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Is Bush Provoking a New Cold War? Noam Chomsky on North Korea to National Missile Defense, China to Global Warming

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“Sometimes I get up in the morning and wonder who we’re going to offend today,” said a senior diplomat from the U.S. State Department in an Agence France-Presse article yesterday.

Those words are not surprising. Just two months into his term, President George W. Bush and his administration have succeeded in angering nearly every country in the world, on issues ranging from the arrogance and aggression of the U.S. military to the privileging of U.S. business interests over the 100 countries concerned about global warming.

It all began on President Bush’s first day in office, when he withdrew federal funding for international women’s clinics that provide information on abortions, which angered many countries.

Then came the Bush administration’s rapid pursuit of a national missile defense system, which Russia, China, and the EU strongly oppose. Then there was the espionage row with Russia that will see 100 U.S. and Russian diplomats expelled from the two countries by summer.

In March, Bush stunned South Korea when he essentially repudiated peacemaking efforts with North Korea.

Around the same time, a nuclear-powered submarine surfaced under a Japanese training vessel, killing nine people on board, including four high school students. And just a few days ago, relations with Japan were further strained when a U.S. nuclear submarine made an unannounced port call in Japan. The incident was the first-ever violation of a pact that requires U.S. military authorities to give 24-hour advance notice before the arrival of a nuclear-powered sub in a Japanese port.

Last week, Bush reversed a campaign pledge and announced that the U.S. would not abide by the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty on global warming that over 100 countries signed in Japan in 1997. Countries around the world reacted with outrage.

And now tensions with China have escalated over the collision of a U.S. spy plane with a Chinese fighter jet off China’s coast.

China has demanded both an apology and an end to U.S. surveillance flights off China’s coast. But Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Washington had no intention of apologizing, and a Pentagon spokesman said that the U.S. was unlikely to stop the flights.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Democracy Now!, The Exception to the Rulers. I’m Amy Goodman.

This was a quote in an article in Agence France-Presse yesterday: “Sometimes I get up in the morning and wonder who we’re going to offend today.” So said a senior diplomat from the U.S. State Department. Those words are not surprising. Just two months into his term, President George W. Bush and his administration have succeeded in angering nearly every country in the world on issues ranging from aggression of U.S. military to the privileging of U.S. business interests over the hundred countries concerned about global warming.

The foreign policy debacle began on President Bush’s first day in office, when he withdrew federal funding for international women’s clinics that provide information on abortions, which angered many European countries. But far more serious has been the Bush administration’s rapid pursuit of a national missile defense system, which Russia, China and European Union strongly oppose. Then there was the espionage row with Russia that will see a hundred U.S. and Russian diplomats expelled from the two countries by summer.

In March, Bush stunned longtime Asia-Pacific ally South Korea when he essentially repudiated peacemaking efforts with North Korea. Around the same time, a nuclear-powered submarine surfaced under a Japanese training vessel, killing nine people on board, including four high school students. And just a few days ago, relations with Japan were further strained when a U.S. nuclear submarine made an unannounced port call in Japan. The incident was the first-ever violation of a pact that requires U.S. military authorities to give 24-hour advance notice before the arrival of a nuclear-powered sub in a Japanese port.

Last week, President Bush reversed a campaign pledge and announced that the U.S. would not abide by the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty on global warming that over a hundred countries signed in Japan in ’97. Countries around the world reacted with outrage.

And now tensions with China have escalated over the collision of a U.S. spy plane with a Chinese fighter jet off China’s coast. China has demanded both an apology and an end to U.S. surveillance flights off China’s coast. But Secretary of State Colin Powell says that Washington has no intention of apologizing, and a Pentagon spokesperson says the U.S. is unlikely to stop the flights.

To assess all of this, we turn to Noam Chomsky, Noam Chomsky, well-known political analyst, author, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Noam. It’s good to have you with us.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Glad to be here again.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, the front page of The Christian Science Monitor says “Nations Resist Bush’s Harder Line.” Is it a harder line?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, it’s a harder line, but — the comparative is accurate. It’s been hard for a long time. It’s true that this is an escalation of the hard line. It’s a move towards a more intense commitment to what even the mainstream conservatives, like Foreign Affairs, are calling the new sovereigntism, the insistence of the United States on maintaining — on maintaining its own sovereign rights to an extreme extent. And that has been irritating the world for a long time. It’s escalated in the last couple months, exactly as you say.

But remember that it’s worth remembering that the world — outside of Europe, there was extreme hostility to the U.S., British, NATO bombing of Serbia last year. It caused enormous anger all over the world. The what’s called the so-called right of humanitarian intervention was described in most of the world as just a reversion to old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy under moralistic guise. The sanctions and bombing of Iraq are — again, most of the world is extremely hostile to that, including the regional powers.

You go back, you know, six or seven years, in Japan, polls in Japan indicated that the population regarded the United States as the major threat that they faced. And, in fact, it’s been noted, again, by conservative strategic analysts, people like Samuel Huntington, that the unilateralism, the very aggressive unilateralism of the United States in the last decade, has caused much of the world — he indicates most of the world — to regard the United States as the primary threat to their existence. Those are his words.

But this is indeed an escalation. But it’s an escalation of policies that have been in place. The bombing of Yugoslavia was kind of striking. I mean, there was almost no reporting here of the world reaction. But the world reaction was extremely hostile. And just on these grounds, these guys are out of control.

AMY GOODMAN: You have the secretary of defense, Rumsfeld, whose baby is the national missile defense. Would you say that a lot of this is actually deliberately provocative to then justify, I mean, going after North Korea and not supporting the sunshine policy of South Korea, reconciliation with North Korea, China, saying we’re going to stand firm and not apologize for the U.S. spy plane, of course, the global warming treaty and what’s going on with Japan right now? Would you say it’s deliberately provocative, and Russia, the getting rid of the 50 diplomats?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Right. Well, I think we have to separate those issues a little. On the global warming, this is a case in which the United States has caused real fury in Europe. In the other cases, it was the world outside of Europe that was angered and often infuriated — so, for example, the bombing in Serbia — but Europe sort of went along. In the case of global warming, you take a look at the European press. They’re very upset about it and regard this as U.S. unilateralism gone mad, I mean, to an extent that it might destroy the livable environment for future generations.

And the same on the national missile defense, there’s almost universal opposition to that. Europe is opposed. You know, the South, so-called, is opposed strongly. It’s regarded by just about everyone as the only way it can be regarded: as essentially a first-strike weapon, which is going to lead the proliferation. In fact, even U.S. intelligence services have been very clear about this. They have pointed out, right through the Clinton years, that this proposal will almost necessarily cause potential adversaries, or victims, depending on how you look at it, to increase their own forms of weapons of mass destruction in order to defend themselves against what is — can only be perceived as a first-strike weapon.

So, on the case of North Korea, you know, I’m not inside Rumsfeld’s mind, but it’s very hard to interpret what they did as anything but a conscious effort to provoke a conflict which will justify the national missile defense. They’ve been keying to the North Korean threat. If the North Korean threat disappears through negotiation, what’s going to be the justification for this mad program? And it’s awfully hard to interpret what they did, intensifying conflict with North Korea and undermining South Korean efforts to negotiate — it’s difficult to interpret it as anything but an effort to ensure that the threat, the alleged threat, remains, so that they can move ahead with this program that they’re very much committed to.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about Bush saying he won’t pursue the same sort of active diplomacy, if you can call it that, of President Clinton when it comes to, say, Northern Ireland or the Middle East? Do you think this will improve the world or not?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, in the case of Northern Ireland, I think that the Clinton initiatives had some beneficial effects. In the case of the Middle East, it’s a very mixed story. I mean, what he was actually pushing for was — and trying to implement, was a kind of Bantustan settlement, that maybe it could have led to peace, just as South Africa’s Bantustans could have led to peace if the population had accepted them. But it was a persistence of the long-term U.S. rejectionist policy, which has refused to accept Palestinian national rights as being — and any meaningful form of independence. I regard Clinton’s initiatives there as being harmful from the start, which is not to say that they didn’t contribute to peace. But after all, peace in itself has no great value. You know, I mean, Hitler wanted peace, too. The question is: What kind of peace? And this was a peace which led to oppression, violence, degradation, destruction of meaningful Palestinian existence and cantonization of the territories. Not very impressive.

When the Bush administration says we’re going to back off a little, what I think they mean is that they — and they’ve made it very clear, in fact — that their intention is not to — kind of a version of the Powell Doctrine, not to become involved in international affairs unless they enter with massive force. That’s the essence of the Powell Doctrine: Don’t do anything unless you’re going to come in with massive violence. Now, of course, no country can live up to that condition. But there will be, presumably, a tendency in that direction: Keep away unless you come in with great violence. And the negotiating efforts, of course, are not like that. That does not — and even if one dislikes the negotiating efforts, as I did in the case of the Middle East, a shift of this policy does not augur very well. And the world is frightened about it. Very frightened.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, let’s end on the issue of oil, with the ascendancy of the oiligarchy of Bush and Cheney, former head of Halliburton, the largest oil services corporation in the world.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, yeah. I mean, they are — that could have many effects. For example, one effect it might have is terminating the dual containment policy of the Clinton administration. The core of Clinton’s policy towards the Middle East was what they called dual containment, you know, sort of marginalizing Iran and Iraq. The oil industry is not in favor of that. In fact, Cheney himself has been — his company has been involved in all sorts of devious manipulations with offshore branches, and so on, that have been bringing in Iraqi and Iranian oil. And it’s conceivable that they may push in that direction.

I mean, it’s worth remembering also, in this China case, that all the way back there has been a kind of split, a split that goes on for a long time between business interests. They may be very reactionary, but business interests that want to enter into business relations with designated enemies and to integrate them into the U.S. system by the force of U.S. economic power. And they have often been in conflict with more militaristic, chauvinistic elements which wanted conflict, both for internal social control and to build up the military system and so on. And these divisions don’t — like, for example, the 1950s, this was — there was a conflict of this sort over how to deal with China. The sort of more hawkish ones won out. But remember, it was, after all, Nixon who shifted to the other direction, while the Kennedy intellectuals were among the most hawkish. It doesn’t break up very clearly on party lines or so-called liberal-conservative lines. They’re just different concentrations of interests, and they’ll pursue their own course, as they see it, for tactical reasons. I mean, on the other hand, we can be sure that — in fact, you might even have guessed that the Bush commitment to the — Bush is virtually a creature of the energy industry. They’ll do everything possible to increase their profits, to undermine environmental regulations and so on. But that’s just a special case of the general policy of trying to maximize benefits for the rich and hoping you can control everyone else somehow.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Noam, thanks very much for being with us.

NOAM CHOMSKY: OK. Good to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, well-known political analyst and author of many books.

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