Forget moral equivalence… America's worse!

Forget moral equivalence… America’s worse! Check out this interminable Chomsky lecture (RealAudio) made at the MIT Technology and Culture Forum. (Link from Backwash.) Chomsky, in his usual laconic, newspaper quoting fashion, enumerates America’s crimes against all that is true and good. We’re starving the Afghans. And our involvement in Nicauragua in the 80’s constitutes a lawless terrorist act with which 9/11 pales in comparison. At least on lone voice remains to speak truth to power!

Seriously, I’m no big fan of interventionist foreign policy, and some of what Chomsky says resonates slightly (e.g., I’m no fan of huge corporations either, though for reasons different from Chomsky). I do feel, post 9/11, that we need to seriously reassess our involvements and “entangling alliances,” as Washington put it. I think it is worthwhile to separate the idea of the nation — the American people and the ideals of the Founding — from the idea of the state — the actual government and its policies.

One can be pro-American, as I wholeheartdely am, in the sense that I love what this country is supposed to be about, and I love the way our people try to realize what this country is supposed to be about. And one can at the same time be anti-government, as I am, in the sense that I disagree with most of the overgrown state’s actual policies, and I’m pessimistic about the state doing much good in general. However, defense is an important exception, and I feel surprisingly good about how the war has been conducted thus far (though not on the Ashcroft front). Left libertarians like Chomsky seem to be entirely lacking in perspective, having vilified the U.S., both its ideals and its actuality, for so long that it is impossible for them to see when we’re by and large doing the right thing.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center