MK: The first question is the most basic I suppose. To what extent do you think an American Empire exists today?
NC: The term Empire is so vague and is used in so many different ways that I don’t think the question can be answered. There are various power systems in the world. There are obviously tremendous inequities of power. The US is far and away the most powerful component of the world system in terms of military force. In terms of economic force it’s basically one among three. That’s been true for a long time and is even more so today with North East Asia a very dynamic area, Europe roughly on a par with the US economically. North East Asia and Europe are increasing their ties. In fact, the EU and China became each others major trading partner this year 2004 and that’s continuing so there is a complicated system of world domination and the US is, in many ways, pre-eminent but primarily because of its military force and its huge internal economy and it uses the force of course to dominate and control. If you want to call it Empire okay if not okay word doesn’t mean much.
MK: Okay, maybe I can word it differently. How much is there a conscious pursuit of domination by the US?
NC: It controls policy all the time. I mean the US is unusual in that it has a very free society so we have quite good access to internal records – much better than any country I know of. There’s rational planning going on all the time and its about domination and control. What would you expect it to be about? If you got the records of a corporation, you’d find internal planning about increasing profits and market share. If it’s a state you find planning about how to control and dominate of the nature that others act in accord of the interests that are represented by the planners.
MK: So how far back does this conscious planning go? Is it post-WW2?
NC: It goes back to the revolutionary period. Then they had much less ambitious plans. But the Founding Fathers, so called, talked pretty openly, in fact, about what they called the “rising American Empire”. They didn’t mean Empire in the sense that it later came to mean in the late 19th century. This was a century earlier. But they had plans to expand to the Pacific, to conquer Canada. They were blocked by British force. Britain was a deterrent. They intended to take over the Spanish parts of the continental territory, Cuba go on as far south as they could. The US didn’t become a major player on the global scene until after the Second World War. It dominated the region, there were some forays into the Pacific. But it was secondary to Britain. I mean in fact even France up until the Second World War. Then everything changed. The Second World War, it was clear in the early stages of the war that the US was going to emerge as the world dominate power and there were high level planning meetings intensively going on from 1939 to 1945, right through the war years. These happen to be publicly available. Its State department and Council on Foreign Relations, which is the main so-called private in put to the planning system – they’re very closely integrated. They had meetings through the Second World War planning for the post-war world and it was very explicit. In the early part of the war they expected that Germany would survive and it would be a German controlled world which would be part of Eurasia and the rest they wanted to be US controlled. They even had a name for it. They called it the Grand Area. It was defined as the area necessary for the US economy – which means US industry, agriculture, corporate structure – to enable it to flourish and have the resources it needs and the markets it wants and so on. And the Grand Area was defined as the entire Western Hemisphere, the Far East and the former British Empire which the US would take over. That is the minimum and from then on to the whole. Well by about 1943 it was reasonably clear that Germany was unlikely to survive so the Grand Area extended to include as much of Eurasia as possible and there were explicit and rational plans as to what to do with every area. If you go into the early pos-war period – and now we have to go to de-classified secret documents- then secret now mostly de-classified, there is extensive planning. I mean every part of the globe was assigned what was called its “function”. The main “function” of South-East Asia, for example, was to provide resources and raw materials for Europe and Japan s that they could re-industrialize as a component of the US dominated system. The US needed them to overcome what was called the “dollar gap”. The US was producing much more than the rest of the world could import because most of the industrial world was devastated or destroyed. So you had to overcome the “dollar gap” and that meant that, for example, England had to have access to the resources of Malaya so that it could gain dollars to buy US manufacturers. Very intricate global planning of that nature. Japan had to have restored to it what the planners called, it’s “Empire toward the South”. Basically the new order that it had been trying to create but not within US control. Africa the US wasn’t very much interest in so George Kennan who was the Head of the Policy Planning Staff recommended that it be handed over to Europe to “exploit” – that was his word – for Europe to exploit for its own reconstruction. You can think of the different relations between Europe and Africa given the history but that never occurred to anyone. As for the Middle East, the US took for granted that it would take it over because of what they called its “stupendous source of strategic power” and “one of the great material prizes in world history”. Controlling that huge resource provided what was called “veto-power” over what their rivals might do – Europe, Japan and later Asia. We can go on but its all spelled out in considerable detail and its acted on, I mean the plans are implemented so what more is there to say? And furthermore, its perfectly reasonable, it would be very surprising if you found anything else.
MK: Is the current “war on terror” a new shift in this imperial ambition? Before overt military attacks were not common, wars were fought through proxy forces. Is this a new development?
NC: First of all the “war on terror” was declared quite explicitly in 1981 by the same who are now in Washington or their immediate mentors. That was during their Reaganite phase. The Reagan – it’s mostly the people currently in office – and announced right off that the focus of foreign policy would be fighting terror – state sponsored terrorism – “plague of the modern age”; “return to the age of barbarism” and so on and so forth. Same rhetoric as today and the “war on terror” was the cover for major terrorist wars that the US waged against Central America, in South East Asia, in Africa, in the Middle East and elsewhere with horrendous consequences. No-one wants to talk about because you’re not supposed to admit those things. But the fact is that the “war on terror” was designated to be the focus of US foreign policy in the early 1980s.
MK: Wasn’t it qualitatively different?
NC: How was it different?
MK: It didn’t have US ground troops.
NC: Actually they intended at first to use US forces in Central America but there was so much popular reaction that they turned to what is called “clandestine war”. Clandestine means the war that everybody knows about except the American population – it’s kept from them and it was fought with an international terrorist network, in which Britain contributed incidentally. So it was Taiwan, Israel, Argentine neo-Nazi’s until they were thrown out, Saudi Arabian funding, British assistance. So that’s a kind of an international terror network that was used to support the murderous state terrorist governments of Central America and in the case of the one government where they didn’t control the security forces, Nicuargua, they were used just to attack. There was a terrorist war against Nicuargua for which the US was actually condemned by the World Court and the Security Council – the US vetoed the resolution, Britain loyally abstained. It’s not a big secret really and that’s right through the 1980’s. Meanwhile, in Southern Africa, the US and Britain were backing South Africa, the Reagan administration had to violate the congressional sanctions to keep supporting them. They were supporting them not only in South Africa but also in their attacks on Angola and Mozambique which left a horrendous toll – maybe a 1,500,000 people killed and so on. That went on right through the 1980s in the Middle East they supported Israel’s invasion of Lebanon which killed about 20,000 people and tried to establish a client state didn’t quite work as the occupation remained. The invasion could continue because the Reagan vetoed Security Council resolutions calling it off. South East Asia Britain and US continued to support General Suharto – one of the major mass murderers of the modern period – Britain was particularly decisive in supporting his invasion of East Timor which was continuing, the US too. They were supporting Saddam Hussein. Britain and the US both supported him right through the worst atrocities – long after the war with Iran was over – that wasn’t the reason. So yes it was all over the world. And much of this was under the framework of what was called a “war on terror”. Later in the 1980s they started calling it a “war against drugs”. 1990s there were other pretexts. After the 9/11 attacks in New York, they re-declared the “war on terror”. But, in fact, its not a high priority for the US. I mean its easy to show that. Like, say, take the invasion of Iraq. It was anticipated even by their own intelligence agencies that invading Iraq would increase the threat of terror which in fact it did but its just not a high priority. I mean having a dependant client state in the heart of the world main energy resource is a far higher priority than preventing terror. They didn’t care about terror.
MK: Do you think Empire bring any benefits to the colonized? Historians like Niall Ferguson have talked about the economic benefits…
NC: To England yes. Actually even in the case of England it’s a mixed story. There have been some attempts over the years to try to do a kind of cost benefit analysis of the British Empire – how much did England gain? how much did it lose. You can’t really do a careful calculation – its too complicated. But the rough estimates are probably that it’s basically in balance – that England gained approximately as much, took from the Empire as much as it cost to run the Empire. Well let’s suppose it’s true. It doesn’t tell you very much. You have to ask what happened inside England. Who gained and who lost. Well the stockholder of the East India Company they became fabulously wealthy. How about sailors in the British navy? They didn’t gain. So it was essentially a class war inside England with winners and losers. And the same is true for the American system of domination. American workers don’t gain, but American multinationals gain enormously. As for Ferguson’s story, yeah it’s true that most imperial systems lead to some benefits for the victims. So for example, take East Europe under the Russians. It developed, Bulgaria for example, developed under Russian domination from a poor Third world country to a low level industrializing country. We don’t give Stalin plaudits for that. The fact that development is usually done for the benefit of the home country. So, for example, in India there was considerable development of infrastructure under the British. Almost all for export of raw materials and resources to England. There was an Indian upper class which of course benefited but every imperial systems is mostly run by domestic clones. Like under the Nazi’s there were people in the Vichy government who benefited greatly. We don’t therefore praise the Nazi imperial system. But for most of the people in India it was a disaster. I mean when the British took over India, started taking it over in the 18th century – it took a while to conquer it all – when they started taking it over, India and China were the commercial and industrial centres of the world. England was a backward country. It was much more powerful in military force but not in other respects. In fact, England had to impose high tariffs to protect English industry from superior Indian goods. It forced on India a market system which enabled Indian production to be overwhelmed by British goods and stole Indian technology – we now call it illegal, then it was illegal. Just as England did from Ireland. And over time England became the richest country – highest per capita country in the world – and India became an impoverished peasant society. Right through the hideous famines of the Victorian era India was being compelled to export food to England instead of for itself. But if you look there are more railroads, there’s a lot of rich people. Find any system of domination in which that isn’t true. It was true of Russian controlled areas, its true of Nazi controlled areas.
MK: So how do explain the fact that since decolonization, most of Africa has become considerably less economically well off?
NC: First of all they were devastated by colonialism. What was left afterwards was a nationalist elite very closely tied to the imperial powers. So Britain left, say Nigeria, ensuring it was in the hands of people who would continue the relations to England they wanted. The French were driven out of Algeria but they retained close connections with the Algerian ruling groups. In fact in the 1990s French intelligence was probably implicated in many of the worst state massacres that were going on. And French West-Africa remained quasi-colonial in many respects. So a large part of the imperial system sort of remained and then it was overcome by other mechanism. So the South African, Latin America are the two regions of the world that have most rigorously followed the programs of the IMF and the so-called neo-liberal program. And they are the areas that most suffered. The countries that have developed like East Asia have largely ignored these principles. There is a very close correlation and the correlation goes way back in history. I mean the Third World – what is now called the Third World – is the region that was unable to make its own choices about how to develop and so it became the Third World – black sovereignty. There is one part of the South that developed, namely Japan, and it’s the one part that wasn’t colonized. Is that an accident? It’s not an accident. Southern Africa, Latin America too did pretty rigorously follow the rules. The elites benefited enormously – you can go to central Africa and find sectors of great wealth and privilege but as usual the population suffered. And if there was any trouble the European powers that are usually the traditional colonial masters would step in and put it back in order for their benefit. I mean I’m not saying there are no internal reasons for the stagnation and decline, there are, but the outside forces played their usual role.
MK: Okay if we accept that Empire or some sort of domination of a smaller power is wrong. Do you think that most of the American population agree with us? I have spoken to quite a few Americans who say “Maybe keeping pro-business elites in Latin America was immoral but would I be as affluent as an American citizen if we hadn’t done it?”
NC: Who did you ask? Did you ask working people?
MK: No I suppose not.
NC: You asked Harvard professors.
MK: Well no.
NC: The equivalent then. The fact of the matter is you can easily find out what public attitudes are. They’re very well studied in the US. For example, right before the last election there were extensive studies of popular opinion released on all sorts of issues. A large majority, very large, is opposed to the doctrine of both political parties and Tony Blair, that is the doctrine that the US has the right to use force to attack potential challenges – somebody who might harm us in the future – large majority of the population against this force should only be permitted when your under attack or your under imminent attack. In fact, the majority of the US population even thinks we ought to give up the UN veto and follow the UN lead. Now if you ask about particular cases – keeping business elites in power in Latin America – that’s not what working people are going to tell you is a good idea. I’m sure your not going to get that answer. What they are going to say is that it was right to do it because we were defending ourselves against communist attack. That’s the mythology that’s driven into peoples head. And, yeah, they will say we had to defend ourselves against the Chinese or the Russians.
MK: Weren’t they were told alongside that they wouldn’t be as economically well off if they weren’t keeping these business elites in place?
NC: They weren’t told that. In fact, nobody ever says that because that would be self interest. You have to pretend that we don’t do things for self-interest. We do them altruistically. So the standard line in British, American, French and other propaganda is that everything we do is altruistic. And that’s not what people are told and that’s not the kind of answer you are going to get. Maybe a few cynics will say it but almost everyone will give you the conventional – “we’re altruistic, we’re working for the good of others, they don’t appreciate it, we don’t understand why they hate us, we’ve done so much for them” and so on and so forth. Very few people are going to say “they hate us because we rob them”. Almost nobody will say that. So I don’t think you get the answers you say. I think you get the answers that are conventional in the propaganda system. And it’s not just the Britain, the US, France and others. Its every system of domination. Just try someday reading Hitler’s propaganda or the propaganda of the Japanese fascists. I mean it’s just overcome with love for the people of the world, what kind of wonderful things we were going to do for them. Japan was going to create an earthly paradise in Asia where everyone would work together in peace and Japan has the technology so it would serve them and help them. The only problem was trying to protect the population from the Chinese bandits, the Chinese who they were conquering. It’s just full of, you know, tears come to your eyes its just so beautiful. And that’s the standard line of every imperial power plus the line that says look how much good we did for you. I mean we built railroads so we could export products – the parts not mentioned. But to say we did that out of self interest is very rare.
MK: You’ve said previously that all propaganda has some element of truth.
NC: Well some element of truth. Like, for example, it’s true that Russia developed Eastern Europe. Some element of truth.
MK: Well what about the propaganda now. Can you ever export democracy to another country?
NC: Well you might if you tried. But who wants to bring democracy to any other place? That’s just sheer propaganda. Take a look at the record. In fact, take a look at the fronts pages of the New York Times. It’s so blatant they can’t even see what they’re saying. So when Arafat died take a look at the main front pages of the New York Times or any newspaper – they’re all the same. “Now we have a hope for a post-Arafat era in which we can have peace and democracy under Arafat we couldn’t do it”. Well okay the Times starts like this, “there’s now a chance to implement the, quintessential American faith, that elections legitimate even the frailest institutions.” Read down the article to the last paragraph and it says, “the US was unwilling to allow elections in Palestine because it knew that Arafat was going to win and that would give him more of a mandate and others might gain credibility too.” So what’s the quintessential American faith? Well the quintessential America faith is that elections and democracy are fine so long as they come out the right way and that’s also the quintessential British and the quintessential French, in fact everybody’s quintessential faith but bringing democracy? That’s the last thing that the US and Britain would dream of. Did Britain and the US overthrow the parliamentary government of Iran in order to bring a democracy? Did the US, a year later, overthrow the first democratic government in Guatemala to bring it democracy? We can go on and on…
MK: What about Germany and Japan after the Second World War? Aren’t they examples of the opposite?
NC: Germany and Japan after the Second World War were under US control in the very early stages when the countries were under the military – McCarther in Japan and Clay in Germany. They did allow democratic forces to function but the civilians in Washington, the liberals quickly stepped in and reversed it. Japan was given the name “reverse course”. They wanted to ensure in both Germany and Japan that pretty much the traditional order would remain and that after the war as is usual after wars there were very radical sentiments among the resistance, the workforce and others and they wanted to have a kind of radical democracy. Britain and the US were not going to allow that so they moved in and allowed a certain kind of democracy as long as it ensures that the right forces are in control – including much of the traditional order – closely linked to the Western power. In Germany, for example, George Kennan who was one of the top planners insisted that it would be necessary, in his words to “wall off Western Germany from Eastern influences to prevent a too powerful labor movement from developing” – interesting choice of terms. In Italy, where there was a really powerful anti-Nazi resistance (much more so than in France), and in fact had liberated most of northern Italy before the British and the Americans came in. First thing they did, Britain and the US, was to crush the self managed workplaces, to restore the traditional managers and, in fact to restore pretty much the traditional system. The US, in fact, intervened radically in the 1948 elections because they were afraid the wrong side would win and Italy was really hit hard by the war so they withheld food, they reinstated the fascist police. They warned Italy that if the elections came out the wrong way they’d simply starve them to death. The National Security Council, the top planning body, was founded in 1948 and its first memorandum discusses what to do if the election comes out the wrong way in Italy as they expected. And they said if it does we will call a national emergency, we will mobilized the sixth fleet in the Mediterranean and we will support paramilitary activities in Italy to overturn the government. Other measures like starvation and threats succeeded in getting it to come out the right way. Much of the traditional was re-established, the labor movement was contained and then it goes on to becoming the kind of democracy that Britain and the US would tolerate. So yes, as long as democracy comes out the right way. Actually the same is true internally as well: if it comes out the right way, fine, if not, we do something to change. The “quintessential faith” is clear in the documents and absolutely clear in the actions. The same is true today in Iraq. In Britain and the US there is just rapture about President Bush’s “messianic vision to bring democracy to Iraq”. Ask people in Baghdad. Well actually at the same time as the messianic vision was announced with great awe in the Britain and the US the US ran a poll in Baghdad asking people why they thought the US invaded. Some agreed with Western (British and American) opinion. 1% – 1% said the goal was to bring democracy while the rest said the obvious. To take Iraq resources, use it to control the Middle East and US interests. Now they talk about having a democratic election. Think for a minute what a sovereign, democratic Iraq would do. It would have a Shi’ite majority. First thing it would probably do is mend relations with Shi’ite Iran which they were doing already and they would probably move in that direction. They would try to regain their position as a dominant force in the Arab which would mean re-arming and maybe even developing Weapons of Mass Destruction to confront the main regional enemy, namely Israel. They might inspire inspire independence movements in Shi’ite areas of Saudi Arabia which happen to be where most of the oil is which may conceivably lead to a kind of Shi’ite dominated alliance – Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia – that would control most of the worlds oil. Are the US and England going to allow any of this to happen? Of course not. I mean as soon as democracy will get out of control if they allow it at all they move in by force like they have done everywhere else. So yes there is a quintessential faith that democracy fine if it comes out the right way. You have to be blind not to see that. It is the consistent lesson of history. Its perfectly reasonable; it would be surprising if anything else were true. Furthermore they often say it. Like the leading academic expert on democratization of Latin America, Thomas Carruthers, who writes all the main books and articles and happens to be interesting because he was inside the Reagan administration, what they called the “democracy enhancement programmes” of the State Department he was involved in them. And he takes it very seriously: he says it was very noble and sincere. Then he goes on to describe what happens and he ends up telling the truth. He says the US supports democracy as long as the result is what he calls a “top-down form democracy” with traditional power centres retaining power, namely the ones that were closely related to the US. In that case the US will be happy to call it democracy and England was the same, France was the same, even Russia was the same. Stalin called those countries “people’s democracies”.
MK: How do see a movement against the imperial actions of America developing. There was massive mobilization against the war in Iraq but since…
NC: Well that was actually historic. I mean that’s the first time in hundreds of years of the history of Europe – the first time I can think of – when there was actually mass protest against a war before it was actually launched. That reflects a very significant change of public opinion in the US as well. It is much harder for the US, Britain and others to carry off the traditional kind of aggression and violence that they are used to because there is just to much domestic resistance and it is necessary to find other ways to control the domestic population. That’s why they frighten them with Saddam Hussein is going to get you or he’s tied up with 9/11 or whatever. You have to somehow frighten to get to support things that they are opposed to. Actually Us opinion is quite interesting about this. SO about now about ¾ of the population say it was wrong to invade Iraq if it did not have WMDs and did not have ties to Al’Qaida and\ 9.11 – that’s 75% of the population. About 50% of the population say it was right to invade: its not a contradiction. 50% of the country believe that Iraq had WMD’s or programmes developing and had ties to Al’Qaida and was involved in 9/11. And that’s the effect of efficient state-media propaganda. If you frighten people with terrorist stories they will huddle under the umbrella of power even it is opposed to their own convictions because they are afraid.
When speaking to Michael Mann a few weeks ago I asked him if he believed that US really cared about popular opposition to its policies around the world. He replied: “It doesn’t care a lot. Well, in principle it cares but in practice over the last couple of years it hasn’t cared, nor has that a major source of its weakness. I mean there could have been a million or more people demonstrating in London, so what? I mean the demonstrators in other countries probably had some impact on their governments not getting involved in Iraq, but again, so what? There’s only two parties that matter in this: one is the US and the other is the Iraqi’s. Europe is irrelevant, there’s nothing much that the Europeans could do.” Do you agree with that?
NC: It’s a point of view which says “look we have the guns and you shut up”. That’s a point of view, I mean, Hitler’s point of view; Stalin’s point of view, understandable. Stalin famously asked when he was told the Vatican disapproved of something, “how many divisions has the Pope?” Okay that’s what Michael Mann is saying, “how many divisions does Europe have?” Exactly like Stalin. It’s a point of view, I mean, I don’t accept those attitudes and I also don’t think its accurate. Even the most powerful state in the world, and the US is not that, it is the current world but it has plenty of constraints. Even the most powerful force cannot ignore attitudes and opinions elsewhere. That’s why the US elites go berserk if Honduras withdraws fifty soldiers from Iraq. They must maintain some sort of a façade of international support. That’s why Bush and Blair and so on pretend that they are leading a coalition. Yeah it’s a coalition of the US, its attack dog England and US mercenary forces which are largely of the British contingent and a couple of other people scattered around. The attitude in the US and England to democracy was very clearly revealed in connection with the issue that Mann raises about public opinion in Europe. I mean Europe divided pretty sharply into two groups of countries: those in which the governments took the same position as the overwhelming majority of the public and those in which the government overruled the vast majority of their population and took their orders from Crawford, Texas. And you remember how they were described in elite circles: that’s “Old Europe” and “New Europe”. “Old Europe” are the bad guys, the ones where the governments took the same position as the majority of the population. “New Europe” is the hope for the future, the hope for the new democracies, namely with the governments, like in Spain, where the government overrules 90% of the population and follow orders from the boss. That’s the hope for democracy. And it was shown very dramatically in the case of Turkey. In the case of Turkey to everyone’s surprise the government ended up taking the same position as 90% of the population. They were bitterly denounced. Colin Powell immediately said they would be “punished”, “we’re going to withdraw aid”. They were denounced as “lacking democratic credentials”. That was the phrase that was used. Paul Wolfowitz who it supposed to be the idealist leading the crusade for democracy, he went so far as to condemn the Turkish military because they did not step in to force the government to follow US demands and he demanded that they apologize to the US and recognise, publicly, that their job is to help the US. It tells you what their belief in democracy is. In fact, this was so sharp it takes real discipline not to see it. That was the criterion for “Old Europe” and “New Europe”: the “bad guys” and the “good guys”. Democracy is fine if you do what we tell you otherwise your worthless.
MK: In what ways can public resistance affect a country as powerful as the US?
NC: Enormously. I mean the US is in a lot of trouble in Iraq no because they could not mobilized international support. Also for other reasons: catastrophic errors in the way they ran the occupation. Actually the Nazi’s had an easier time in occupied Europe. That aside, the US is now appealing for international support, pleading for it practically. Just the other day they got European countries to forgive Iraq’s debt because the US would have to pay it. It’s not Iraq’s debt: if the US is going to occupy it it’s going to have to pay the debt so they don’t want it so they induced or compelled the other countries to withdraw it. They are trying every imaginable way to get some kind of support for the occupation. If European countries and others won’t go along that restricts US actions and it also has another very important consequence: it affects US public opinion. In the world there are people living on isolated islands. Attitudes and opinions in Europe affect hose in the US of course. And the greatest enemy of the state in the US or anywhere else is its own population. That’s what they’re really afraid of. In fact, the Founding Fathers called it the “great beast” which “has to be controlled” because the population can in fact compel the government to change policies. And these interactions make an enormous difference.
MK: What about the arguments of some of those on the left – like Hitchens here or Hari in England – who say that the job of the left has been to fight fascism throughout the whole of the twentieth century.
NC: It still is.
MK: But they say the “war on terror” is a continuation of the same noble trend.
NC: No, of course not. In fact, Hitchens – I don’t know Hari – is smart enough to know that US policies are increasing the threat of terror. I mean don’t bother with Hitchens and Hari. Take a look at people who are actually concerned with the threat of terror. The specialists who write about. Take, say, Jason Burke in England (the best specialist on Al-Qaida) or Michael Schoy or the anonymous bestseller in the US or in fact the intelligence agencies or Israeli intelligence agencies or anyone else. They all say the same thing: if you want to deal with terrorism there has got to be two approaches. One is the terrorists themselves – the ones who actually put the bombs in – those are criminal acts you deal with them as criminal acts – basically a police question – if its international its an international police operation. Its successful. I mean in Europe and South East Asia and elsewhere there have been real successes in breaking up criminal networks of terrorists – controlling their finances and so on. But the much more important thing – they all say – is consider the potential reservoir of sympathy and support. I mean the terrorists see themselves as a vanguard. They don’t think they are going to overthrow the West. They are a vanguard who are trying to mobilize people to support them and join them and that population they are trying to appeal to may fear them, may even hate them, but they hope that it will recognize that there is some justice in their cause and they will be able to recruit among them. And if you are serious about blocking terrorism what you’ll do is pay attention to the legitimate grievances of the people they are trying o mobilize. You don’t help them mobilize the population by using violence in ways which they can then use to say “okay see we were right, join us”. That’s exactly the opposite of what Hitchens and Hari say. I mean according to Hitchens if you try to be reasonable about it, like all the experts on terrorism, your rationalizing terror. You are supposed to stand up and scream, “it’s fascism”. But you are not supposed to think and recognize that if your serious about dealing with terrorism you’ll pay attention to legitimate grievances. I mean England, it should be second nature. Take Ireland. As long as England reacted to IRA terror by violence it just increased the terror and it became pretty serious. When England finally began to pay attention to the fact that there were some legitimate grievances behind and started to attend to those grievances it improved enormously. Belfast isn’t utopia but it’s a lot better than it was a few years ago and that’s the standard lesson. You can hear it from Burke, you can hear it from American specialists on terrorism, you can hear it from Israeli intelligence. They all say the same thing. The only people who don’t say it are intellectuals who like to stand up and scream and stand and pretend that they are fighting fascism and therefore denounce anyone who takes the position of the terrorism experts as rationalizing terror. But notice that Hitchens doesn’t condemn Israeli intelligence, Jason Burke, the Wall Street Journal and so on and so forth. What he condemns is his enemies on the left who say exactly the same thing. It tells you something about him but it’s not interesting.
Your latest political book is apocalyptically titled, “Hegemony or Survival?” Do you really believe the choice is that stark? If the US continues in its quest for global dominance do you think we threaten our survival?
NC: Actually it’s not particularly my opinion. Probably the most respectable journal in the West is the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences which last issue has an article by two leading strategic analysts who say that – they were studying the transformation of the military: the new build up of offensive military weapons that put the entire world at risk of instant annihilation, militarization of space and so on – and they discuss it and they talk about the reactions which are anticipated and are already taking place and they conclude that if this continues there is a fair likelihood of “ultimate doom”. That’s very respectable strategic analysts, the most respectable journal in the West. Not given to hyperbole. In fact they hope that a coalition of peace loving states will coalesce to counter US militarism and aggressiveness. And they don’t expect it to be led by England, they hope it will be led by China. That’s where we have come to. They hope that China will organize a coalition of peace loving states to stop the militarism and aggressiveness headed by the US and its British ally. Well it’s interesting that they have such contempt for American democracy and British democracy: they don’t even dream of it coming from within. I don’t agree with it – I don’t think we have to wait for China to save us from all doom – I think we can do it ourselves.