Thursday, March 31, 2005

My respect for Chomsky has now slipped even further

I used to be a great admirer of Noam Chomsky. Upon making my personal shift toward libertarianism, I found myself still appreciating much of his contributions to subjects such as media criticism and American imperialism despite his nonsense about wanting to increase statism to rid society of problems created by statism (d'oh!). Needless to say, I was very disappointed when I came across Frank Spieser's article about Chomsky over at LRC.

Conscription is essentially a euphemism for coerced exploitation or, in other words, slavery. Why the hell is Chomsky, a man who claims to be a promoter of peace who is firmly opposed to exploitation, willing to advocate increased exploitation of a coercive nature to achieve some desired result? Not only does this seem to resemble what BK Marcus refers to as the samsara fallacy, but it is flat out objectionable simply on the grounds of actually being ok with the idea of people being forced against their will to engage in atrocious behavior, an idea atrocious in and of itself.

Spieser does a pretty good job of tearing Chomsky to shreds here, at least from a somewhat libertarian perspective. Additional criticism can be found in Jacob Levich's article "Chomsky and Conscription" (via Counterpunch). Levich picks up the slack when it comes to Chomsky's assertion that what he calls "citizens armies" (a term I abhor) would be against the best interests of the top command. An example of Levich's response:
What's significant here is that fascist Italy introduced universal conscription precisely for the purpose of facilitating colonial expansion. So did imperial Japan. And once you let Asia into the equation, Chomsky's argument truly collapses. The 1930s and 1940s saw several of the most brutal colonial wars in history, including the Rape of Nanking and comparably horrific episodes during Japanese invasions of Southeast Asia and Korea. Throughout WWII numerous sideshow conflicts were conducted across the globe as the big powers vied to pick off colonial assets. All this was accomplished with draft armies.

Typically during the modern era, the draft has not hindered but aided imperialist designs. Universal conscription originated in Europe with the French Revolution, but it was Napoleon who first saw how a "citizen's army" could be exploited as an overwhelming military asset -- one which he put to use in conquering most of the European continent. His colonial war in Spain -- the original guerilla war -- was fought, with relentless brutality, by conscripted troops.

And like I mentioned earlier, I abhor Chomsky reference to conscripted armies as being "citizens armies". Levich may not have wanted to dwell on such a euphemism, but I will for a moment. I certainly like to think of myself as being "for the people" and being in favor of "putting people before profits", which is why I have a problem with Chomsky's use of "citizens armies". Since when does a state institution represent the people, especially one rooted in slavery? (no euphemisms from me) The Chinese government still refers to itself as the "Peoples' Republic of China", but I'm willing to bet that the people aren't in charge, nor do they admire those who are in charge. The government ain't the people, dammit!


Blogger born to run said...

This shows what I consider Chomsky's (and many other socialist thinkers) biggest fault: He fails to respect individual rights. Although Chomsky, and the left in general, offer many good views (being anti-war, opposing the "morality police") their ultimate flaw is failing to recognize that freedom can only occur when individuals are free.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Isis said...

You are spot on in your critique here, but I think the reasoning for anti-war activists supporting the draft is something like this. Right now, only those who had joined the military by choice (overwhelmingly poor and often minority) are fighting the administration's wars. The people making the decision to go to war are largely the wealthy. If their kids were drafted, they might be more cautious about starting wars.

In addition to the problems you raise, this thinking carries the usual kind of idealistic problem. I.e., what evidence do we really have that if a rich kid--say the son of George H. W. Bush--were drafted, he would serve?

5:38 PM  

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