David Sarkies's Reviews > Failed States. The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy

Failed States. The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy by Noam Chomsky
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's review
Apr 18, 15

bookshelves: politics
Recommended to David by: A friend from university
Recommended for: Chomsky lovers
Read from November 10 to 15, 2006, read count: 1

Twisting the idea of the failed state
22 July 2011

I have read a few books by Noam Chomsky, and despite him being a very accessible writer, and a profound intellectual, his books tend to all be on the same theme and seem to cover the same ground. In a way, I like to get an idea of Chomsky's views on recent events, and while his later books may give some insight, unfortunately you tend to have to go over a lot of old ground to get to the new ideas. Further, his take on the new events tend to simply support the same arguments that he has been writing about since the days of Vietnam.

However it is interesting that after Vietnam, and during the eighties and ninties, Chomsky was not very prominent. It was only after September 11, and George Bush's assault on democracy, that Chomsky suddenly became popular again. The difficult thing with Chomsky is that while his books are quite accessible (that is easy to read), his positions on various subjects are not something that can be explained in a soundbite. For example, an ad that says 'Coke Adds Life' immediately brings a flood of images to the persons mind, while the statement 'the Bible is history's most genocidal text' will automatically force believers in the Bible onto the defensive, and the statement itself requires a lot of background explanation. This is Chomksy's problem: he is fighting against a global media conglomerate that is fulling people's minds with propaganda and forcing out all opposing views.

This book opens with a chapter on the nuclear arms race and his concerns. While not admitted, satellites containing nuclear weapons orbit the earth, and as he suggests one accidental slip of a finger can bring armageddon crashing down upon us. While this is not the crux of the book, it is an opening that will make us sit up and listen. Nobody wins in a nuclear war, and while the fear of nuclear annihilation that dominated the eighties are behind us (and I remember fearing a nuclear holocaust as a child), it is still something that sits uncomfortably at the back of our mind.

In this book Chomsky's thesis is that despite the US travelling around the world pointing out all the failed states, it is the US that is the one major failed state. I disagree with Chomsky on this matter. I do not believe that the US is a failed state any more than pre-invasion Iraq, or North Korea, are failed states. While they may not have been pleasant places to live, and the government incredibly corrupt, it is still a functioning government. The only true failed state would be Somalia, where there isn't a functioning government, and at this time of this writing, you could also add Ivory Coast, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and the Congo, just to name a few places where the government has pretty much lost control of most of the country and have descended into civil war (and it could be argued that the Congo has never had a functioning government).

While I would always recommend a Chomsky book, unfortunately he does end up going over old ground, and ends up becoming quite repetitive.
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