shifting ideology, it is not enough that a stranger is a victim of oppression; they must be the victim of the right sort of oppression. If they are the victims of the West, they have played their part well and are the Western left’s object of compassion. If their country should have the misfortune to be invaded by Russia rather than the United States, their sufferings become as remote and distant as – what else? – the 18th century.

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Show comments
  • Ch1r0n

    Once again the Right proves that it can only slur Chomsky by misrepresenting him. And as for nobody in the West marching to protest Putin’s Crimea adventurism, that’s because we AREN’T Russians. We marched to protest the invasion of Iraq because it was OUR governments doing the invading.

  • Mater Oculus

    Chomsky does NOT speak for all liberal people, actually he only speaks to hear

  • Tony_42

    No, author is wrong. Chomsky speaks out against all atrocities. I have seen him make assertions without evidence at times but usually he is fairly accurate historically and consistent in his call for peace and pointing out that the West is an aggressor and that the blow back effect of killing weaker folks and pursuing a “total spectrum dominance” military strategy is the creator of the so called “terror”. Chomsky rocks.

  • Daz K

    Brilliant Nick,
    I share many of these opinions but struggle to pen it so eloquently when arguing with Chomsky sycophants in inane online debates!

  • Innit Bruv

    What drivel ….. There is no comparison between the invasion of Iraq (the third in less than a century by the way) and what Putin, however thuggish or repellent he may be,is attempting in Crimea and Ukraine, How intellectually dishonest can you be!!!!!

  • Theophan Alvarez

    Chomsky has written thousands of articles that take to task any and all who would use their economic, military, and political might to oppress the weak. To say that he turns a blind eye to non-American incidents of crimes against humanity is simply a lie. Just one example, in many places he condemns Russia for its crimes in Chechnya or in Iran for its acts of terrorism within Afghanistan prior to 9/11. But, being as he is an American citizens, whose tax dollars are spent to carry out crimes, he has more of a motive to write critically of his own country. He writes frequently of the principle of universality regarding international norms and laws, that is, these norms should be applied equally and universally when crimes are committed, regardless of which nation commits them. For example, Chomsky recently wrote: Russia’s annexation of Crimea was an illegal act, in violation of international law and specific treaties. It’s not easy to find anything comparable in recent years “. However, if that is a crime, invading another country, then how much bigger is the crime committed by the US in invading Iraq? Why does he have to bash America so much? It has the biggest and most powerful military, and has invaded more countries, and caused more wars than any other country on the planet, that’s why.

  • Sidney sloth

    This article is based entirely on the presumption that the west, and US foreign policy in particular, is responsible for less international violence than the soviet union and Russia. That means the US has caused fewer deaths and established fewer client dictatorships than the former soviet union and the subsequent Russian federation.

    Chomsky is set out as deluded, because he fails to understand that the Soviet Union and Russia (and China) have committed vast atrocities, whereas the west is only involved in small atrocities.

    The article is well reasoned, and it would be a damning criticism of Chomsky, except for one fatal flaw. That is, the author is grossly ignorant of history. I don’t mean the author is stupid, nor that he is biased. He is simply ignorant of facts. Badly ignorant. Without being haughty, it is not even worth discussing the specifics of the ignorance. Serious knowledge of historical detail, or indeed major events, is glaringly absent from the article.

    The author does well to note that human rights are not a competition, but fails to comprehend his own behaviour in this regard. His entire point is that Chomsky is not weighing the relative merits of human rights in both cases, that chomsky is blind to the relative weight of soviet crimes. Thus, he wants a competition between the two sides, a fair competition, based on the facts as he understands them to be.

    So, in terms of promoting an outright competition between states for human rights, where presumably the best state wins in the adversarial tradition, the author is projecting his own values onto Chomsky, and condemning them, in a bold and careless fashion.

    But facts are where this article really falls down. It is a pity, because the author is not a bad writer, and can think by and by.

    A word of advice, concerning facts: you should actually read….. i mean READ some of Chomsky’s works. You should also check his facts. You will find that you can check his facts, because he is a serious academic who references the source of every fact he claims as fact.

    If you make the effort to check Chomsky’s facts, you will discover the existence of a discipline to real knowledge that is both breathtaking an uncommon.

    And if you should learn anything at all from Chomsky’s intellectual methods, and should you ever retain but a thousandth’s part of the facts that man has examined, then you may become a formidable force as a journalist.

    As it stands, this article is impertinent and slightly embarrassing, and you are doomed to regret it, as you are clearly not an idiot.

  • Ivan Obregon!HVu94

    Both the far-crypto-fascist right and the far-crypto-communist-left tend to meet in some places…..even if for different reasons of their own. ugh.

  • Alternative_Right

    Whatever the Spectator thinks is rather academic as Britain is a washed up little nation that has trouble defending its own sovereignty from the EU and America, and its own people from Third World colonization. It’s like a man on fire pointing at someone else using matches and saying “How terrible someone might get burned.”

  • travib

    Nick, extremely convincing piece, until you realize that this article completely ignores self determination of the Crimean people.

  • Tchola

    There are significant differences between the Russian “invasion” of Crimea and the barbaric US attack on Iraq. Do the math on the number of Iraqi civilian casualties (100, 000 +) of the war criminal invasion of Iraq and you will understand the difference between the Russian “invasion” and the US criminal attack. Russia is not bombing Crimea or Eastern Ukraine. It is not conducting any infernal and pathological “shock and awe” campaign of destruction against a modern city of millions (Baghdad) in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine!

  • Kim Aurelius

    Regarding of his little voice on eastern atrocities should be discouraged but that does not mean he justified them. Regarding of his strong criticism against American government because he deeply believe there is still hope for better practice of constitution even the government is betraying the constitution and he love constitution.

    So I don’t think the hypothesis of double standard is sounded to me.
    I deeply think he is just too busy with constitutional factors.

  • 5566hh

    This “article” simply consists of putting words into Chomsky’s mouth and misrepresenting his position. His thinking is far more coherent and credible than Cohen suggests here. But of course Cohen is hardly a brilliant political writer and his own positions on many issues are deeply flawed so why should one expect any great insights from him?

  • finchomsky

    Nick it sounds like you have barely read chomsky or listened to any of his talks because if you had you would of not writing this pile of are dumb and should not be writing this bollox.

  • roross

    “Western societies protect your rights to protest, and to speak and to write freely.” Not true. Nick. There are numerous political prisoners all over the Western world. Check out Red Aid International. Sorry to hear you struggling. like this.

  • Mike

    I think you have mis-charactierised Chomsky fans and Chomsky himself. I am a life-long reader of Chomsky and agree with many of the things he says about the crimes of the US ( and the West in general) but that doesn’t mean I dont see and condemn the crimes of Putin, North Korea and any other leader who has abused his/her power anywhere in the world. The world is not as black and white as you paint it. The left is not as black and white as your paint it, and Chomsky and me are not as black and white as you paint us. You just have to use your brain to see that in many conflicts, both sides have committed crimes. We hear criticism of Putin from many different sources in the western media (and much of it is justified). The West’s reaction and handling of Russia can also be flawed, yet we do not get enough sources pointing this out. Thank God for Chomsky providing a counter-balance that is often thoughtful and makes many valid points. A good counter to the Murdich media’s uniform take on the issue…

  • John

    This article is a sorry excuse for shameful propaganda! Distasteful.

  • Tom Parker

    Baffled by the stupidity of this article I emailed Noam below is his reply

  • Tom Parker

    This one I’d seen. Friends in England sent it to me as an illustration of the hilarious lunacy of apologists for western crimes.

    Cohen knows well what I just told you. He also knows that I constantly condemn official enemies and their crimes, in terms far harsher than his (though without his fabrications and hysteria).

    He is not an idiot. Therefore he is hoping that readers of this journal won’t understand that what he is claiming is that we should denounce Shirin Ebadi, Ai Wei Wei, Sakharov, Havel, and other dissidents for quite rightly focusing their efforts on crimes of their own states, a principle that hold with far greater force for us for the perfectly obvious reason that in more free societies we have both greater responsibility and much more opportunity to influence policy.

    Cohen, like his commissar models, takes the opposite stand.

    From: tom parker []
    Sent: Sunday, March 23, 2014 3:21 PM
    To: Noam Chomsky
    Subject: Re: Crimea

  • Jason Wardle

    This is all so wrong and delusional I don’t even know where to start.

  • Moe AL Lakki

    so Chomsky’s followers are credulous enough to believe him, though he gives a proof after proof from undisputed historical and current events…………….. and what is your whole argument again “what if and what if”, assumptions, pretty convincing (applause)
    and regarding using western countries as a criticism platform, no one said that there is no freedom of opinion their, it’s just whenever your opinion is against the concocted mainstream fraud you are dubbed hysterical by the indoctrinated numbers

  • Christopher Read
  • Christopher Read

    The last dying gasp of the decents… Cohen will never want for red ink – his defence of the bloody disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan have covered his little hands in blood.

  • Tchola

    Chomsky’s critique is the antidote to the delusive and smug self-righteousness of apologists for Western crimes against humanity.

  • Tchola

    Characteristically, an ignoramus fails to attend to specific claims and evidence pertaining to those claims. The notion that one needs some pedantic “expertise” to understand plain facts, e.g., that the rogue nations of US and U.K. violated international law and elementary moral principles in invading Iraq, is the “construction” (to use a hackneyed academic term) of bulshitting pedants trying to legitimize regime atrocities.

  • wake_up_bomb

    The ‘West’ as Cohen put it has no moral authority nor credibility. I wouldn’t be so indulgent as to sit here and list the war crimes and abonimable acts of the United States alone, but here are a few…

    Hiroshima / Nagasaki.

    Massive overthrow of democratically elected governments all over the world beginning with Operation Ajax, perhaps most notably putting Pinochet in power in Chile.

    Whole Bay of Pigs episode which nearly lead to nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis (google Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov).

    Vietnam, particularly the bombing of Vietnam with Agent Orange even when the US authorities KNEW it was causing cancer.

    Slaughter of one-million in East Timor and Indonesia.

    Bombing Iraq with cluster bombs and depleted uranium.

    The Cambodian Campaign (ie. slaughter).

    I could go on. Bear in mind as well that this article is written by a polemical supporter of Israel’s worst excesses, which should just render it irrelevant and laughable before it’s even printed. Frankly, how he gets paid money to churn out this execrable excretia, I have no idea.

    • sotiredofthis

      So you too think of the people involved as mere pawns in international chess — they are living their lives now. This is not some theoretical issue. They will have to live under Putin’s Russia. Real troops are on the ground intimidating real people.

  • Bill Hicks

    A Jew hating on Chomsky — gee what a surprise. Pity that Chomsky is one of the only Jews who cares about Israel.

  • Rob P. Gonzales

    “the Assad regime used chemical weapons.”
    yep, right there i stopped reading.

  • goedelite

    If Nick Cohen were to listen Gregor Gysi, the leader of the German Party, The Left (tr), on the history of broken promises, arrogant declarations, and military threats by the EU and the US since Gorbachev proposes a united, peaceful, trading Europe including Russia, Cohen would find his blaming of Russia inconsistent with what really happened to date. Russia, since the end of the Soviet Union, has been confronted by hostility from Europe and the USA. NATO, breaking the promises made to Gorbachev has expanded to Russia’s doorstep. Now, the EU has supported a fascist coup in Ukraine in the hope of placing its hostility directly across the border from Russia. The US and the EU have gone too far, and Mr Putin has responded by attempting to separate Crimea from Ukraine. Crimea is predominantly Russian, ethnically, having been a part of Russia since the 18th century. As the German parliamentarian, Mr Gysi, points out, both sides, the EU and US on the one hand and Russia on the other ought, instead of offering mutual belligerence, settle the ethnic disunity of Ukraine by some sort of division, an autonomous federation perhaps. Mr Gysi makes the excellent point that there is no Ukrainian who can command the support of east and west factions in Ukraine. The US? It should, for a change, mind its own business.

  • dan

    Makroon if you knew about the street mob you would understand why, he played the MPs to get him in, his son was the worlds fastest billionaire (2 years) as he stole it, the guy is corrupt, but then I don’t think any politician is anything but corrupt.
    And to say the left needs hero’s but the right doesn’t is laughable, the right has money that is your hero, money at all costs.
    Some peoples views get listened to, others don’t that’s the way of the world. I think everyone should listen to me…… But you don’t. Capitalism has ruined the world, everyone thinks its better as they have centrally heated homes big screen TV’s etc. But the gap is bigger and getting bigger. And whether Chomsky is right or wrong it would be better for everyone to know and read his works rather than watch x factor, more people know who simon cowel is and listen to him so in my rather humble opinion, left or right its better to know it than not. To summarise Jambo25 surely you would agree that it is better to have read Chomsky and agree or not rather than being a drone and thinking celebrity is worth listening to rather than a man good or bad who is a lefty or you don’t agree with. It starts intellectual debate which is a good thing.

  • rtj1211

    The biggest hypocrisy is believing we must be the world’s policeman when we are insolvent and treat the poorest 30% like serfs, slaves and utterly without dignity.

    The media is entirely responsible for this nonsense, maintaining a code of silence appeasing the domestic rubbish whilst feigning moral outrage about what goes on overseas.

    It may sound callous, but we are not responsible for the whole world, we are responsible for our own nation.

    We are appalling at doing that, so why should we lecture the world about overseas??


  • Coleridge1

    Excellent piece by NC. People like Chomsky, Seumus Milne, Alan Rusbridger, Galloway and the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ Islamists, only foam at the mouth when they hear the word Israel. Otherwise, Moslems slaughter Moslems in their hundreds of thousands in Syria, Iraq, apartheid Pakistan etc. Russia can invade Crimea and you won’t hear a squeek of a protest. And they have the nerve to describe themselves as ‘leftists’ concerned about ‘human rights.’ How pathetic they are.

  • Zaki Choudhary

    Exactly what “protection” is that when you protest in “the west”? Are you talking about the brutal beatings and tear gas? The mass arrests of passers-by, who are jailed in cages? Are you talking about riot police rushing and beating peaceful demonstrators sitting in the road singing the national anthem? Or maybe, you’re talking about people being put on kill lists – illegal lists designating people for assassination by the executive – because they speak about US crimes, like bombing innocent people? Maybe it’s the pariah status and blacklisting demonstrated by academic administration when leading world experts on certain topics, experts whose work has been praised by uncontroversial authorities (like Raul Hilberg) and helped to dispel blatant propaganda myths (like “From Time Immemorial”), open their mouths about the truth of a situation?

    Whether it was the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrators at Occupy camps, the thuggery of Canadian security forces during the G8 in Toronto, the outlawing of drone protesters, the pathetic attempts to discredit/marginalize Norman Finkelstein or the cowardly assassination of Awlaki and his innocent child, your arguments disappear in a puff of smoke, rhetoric and distortion. Keep waiving your nationalist flag, ignoring the crimes you’re responsible for and pointing fingers at others. I’m sure someone, somewhere, takes you seriously.

  • SirBedevere

    Such a brave man. He suffered through an endowed chair at one of the elite centers of the American intellectual and social establishment for fifty years. Truly, the endless catered receptions and symposia organized in his honor must have been as fearsome as any Robben Island.

    • Charlie Desertly

      Yeah, it’s not like he’s done anything to deserve the praise, durr hurr.

      • SirBedevere

        For linguistic insight? Yes. For bravery? No. For political philosophy? Also no.

  • John C. ‘Buck’ Field

    Cohen asserts: “Western societies protect your rights to protest, and to speak and to write freely.” I would be interested to know how he reconciles open congressional exhortations for death sentences against Assange, Manning, and Snowden without even a trial?

    Every tyrant protects free speech for opinions they like.

  • Jacobin

    Censorship is what people do when they are too cowardly to defend their views.

  • gerontius

    Yup, and to be fair it was a lovely smile.

  • Robert Barsocchini

    “after the Assad regime used chemical weapons.”

    Whose sarin?

    Seymour M. Hersh

    “Western societies protect your rights to protest, and to speak and to write freely.”

    Unless of course you are in a society backed by a Western country where there are crucial financial or strategic interests, like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. And then of course there’s the whole violent crushing of Occupy, the war on whistleblowers (USA just came in 46th on a list of countries by press freedom), FBI assassination of Fred Hampton (and apparent government assassination of MLK, as determined by civil trial), shootings of protesters on college campuses, bombings of civilian news outlets in other countries, militarized police regularly shooting unarmed civilians, and, according to political scientists, concentration of political influence based entirely on wealth and no other factor (

    Just little things to ponder 😉

    And one more:

    Oh, and apparently it’s not just the “left”. The USA at the end of 2013 is, not for the first time, voted, by enormous margin, as the greatest threat to world peace (24 times higher than Russia, which barely registered):

    Swiss-conducted poll of 65 countries around the world, 1,000 people in each.

    FYI: Ukraine, with these protests already started, viewed the USA as the greatest international threat by far. 7 times higher than Russia, which again barely registered.

  • Ian Stewart

    I’d suggest that maybe there aren’t left-wing protesters in the streets because they realise that foreign governments don’t care about extra-national protests. Also, British protesters learned in 2003 that their own government didn’t care at all about their protests (to Cohen’s approval), so Putin will definitely not care.

    Instead of offering a mea culpa about Iraq (à la Andrew Sullivan), Cohen has just gotten increasingly petulant. He mocks Chomsky for criticising the West from within the safe confines of the West, while he criticises foreign powers from…the safe confines of the West? Such courage!

    Also, great straw man at the beginning: ‘A few readers, however, have justified themselves by pointing to an argument by Noam Chomsky […]’. Trying to paper over the fact that this is just one more shot in the long-running (one-sided) boxing match between him and Chomsky. Pathetic.

  • themightyandygray

    Mr Cohen – you seem to need an awful lot of words to make basically just one point – that it is hypocritical of Chomsky to criticize the actions of the West and not other countries.

  • carl56

    Chomsky has supported solidarity movements across the world. I think you miss the main points: 1. the US is THE global empire at present, with more than a thousand bases in over 130 countries. No other country begins to compete with that blanketing of the inhabitable earth with bases and the threat of violence. 2. Chomsky took heat from the left by condemning relatively tame (by Egyptian or Guatemalan standards) human rights abuses in Cuba. He has consistently condemned human rights abuses by all states, but rightly focuses on those committed in his name and with his tax money. How can that be interpreted as anything other than commonsense? 3. You fail to account for the impact of US covert operations and subversion activities. According to Nuland, in her famous conversation about who should rule Ukraine (imperial arrogance on full display), the US has “invested” 5 billion dollars on engineering regime change in Ukraine since 2004. That kind of money can purchase a great deal of instability.

    Responsibility to Protect suffers the same acronym problem as Operation Iraqi Liberation. Are we talking about the responsibility to protect, or the right to plunder? As Kissinger said, the US has never regarded foreign policy as missionary work. The only respectable way to intervene on aggression or mass civilian killings is through a rigorously independent international body. Such a body might move in to referee between Putin and the coup regime in Kiev. But it might also move into the Occupied Territories of Palestine to end the home demolitions and land seizures. It might have intervened to punish the US for its naked aggression against the suffering people of Iraq. It might have moved to protect the brave people of Fallujah from US depredations in 2004, including the use of chemical weapons against defenseless civilians.

    Yes, by all means Chomsky is right when he insists upon the universal application of international law. That is precisely what the US will never tolerate. Like all empires, our “principled” leaders assumes the US has a “special role” as an “indispensable nation” blessed with a quasi-religious mission to carry out “history’s purpose.” I believe the sneer you complain about is provoked by our “leaders” disgusting facade of “benevolent intentions” whenever we carry out operations abroad that we know will devastate other countries, kill countless civilians and inflict human misery on generations of human beings. That same sneer is on my lips as I memorialize the obvious.

  • bengeo

    What is this obsession The Spectator has with Chomsky? Is he some sort of threat?

  • Jacobin

    This article is completely facile and should be an embarrassment to its author. Firstly the Iraq war has claimed the lives of 186,000 people through violence with the vast majority of them being civilians, Russia has ceased the Crimea without firing a shot, yet Nick Cohen treats them as analogous. Secondly he berates the Left for only protesting against Western atrocities, well that may be so but where are the protests against Putin or Assad from the British right? At least people on the left have the conscience to protest against violence which is more than can be said for those on the Right. Also Chomsky’s idea that we should protest against what out own governments do is a very moral idea and contrary to what Nick Cohen claims is agreed with by most on the Left. The idea that we should pay attention to our own crimes and stop committing them is not hypocrisy its the exact opposite of hypocrisy. Also I don’t know anybody on the Left who wants to defend Putin’s aggression or Assad’s atrocities, it is just that they recognise that Western intervention will escalate the violence as has been a proven case in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans. Also you don’t have to look very far to find Chomsky criticizing dictators like Assad or Saddam Hussein , it’s just people like Nick Cohen go out of their way to see what they want and portray others as hypocrites. Chomsky is consistent in his criticisms as far as I have encountered and I have read a lot of Chomsky.

    • Praxilites

      You dont think we have paid any attention to Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam?

    • sotiredofthis

      Putin with his aggression was willing to start a bloodbath — it was only the restraint of the Ukrainian side and concern for human life that prevented it. Think about it — by invading a neighboring country, he was inviting an armed response that did not come.

  • Vlad

    Although you have a point and a double-sided morality is present in our daily life from government to the common man, you lost me when you started to use prison population to say US is a dictatorship.

    Your point is invalid. Prison population is not a consequence of dictatorship in US. Extremely high crime rate is the reason of mass incarceration. You could say that incarceration in Russia is proof of dictatorship if you look at how easily anyone opposing Putin is thrown into prison, or how wealthy individuals are thrown in prison so their assets could be seized.

    Going on, to say that they support dictatorship just because they have economic relationships with Saudi Arabia is also an invalid point. Everyone has relationships with islamic countries and none have, thus far, managed to turn them into a civilized society simply because they are to traditional and their religion is like a wall against reason and communication. Or you would like that all western countries cut all their ties with islamic countries? In that case we will all run out of petrol, while China and Russia will have a huge supply of it and new allies. We will see then how well we will fare against the East.

    I don’t like a lot of things about US, but what you said is not true, because the world and reality in general are not black and white. There’s a lot of grey and things are not so simple at people would like them to be.

  • emilio gaviria

    El largo camino y las acciones emprendidas para la humanización de los humanos, con sometimiento a frustraciones, una y otra vez. ¿Desapareceremos como especie?.

  • jj Depp

    I thought Comsky was an intellectual. Dont get your “facts” from a news channel next time.