Book Report – Who Rules the World – Noam Chomsky

Summary:

“Who rules the world? ” by Noam Chomsky is a rich description of the American foreign policies since the end of the second world war and how it has affected the world (mostly in a negative way according to the writer).

Chomsky starts by defining the role of real intellectuals as to have a “moral responsibility as decent human beings in a position to use their privilege and status to advance causes of freedom, justice and Peace” which is different from some who – according the Chomsky – “only serve leadership and established institutions.”[1]

Then, the writer continues by exemplifying actions taken by the United State around the world that proves this country’s hypocrisy and self-interest (which in fact only reflects the interest of the American economic corporate and private elites, hence the name of the book).

The writer immerses in a detailed description of historical incidents to prove his thesis. He starts with the “War on Terror” and how the US have been fighting it with huge human rights consequences that can the characterized almost to state level terrorism but at the same time ignores when “friendly” countries or groups engage in such actions such as in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Indonesia, Israel and others.

The writer continues by showing how the United States amplify treats from China, Iran and other in order to advance its causes and to justifies its actions around the world such as the crippling sanctions against the Islamic state and the naval operations in the South China Sea.

Furthermore, he touches in what he sees as the decline of American power and asks if the US hegemony in world affairs is over. As the roots for such a deterioration, Chomsky highlights the deregulations of the financial system during the 80’s and 90’s and the “free trade agreement” NAFTA between the US, Mexico and Canada. He sees them as some of the main causes of the decline of American middle class and concentration of resources in the hand of the elite, thus increasing inequality, which in turns weakens the country. The rise countries such as China and India are also pointed out.

The author continues its historical review by describing Americans misdeeds in Cuba and in the Israel-Palestine conflict by mostly being in the wrong side of history.

However, for Chomsky, the main two threats for the world are the risk of thermal nuclear war and the consequences of climate change. The author once more blames it on the United States and its allies. For the first menace, Chomsky concludes that the expansion of NATO towards Russian border make the risk of a nuclear confrontation ever higher. Finally, it is the lack of leadership and reasoning of the United States that is blocking the world from reaching a common agreement on the reduction of carbon emissions to mitigate the consequences of climate change.

 

Analyses of the book: 

It is hard to argue with the author about the possible negative American influence in world affair after such a detailed account of events, which are usually not taught in American schools or showed in the night news. Noam Chomsky has done it throughout the years in several of his previous books due to his immense capacity of retaining historical information and thorough research from non-mainstream sources.

However, to prove his point, the author picks and choose information that only fits his purpose, not giving much space to the other side of the argument. Moreover, quite often, the author cites outlets such as Foreign Affairs[2] and The New York Times[3] to prove his point, but in the same book he often describe both of them as merely propaganda machines of the establishment.

Therefore, the reader, although presented with important and usually neglected information, finishes the book with a pretty grim view of the world and to where it is heading. This is more evident in two of the main points of the book: the threat of climate change and nuclear war.

In the first one, the author dedicates only three pages to climate change and the Paris agreement formulated to tackle it by pointing out only the imperfections of the treaty and how it might fail due to the republican opposition. It forgets to mention that it is one of the most important agreements on climate change ever formulated[4], after big efforts from the United States and China (two of the biggest polluters) to find a common ground in an anarchic world system. The latest news from such agreement (although coming after the release of the book) demonstrates that Paris was more important than the author had anticipated and it is being actually ratified by the US[5].

Regarding the threat of nuclear war, after extensive recounts of almost nuclear conflict during the 20th century, where interesting enough, the Soviets were the ones who avoided the worst such as the Russian submarine commander during the missile crisis (mentioned twice in the book) and the Soviet restrain during American war exercises during the cold war, Chomsky points out that we are closer than ever to midnight (in the doomsday clock) to nuclear annihilation duo to NATO expansion to the East towards Russian borders. Although such a move from NATO is a great source of controversy and risk, the author forgets to mention that the world has changed a lot since the cold war which went from a completely divided world – capitalist versus communist countries – to a massive economic interconnection between these previous enemies, which makes the reasons and possible benefits of a war a lot less positive than engaging in diplomacy to keep the economic flow and gains running[6][7].

To conclude, the writer does not give the reader any hope for the future, keeping a cynical view of the world. It greatly exemplifies the misfits of American foreign policy but forget the mention or gives very little attention and importance to events and actions taken by the US in the last few years such as the rapprochement with Cuba[8], the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Affordable Care Act, Marriage Equality and the overall reduction of the percentage of people living in extreme poverty in world which has dramatically reduced since the world war two[9].

Because of the Internet and its immense resources data, it is becoming quite easy to learn about and understand mistakes of the past, especially American ones, since it has mostly been the hegemon in foreign policy since the end of the world wars. It is time to look forward, be constructive and start finding solutions for the world problems, which are not easy when ones have 7.2 billion people living together. Unfortunately, no solutions or enthusiasm are found on Noam Chomsky latest book.

[1] Chomsky, Noam. 2016. Who Rules The World?, 9.

[2] Chomsky, Who Rules The World?, 69.

[3] Chomsky, Who Rules The World?, 215.

[4] Roberts, Debra. 2016. “A Global Roadmap For Climate Change Action: From COP17 In Durban To COP21 In Paris”. S. Afr. J. Sci Volume 112 (Number 5/6). doi:10.17159/sajs.2016/a0158, 11.

[5] “U.S., China Ratify Paris Climate Agreement”. 2016. Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-climatechange-idUSKCN11901W.

[6] Krause, Joachim. 2014. “Assessing The Danger Of War: Parallels And Differences Between Europe In 1914 And East Asia In 2014”. International Affairs 90 (6): 1421-1451. doi:10.1111/1468-2346.12177, I446.

[7] Copeland, Dale C. 1996. “Economic Interdependence And War: A Theory Of Trade Expectations”. International Security 20 (4): 5. doi:10.2307/2539041, 9.

[8] Salim Lamrani, and Translated by Larry R. Oberg. 2015. “Rapprochement Cuba/USA: Opportunities And Obstacles”. International Journal Of Cuban Studies 7 (1): 8. doi:10.13169/intejcubastud.7.1.0008, 3.

[9] Roser, Max. 2016. “World Poverty”. Our World In Data. https://ourworldindata.org/world-poverty/.

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