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RE: Theos-World Heart of Theosophy

Sep 17, 2001 11:03 PM
by nos

>From :

The Middle East and 
the New World Order 

By April Howley

What did Noam Chomsky really say in his 1995 Macquarie University
lecture on "The Middle East and the New World Order"?

In his 1995 Macquarie University lecture, Noam Chomsky discusses the
nature of United States foreign policy, and its consequences for the
people and the regimes of the Middle East. He claims that the true
nature of such US intervention in Middle Eastern affairs, is disguised
by both the American media and the American intellectual community1.
However, Chomsky's arguments in this one lecture, cannot be fully
understood outside of the wider fabric of Chomsky's past (both political
and otherwise), and hence his ideological orientation. As Christopher
Coker reminds us, "at heart Chomsky is an advocate, more than a
philosopher, a writer whose political philosophy is much more elusive
than his political journalism"2. 

As an American Jew, who vehemently criticises US and Israeli policy,
Chomsky is certainly an anomaly. He grew up in New York, where he took
an active interest in politics from an early age, and was influence by
the radical Jewish community there3. This may explain his
socialist/anarchist sentiment, if not his anti-Israel stance (which can
perhaps be correlated to his experience and disappointment in an Israeli
kibbutz)4. Chomsky established himself academically in the field of
linguistics, and later made contributions to the disciplines of:
psychology, philosophy, and political science5. In the 1960s he became
renowned as one of the "most outspoken and articulate critics of
Vietnam"6, who risked imprisonment by refusing to pay half of his taxes,
and openly supported American young men who resisted military
conscription to vietnam7. Although Chomsky is most famous for his
political scholarship and activity, branded a "hero of the New Left"8,
his work in the field of linguistics and psychology provide an important
insight into his political philosophy9. 

Through his study of language, Chomsky established the theory that the
structure of language is determined by the structure of the human mind
and since certain characteristics of language are universal, at least
one part of human nature is common to us all10. As such, he opposes
"radical behaviourist" psychology, which (in short) portrays all human
thought and behaviour as habit attributable to a process of
conditioning11. Hence, it is his linguistic research which established
(or perhaps reinforced), Chomsky's belief that human beings are
different from animals and machines12. This concept of human nature is
reminiscent of 17th and 18th century Natural Law theories, in that it
recognises all human beings as sharing certain characteristics, in a
state of nature13. In conjunction with Natural Law theorists, Chomsky
believes that this shared humanity entitles individuals to certain
rights, which should be both respected and protected by society. Chomsky
believes that power elites (as reinforced by "big government") and
capitalism, destroy individual rights, and this elucidates his promotion
of anarchist/socialist ideals14. 

As a political theory, "anarchism" supports the abolition of all forms
of governmental institutions, to be replaced by voluntary organisations
arising spontaneously between individuals to solve pressing issues15.
This type of decision-making is argued to "fulfil all the individual and
group needs...without the apparatus of constraint and repression
required by the state"16. Chomsky himself argues that such a society
would allow one "to live one's life simply as an individual"17. A
criticism of Chomsky's political works is that he doesn't elaborate on
the details of how an anarchist society would operate, on such a
society's plausibility, or on the process of establishing one18.
Instead, Chomsky concentrates on demonstrating the evils of the
political systems which presently exist in most of the world, focusing
especially on the US government. 

Chomsky believes that American pluralist democracy is a fiction, and
that contemporary state capitalism means that government promotes the
interests of the Bourgeoisie, while maintaining the facade of popular
democracy19. Capitalist interests are furthered by the exploitation of
other nations, as a source of new markets and resources20. According to
Chomsky, US foreign policy has no room for justice and human rights,
which get in the way of these economic interests21. The real agenda of
the US government (and hence many of its actions) are disguised by the
intellectual community and the media who, in Chomsky's words, conduct
the "engineering of consent", a technique that substitutes for the use
of force in societies with democratic forms22. 

Chomsky has discussed what he perceives to be the US government's
attempts to control foreign nations purely for its own capitalist gain,
and the ways in which the "US ideologists" have engineered consent for
such foreign policy, in relation to many nations (Indonesia and
Indochina are but two)23. However, in his 1995 Macquarie University
lecture, Chomsky discussed US foreign policy as it related to the Middle
East in particular24. 

In this lecture, Chomsky demonstrates why and how the US has attempted
to dominate the Middle East. He claims that the region is one of the
greatest material prizes in terms of investment25. Chomsky explains that
Middle Eastern oil is both an economic resource in itself, and also a
lever for world domination. The region is also a means for world
domination as a result of its strategic importance, with President
Eisenhower once describing the Middle East as "the most strategically
important area in the world"26. It is for these reasons, according to
Chomsky, that nations such as Britain and France have also had their
fingers in the Middle Eastern pie, in the past. However, in the 1940s,
the US demanded most of the pie for itself27. Hence, France was "kicked
out" under a legal technicality (relating to its position as an occupied
country during World War Two). The US was worried that Britain was
moving in on Saudi Arabia (and hence massive oil resources), but managed
to relegate Britain to a secondary role, as the "Lieutenant"28. This was
partially achieved, according to the Chomskian version of the tale, via
President Roosevelt's declaration of Saudi Arabia as "our democratic
ally" (despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled entirely
by its Royal Family, the House of Sau'd), and by the sending of US
equipment to Saudi29. 

Chomsky claims that after the US had established control in the Middle
East, it maintained power through the originally British colonial
technique of the "Arab facade"30. This is the technique of leaving the
everyday governance of the region in the hands of "local managers", who
are preferably weak and dependent family dictatorships31. In addition,
other US-manipulated nations (typically non-Arab, such as Iran,
Pakistan, Israel and Turkey) are used as "local cops on the beat" to
maintain Middle Eastern "stability". Chomsky defines "stability"32 in
this context as a euphemism for US control (his examination of the
language used to describe certain aspects of US foreign policy, is no
doubt facilitated by his experience in the field of linguistics)33.
Chomsky claims that this US control technique is well documented on the
public record, but the US media/intelligentsia chooses not to expose
it34. For example, in 1973, the US Senate's leading expert on oil and
the Middle East admitted that "US dominance is guarded by Israel, Iran
and Saudi Arabia who will inhibit and contain those irresponsible and
radical elements Arab society"35. This accords with Chomsky's revelation
that immediately after the fall of the Shah, Saudi Arabia and Israel
cooperated to sell arms to the Iranian army in the aim of creating a
coup to restore the old order36. When the US media publicised this (as
the "Iran Contra Affair"), it was portrayed as an "arms for hostages
deal". However, Chomsky reminds us that there were no western hostages
in Iran when the arms deal began37. 

The US's "local Managers"38 are portrayed by Chomsky as being allowed to
rule, and to have certain rights, as long as they carry out the US's
bidding (ie. channelling wealth to the West)39. However, he describes
the "people in the slums of Cairo and the villages of Lebanon"40 as
having no rights whatsoever in US eyes. The Palestinians have "negative
rights"41 because they not only lack wealth and power, but they are a
"nuisance" to the US, as a result of their effect on public opinion
towards Israel. Hence, the Chomskyan conception is that justice, human
rights and self-governance are blatantly missing from US foreign policy.

In After the Cataclysm Chomsky claims that "human rights are set aside,
except in rhetorical flourishes useful for ideological
reconstruction"42, and he demonstrated this in his Macquarie Lecture
when he discussed the so-called Middle East "Peace Process" of late.
This "Peace Process" has been portrayed by the Western media and
American scholars as an important step towards achieving a better life
for Israelis/Palestinians/Jordanians/Lebanese and as representing "a New
World Order", whereby the end of the Cold War allows nations to work
together to ensure peace. As such, its orchestrators have received their
Noble Peace Prizes. However, Chomsky believes that all the rhetoric
about peace and justice for the average person in the region, is really
just a device to disguise the fact that the "Declaration of Principles"
is merely an agreement which the US government has instigated at this
particular time because it currently serves US interests (and to which
the PLO agreed because they had no choice)43. Similarly, he sees the
"New World Order" as a euphemistic term disguising a system of US
dominance, where "what we say goes"44. 

Chomsky argues that the "Peace Process" was only allowed by the US
because it was finally in a position to dominate such a plan and the
region itself, and because this plan did not require very much at all to
be apportioned to the Palestinians45. Firstly, Chomsky argues that the
US has been guaranteed dominance in the Middle East, because Europe has
abdicated and the Cold War power of the USSR has been dissipated46.
Therefore, the 1990s are the first time that no other major power has
demanded a role in attempts to resolve the Arab/Israeli conflict. Also,
US power in the region was consolidated in the Gulf War (or in Chomsky's
words the "Gulf Slaughter", because a War involves two sides shooting at
one another, not a Western country "demonstrating its capacity to
devastate a third world country"). Only this decade has the US finally
been able to realise the long sought goals of the "Monroe Doctrine" in
the Middle East47. With the US guaranteed dominance, the benefits of a
resolution of the Arab/Israeli conflict could be enjoyed. According to
Chomsky, the benefit to the US of the "peace process" is that it will
sweep the Palestinian issue under the rug, so that the tacit relations
among the major powers can be brought to the surface48. That is, Israel
can become a technological/financial centre, maintaining its military
predominance of the region (backed by US power) and "continuing to
survive on a US dole incomparable in world Affairs"49. 

That the US motivation for the "Declaration of Principles" was not peace
and justice for the residents of the Palestine/Israel region, is
demonstrated by the fact that from 1967 to the 1990s, the US has opposed
every single initiative for peace, which called for Palestinian rights
and international participation (other than from the US)50. Many of
these US-crushed plans, have been ignored by the US media and academia.
For example, the 1976 resolution put to the UN Security Council by Syria
Egypt and Jordan (the "confrontation states") which was the same as the
US-supported UN resolution 242, except that it added the issue of
Palestinian rights, was vetoed by the US. This resolution received no
coverage in the US; as Chomsky describes it, the resolution and the US
veto of it, was "gone from history and scholarship"51. Chomsky provides
evidence which demonstrates that the "Declaration of Principles" accords
the Palestinian people less than they have been offered in the past, but
Arafat's present political situation has forced him into accepting
whatever he can get, as his "last chance at hanging onto power"52. As
part of a power elite himself, Arafat is perceived by Chomsky as
"opposed to democracy in any of the occupied territories"53. An example
is given of how Arafat cancelled elections when they didn't come out his

There are many who have been moved by the "figure of a successful
scholar who would put his mind and to some extent his body on the line
for causes that matter"55. However, as with all "heroes of the left"56,
Chomsky is not short of critics. Criticisms of Chomsky include
disapproval in relation to his placing of the blame for the majority of
the world's suffering and misery at the door of the Western capitalist
democracies57, and the legitimisation of internal human rights abuses
that seem to accrue from Chomsky's execration of human rights abuses
carried out by a foreign power. Chomsky has been accused of relying on
"special pleading...and selective use of evidence"58, and has even been
criticised for being too "chic"59! However, as John Lyons reminds us,
Chomsky's work has been of such a polemical character that he cannot be
"written off as a woolly minded liberal...his arguments may be accepted
or rejected: they cannot be ignored"60. 

In conclusion, in his 1995 Macquarie University lecture, Noam Chomsky
was really saying that US imperialist and inhumane foreign policy
towards the Middle East, is but one example of the evils of large and
established, capitalist governments. According to Chomsky, such
governments will by their nature, abuse certain human rights, which
every individual (as a result of their very humanness) deserves to have
protection. Chomsky is saying that the media and the intellectual
community will buttress the government, through their "murder of
history"61, and that in order to have a free society such intellectuals
and journalists must be truly free (unfettered by the government and
their own careerism). Towards the end of the Macquarie lecture he claims
that the Middle Eastern pattern "is shameful and degrading, but no more
so than what's happening across the world"62. In his eyes such human
rights abuses will continue internationally so long as "the masters are
permitted to design a world order in which what they say goes"63. As is
characteristic of much of his political commentary, Chomsky does not
discuss the process by which the "master" could be overthrown, in his
Macquarie lecture. However, his other works display his preference for
anarchist socialism, along with his pessimism about its realisation in
the foreseeable future. 


1 Noam Chomsky, The Middle East and the New World Order, video (Sydney,

2 Christopher Coker, The Mandarin and the Commissar: The Political
Thought of Noam Chomsky in Chomsky: Consensus and Controversy (UK,
1987), p.269. 

3 Dell Hymes, "Review of Chomsky" in On Chomsky: Critical Essays (New
York, 1974), p.330. 

4 Ibid. 

5 John Lyons, Chomsky (Sussex, 1970), p.12. 

6 Ibid., p.13. 

7 Ibid. 

8 Ibid. 

9 Hymes, Op.Cit., p.328. 

10 Lyons, Op.Cit., p.12. 

11 Ibid. 

12 Ibid., p.14. 

13 Ernst Bloch, Natural Law and Human Dignity (MIT University, 1988),
pp. 1-3. 

14 Lyons, Op.Cit., p.14. 

15 Dean Jaensch & Max Teichman, Macmillan Dictionary of Australian
Politics (Melbourne, 1979), p.7. 

16 Ibid. 

17 Noam Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War, (New York, 1982), p.263. 

18 Coker, Op.Cit., pp.273-274. 

19 lbid, pp.270-271. 

20 Ibid., p.270. 

21 Noam Chomsky & ES Herman, After the Cataclysm (Sydney, 1980), p.299. 

22 Ibid. 

23 Noam Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War (New York, 1982), pp.250-255. 

24 Chomsky, The Middle East and The New World Order. 

25-54 Ibid. 

55 Hymes, Op.Cit., p.329. 

56 Ibid., p.331. 

57 Coker, Op.Cit., pp.272-273. 

58 Ibid., p.269. 

59 Ibid., p.277. 

60 Lyons, Op.Cit., p.14. 

61 Chomsky, The Middle East and The New World Order. 

62 Ibid. 

63 Ibid. 


Bloch, Ernst, Natural Law and Human Dignity (MIT Press, 1958), pp. 1-3. 

Chomsky, Noam, The Middle East and The New World Order, Video (Sydney,

Chomsky, Noam, The Fateful Triangle (UK, 1983), pp.17-19. 

Chomsky, Noam, Towards a New Cold War (New York, 1982), pp.250-263. 

Chomsky, Noam & Herman, Edward, After the Cataclysm (Sydney, 1988),

Coker, Christopher, "The Mandarin and the Commissar: the Political
Thought of Noam Chomsky", Noam Chomsky: Consensus and Controversy (UK,
1987), pp.269-274. 

Hymes, Dell, "Review of Noam Chomsky", On Chomsky: Critical Essays,
Harman ed., (New York, 1974), pp.328-330. 

Jaensch, Dean & Teichman, Max, The Macmillan Dictionary of Australian
Politics (Melbourne, 1983), p.7. 

Lyons, J, Chomsky (Sussex 1977), pp.12-14.

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