An American View of the Ideological Confrontation of Our Time

Noam Chomsky interviewed by an anonymous interviewer

C. P. Otero (ed.), Language and Politics, Black Rose, 1988, pp. 284-296, [February 3, 1980]

QUESTION 1: In the course of the last year, in several French publications, you made contributions which seem important to us for a reflection about the world strategy of the US and more generally the “West.” On this occasion, it was suggested, more or less openly, here and there, that you consider only one side of things and play the other side’s game. Now you are expressing yourself in a journal published by French communists and their friends with a viewpoint decidedly “Eurocommunist.” Could you define your “political position” for our readers?

CHOMSKY: There are really two questions here: (1) what is my position; (2) what is the game being played by the superpowers.

My views on social and political issues have not changed in essentials since my first independent political thought. These views fall within what is sometimes called “libertarian socialism.” I have been much influenced by work of anarchists and non-Bolshevik Marxists (e.g., Rudolf Rocker, Anton Pannekoek). In general, I think that anarchosyndicalist conceptions — worker’s control, voluntary associations, decentralization and federalism, dissolution of hierarchic and authoritarian structures, and so on — are quite appropriate for the next stage of industrial society. I should add that I have never considered myself a “Marxist,” and in fact regard such notions as “Marxist” (or “Freudian,” etc.) as belonging more to the domain of organized religion than of rational analysis. Marx was a serious person, not a God. He had significant insights, of lasting value. Like anyone, he made mistakes, and much has happened in the past century that has escaped his vision.

As for the so-called “Marxist” movements, I think that Bakunin’s early critique was quite perceptive. Particularly since 1917, Marxism — or more accurately, Marxism-Leninism — has become, as Bakunin predicted, the ideology of a “new class” of revolutionary intelligentsia who exploit popular revolutionary struggles to seize state power. They proceed to impose a harsh and authoritarian rule to destroy socialist institutions, as Lenin and Trotsky destroyed the factory councils and soviets. They will also do what they can to undermine and destroy moves towards authentic socialism elsewhere, if only because of the ideological threat. It is natural that the U.S.S.R. should have committed itself to the violent destruction of the popular revolution in Spain in 1936, just as workers councils in Hungary or democratic socialist tendencies in Czechoslovakia were intolerable to the “Red bureaucracy.”

The appeal of these doctrines to the radical intelligentsia of the Third World is understandable. The doctrines justify their seizure of state power and their use of this centralized power. At best, they may construct a party dictatorship that is more or less benevolent, in that it will bring about a degree of modernization and development and improve health and welfare standards. Such achievements, if they take place, are not to be lightly dismissed, but they are also not to be confused with “socialism” in any sense of this term that is meaningful for the advanced industrial societies.

Similar considerations may explain in part the appeal of Marxist-Leninist doctrines to certain segments of the Western intelligentsia, as well as the ease with which many of the same people switch to the more typical stance of the intelligentsia: service to their own state, either in a managerial or ideological capacity. The doctrine of state worship has not dramatically changed, though it is shaped by a different assessment of how one can gain privilege and a degree of power. Throughout, I am speaking of tendencies, which I think are real, though there are many individual exceptions.

I have devoted a great deal of time and energy, and have been willing to face some personal risk, in attempting to defend radical nationalist movements in the Third World from the subversion and violence of the industrial democracies, but without illusions as to their character. It is easy enough to criticize these movements, but we should also recognize that they are facing problems far more severe than anything in the historical experience of the West in the modern period, and that many of these problems are the result of harsh Western policies and often extreme terror and violence. This will no doubt continue to be true.

Turning to the second question: what is the “game” being played by the superpowers? In my view, the Cold War system has been highly functional for the superpowers in providing a framework in which they can mobilize popular support for military intervention and other harsh measures within their domains. When the U.S. overthrows the reformist government of Guatemala, or restores the Shah to power, or invades Vietnam or the Dominican Republic, or subverts the Allende government, or conducts programs of terror and sabotage against Cuba, it pretends that all of this is done to save freedom from the Russian (or earlier, Chinese) threat. This is much more convenient than the truth: that the U.S. is resorting to force to prevent moves towards national independence outside of its control. Similarly, when the U.S.S.R. invades Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan, it pretends that it is defending “socialism” from the threat of Western imperialism, though in fact it is defending or extending the power of the Russian state.

When a Russian dissident criticizes the cruel practices of his state, he is attacked at home for “playing the other side’s game” and asked why he does not condemn the atrocities committed by the “other side.” When a Western intellectual criticizes Western atrocities he is attacked in the same way. This is not surprising. It is not surprising, then, that I should be criticized in France for (in your words) “consider[ing] only one side of things and play[ing] the other side’s game.”

QUESTION 2: In France the anticommunist campaign has domestic policy aims which are easy enough to detect. But it rests on foreign policy events: long before Afghanistan, it found reasons on the situation in Vietnam and in Cambodia. Don’t you think that this situation in France largely derives from the campaign developed in similar terms in the United States (reeducation camps in Vietnam, boat people, etc.)? Is there in the United States, as there is in France now, a campaign of accusing Vietnam of starving Cambodia by confiscating, for its benefit, the food sent to Cambodia? Le Monde, for example, did not hesitate to speak of a “second Cambodian genocide,” due this time to the “Vietnamese occupation.”

CHOMSKY: The West suffered a defeat in Indochina in two respects: first, Indochina escaped from the orbit of Western control; second, in the course of the French and American wars, dangerous feelings of sympathy and support for radical nationalism in the Third World developed in the Western societies. It was perfectly predictable that Western ideologists should seize upon every opportunity to reverse these feelings, to replace them with hatred and contempt, and to rebuild the domestic basis for harsh and exploitative policies, military intervention if necessary and feasible. Indochina was reduced to misery by French imperialism and virtually destroyed by the American attack.

In contemporary U.S. ideology, the Western role is being excised; all problems, all suffering, are attributed to the villainy of the current leadership, as if history began in 1975. Meanwhile, the U.S. tries, in every possible way, to impose the maximum of suffering on Indochina. No only has it offered no reparations for its crimes, but even aid, trade, and normal relations are refused. The U.S. has succeeded in preventing the World Bank from carrying out development projects in Vietnam, and has done what it can to block material aid from elsewhere. If the population starves, that is offered as proof of Communist villainy. As the editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review (hardly a radical journal) has pointed out several times, these harsh policies contributed to the harsh policies of the regime in Vietnam, as was no doubt intended. The leadership in postwar Indochina is responsible for many failures, and guilty of many crimes. The U.S. exults in these, and does what it can to maximize hardship so as to intensify suffering and brutality. Also, there has been a major propaganda campaign in the West exploiting cruel and brutal actions in Indochina — some real, some invented — so as to reconstruct the image of Western righteousness that was so tarnished as the truth about the Indochina war became known. Notably missing is any effort to provide the massive assistance that might serve to alleviate the harsh conditions and brutal practices. The past and continuing American role is also conveniently forgotten.

With regard to Vietnamese “genocide” in Cambodia, there is a major effort in the U.S. to demonstrate that Vietnam is “organizing famine” in Cambodia. For example, exactly this charge is leveled by Leo Cherne, chairman of the International Rescue Committee (The New York Times, 28 Jan 1980), citing French sources. This is the same Leo Cherne who revealed his deep humanitarian commitments by explaining in December 1975 that refugees fleeing the massive American bombardment of the Vietnamese countryside were seeking “sanctuary” from the savage Viet Cong. This propaganda campaign is being impeded, however, by the fairly consistent reports from relief workers in Cambodia that contradict the charges.

The consequences of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia are a complicated matter, which I will not attempt to discuss here. For a detailed analysis of how the U.S press dealt with problems of Indochina from 1975-1978, see volume II of Chomsky and E.S. Herman, The Political Economy of Human Rights, South End Press, 1979.

QUESTION 3: You have brought to our attention the massacres in Timor and the odyssey of the “boat people” from Haiti, particularly in your interview in Change (no. 38, Oct 1979). The readers of our journal, which just begins publication, would like to have some information on the topic.

CHOMSKY: The Indonesian army invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in December 1975, a few hours after the departure of President Gerald Ford and [Secretary of State] Henry Kissinger from Jakarta. Beginning immediately and continuing until the present day, a huge massacre has been carried out, with tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people killed. Virtually all foreign observers were excluded, even the International Red Cross, until quite recently, though there was ample evidence about the horrors from refugees, letters smuggled out, reports from church sources in Timor and Indonesia, and other sources. At the time of the attack, the Indonesian army was 90%-armed by the United States. Contrary to false testimony by government witnesses at Congressional hearings, the U.S. immediately made new offers of arms. The arms flow increased dramatically under the “Human Rights” Administration [i.e., Carter], enabling Indonesia to undertake new and even more murderous offenses in 1977-78, destroying villages and crop land and driving the remnants of the population to concentration camps, where they continue to starve and die of disease. Now that a few foreigners have been admitted, the facts can no longer be concealed — they were always known to those who chose to know. It is now widely admitted that the situation is comparable to the horrors witnessed on the Thai-Cambodian border.

All of this evoked no protest in the West. The Western powers, primarily the U.S. but also France and others, provided the arms and the diplomatic support to enable Indonesian policies to be carried out to virtually the level of genocide. The press either concealed the facts or reported State Department lies and Indonesian propaganda, with rare exceptions. When the French foreign minister announced in September 1978 that France would send arms to Indonesia and protect Indonesia from embarrassment over East Timor in the United Nations, there was little protest in France. On the contrary, when AFP [Agence France Presse] was invited to a press conference on East Timor at the United Nations shortly after, its representative refused to attend on the grounds that people in Paris are not interested in Timor, which is quite true; they were interested only in atrocities that could be attributed to Communists, not those supported by France. Throughout there were rare exceptions, but the general pattern reveals one of the most disgraceful examples of Western support for huge atrocities in modern history. It is very revealing to compare the Western reaction with the response to the Communist atrocities in Indochina during exactly the same period.

The story continues. Indonesia refuses to permit Timorese to escape, except for a few, mostly ethnic Chinese, who have been able to bribe their way out. Their reports indicate that starvation and brutal oppression persist, and that the relief supplies that are finally being admitted are often stolen by the incredibly corrupt Indonesian military. None of this evokes any protest on the part of the International Rescue Committee or other similar humanitarians. Indonesia has been a valued allied ever since the military regime demonstrated its anti-Communist credentials by presiding over the massacre of many hundreds of thousands of people in 1965-66, then turning the country into a “paradise for investors,” who are impeded in their plunder of the country’s wealth only by the rapacity and corruption of the leadership. For this reason, the great crusade for “human rights” must ignore the misery of Timor — or more accurately, must lend its constant and increasing support to abetting the Indonesian atrocities and vastly extending their scale, while the press searches for evidence of Communist crimes.

As for Haiti, “boat people” have been fleeing for years from this miserable and impoverished country that had also been the beneficiary of French and American attentions for many years. They are fleeing misery and severe repression. Many die in flight. Others reach Florida where they are often arrested by government officials and shipped back to Duvalier’s tyranny. All of this takes place, with little mention in the press, at the same time is being denounced for its role in inciting the flight of the miserable “boat people” and other refugees. Other refugees have also escaped the notice of American humanitarians: for example, the 200,000 who fled the marauding Burmese army in April-May 1978, fleeing to Bangladesh; or the 140,000 who fled the Philippines to Sabah in 1977; or the hundreds of thousands who fled U.S.-supplied Israeli bombers in Southern Lebanon in 1978 and again in 1979; or the many millions in Africa. But the victims of Communist tyranny evoke great cries of distress — though only limited material aid — from Western humanitarians.

QUESTION 4: In France, the mass media treated with great discretion the short war between China and Vietnam; the question of so-called aggression was raised, and China was never clearly denounced as aggressor. It was discreetly pointed out that Vietnam perhaps was being attacked but that it had “asked for it” … Was there something similar in the United States and, in your view, why?

CHOMSKY: The situation was quite the same in the United States. The reason is simple enough to discern. China is an ally, “punishing” an enemy.

QUESTION 5: What was the reaction of the American mass media when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia? How do you explain the fact that the Pol Pot regime, although accused of genocide, was able to keep its seat in the United Nations, principally with the help of the United States?

CHOMSKY: The U.S. media generally condemned the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, but the condemnation was not in general severe, on the grounds that the Pol Pot regime had been so bloody and repressive. As for the UN, I do not think it is accurate to say that the Pol Pot regime kept its seat “principally with the help of the United States.” The ASEAN countries were instrumental in supporting the Pol Pot regime, and many countries that had condemned it bitterly nevertheless opposed the Vietnamese invasion and refused to accept the client regime instituted by Vietnam as a legitimate government.

QUESTION 6: The Trilateral Commission report on the “crisis of democracy” was discussed in Le Monde Diplomatique. Was it widely discussed in the United States? What about Guenter Lewy’s book?

CHOMSKY: The Trilateral Commission report on the “crisis of democracy” and its other reports have been very little discussed in the United States. There was, for example, nothing comparable to the important critical discussion in Le Monde Diplomatique that you mention. The report gives a very revealing indication of the attitude of liberal Western elites to “democracy” — namely, that “democracy” is threatened when substantial parts of the population actually involve themselves in defending their rights within the political arena, and that “democracy” can survive only if they are reduced to apathy and passivity so that the natural leaders can rule without impediment. For this reason, it is improper to present the conclusions of the Trilateral Commission to a wide audience.

Guenter Lewy’s book did receive substantial publicity, not only in the United States, but also in England (the London Economist, for example, described it as a “splendid” work). This is quite understandable. Putting aside the gross distortions of fact and misrepresentation of documents that disfigure this work of “academic scholarship,” the book consists of apologetics for American violence and brutality on the grounds that the victims were not “innocent” because they either supported the Vietnamese enemy or failed to disassociate themselves from the “enemy.” The book is the counterpart in academic scholarship to such films as The Deerhunter. Its importance lies in its contribution to reconstructing the system of beliefs that will be required as the United States attempts to return to its traditional pattern of responses towards radical nationalism in the Third World.

QUESTION 7: What role does the “cluster Vietnam-Cambodia” play in the ideological reconstruction in the United States? Could you define what you understand for “ideological reconstruction”? What are its historical origins? What place does the ideology of “human rights,” the “new morality” preached by President Carter, occupy there? You have spoken in this respect of a “new state religion.” Could you state what you understand by that?

CHOMSKY: Like most other imperial powers, the United States has disguised its depredations as an exercise in benevolence and selfless idealism. For large parts of the population, these illusions were shattered by the war in Indochina. They must be restored. The institutional structure that led to repeated intervention has not changed, so it is only reasonable to suppose that efforts will be made to renew these practices — though objective factors have significantly changed, and will raise barriers that did not exist in earlier years. Any state, whether totalitarian or democratic, must mobilize popular support for its violence and oppression. Therefore it is necessary to reconstruct the system of beliefs that was severely damaged.

This “reconstruction of ideology” has been proceeding, as was quite predictable, through the 1970s. The so-called “Human Rights” campaign has served as a major element in this propaganda campaign. Its significance is revealed clearly in a statement by Arthur Schlesinger, the liberal historian who was “intellectual-in-residence” during the Kennedy Administration. He wrote that the Human Rights campaign was proving a great success: “In effect, human rights is replacing self-determination as the guiding value in American foreign policy.” He is, in a sense, correct. To the exact extent that self-determination was the guiding value of American foreign policy in the era of Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, etc., “human rights” is now the guiding policy, as shown, for example, by the vast increase in armaments to Indonesia during the Carter Administration, to enable Indonesia to conduct its massacre in Timor. As already noted, suffering and atrocities in Indochina have been exploited to the extent possible in this process of reconstruction of ideology. I would not call this a “new state religion”; rather, it is a new phase in the traditional state religion.

QUESTION 8: What resonance does this policy find in the American intelligentsia? What is the influence and the real range of a phenomenon such as the “neo-conservatives”? In an article published by the West German weekly, Die Zeit, on January 1, 1980, George F. Kennan writes concerning this: “Those ‘neo-conservatives’ were before, in great part, liberals who tended to keep their distance regarding the explosions of American chauvinism. However, after the Middle East War of 1973, and for reasons that escape me, they have become, with respect to the question of American-Soviet relations, fanatic hawks.” What do you think of this evaluation?

CHOMSKY: The “new conservatism” is a reflection of the liberal imperialist ideology that has dominated for many years, and of its incapacity to offer solutions to the increasingly severe domestic and international problems that have arisen in an era when American dominance of the international system has somewhat declined. The differences between “liberals” and “conservatives” should not be exaggerated; they are slight. All are committed to basically the same state capitalist ideology, and to the free exercise of state power to construct a global system in which U.S.-based corporations can operate freely, and in which human and material resources can be exploited for their benefit. But there are slight differences. Compare, for example, the Eisenhower Administration (“conservative”) and the Kennedy Administration (“liberal”). The “liberals” criticized Eisenhower because they wanted a larger state role in the state-capital complex. Thus, they demanded a much larger military establishment (which they quickly constructed) and also a greater involvement of the state in domestic management, which includes generally some mild domestic reforms. It is not unusual for a “liberal” administration to become more active in international violence, for similar reasons. But the differences, again, are not very substantial.

I have not read Kennan’s article in Die Zeit, but it is quite true that after the 1973 October war there was an outburst of war fever, with substantial liberal participation. For example, Robert Tucker, who was one of the liberal critics of the American war in Indochina, wrote an article offering an elaborate justification for U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf region. This was symptomatic of a general reaction. As always, it was framed within the Cold War context outlined earlier; the general pattern is for a call for military intervention to be offered in response to an alleged “Soviet threat,” which add a note of credibility to policies designed to ensure that the U.S. will dominate the region. The real fear, then as now, was not that the Soviet Union would take over Saudi Arabian oil, but that the enormous petroleum reserves of the Middle East would not be as fully controlled by the U.S. as they have been since the 1940s, when Britain and France were displaced in the region by American power (e.g., when France was excluded from the “Red line” region on the sophisticated grounds that the French companies were “enemies” as a result of Hitler’s occupation of France, so that the 1928 agreement on sharing oil was abrogated). In the thinking of many “conservatives,” Europe is a more dangerous potential “enemy” than the U.S.S.R. (though, again, every move to increase U.S. dominance will be justified by the “Russian threat”). For example, when Henry Kissinger announced the “Year of Europe” in 1973 he warned against “the prospects of a closed trading system embracing the European Community and a growing number of other nations in Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa,” from which the U.S. might be excluded; his conception of “cooperation” between Europe and the U.S. was based on the principle that the U.S. is concerned with “the over-all framework of order” while the European powers are limited to “regional interests.” Similar concerns are no doubt being felt with increasing severity today. There are other factors too, for example, the complex relation between “support for Israel” (which mounted dramatically after Israel demonstrated its military power in 1967) and a more militaristic stance internationally. But these matters are too intricate to treat here.

QUESTION 9: This array of campaigns brings to mind the role of the media. In the interview in Change you don’t hesitate to say that “compared to the American system, the Third Reich was poor and naive in its propaganda.” Of course, neither for you nor for us is it a question of identifying the United States [with] Nazism. But could you explain the reasons which, in the domain of manipulation of public opinion, lead you to such a formulation?

CHOMSKY: My point was that the system of thought control that has been developed in the U.S. (and to a large degree throughout the world of capitalist democracy) is much more subtle than the propaganda systems of the totalitarian states, but quite possibly more effective. In a totalitarian state, the official propaganda agencies produce official truth blatantly and overtly; one must simply obey, or take the risk, which is often great, of dissenting. In the American system, debate is encouraged within a certain framework of presuppositions, sometimes articulated, sometimes not even expressed. The more intense the debate, the more effectively the presuppositions — which embody the state religion — are insinuated.

For example, the most extreme critics of the American war in Indochina within the media argue that the war began as a “blundering effort to do good,” that the bombing of Cambodia, “however sincerely intended,” was a disaster (Anthony Lewis of The New York Times), etc. Similarly, though the American media correctly refer to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan as “an invasion,” and reject with ridicule the pretense that the Soviet Union was simply responding to the call of the legitimate government for support against foreign-based attack, they never referred to the U.S. invasion of Vietnam as “an invasion” and they accepted with virtually no question the claim by the U.S. government that it was responding to the call of the legitimate government for support against foreign-based attack.

I have given a great number of illustrations in various publications which reveal, I believe, a very systematic pattern: debate takes place, indeed is encouraged, within a certain system of assumptions. If one challenges these assumptions, one is simply excluded from the debate as “irresponsible” or “anti-American” or “emotional,” etc.; these are the characteristic charges leveled against someone who suggests that U.S. foreign policy, like that of other powers, is dominated by the material interests of the groups that control the domestic economy, rather than being a unique exercise in benevolence, occasionally misguided; or against someone who discusses the extensive documentary record of high level planning, always ignored in the media and academic scholarship, which lays bare the real motives for U.S. aggression in Indochina; and so on. Such people are not sent to concentration camps, but they have virtually no access to the public. My own experience is typical. For example, books of mine on international affairs can be reviewed in academic journals or the mass media in Canada or Europe, but this is a virtual impossibility in the United States since I do not accept the doctrines of the state religion.

Again, in a complex society not subject to state management one can find exceptions, but they are extremely rare, and the system has created the illusion of free and open debate while in fact ensuring that only a narrow spectrum of opinion and analysis reaches a broad public. In addition, of course, there is the matter of outright suppression of fact: e.g., the long suppression and deceit concerning Timor, the suppression by the media of the U.S> bombing of the civilian society of northern Laos for a long period, the suppression until today of the quite explicit rejection by Nixon and Kissinger of the “scrap of paper” they signed in Paris in January 1973, and many other examples that I have discussed at considerable length.

QUESTION 10: You are an exceptional witness for us because you know France also well. Don’t you have the impression of witnessing a sort of “Americanization” of the French media? Isn’t the misadventure you experienced with your letter to Nouvel Observateur, among others, a typical symptom of this evolution?

CHOMSKY: I don’t feel qualified to comment on the possible “Americanization” of the French media. My acquaintance with them is not sufficiently thorough. As for the incident with Nouvel Observateur that you cite — namely, the rewriting by the editor of a letter of mine to make my views conform to his ideological needs of the moment, suppressing my criticism of the Pol Pot regime while claiming that I was refusing to criticize it — it would not be fair to refer to that example of petty deceit as “Americanization.” I have seen nothing like it in the United States. In the American journal that is perhaps most similar to Nouvel Observateur, namely, the New Republic, dishonest editorial practices are standard; for example, the editor devoted a column to a vicious personal attack on me for my alleged views on Cambodia, referring to gossip that he claimed to have heard in Paris, and did not permit me to publish a letter in response, even after he was provided with documentation that demonstrated conclusively that his charges were baseless. But again, I do not think that “Americanization” is a fair term for these practices. I have never encountered them, for example, in the conservative press. Those, in my opinion, are the practices of the statist liberals, the same group who move so easily from Leninist apologetics to apologetics for some other favored state, usually their own (though for the New Republic, Israel now plays this role more than any other state).

QUESTION 11: Do you think that the press is a “fourth power” in France?

CHOMSKY: Again, I do not feel competent to comment on the situation in France. There is no doubt that for many years Le Monde has been an extremely distinguished journal, perhaps unparalleled in the world. I do not think, however, that the “independent press” has ever been anything like a “fourth power” anywhere in the world, surely not in the United States.

QUESTION 12: How did the press, the media, and the American intelligentsia react to a phenomenon such as the popular victory in Nicaragua? Is it perceived as a threat? In a recent interview published in France by l’Humanité-Dimanche, Gabriel García Márquez appears very confident regarding the prospects of the democratic and revolutionary currents. What do you think of that? What effect can the reinforcement of these currents produce in the United States?

CHOMSKY: The American media reacted cautiously to the overthrow of Somoza. They did not, in general, respond with anti-revolutionary hysteria. Nor did the U.S. government. By the end of Somoza’s rule, it was obvious that he was opposed by virtually all circles in Nicaragua, including the business circles that are the natural allies of the U.S. and that are typically favored in press reports of foreign affairs. As for prospects in Nicaragua, a certain degree of optimism seems reasonable today, but if U.S. business interests are threatened, I would expect the U.S. government and media reaction to be negative. If there are moves towards authentic democratic and libertarian socialism, I would expect that both superpowers would be hostile, for reasons already mentioned.

QUESTION 13: Mr. Chomsky, in the writings by you that we recently read, you do not appear to us to be pessimistic or in despair, in spite of the seriousness of the phenomena you describe. What does justify that lucid and reasoned optimism? Do you believe, in particular, that the return to the Cold War is inevitable?

CHOMSKY: I am not particularly optimistic, and am a little surprised that I sound optimistic. As for the Cold War, I think it is a very stable system, the basic reason being the one I already mentioned: it is highly functional for the superpowers, despite its dangers, in offering a framework within which they can employ harsh measures, violence if necessary, within the domains they take to be their own. Moves towards true independence in Europe would be regarded as a serious threat to this system by both superpowers, in my opinion. I think that the risks of a major war in coming years are not slight. There is a real crises of resources, particularly energy, but not energy alone. Serious conflicts are likely to develop over access to and control of vital resources, with an extraordinarily dangerous potential. It is quite likely that the industrialized powers will try to prevent significant economic development — surely, independent development — in the Third World. Local conflicts, of which there are many, can rapidly escalate because of the awesome power of contemporary weaponry and because they become entangled, so quickly, in the matrix of resource crises and other conflicts over domination and control. It does not seem to me at all obvious that human civilization will survive until the 21st century. The maxim that I consciously try to follow is Gramsci’s: “pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will.” I do not find it easy to observe this reasonable principle in the current period.