Noam Chomsky on America's Declining Empire, Occupy and the Arab Spring
Continued from previous page
The major success story so far is Tunisia. The French supported the dictatorship well into the time when the uprising was massive. They continued to support it until they finally kind of backed off. There has been a real popular participation in Tunisia which has changed things. They’ve got plenty of problems, but there’s been considerable progress. Egypt, which is the most important country and where quite exciting things happened, a lot of it has been just beaten back. A lot of the old regime is back in place. The Islamic groups which were organizing under the dictatorship in urban slums and rural areas -- that large organizational structure has allowed them, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, to gain a dominant influence in whatever formal political space there is.
The US can live with them. The Muslim Brotherhood leadership is neoliberal. It basically accepts the framework of US global policies. The US has no objection to Islamic rule. Saudi Arabia, which is the main ally, is the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist state in the world and one of the oppressive. The US has no problem with that. It can be Islamic or anything else as long as they accept the basic structure of US global power. The Brotherhood would very likely go along with that pretty much.
There’s no time to go through it case by case, but I think if you look you’ll find that every case is essentially the same in that the US and its imperial allies very much fear actual democratic progress, and want to block it. There’s a very simple reason for that. Take a look at the polls. There’s extensive western US polling, and polling done by reputable Arab organizations. It turns out that throughout the region what people see as the major threat that they face is overwhelmingly the United States and Israel.
They don’t like Iran. Iran is quite unpopular. That goes way back to Persian and Arab tension. Sunni and Shia tensions go way back. Iran’s unpopular, but very few regard Iran as a threat. In the latest poll from a couple weeks ago it was 5 percent. Opposition to US policy is so strong that a majority, and in some places a large majority, thinks the region would be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons. They don’t want there to be nuclear weapons, but just to offset US-Israeli power. A recent Gallup poll shows that more than 80 percent of Egyptians want to reject US aid because of opposition to the United States and fear of the threats that it poses.
Those are not the policies that the United States and its allies want to see obviously. To the extent that you have a functioning democracy, public opinion influences policy. Naturally they’re opposed to democracy. You don’t read that in the media and the journals. You talk about our love for democracy and our inconsistency, why here and not there? There’s very little inconsistency as far back as we go. In fact that’s recognized by the more serious scholarship, which recognize kind of ruefully the US support of democracy, insofar as it confirms to strategic and economic objectives. It’s true in Latin America, it’s true in the Middle East, it’s true everywhere. It’s true here at home for that matter. It’s completely understandable. We shouldn’t have any illusions about. That’s not what the people in the United States may want, but here, as in other countries, popular opinion and public policy are often separated by a chasm, a mark of a lack of functioning democracy. In fact one of the reasons -- to bring it back to home -- it’s why there’s such an enormous antagonism toward Congress. Approval of Congress is in single digits. I don’t think it’s ever been that low.