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Failed States by Noam Chomsky

Reviewed by Zack

 failed states

When you talk about failed states in the world you mostly think of states like Malia, Chad, and Syria. However this is usually because the way we define define a failed state is that a failed state is one in which the population, the government and other aspects of society are out of control and almost out of the grasp of any sort of recovery. However, proposed by Noam Chomsky and by different people in the world, the greatest empire on earth currently at this moment is on that route to becoming a failed state.  Now what does he mean by this? If he means the American people are about to go to war over each other, firing guns in the streets and political buildings being overthrown, regimes being attempted to be overthrown then he is mistaken, but if you mean the idea that America is on the brink of approaching a more authoritarian society that relies on the use of brutal force then perhaps he may have a point. The following book is about determining whether America is on the road to a more tyrannical society and whether or not their actions abroad are about to be fervently condemned by the international community.

Chomsky begins the book by just speaking about the US actions in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and all of Latin and Central America in the 1980s.  He uses this to talk about what is currently going on in US foreign-policy, to do with the Middle East primarily. And he also gives context for the war in Iraq, and he he also shows the US relationship with Saudi Arabia to be one that is failing to protect the American people, which Chomsky states is one of the attributes of a failed state and why America is on the road to becoming one. The link between Saudi Arabia has been shown to have evidence linking them to terrorist groups such such as Al Qaeda, which attacked America on 9/11.  He also speaks about the propaganda and the switch that the American government had when speaking about Saddam Hussein in the late eight 1980s and early 1990s, which was opposed to their previous view of Saddam, which was an unnecessary evil in order to defeat Iran. He then begins to talk about the torture programs and other dangerous aspects of the US government involvement in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq in the early 2000's up until this book was written in 2006 during the outgoing war. However, what can be seen is that Chomsky is not trying to paint America in the image of the Somalia or a terrorist group but what he's trying to say is that because America has so much global influence over the world their actions act worse than any terrorist group could, because they are shown to be in violation of several amounts of UN international law, as well as encroaching on the liberties of Iraq.

Chomsky concludes by talking about the root, of these problems and why the promotion of "democracy in the Middle East is a problem because of the way it is implemented", as often democracy is implemented by installing a dictator which sort of is the antithesis of democracy as well.  Then he links many of the problems to democracy at home as he begins to talk about how the financial institutions in the United States are having a great power over the people of the United States.  He began to talk about how many of the policies of the United States population are deemed irrelevant in many scenarios regarding foreign and financial policy, and that while presidents are elected they are often only so because of their promotion by big corporations in media and other departments.

My opinion of this book and Chomsky's philosophy in general is that there are many points which I believe are highly relevant. What I don't necessarily agree with is some of the harsh tones that are used. However, I wonder if this is because Chomsky is trying to be reactionary to try and create a headline or put the idea in people's minds that the idea of the United States going on the world and invading foreign country such as a Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc. is a problematic solution, as it often can be ineffective, and the manner in which it is performed can break many international laws.

I also think the idea that corporations have too much power in the US government is certainly one that should be taken seriously and should be taken a good look at, because much of the current Congress and Senate gain their seats by lobbying to these big donors and corporations.  This is problematic because it means that these big companies can really manipulate their way into effecting policy and this in my opinion is the antithesis of the  land for the people. However, what I would disagree with Chomsky on is that I think his language comes across slightly apocalyptic.  I think this is dangerous because I think you can give people the idea that we need to overthrow the US government right now, and I think the effective way about going about this is to push for candidates who want to get money out of politics, because likely this will push for more fair and applicable solutions.

Overall I would give this book is 7.5 or an eight out of 10 because I don't think it's Chomsky's best analysis of US foreign-policy.  I think it's slightly him out there to push a certain headline.  While I appreciate his use of evidence in citing international laws and how the US is violating them, and how corporations have way too much influence on US democracy, I believe the solution is to try and influence those corporations by putting them out into the public and trying to uncover the actions they are doing and let the people know what US tax dollars are being spent on, and use effective protest.  There's no use in simply vilifying the corporations, you have to be able to understand what and how they are affecting certain policies.

 Check out Failed States at the Newport Beach Public Library.

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