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If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era). The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but — so the evidence suggests — not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

Day one of the NWE was marked by the “success” of Little Boy, a simple atomic bomb. On day four, Nagasaki experienced the technological triumph of Fat Man, a more sophisticated design. Five days later came what the official Air Force history calls the “grand finale,” a 1,000-plane raid — no mean logistical achievement — attacking Japan’s cities and killing many thousands of people, with leaflets falling among the bombs reading “Japan has surrendered.” Truman announced that surrender before the last B-29 returned to its base.

Those were the auspicious opening days of the NWE. As we now enter its 70th year, we should be contemplating with wonder that we have survived. We can only guess how many years remain.

Some reflections on these grim prospects were offered by General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which controls nuclear weapons and strategy. Twenty years ago, he wrote that we had so far survived the NWE “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”

Reflecting on his long career in developing nuclear weapons strategies and organizing the forces to implement them efficiently, he described himself ruefully as having been “among the most avid of these keepers of the faith in nuclear weapons.” But, he continued, he had come to realize that it was now his “burden to declare with all of the conviction I can muster that in my judgment they served us extremely ill.” And he asked, “By what authority do succeeding generations of leaders in the nuclear-weapons states usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet? Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at a moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestations?”

He termed the U.S. strategic plan of 1960 that called for an automated all-out strike on the Communist world “the single most absurd and irresponsible document I have ever reviewed in my life.” Its Soviet counterpart was probably even more insane. But it is important to bear in mind that there are competitors, not least among them the easy acceptance of extraordinary threats to survival.

Survival in the Early Cold War Years

According to received doctrine in scholarship and general intellectual discourse, the prime goal of state policy is “national security.” There is ample evidence, however, that the doctrine of national security does not encompass the security of the population. The record reveals that, for instance, the threat of instant destruction by nuclear weapons has not ranked high among the concerns of planners. That much was demonstrated early on, and remains true to the present moment.

In the early days of the NWE, the U.S. was overwhelmingly powerful and enjoyed remarkable security: it controlled the hemisphere, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the opposite sides of those oceans as well. Long before World War II, it had already become by far the richest country in the world, with incomparable advantages. Its economy boomed during the war, while other industrial societies were devastated or severely weakened. By the opening of the new era, the U.S. possessed about half of total world wealth and an even greater percentage of its manufacturing capacity.

There was, however, a potential threat: intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. That threat was discussed in the standard scholarly study of nuclear policies, carried out with access to high-level sources — Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years by McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies.

Bundy wrote that “the timely development of ballistic missiles during the Eisenhower administration is one of the best achievements of those eight years. Yet it is well to begin with a recognition that both the United States and the Soviet Union might be in much less nuclear danger today if [those] missiles had never been developed.” He then added an instructive comment: “I am aware of no serious contemporary proposal, in or out of either government, that ballistic missiles should somehow be banned by agreement.” In short, there was apparently no thought of trying to prevent the sole serious threat to the U.S., the threat of utter destruction in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Could that threat have been taken off the table? We cannot, of course, be sure, but it was hardly inconceivable. The Russians, far behind in industrial development and technological sophistication, were in a far more threatening environment. Hence, they were significantly more vulnerable to such weapons systems than the U.S. There might have been opportunities to explore these possibilities, but in the extraordinary hysteria of the day they could hardly have even been perceived. And that hysteria was indeed extraordinary. An examination of the rhetoric of central official documents of that moment like National Security Council Paper NSC-68 remains quite shocking, even discounting Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s injunction that it is necessary to be “clearer than truth.”

One indication of possible opportunities to blunt the threat was a remarkable proposal by Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin in 1952, offering to allow Germany to be unified with free elections on the condition that it would not then join a hostile military alliance. That was hardly an extreme condition in light of the history of the past half-century during which Germany alone had practically destroyed Russia twice, exacting a terrible toll.

Stalin’s proposal was taken seriously by the respected political commentator James Warburg, but otherwise mostly ignored or ridiculed at the time. Recent scholarship has begun to take a different view. The bitterly anti-Communist Soviet scholar Adam Ulam has taken the status of Stalin’s proposal to be an “unresolved mystery.” Washington “wasted little effort in flatly rejecting Moscow’s initiative,” he has written, on grounds that “were embarrassingly unconvincing.” The political, scholarly, and general intellectual failure left open “the basic question,” Ulam added: “Was Stalin genuinely ready to sacrifice the newly created German Democratic Republic (GDR) on the altar of real democracy,” with consequences for world peace and for American security that could have been enormous?

Reviewing recent research in Soviet archives, one of the most respected Cold War scholars, Melvyn Leffler, has observed that many scholars were surprised to discover “[Lavrenti] Beria — the sinister, brutal head of the [Russian] secret police — propos[ed] that the Kremlin offer the West a deal on the unification and neutralization of Germany,” agreeing “to sacrifice the East German communist regime to reduce East-West tensions” and improve internal political and economic conditions in Russia — opportunities that were squandered in favor of securing German participation in NATO.

Under the circumstances, it is not impossible that agreements might then have been reached that would have protected the security of the American population from the gravest threat on the horizon. But that possibility apparently was not considered, a striking indication of how slight a role authentic security plays in state policy.

The Cuban Missile Crisis and Beyond

That conclusion was underscored repeatedly in the years that followed. When Nikita Khrushchev took control in Russia in 1953 after Stalin’s death, he recognized that the USSR could not compete militarily with the U.S., the richest and most powerful country in history, with incomparable advantages. If it ever hoped to escape its economic backwardness and the devastating effect of the last world war, it would need to reverse the arms race.

Accordingly, Khrushchev proposed sharp mutual reductions in offensive weapons. The incoming Kennedy administration considered the offer and rejected it, instead turning to rapid military expansion, even though it was already far in the lead. The late Kenneth Waltz, supported by other strategic analysts with close connections to U.S. intelligence, wrote then that the Kennedy administration “undertook the largest strategic and conventional peace-time military build-up the world has yet seen… even as Khrushchev was trying at once to carry through a major reduction in the conventional forces and to follow a strategy of minimum deterrence, and we did so even though the balance of strategic weapons greatly favored the United States.” Again, harming national security while enhancing state power.

U.S. intelligence verified that huge cuts had indeed been made in active Soviet military forces, both in terms of aircraft and manpower. In 1963, Khrushchev again called for new reductions. As a gesture, he withdrew troops from East Germany and called on Washington to reciprocate. That call, too, was rejected. William Kaufmann, a former top Pentagon aide and leading analyst of security issues, described the U.S. failure to respond to Khrushchev’s initiatives as, in career terms, “the one regret I have.”

The Soviet reaction to the U.S. build-up of those years was to place nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962 to try to redress the balance at least slightly. The move was also motivated in part by Kennedy’s terrorist campaign against Fidel Castro’s Cuba, which was scheduled to lead to invasion that very month, as Russia and Cuba may have known. The ensuing “missile crisis” was “the most dangerous moment in history,” in the words of historian Arthur Schlesinger, Kennedy’s adviser and confidant.

As the crisis peaked in late October, Kennedy received a secret letter from Khrushchev offering to end it by simultaneous public withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The latter were obsolete missiles, already ordered withdrawn by the Kennedy administration because they were being replaced by far more lethal Polaris submarines to be stationed in the Mediterranean.

Kennedy’s subjective estimate at that moment was that if he refused the Soviet premier’s offer, there was a 33% to 50% probability of nuclear war — a war that, as President Eisenhower had warned, would have destroyed the northern hemisphere. Kennedy nonetheless refused Khrushchev’s proposal for public withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba and Turkey; only the withdrawal from Cuba could be public, so as to protect the U.S. right to place missiles on Russia’s borders or anywhere else it chose.

It is hard to think of a more horrendous decision in history — and for this, he is still highly praised for his cool courage and statesmanship.

Ten years later, in the last days of the 1973 Israel-Arab war, Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser to President Nixon, called a nuclear alert. The purpose was to warn the Russians not to interfere with his delicate diplomatic maneuvers designed to ensure an Israeli victory, but of a limited sort so that the U.S. would still be in control of the region unilaterally. And the maneuvers were indeed delicate. The U.S. and Russia had jointly imposed a cease-fire, but Kissinger secretly informed the Israelis that they could ignore it. Hence the need for the nuclear alert to frighten the Russians away. The security of Americans had its usual status.

Ten years later, the Reagan administration launched operations to probe Russian air defenses by simulating air and naval attacks and a high-level nuclear alert that the Russians were intended to detect. These actions were undertaken at a very tense moment. Washington was deploying Pershing II strategic missiles in Europe with a five-minute flight time to Moscow. President Reagan had also announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) program, which the Russians understood to be effectively a first-strike weapon, a standard interpretation of missile defense on all sides. And other tensions were rising.

Naturally, these actions caused great alarm in Russia, which, unlike the U.S., was quite vulnerable and had repeatedly been invaded and virtually destroyed. That led to a major war scare in 1983. Newly released archives reveal that the danger was even more severe than historians had previously assumed. A CIA study entitled “The War Scare Was for Real” concluded that U.S. intelligence may have underestimated Russian concerns and the threat of a Russian preventative nuclear strike. The exercises “almost became a prelude to a preventative nuclear strike,” according to an account in the Journal of Strategic Studies.

It was even more dangerous than that, as we learned last September, when the BBC reported that right in the midst of these world-threatening developments, Russia’s early-warning systems detected an incoming missile strike from the United States, sending its nuclear system onto the highest-level alert. The protocol for the Soviet military was to retaliate with a nuclear attack of its own. Fortunately, the officer on duty, Stanislav Petrov, decided to disobey orders and not report the warnings to his superiors. He received an official reprimand. And thanks to his dereliction of duty, we’re still alive to talk about it.

The security of the population was no more a high priority for Reagan administration planners than for their predecessors. And so it continues to the present, even putting aside the numerous near-catastrophic nuclear accidents that occurred over the years, many reviewed in Eric Schlosser’s chilling study Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. In other words, it is hard to contest General Butler’s conclusions.

Survival in the Post-Cold War Era

The record of post-Cold War actions and doctrines is hardly reassuring either. Every self-respecting president has to have a doctrine. The Clinton Doctrine was encapsulated in the slogan “multilateral when we can, unilateral when we must.” In congressional testimony, the phrase “when we must” was explained more fully: the U.S. is entitled to resort to “unilateral use of military power” to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.” Meanwhile, STRATCOM in the Clinton era produced an important study entitled “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence,” issued well after the Soviet Union had collapsed and Clinton was extending President George H.W. Bush’s program of expanding NATO to the east in violation of promises to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev — with reverberations to the present.

That STRATCOM study was concerned with “the role of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era.” A central conclusion: that the U.S. must maintain the right to launch a first strike, even against non-nuclear states. Furthermore, nuclear weapons must always be at the ready because they “cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict.” They were, that is, constantly being used, just as you’re using a gun if you aim but don’t fire one while robbing a store (a point that Daniel Ellsberg has repeatedly stressed). STRATCOM went on to advise that “planners should not be too rational about determining… what the opponent values the most.” Everything should simply be targeted. “[I]t hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed… That the U.S. may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project.” It is “beneficial [for our strategic posture] if some elements may appear to be potentially ‘out of control,’” thus posing a constant threat of nuclear attack — a severe violation of the U.N. Charter, if anyone cares.

Not much here about the noble goals constantly proclaimed — or for that matter the obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make “good faith” efforts to eliminate this scourge of the earth. What resounds, rather, is an adaptation of Hilaire Belloc’s famous couplet about the Maxim gun (to quote the great African historian Chinweizu):

“Whatever happens, we have got,

The Atom Bomb, and they have not.”

After Clinton came, of course, George W. Bush, whose broad endorsement of preventative war easily encompassed Japan’s attack in December 1941 on military bases in two U.S. overseas possessions, at a time when Japanese militarists were well aware that B-17 Flying Fortresses were being rushed off assembly lines and deployed to those bases with the intent “to burn out the industrial heart of the Empire with fire-bomb attacks on the teeming bamboo ant heaps of Honshu and Kyushu.” That was how the prewar plans were described by their architect, Air Force General Claire Chennault, with the enthusiastic approval of President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall.

Then comes Barack Obama, with pleasant words about working to abolish nuclear weapons — combined with plans to spend $1 trillion on the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the next 30 years, a percentage of the military budget “comparable to spending for procurement of new strategic systems in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan,” according to a study by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Obama has also not hesitated to play with fire for political gain. Take for example the capture and assassination of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs. Obama brought it up with pride in an important speech on national security in May 2013. It was widely covered, but one crucial paragraph was ignored.

Obama hailed the operation but added that it could not be the norm. The reason, he said, was that the risks “were immense.” The SEALs might have been “embroiled in an extended firefight.” Even though, by luck, that didn’t happen, “the cost to our relationship with Pakistan and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory was… severe.”

Let us now add a few details. The SEALs were ordered to fight their way out if apprehended. They would not have been left to their fate if “embroiled in an extended firefight.” The full force of the U.S. military would have been used to extricate them. Pakistan has a powerful, well-trained military, highly protective of state sovereignty. It also has nuclear weapons, and Pakistani specialists are concerned about the possible penetration of their nuclear security system by jihadi elements. It is also no secret that the population has been embittered and radicalized by Washington’s drone terror campaign and other policies.

While the SEALs were still in the bin Laden compound, Pakistani Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was informed of the raid and ordered the military “to confront any unidentified aircraft,” which he assumed would be from India. Meanwhile in Kabul, U.S. war commander General David Petraeus ordered “warplanes to respond” if the Pakistanis “scrambled their fighter jets.” As Obama said, by luck the worst didn’t happen, though it could have been quite ugly. But the risks were faced without noticeable concern. Or subsequent comment.

As General Butler observed, it is a near miracle that we have escaped destruction so far, and the longer we tempt fate, the less likely it is that we can hope for divine intervention to perpetuate the miracle.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his recent books are Hegemony or Survival , Failed States, Power Systems,Occupy , and Hopes and Prospects . His latest book, Masters of Mankind, will be published soon by Haymarket Books, which is also reissuing twelve of his classic books in new editions over the coming year. His website iswww.chomsky.info.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Hiroshima, Nuclear Weapons 
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  1. Sean says:

    Well, it wasn’t divine intervention and the US has been fighting all over the place with mixed results. I think the evidence suggests that nuclear weapons are a deterrent to nuclear war, but not to conventional war.

  2. Art M says:

    I have always admired and respected Noam Chomsky, but I have to say that this particular piece must have been done on an off day. Either that, or, as happens more often than not, this piece has been so edited and picked over that the result is, well, this. Noam, you have for certain earned every bit of that “Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Philosophy”; however, as an historian, you kind of suck.

    No, Noam, Germany did not destroy (or savage) Russia during WWI. Russia was devastated and torn asunder during WWI, but that was Russians doing it to Russia. I think they called it a “revolution” or something. All Germany wanted out of Russia during WWI was: nothing – if Russia could be made neutral, Germany could wish for no more.

    If you saw (and remember) the movie “A Fish Named Wanda” there is a scene wherin Kevin Kline, cast as a schizophrenic dumbassky CIA agent, is being ragged on by a snooty British woman because he is American and CIA. The Kevin Kline character, fed up with the woman’s yapping, asks, “Oh yeah? Well do you know what England would be if it weren’t for the good ol’ U S of A? Well, I’ll tell you. The smallest fu*king province in the Russian empire, that’s what!” Historically, you should add “and it’s nukes” right after “good ol’ U S of A”. Which pretty much covers the rest of western Europe as well.

    “One indication of possible opportunities to blunt the threat was a remarkable proposal by Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin in 1952, offering to allow Germany to be unified with free elections on the condition that it would not then join a hostile military alliance.” – uh huh. And gee whiz Noam, what was the climate of thought in 1952 towards Communism in general and Joe Stalin in particular? Any ideas? Let’s see, 1952 was just some 14 years after Joe Stalin had colluded with Hitler and divvied up Poland – THE ignition point of WWII. Not only that, in 1952 Stalin had just finished constructing his Iron Curtain, behind which he was just finishing the extermination of some 25 million civilians. (Hitler topped out at a mere 6 million, the slacker – but then, he was stopped early). The only caveat was that Germany couldn’t join any “hostile alliance”. “Hostile” to be decided by whom? Russia? Yeah, sure. And, of course, righteous Joe Stalin wouldn’t have been working overtime to get Germany into THEIR alliance. Nope. No way Jose, huh?
    And, how long after “peace” came to Europe do you suppose Joe and his KGB would have begun doing the things in Western Europe that he had already done in Eastern Europe as he made his Iron Curtain? Noam, Joe Stalin would have chewed you up like an after dinner mint, and after he was half-way thru with you, you would swear that he was the world’s greatest leader and proponent of peace on Earth. He was that good. Or bad, if you wish.

    But Noam, I’m still not clear on the purpose of your piece here. Are you just generally rueful about the bomb as hunk of machinery? Like an anvil or a pencil sharpener? Or are you castigating the men who control the bomb? On the men aspect you have an infinite playing field to choose from; however, consider the entire process and the entire population group you have to work with, and then think for a moment. How many Americans who cast their vote for their President do you suppose pause and consider the fact that the guy they are electing will have his finger on the button? (And, not only that, but if anything happens to him, the two-legged slab of feces he has chosen as a running mate will now have his finger in the “fire” position.) How many take the time to consider if the person they vote for because, well, he’s the best choice I got, will be a person stable enough to hold the mother of all firearms?

    To answer your question, however, “How close are we to midnight”? – As close as we want to be.

  3. Could hardly have put it better myself. The very fact that Chomsky could put any faith in a diplomatic offer made by Stalin in itself shows how unmoored from reality he is: and getting more so, I suspect, as he enters his dotage.

    Incidentally, have you ever read “Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Portraits in Leftist Hypocrisy” ? Chomsky occupies a prominent chapter.

  4. Retired says:

    Why are you printing drivel from this clown? He is a communist dinosaur.
    Who are you going to feature next, tahnesi coates? He’s even dumber than Gustavo Arellano.

  5. This is an excellent, perceptive, and very much needed article by one of the greatest scholars of our time. The ad hominem attacks (“…as an historian, you kind of suck”; “…this clown?”) merely show the abysmal intellectual and civil level of “discourse” in today’s agora.

    It would have made perfect strategic sense for Stalin to have sacrificed the DDR in exchange for a neutral Germany. Kitschy “Art”, perhaps in his mind a capable historian, is probably unaware, as are most Americans, that the USSR kept its word in withdrawing from Austria on 25 October 1955, when V.M. Molotov signed the Austrian State Treaty guaranteeing a neutral Austria, which one British diplomat called “…far too good to be true…”.

    Chomsky’s role as unofficial Left Gatekeeper for the Nation and CounterPunch crowd forces him to pretend to believe in the U.S. Government Official War on Terror Narrative (as he also pretends to believe in the Official 9/11 Narrative), so his still-acute mind pretends not to be bothered by such anomalies as the lack of a death photo of bin Laden, the un-Islamic “burial at sea” fairy tale, etc.

    • Replies: @Art M
  6. Art M says:
    @Eustace Tilley (not)

    Petechy, But Germany still didn’t ravage Russia in WWI – and as for your 1955 Austrian give-back: #1 so what, and #2 Stalin died in 1953, so I doubt that he had much input into the deal. I never said Noam Chomsky was a lightweight, I just said that in this case, he is wrong. Which he is.

  7. “If you saw (and remember) the movie ‘A Fish Named Wanda’…”

    That Hollywood fantasies should be thought to prove convenient and even absurd distortions of history is I suppose a telling commentary on the level of mirror-gazing that passes for serious study.

    The Soviet leader feared Germany’s aggression with good cause. Unfortunately, French and British leaders wanted the Soviet Union to absorb the brunt of Hitler’s war-making without making any serious commitments, to distract the Nazis and avoid having to open a western front. Feeling abandoned, the Soviet government then sought accommodation through the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement. You can certainly fault Stalin for making this deal with the devil, but he felt forced into it by western recalcitrance to reciprocal support for the Soviet Union weighing in for Britain and France. And in point of fact, later on FDR and Churchill were very glad to make their own deal with the devil, and stated so, when it became more crucial to the allied cause to support the Soviet Union, in order to defeat Hitler. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union fought harder and longer, and suffered more devastation and loss of life than the other allies, before a western front finally was opened by the westerners with D-Day.

    The above is no revisionism; it’s even revealed in William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, fully documented by all the captured German official documents.

    There is a reflex of personal attacks on Chomsky, rather than offering substantive or effective debate. That is likely because his analysis is fact-based, rather than playing to patriotic biases misused by a deceptive political and ddonor class, which many hold to for emotional reasons, encouraged by those who know better but profit from continued deception of the public.

    The reality I have had to acknowledge, with no small difficulty, is that the invocation of “national security” has been hijacked to have little genuine purpose other than a kind of propaganda resonance and has the opposite result for our populations at large. Fomenting fear in a people is an effective way to increase power and avoid democratic accountability, developments that serve favored elites, not the people themselves, and are incidentally profoundly hostile to cherished American ideals.

    • Replies: @Art M
    , @The Plutonium Kid
  8. Art M says:
    @Fran Macadam

    What? Your comment makes no sense. Of course, I am assuming that you wanted it to make sense from the beginning. Perhaps not, in which case, you’ve succeeded, and my hat is off to you, as you have used the largest words possible to say, well, nothing. Say, Fran, as long as you are extolling the virtues of communist Russia, how about those 25+ MILLION people good ol’ uncle Joe murdered? Any input on that? Oh, he killed them because France and England were plotting something or other because of being recalcitrant on the reciprocal support for Russia “weighing in” for France and England? Huh? You are talking about the 2nd world war? You’re buddy Joe Stalin was a common, ordinary street thug. He learned early on that there are two ways to deal with another human being: you either intimidate him into submission, or you kill him. That’s it. No super-duper, deep philosophical psychobabble about it, Joe Stalin was a criminal, an extremely vicious criminal, who made it to the big time.

    I’m curious, Fran, why do you suppose Joe Stalin made a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany and then proceeded to rape and steal half of Poland? Are you telling me that this was “support for France and England”?

  9. @Fran Macadam

    Fran, the Western powers didn’t trust Stalin for the excellent reason that he clearly wasn’t trustworthy. The man was treachery personified. The non-aggression pact with Hitler was made only so that Stalin could buy some time to whip his own military forces into shape. Stalin meant to own Europe, as documents uncovered since the collapse of the Soviet Union have shown. Had it not been for the United States and our nukes, he would have. Chomsky continually glosses over the aggressive intent behind Stalin’s policies

    As for personal attacks on Chomsky, Chomsky hates gentiles, and the United States is his proxy for gentiles in general. His anti-Americanism is a mask for something much more sinister, just as anti-Zionism is often a mask for anti-Semitism. He may be a brilliant man, but he is a brilliant man obsessed with hatred for the goyim. I really can’t care very much if a little name-calling hurts his feelings.

  10. How little most Americans understand Russia, before, during, or after Communist dictatorship – or even their own homegrown Chomsky, for that matter.

    It’s a matter of record that there were British and French negotiations with the Soviet Union underway, which alliance the Soviets wanted for protection from Hitler – but which the west wanted the commitments guaranteed only from the Soviet side, without any commitments from themselves. It’s completely credible, as Hitler showed that the west was thoroughly reluctant to make good on its promises to come to the aid of the countries Hitler invaded. Spurned, the Soviets did make a deal they thought would protect them from invasion, though Hitler never intended to honor it. As for the Soviets, they did keep their agreement right up to the moment Hitler violated it, as he had intended all along. The Nazi conflagration against the Soviet Union cost it 25 million lives at Germany’s hands, along with wholesale destruction of cities and land.

    I’m certainly not going to pretend that Stalin was the avuncular “Good Old Uncle Joe” that both British and our own American governments propagandized and lied to us about, including the history books of the time.

    I suppose the bowdlerized and sanitized fables taught in public school history, amended to suit the power interests of the time, which few progress beyond or seriously question, hold sway over such, as is the intent of their being taught.

    Yet out of an exceptional ignorance, springs this belief in an exceptional right by its elites to rule over the whole world militarily and economically. Yet these are folks who can’t credibly govern themselves or their own nation in these matters.

    Calling Chomsky obsessed with hatred for gentiles is so far off the mark it’s beyond ridiculous.

    I would say he is remarkably prescient on calling out the cynical pretensions for our moral ideals that our politicians fake. And that includes the politicians in Israel, who falsely charge every criticism of their cabal, which does not represent every Jewish person, as anti-semitism and Holocaust denial.

    It’s likely a hopeless cause, but hope springs eternal, that people can learn to think for themselves and will not be content until they approach the truth, even if lies are always more convenient to those in power.

    • Replies: @Steve
  11. Kennedy’s subjective estimate at that moment was that if he refused the Soviet premier’s offer, there was a 33% to 50% probability of nuclear war — a war that, as President Eisenhower had warned, would have destroyed the northern hemisphere. Kennedy nonetheless refused Khrushchev’s proposal for public withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba and Turkey; only the withdrawal from Cuba could be public, so as to protect the U.S. right to place missiles on Russia’s borders or anywhere else it chose.

    Seems misleading. JFK’s estimate was based on a flat refusal of the deal. What he actually did was make a counter-proposal (or you could even say, accepted with a caveat): “Deal, except we won’t make the Turkish withdrawal public.” Krushchev will either take the deal or come back insisting that both withdrawals need to be made public. He’s not going to launch the nukes just like that. At that point, if JFK refuses, you can say it was reckless. Turns out the Russians accepted the counter-proposal.

  12. […] Chomsky has a new article in The Unz Review – “How many minutes to midnight”. I’m afraid I do not have the same high opinion of Chomsky – even on language which is […]

  13. ktwop says: • Website

    In 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki met their Doom. But such is the resilience of man that, today, less than 4 generations later, both are thriving cities. Hiroshima has a population today of 1.2 million compared to the 340,000 before the bomb. For Hiroshima and Nagasaki their Doomsday Clocks reached midnight and moved on – into yet another day.
    Chomsky’s article is not particularly insightful but it serves as an example of the cowardice that alarmists exhibit. Cowardice is the subjugation of actions to fear whereas courage is the subjugation of fears to actions for a purpose. ….
    But raising false alarms gets headlines, gets funding and usually provides lucrative opportunities for some. ..
    Roll on midnight.

  14. Karl says:

    I enjoyed this article by Chomsky and I am surprised. I am NOT a Lefty, but I think we need to reexamine how little our elites actually care about the general population.

  15. Steve says:
    @Fran Macadam

    Stalin was the one who broke off the negotiations to make a deal with Hitler, a deal he justified and intended as a way to embroil Germany in conflict with the west and weaken both to the point where he could step in and mop up, as well as removing Poland as a factor and buffer. Stalin was into power and control, not just security and defense. He had even helped Hitler into power in the first place by deliberately splitting the left, and refused two chances at least to take Hitler out with his secret services.

    Also the Soviet losses are contested, 20 million was the official figure until recent years, and millions of them were inflicted by Stalin’s regime itself, ie people who died under Stalin’s control as a result of his policies, as was usual under him even in peacetime.

    Chomsky is certainly somewhat naive about Stalin, who broke quite a few treaties with neighboring nations in 1939-45, he was only as trustworthy as he was forced to be by circumstances. And he had already wiped a large part of Germany permanently off the map.

    Also as another commenter noted, Germany had certainly not devastated Russia in WW1. Russia actually attacked and invaded Germany first in 1914, and the Germans inflicted very little damage on Russia itself, just defeating Russian armies in the field, and freeing non-Russian nationalities from the Russian empire, after Russia rejected mild terms for years. Russia collapsed internally into revolution and civil war, and most of the devastation was self-inflicted.

  16. […] and why people believe the things they believe, often in the face of evidence to the contrary. This post on Unz the other day got me thinking about it. Noam Chomsky was a great linguist. I use the past tense as […]

  17. Yevardian says:

    Chomsky has been quite critical of the left in the past, particularly within academia. I don’t think he has much of critical agenda or ideology to be honest. Mostly it’s just “mass slaughter of ordinary people may not be something the US should be proud of”.

    Stalin was always very cautious. Even he admitted that the USA was by far the world’s most powerful country and could not challenged within his lifetime. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was clearly only intended to buy time for the inevitable Nazi invasion. On Barbarossa, Stalin couldn’t believe the Germans were about to invade so soon, as they didn’t even prepare any winter gear!

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