With terrifying clarity, the author and philosopher Noam Chomsky speaks to il manifesto about chaos, barbarism and destruction of human life. After so many years of giving alarming interviews, Chomsky is more cynical than ever that we can avert global disaster.
“The human species is facing a situation that is unprecedented in the history of Homo sapiens,” he said. “We are at the crossroads of a situation that has never occurred before, and very soon we will have to decide whether we want the human species to survive into something that has the appearance of existence as we know it, or if we want to create a planetary devastation so extreme that one cannot even imagine what could emerge.”
Patricia Lombroso: What is your opinion on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, with Scalia’s final imprimatur, to block attempts by the Obama administration to limit the disastrous consequences of global warming?
Noam Chomsky: The decision is very important, and it is very serious. The five judges of the Supreme Court were well aware of the political value of that vote. In fact, even the press release issued after the vote underlines not by chance that “this decision is unprecedented in U.S. history.”
You believe that this was a political decision that went beyond the constitutional balance of power?
Certainly. The five Supreme Court justices are Republicans. And now with the death of Scalia nothing will change. The Republican majority vote eliminates any future legal step through a court of appeal and eliminates all the opinions of the courts that preceded this decision. Their message to the participants at the Paris conference is, in practice, “Go to hell.” Not that the Paris conference had achieved much in terms of limiting global warming, but it must be remembered that the most thorny and difficult problem was getting the agreements made between governments to be binding through an international treaty. And France knew well that the Republican Party in the Senate would never ratify agreements binding on the government. Consequently the five Republican judges on the Supreme Court virtually expressed, with their decision, what they think of the rapid advance toward the destruction of the planet and the human species.
PL: Can they ignore (at their expense) the serious economic and social repercussions of this choice?
NC: Republican leaders know the daily consequences of the epochal migrations of populations from one hemisphere to another, such as has never occurred in history. They also know of the destruction of that part of the world we know as civilized and the risks that this entails, but each candidate vying for the race for the White House in today’s presidential campaign denies any evidence of the effects of global warming and has no intention of doing anything. Today’s Republican Party, I would add, is one of the most dangerous organizations in human history.
PL: Why does the thinking of the extreme right in America scare you more than the far-right ideology spreading across Europe?
NC: The extreme right in Europe is indeed tremendous, but it does not have the support necessary to accelerate the destruction of life on the planet.
PL: The U.S. defense budget for 2016-17, approved last week without any debate in Congress, quadruples spending on NATO arsenals and to protect the security of Eastern European allies. What is the message?
NC: Certainly there are risks of an escalation of clashes and strategic tensions between the countries belonging to the sphere of Russian influence and those under American influence. But could the United States ever allow at its borders what is happening at those of Russia? Would it not be unthinkable to deploy NATO missiles on the border with Canada and Mexico? We’d all be incinerated. I think this further expansion of NATO constitutes a strategy, a very dangerous geopolitical provocation. I agree with what George Kennan argued during the Cold War, that a “nuclear deterrent” would lay the foundation for a final confrontation for the existence of all humanity. Is is not an exaggeration. Ongoing tensions and recent examples, such as the downing of the Russian jet by Turkey, are events that could explode into a nuclear confrontation.
PL: Does this mean that more and more extended wars entail the risk of a Third World War?
NC: It would not be the first time we have been at the brink of a nuclear conflict. Mind you, wherever the origin of a nuclear attack, it means the end of the human species. A clash between two superpowers involves what is called nuclear winter. A tragedy of catastrophic proportions. It reminds me of what Einstein said when asked what weapons, after nuclear, would be used in war. He replied that the only weapon that would remain available to man was a stone ax. The risk of a world war is very serious.
PL: Do you believe the leaders of globalization have a strategy or attempted to create a controlled catastrophe that got out of hand?
NC: You’d have to live under a rock not to realize the damage they’ve caused. The fossil industry for decades has been aware of the devastating consequences of an industrial policy based on oil. The executives of Exxon-Mobil are not stupid, but rather dedicated to a specific ideology of the maximization of profits and stock prices. Everything else is of insignificant value compared to this. It’s like for believers in the various fundamentalisms, be they evangelical Christian or Islamic extremists. They are like religious dogma, before which there is neither doubt nor argument. We all know that it is very easy not to give credence to what we should believe as truth, but in this case the refusal to want to believe the evidence of historical facts involves lethal consequences.
PL: In this disastrous context, what risks do we run in 2016, the election year for the next president of the United States?
NC: The risks are very serious. If the comments of the Republican leaders vying for the presidency correspond to the reality of the future White House, we should expect a real disaster, and that is: We ignore global warming, we tear up the nuclear agreements with Iran, we increase our military power, we act with greater aggressiveness and determination in the rest of the world despite the risks of unleashing a world war. If a country with the power of the United States endorses these policy strategies, the chances of survival of the human species are minimized.