Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review of "A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West," by Noam Chomsky

Review of
A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West, by Noam Chomsky ISBN 1859843808

Five out of five stars
 No one in the modern world has had a greater impact on the field of linguistics than Noam Chomsky. His book “Syntactic Structures” laid the foundation for the scientific study of language. When I was teaching a course in theoretical computer science, his formal rules of grammar were the basis for one section of study.
 Chomsky has also been very active in the political arena, he rose to prominence in the late sixties when he was outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam War. In this book, Chomsky skewers the policies of the United States, where the rhetoric regarding support for human rights clashes with the interests of a great power. As has been said many times and in various ways by people commenting on the actions of powerful nations, “Great powers do not have morals, only interests.” That is the main point of this book.
 While the American conduct during the Vietnam War is mentioned, the emphasis in this book is on the action and inaction in Kosovo and East Timor, the latter dating back to the sixties. Chomsky points out how the United States looked the other way when the Indonesian army engaged in killing thousands of people in East Timor in the sixties and then repeated the process in the nineties. American and European arms were used in the killing, in fact it was a lucrative business deal for American arms merchants.  Furthermore, for all his public posturing about human rights, American President Jimmy Carter also chose to ignore what the Indonesian military was doing in East Timor during his presidency.  
 Chomsky also bashes the American and NATO actions in Kosovo, an action that was portrayed as a noble one to protect the ethnic Albanians from Serbian atrocities. He points out that the Albanian criminal and terrorist groups goaded the Serbians into retaliating, which allowed NATO to justify their bombing campaign. Chomsky notes that NATO had no compunctions about using cluster bombs against targets in Serbia, weaponry that has been soundly criticized by the West when used by others that they oppose.
 This is a book that demonstrates something that followers of history know very well. The most powerful nations will often use idealistic rhetoric and describe themselves as honorable in their actions, all the while being willing to allow mass death and destruction when they believe it serves their “higher” purposes.

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