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2021.09.24 诺姆-乔姆斯基谈美帝国主义的残酷性

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The future of American power
Noam Chomsky on the cruelty of American imperialism
The United States remains unrivalled in military and economic strength, with terrible consequences for the world, says an American foreign-policy critic

Sep 24th 2021



By Noam Chomsky

This By-invitation commentary is part of a series by global thinkers on the future of American power, examining the forces shaping the country's standing. Read more here.

In october 2001, a few weeks after the attacks of September 11th, Abdul Haq, probably the most revered figure in the Afghan anti-Taliban resistance, was interviewed by Anatol Lieven, a leading specialist on the region. Abdul Haq bitterly condemned the invasion, which he recognised would kill many Afghans and undermine the efforts to overthrow the Taliban from within. He said that “the US is trying to show its muscle, score a victory and scare everyone in the world. They don’t care about the suffering of the Afghans or how many people we will lose.”

It turns out that was not far from the doctrine of Donald Rumsfeld, America’s then defence secretary, when the Taliban offered surrender in 2001, a stance now being acknowledged 20 years too late. If there were reason to apprehend Osama bin Laden (which was not obvious—he was just a suspect then) the right procedure would have been a police operation, probably with Taliban co-operation: they wanted to get rid of him. But America had to show its muscle—as it has been doing in recent weeks by sending an armada into the South China Sea. It goes on and on: there is little new in imperial history.

Assessing the future of American power is a highly uncertain undertaking. The question might turn out to be moot. There is no need to tarry on the fact that the world is hurtling towards disaster. If the denialist Republican Party returns to power, the chances of pursuing responsible policies on environmental destruction will be sharply reduced. But assuming the best, we can at least identify the main factors on which American power is based, such as the state of the global order, the trajectory of America’s power and the justifications that have been offered to defend America’s actions.

First, the international system. The imbalance of military power is so extreme that comment seems hardly necessary. America increased its military spending in 2020 to $778bn, compared with China’s increase to $252bn, according to SIPRI, which tracks such expenditures. In fourth place, below India, is Russia at $62bn. America is alone in facing no credible security risks, apart from alleged threats at the borders of adversaries, which are ringed with American nuclear-armed missiles in some of its 800 military bases around the world. (China has just one foreign base, in Djibouti.)

One consequence of this madness—in a world desperately short of funds for urgent necessities—is a substantial contribution to environmental destruction. A recent study showed that America’s armed forces are “one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries.”

Power also has its economic dimensions. After the second world war, America had perhaps a 40% share of global gdp, a preponderance that has inevitably declined. But as Sean Starrs, a political economist at City University of London, has observed, in a globalised world national accounts are not the only measure of economic power. His research in 2014 showed that American multinationals’ share of profits is more than 50% in many business sectors, and ranks first (sometimes second) in most sectors; others are far behind.

Another dimension of national strength is “soft power.” Here America has seriously declined, well before President Donald Trump’s harsh blows to the country’s reputation. Even under President Bill Clinton, leading political scientists recognised that most of the world regarded America as the world’s “prime rogue state” and “the single greatest external threat to their societies” (so said Robert Jervis and Samuel Huntington, respectively). In the years that Barack Obama was president, international polls found that America was considered the greatest threat to world peace, with no close contenders.

These sources of power can be illustrated by individual cases. Europe accepts America’s Iran sanctions only for fear of being expelled from the global financial system that is run from New York. The world accepts America’s torture of Cuba by its refusal to lift the economic blockade, while condemning it with virtual unanimity (a vote of 184 to two at the United Nations in June). “A decent respect for the opinions of mankind”, as it’s put in America’s Declaration of Independence, has long been discarded, along with such sentimentalities as the un Charter. The capacity to issue sanctions that others must obey is another dimension of power, where America reigns supreme.

A rules-based order?
Turning to the trajectory of American power, its core features are familiar. Since its founding, America has scarcely had a year without resorting to violence. As soon as the British yoke was removed, the liberated colonists “concentrated on the task of felling trees and Indians and of rounding out their natural boundaries”—for defence, Thomas Bailey assures us in “A Diplomatic History of the American People” (Prentice Hall, 1940). On the side, America picked up half of Mexico in one of history’s most “wicked wars” (in the words of the general and president Ulysses S. Grant). The natural borders were rounded out with the robbery of Hawaii from its inhabitants by force and guile.

American power extended to Asia with the conquest first of the Philippines in a major slaughter. The subsequent years record constant intervention, often with extreme brutality (as happened in Haiti under President Woodrow Wilson), which regularly left a bitter legacy in those places.

Read more:
• Arundhati Roy on America’s fiery, brutal impotence
• Henry Kissinger on why America failed in Afghanistan
• Niall Ferguson on why the end of America’s empire won’t be peaceful

There are inflection points. One was in 1945. In February America carried the Monroe Doctrine (which warned European powers not to meddle in Latin America) a step forward by imposing an Economic Charter of the Americas. It opposed “the philosophy of the new nationalism,” which “embraces policies designed to bring about a broader distribution of wealth and to raise the standard of living of the masses,” according to a us government official—a heresy that extended to the idea that “the first beneficiaries of the development of a country’s resources should be the people of that country” (not foreign investors), in the words of a State Dept official.

That was entirely inconsistent with the so-called “rules-based international order” that America was establishing, and has vigorously defended against the “radical and nationalist regimes” which are the main enemy, as formerly classified government documents emphasise, and history affirms.

Another inflection point was 60 years ago, when President John F. Kennedy sharply escalated the attack on Vietnam launched by President Truman and then extended by President Eisenhower (when he was taking time off from replacing the parliamentary regimes of Iran and Guatemala with brutal dictatorships). Kennedy also secretly ordered his terrorist war against Cuba to culminate in an insurrection to be followed by an American invasion—planned for October 1962, the month of the missile crisis, which brought the world close to ultimate disaster when Russian missiles were sent in part to defend the island.

One of his most consequential decisions in 1962 was to shift the mission of the military in Latin America from anachronistic “hemispheric defence” to “internal security.” That unleashed a horrific plague of repression throughout the hemisphere, culminating in Ronald Reagan’s murderous wars throughout Central America, still resonating in the tortured countries and in the continued flight of refugees from the wreckage.

The third element of American power is how it justifies itself. The grisly record above is just the barest sample. The record is sometimes partially recognised, and deplored, by some of those who reluctantly defend it. At the left-liberal extreme of policy planning, President Jimmy Carter’s Latin America specialist, Robert Pastor, explained in a scholarly study why the administration had to support the murderous Somoza regime in Nicaragua. “The United States did not want to control Nicaragua or the other nations of the region, but it also did not want developments to get out of control. It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, except when doing so would affect us interests adversely” (his emphasis).

That’s a fair judgment, from the days of “felling Indians”, and is hardly unfamiliar in the annals of imperialist violence. Since there has been no change in institutions or in the culture of the political class, the trajectory and current state of global power give some indication of what one might anticipate about the future of American power.

Much of course depends on how the world is likely to change. Will Europe realise its potential as a civilising force, reversing the reaction to the grave crisis of almost a century ago, when Europe succumbed to fascism and Roosevelt’s New Deal led the way to social democracy?

Crises, remedies and action
Now the world is different. Mr Trump has brilliantly tapped poisons running below the surface of American society, stirring up a toxic brew that may destroy the country. The party he now owns is pursuing its long decline to proto-fascism. If that course persists, the reversal from the 1930s will be a cruel irony, particularly poignant for those whose lives it will have framed. And it will be devastating for the world, given American power.

The focus of bipartisan concern is the threat from China. In assessing it, some caution is useful. Hysteria over the “Yellow Peril” has a long history and is easily invoked. For example, over one-third of Americans believe “that the coronavirus was created by the Chinese government as a biological weapon”, according to the Annenberg Center, which adds that there is “no evidence” for the belief.

China aside, radically inflating threats is the norm. It is prominent in the most important internal documents, such as nsc-68, a once-classified policy paper drafted by the departments of state and defence in 1950, with its lunatic ravings about the “fundamental design... [of the] slave state”, the Soviet enemy, and its “compulsion” to gain “absolute authority over the rest of the world”. George Kennan and other sane analysts were sent out to pasture, along with officials who knew anything about China. We don’t want to relive that experience.

China’s growing power is real, often used in very ugly ways. But do these crimes threaten America? Internal repression is severe but is no more of an international threat than many other atrocities, including some that America could easily bring to an end instead of expediting: the brutal torture of 2m people in Israel’s Gaza prison with strong American support is just one example.

In the South China Sea, China is acting in violation of international law—though America, which has long refused to ratify it (the un Convention for the Law of the Sea), is hardly in a strong position to object. The right response to China’s violations is not a dangerous show of force but diplomacy and negotiations led by the regional states most directly involved. The same is true of other conflicts.

The crises that threaten the world have no borders. The future of the United States, and the world, rests on American-Chinese co-operation in a global society of genuine internationalism. But that is too obvious to require discussion.

There are known, feasible remedies for each of the crises that the world faces. An organised and mobilised public can confront the private and state power centres that drive the race to the abyss in pursuit of short-term interests, and can compel policy makers to implement solutions. It's hardly a novel lesson of history. Today, with global warming and the threat of nuclear war, there can be no delay.

Once we abstract ourselves from thinking “we are exceptional” and universalise issues, we start treating ourselves by the same standards that we apply to others. (On moral grounds we should hold ourselves to higher standards, but put that aside.) Why treat ourselves differently? Once we face this question, the world looks very different. ■

Noam Chomsky is a linguist and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of more than 150 books, many on American foreign policy.





2001年10月,在 "9-11 "袭击事件发生几周后,阿富汗反塔利班抵抗运动中最令人尊敬的人物阿卜杜勒-哈克接受了该地区主要专家阿纳托尔-利文的采访。阿卜杜勒-哈克痛苦地谴责了入侵,他认识到入侵将杀死许多阿富汗人,并破坏从内部推翻塔利班的努力。他说:"美国正试图展示它的肌肉,取得胜利,吓唬世界上的每一个人。他们不关心阿富汗人的痛苦,也不关心我们会失去多少人。"




这种疯狂的后果之一--在一个极度缺乏资金用于紧急必需品的世界上--是对环境破坏的巨大贡献。最近的一项研究表明,美国的军队是 "历史上最大的污染者之一,消耗的液体燃料和排放的改变气候的气体比大多数中型国家都要多。"


国家实力的另一个层面是 "软实力"。在这里,美国已经严重衰退,远在唐纳德-特朗普总统对国家声誉的严厉打击之前。即使在比尔-克林顿总统时期,领先的政治科学家也认识到,世界上大多数国家都将美国视为世界上的 "主要无赖国家 "和 "对其社会的唯一最大外部威胁"(罗伯特-杰维斯和塞缪尔-亨廷顿分别如此表示)。在巴拉克-奥巴马担任总统的那些年里,国际民意调查发现,美国被认为是对世界和平的最大威胁,没有接近的竞争者。

这些权力的来源可以通过个别案例来说明。欧洲接受美国对伊朗的制裁只是因为害怕被逐出由纽约管理的全球金融体系。世界接受美国对古巴的折磨,拒绝解除经济封锁,同时以几乎一致的方式谴责它(6月在联合国以184票对2票)。美国《独立宣言》中所说的 "对人类意见的体面尊重",与《联合国宪章》等感性的东西一起,早已被抛弃了。发布他人必须遵守的制裁的能力是权力的另一个层面,在这里,美国是最高统治者。

谈到美国权力的轨迹,其核心特征是熟悉的。自建国以来,美国几乎没有不诉诸暴力的一年。英国的枷锁一解除,获得解放的殖民者就 "集中精力砍伐树木和印第安人,并将他们的自然边界围起来"--托马斯-贝利在《美国人民的外交史》(Prentice Hall,1940)中向我们保证,这是为了防御。另一方面,美国在历史上最 "邪恶的战争 "之一(用将军兼总统尤利西斯-格兰特的话说),拿下了墨西哥的一半。美国通过武力和诡计从夏威夷居民手中抢夺了自然边界,使其更加完善。


- 阿伦达蒂-罗伊谈美国的火热、残酷的无能为力
- 亨利-基辛格谈美国为何在阿富汗失败
- 尼尔-弗格森(Niall Ferguson)谈美国帝国的终结为何不会是和平的

有一些拐点。一个是在1945年。2月,美国通过实施《美洲经济宪章》,将门罗主义(警告欧洲大国不要插手拉丁美洲)向前推进了一步。它反对 "新民族主义哲学",根据美国政府一位官员的说法,这种哲学 "包含了旨在实现更广泛的财富分配和提高大众生活水平的政策"--用国务院一位官员的话说,这种异端思想延伸到 "一个国家资源开发的首要受益者应该是该国的人民"(而不是外国投资者)。

这与美国正在建立的所谓 "基于规则的国际秩序 "完全不一致,美国一直在大力维护这一秩序,以抵御 "激进和民族主义政权",正如以前的政府机密文件所强调的和历史所证实的那样,这些政权是主要敌人。


他在1962年做出的最有影响的决定之一是将军队在拉丁美洲的任务从不合时宜的 "半球防御 "转向 "内部安全"。这在整个半球释放出可怕的镇压瘟疫,最终导致罗纳德-里根在整个中美洲的谋杀战争,在受折磨的国家和不断逃离残局的难民中仍有共鸣。


这是一个公平的判断,从 "砍伐印第安人 "的时代开始,在帝国主义暴力史上几乎是不陌生的。由于机构或政治阶层的文化没有变化,全球权力的轨迹和现状在一定程度上表明了人们对美国权力的未来可能的预期。



两党关注的焦点是来自中国的威胁。在评估它时,一些谨慎的态度是有用的。对 "黄色危险 "的歇斯底里由来已久,很容易被引用。例如,超过三分之一的美国人相信 "冠状病毒是由中国政府制造的生物武器",根据安纳伯格中心的说法,该中心补充说,这种想法 "没有证据"。

撇开中国不谈,大幅夸大威胁是常态。这在最重要的内部文件中非常突出,例如NSC-68,这是一份曾经由国务院和国防部在1950年起草的机密政策文件,其中有关于 "奴隶制国家的基本设计 "的疯狂狂言。[它对 "奴隶制国家的基本设计"、苏联的敌人以及它 "被迫 "获得 "对世界其他地区的绝对权威 "的疯狂狂言。乔治-肯南和其他理智的分析家,以及对中国有所了解的官员都被送去放牧。我们不希望重温那段经历。





一旦我们把自己从 "我们是例外 "的想法中抽象出来,把问题普遍化,我们就开始用对待他人的标准来对待自己。(从道德角度来说,我们应该以更高的标准来要求自己,但把这一点放在一边)。为什么要区别对待我们自己?一旦我们面对这个问题,世界看起来就会非常不同。■

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