What Uncle Sam Really Wants Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky
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The future

Things have changed

It's important to recognize how much the scene has changed in the past 30 years as a result of the popular movements that organized in a loose and chaotic way around such issues as civil rights, peace, feminism, the environment and other issues of human concern.

Take the Kennedy and Reagan administrations, which were similar in a number of ways in their basic policies and commitments. When Kennedy launched a huge international terrorist campaign against Cuba after his invasion failed, and then escalated the murderous state terror in South Vietnam to outright aggression, there was no detectable protest.

It wasn't until hundreds of thousands of American troops were deployed and all of Indochina was under devastating attack, with hundreds of thousands slaughtered, that protest became more than marginally significant. In contrast, as soon as the Reagan administration hinted that they intended to intervene directly in Central America, spontaneous protest erupted at a scale sufficient to compel the state terrorists to turn to other means.

Leaders may crow about the end of the "Vietnam syndrome," but they know better. A National Security Policy Review of the Bush administration, leaked at the moment of the ground attack in the Gulf, noted that, "In cases where the US confronts much weaker enemies" -- the only ones that the true statesman will agree to fight -- "our challenge will be not simply to defeat them, but to defeat them decisively and rapidly." Any other outcome would be "embarrassing" and might "undercut political support," understood to be very thin.

By now, classical intervention is not even considered an option. The means are limited to clandestine terror, kept secret from the domestic population, or "decisive and rapid" demolition of "much weaker enemies" -- after huge propaganda campaigns depicting them as monsters of indescribable power.

Much the same is true across the board. Take 1992. If the Columbus quincentenary had been in 1962, it would have been a celebration of the liberation of the continent. In 1992, that response no longer has a monopoly, a fact that has aroused much hysteria among the cultural managers who are used to near-totalitarian control. They now rant about the "fascist excesses" of those who urge respect for other people and other cultures.

In other areas too, there's more openness and understanding, more skepticism and questioning of authority. Of course, the latter tendencies are double-edged. They may lead to independent thought, popular organizing and pressures for much-needed institutional change. Or they may provide a mass base of frightened people for new authoritarian leaders. These possible outcomes are not a matter for speculation, but for action, with stakes that are very large.

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