Noam Chomsky on the US-Afghan Strategic Partnership: 'Part of a Global Program of World Militarization’
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Editor's note: This is a transcript of a conversation between members of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Noam Chomsky, which took place on September 21, 2011. Each question was asked in Dari and translated by Hakim.
Hakim: Thank you, Professor Chomsky, for speaking to us. We are speaking from the highlands of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, and we wanted to start off by thanking you sincerely for the guidance and wisdom that you have consistently given through your teaching and speeches in many places. We want to start off with a question from Faiz.
Faiz: In an article by Ahmad Rashid in the New York Times recently, he said that “after 10 years, it should be clear that the war in this region cannot be won purely by military force….Pakistanis desperately need a new narrative…but where is the leadership to tell this story as it should be told? The military gets away with its antiquated thinking because nobody is offering an alternative, and without an alternative, nothing will improve for a long time.”
Do you think there is any leadership in the world today that can propose an alternative non-military solution for Afghanistan, and if not, where or from whom would this leadership come from?
Noam Chomsky: I think it is well understood among the military leadership and also the political leadership in the United States and its allies, that they cannot achieve a military solution of the kind that they want. This is putting aside the question of whether that goal was ever justified; now, put that aside. Just in their terms, they know perfectly well they cannot achieve a military solution.
Is there an alternative political force that could work toward some sort of political settlement? Well, you know, that actually the major force that would be effective in bringing about that aim is popular opinion. The public is already very strongly opposed to the war and has been for a long time, but that has not translated itself into an active, committed, dedicated popular movement that is seeking to change policy. And that’s what has to be done here.
My own feeling is that the most important consequence of the very significant peace efforts that are underway inside Afghanistan might well be to stimulate popular movements in the West through just people-to-people contact, which would help impose pressures on the United States, and particularly Britain, to end the military phase of this conflict and move toward what ought to be done: peaceful settlement and honest, realistic economic development.
Abdulai: Dr. Ramazon Bashardost told the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers once that the people of Afghanistan have no choice because all available options in Afghanistan are bad. So, Afghans have no choice but to choose the least bad of the bad options. In this situation, some Afghans, and in particular many in Kabul, feel that the least bad option is to have the U.S. coalition forces remain in Afghanistan.
Do you think that the continued presence of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan is the least bad option? If not, what are the possible truly good options for ordinary Afghans?
Chomsky: I agree that there don’t appear to be any good options, and that we therefore regrettably have to try to seek the least bad of the bad options. Now, that judgment has to be made by Afghans. You’re on the scene. You’re the people who live with the consequences. You are the people who have the right and responsibility to make these delicate and unfortunate choices. I have my own opinion, but it doesn’t carry any weight. What matters are your opinions.