Noam Chomsky is "arguably the most important intellectual alive," the founder of modern linguistics, one of the most cited scholars in history, and the author of over 100 books. He is currently laureate professor at the University of Arizona and professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He recently co-authored the book Consequences of Capitalism: Manufacturing Discontent and Resistance and is soon to release The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
Prof. Chomsky is one of the foremost experts on U.S. foreign policy, and today we discuss one of the most serious imaginable topics: the threat of world war and the path to reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. We begin by discussing the Hiroshima bombing and the dawn of the nuclear age, before discussing the present escalating tension with Russia and the means by which the U.S. can maintain peace and avoid a catastrophic global conflict. We also discuss the ways that Americans avoid confronting the suffering inflicted by their country on others around the world, the stories that the powerful tell themselves to rationalize atrocities, and the common thread running through Chomsky's work on foreign policy: an insistence that the U.S. confront the truth about its actions and that our moral condemnation of our enemies' crimes be matched with an equally intense scrutiny of our own.
No topic could be more important than the threat of global warfare, and nobody in the world is more knowledgable about it. It is a great privilege to welcome Prof. Chomsky back to the Current Affairs podcast for this vital conversation.
- The books on the British empire that Prof. Chomsky cites are Legacy of Violence by Caroline Elkins and Inglorious Empire by Shashi Tharoor.
- The 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident is discussed here.
- The Daniel Ellsberg anecdote that Nathan cites at the beginning is from The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.
- The interview Prof. Chomsky cites with veteran diplomat Chas Freeman is here.
- The interview in which Carter national security advisor Zbignew Brzezinski discusses the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is here. In it, he says: "We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would [...] Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war." Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that bought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire." The war killed an estimated 1 million Afghan civilians.
- For more on how Biden administration policies are starving Afghanistan, see here and here.
- The John Stuart Mill essay that Prof. Chomsky refers to is 1859's "A Few Words on Non-Intervention."
- A helpful list of over 1000 books Prof. Chomsky has cited in his work can be found here.
The previous Current Affairs interview with Noam Chomsky can be viewed here.