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Noam Chomsky: The Decline of American Empire (Part 2)

The principles of imperial domination have undergone little change, but the capacity to implement them has markedly declined.

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In the United States, before the massive propaganda campaigns of the past few years, a majority of the population agreed with most of the world that, as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has a right to carry out uranium enrichment.  And even today, a large majority favors peaceful means for dealing with Iran.  There is even strong opposition to military engagement if Iran and Israel are at war.   Only a quarter regard Iran as an important concern for the U.S. altogether.  But it is not unusual for there to be a gap, often a chasm, dividing public opinion and policy.

Why exactly is Iran regarded as such a colossal threat? The question is rarely discussed, but it is not hard to find a serious answer -- though not, as usual, in the fevered pronouncements.  The most authoritative answer is provided by the Pentagon and the intelligence services in their regular reports to Congress on global security.  They report that Iran does not pose a military threat.  Its military spending is very low even by the standards of the region,  minuscule of course in comparison with the U.S.

Iran has little capacity to deploy force.  Its strategic doctrines are defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to set it.  If Iran is developing nuclear weapons capability, they report, that would be part of its deterrence strategy.  No serious analyst believes that the ruling clerics are eager to see their country and possessions vaporized, the immediate consequence of their coming even close to initiating a nuclear war.  And it is hardly necessary to spell out  the reasons why any Iranian leadership would be concerned with deterrence, under existing circumstances.

The regime is doubtless a serious threat to much of its own population -- and regrettably, is hardly unique on that score.  But the primary threat to the U.S. and Israel is that Iran might deter their free exercise of violence.  A further threat is that the Iranians clearly seek to extend their influence to neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, and beyond as well.  Those “illegitimate” acts are called “destabilizing” (or worse).  In contrast, forceful imposition of U.S. influence halfway around the world contributes to “stability” and order, in accord with traditional doctrine about  who owns the world.

It makes very good sense to try to prevent Iran from joining the nuclear weapons states, including the three that have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- Israel, India, and  Pakistan, all of which have been assisted in developing nuclear weapons by the U.S., and are still being assisted by them.  It is not impossible to approach that goal by peaceful diplomatic means.  One approach, which enjoys overwhelming international support, is to undertake meaningful steps towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, including Iran and Israel (and applying as well to U.S. forces deployed there), better still extending to South Asia. 

Support for such efforts is so strong that the Obama administration has been compelled to formally agree, but with reservations: crucially, that Israel’s nuclear program must not be placed under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Association, and that no state (meaning the U.S.) should be required to release information about “Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel.” Obama also accepts Israel’s position that any such proposal must be conditional on a comprehensive peace settlement, which the U.S. and Israel can continue to delay indefinitely.

This survey comes nowhere near being exhaustive, needless to say. Among major topics not addressed is the  shift of U.S. military policy towards the Asia-Pacific region, with new additions to the huge military base system underway right now, in  Jeju Island off South Korea and  Northwest Australia, all elements of the policy of “containment of China.” Closely related is the issue of  U.S. bases in Okinawa, bitterly opposed by the population for many years, and a continual crisis in U.S.-Tokyo-Okinawa relations.

 
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