Hegemony or Survival : America's Quest for Full Spectrum Dominance (The American Empire Project)
The world's foremost intellectual activist narrates his irrefutable analysis of America's pursuit of total domination and the catastrophic consequences that are sure to follow The United States is in the process of staking out not just the globe but the last unarmed spot in our neighborhood-the heavens-as a militarized sphere of influence. Our earth and its skies are, for the Bush administration, the final frontiers of imperial control. In Hegemony or Survival, Noam Chomsky investigates how we came to this moment, what kind of peril we find ourselves in, and why our rulers are willing to jeopardize the future of our species. With the striking logic that is his trademark, Chomsky dissects America's quest for global supremacy, tracking the U.S. government's aggressive pursuit of policies intended to achieve "full spectrum dominance" at any cost. He lays out vividly how the various strands of policy cohere in a drive for hegemony that ultimately threatens our survival. In our era, he argues, empire is a recipe for an earthly wasteland.
In this highly readable, heavily footnoted critique of American foreign policy from the late 1950s to the present, Chomsky (whose 9-11 was a bestseller last year) argues that current U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Iraq are not a specific response to September 11, but simply the continuation of a consistent half-century of foreign policy-an "imperial grand strategy"-in which the United States has attempted to "maintain its hegemony through the threat or use of military force." Such an analysis is bound to be met with skepticism or antagonism in post-September 11 America, but Chomsky builds his arguments carefully, substantiates claims with appropriate documentation and answers expected counterclaims. Chomsky is also deeply critical of inconsistency in making the charge of "terrorism." Using the official U.S. legal code definition of terrorism, he argues that it is an exact description of U.S. foreign policy (especially regarding Cuba, Central America, Vietnam and much of the Middle East), although the term is rarely used in this way in the U.S. media, he notes, even when the World Court in 1986 condemned Washington for "unlawful use of force" ("international terrorism, in lay terms" Chomsky argues) in Nicaragua. Claiming that the U.S. is a rogue nation in its foreign policies and its "contempt for international law," Chomsky brings together many themes he has mined in the past, making this cogent and provocative book an important addition to an ongoing public discussion about U.S. policy. (Nov.) FYI: This is the first title in the new American Empire Project, which the publisher describes as "provocative and critical books that will focus on the increasingly imperial cast of America's government and policy." Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 11, 2004
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Excerpt from Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky
Priorities and Prospects
A few years ago, one of the great figures of contemporary biology, Ernst Mayr, published some reflections on the likelihood for success in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Mayr took exception to the conclusions of astrophysicists who confidently expected to find higher intelligence throughout the universe. He considered the prospects of success very low. His reasoning had to do with the adaptive value of what we call "higher intelligence," meaning the particular human form of intellectual organization. Mayr estimated the number of species since the origin of life at about 50 billion, only one of which "achieved the kind of intelligence needed to establish a civilization." It did so very recently, perhaps a hundred thousand years ago. It is generally assumed that only one small breeding group survived, of which we are all descendants, apparently with very little genetic variation. What we call "civilizations" developed near the end of this brief moment of evolutionary time, and are "inevitably are short-lived."
Mayr speculates that higher intelligence may not be favored by selection. The history of life on Earth, he concluded, refutes the claim that "it is better to be smart than to be stupid," at least judging by biological success: beetles and bacteria, for example, are far more successful than primates in these terms, and that is generally true of creatures that fill a specific niche or can undergo rapid genetic change. He also made the rather somber observation that "the average life expectancy of a species is about 100,000 years."
We are entering a period of human life that may provide an answer to the question of whether it is better to be smart than stupid -- whether there is intelligent life on earth, in some sense of "intelligence" that might be admired by a sensible extraterrestrial observer, could one exist. The most hopeful prospect is that the question will not be answered: if it receives a definite answer, that answer can only be that humans were a kind of "biological error," using their allotted 100,000 years to destroy themselves and, in the process, much else. The species has surely developed the capacity to do just that, and our hypothetical extraterrestrial observer might conclude that they have demonstrated that capacity throughout their history, dramatically in the past few hundred years, with an assault on the environment that sustains life, on the diversity of more complex organisms, and with cold and calculated savagery, on each other as well.
1.1. "Two Superpowers"
The year 2003 opened with many indications that concerns about human survival are all too realistic. To mention just a few examples, in October 2002 it was learned that a possibly terminal nuclear war was barely avoided, by a near miracle, 40 years earlier. Immediately after this startling discovery, the Bush administration unilaterally blocked UN efforts to ban the militarization of space, a serious threat to survival. It also terminated international negotiations to prevent biological warfare, and moved to ensure that it would have no choice but to attack Iraq despite popular opposition at home and abroad that was entirely without historical precedent.