Failed states : the abuse of power and the assault on democracy

by Noam Chomsky

Paper Book, 2006


The United States has repeatedly asserted its right to intervene militarily against "failed states" around the globe. Chomsky turns the tables, charging the United States with being a "failed state," and therefore a danger to its own people and the world. "Failed states," Chomsky writes, are those "that do not protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction, that regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and that suffer from a 'democratic deficit, ' having democratic forms but with limited substance." Exploring recent U.S. foreign and domestic policies, Chomsky assesses Washington's escalation of nuclear risks; the dangerous consequences of the occupation of Iraq; and Americas's self-exemption from international law. He also examines an American electoral system that frustrates genuine political alternatives, thus impeding any meaningful democracy.--From publisher description.… (more)



Call number



New York : Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2006.

User reviews

LibraryThing member fpagan
Michael Moore and Al Franken may be more entertaining, but nobody can catalog and document the evils of the Shrubbish regime and its acolytes (and of earlier US administrations, and of the Zionist Outlaw Entity) better than ol' Noam. Make-your-blood-boil reading.
LibraryThing member addict
Forget Iraq and Sudan--America is the foremost failed state, argues the latest polemic from America's most controversial Left intellectual. Chomsky (Imperial Ambitions) contends the U.S. government wallows in lawless military aggression (the Iraq war is merely the latest example); ignores public
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opinion on everything from global warming to social spending and foreign policy; and jeopardizes domestic security by under-funding homeland defense in favor of tax cuts for the rich and by provoking hatred and instability abroad that may lead to terrorist blowback or nuclear conflict. Ranging haphazardly from the Seminole War forward, Chomsky's jeremiad views American interventionism as a pageant of imperialist power-plays motivated by crass business interests. Disdaining euphemisms, he denounces American "terror" and "war crimes," castigates the public-bamboozling "government-media propaganda campaign" and floats comparisons to Mongols and Nazis. Chomsky's fans will love it, but even mainstream critics are catching up to the substance of his take on Bush Administration policies; meanwhile his uncompromising moral sensibility, icy logic and withering sarcasm remain in a class by themselves. Required reading for every thoughtful citizen.
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LibraryThing member jcbrunner
Noam Chomsky polarizes which unfortunately prevents many of his opponents from considering his books on their own merit. His work is backed up by a huge amount of research and documentation. His flaw, if it is one, is to hold the United States of America to an incredibly high moral standard. A
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standard most humans and active governments are unable to meet. Thus, he sees US failure all around, failures most of his opponents either ignore or dismiss ("stuff happens"). But costly failures they are (especially for the recipients of US support). The Iraqi occupation adds another poster case to Chomsky's (familiar, but nonetheless true) collection of botched US foreign policy (Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, Iran, Nicaragua, ...). The contrast of lofty rhetorics and failed execution is cruel, maddening and disheartening.

What I find disconcerting about Chomsky is that he usually does not account for US successes and does not dwell on the negative aspects of US opponents (Most often, he points out their evilness in just a single line.) which in his presentation results in a lopsided balance unfair to overall US global influence (although positive US initiatives lately have become fewer and fewer). I think Chomsky could make his message much more palatable in acknowledging successes.

The book is divided into six chapters, five dealing with foreign policy, one with the US itself (unfortunately, the weakest chapter of the book featuring Chomsky's usual lament about corporations). The first chapter deals with the disconnect of proclaimed and actual goals. US representatives idealistic claims result in naked power and control politics - not exactly a new message, but one which undermines US credibility. The second chapter adds the US unwillingness to comply with global treaties and exempt itself from banal to crucial commitments. Some are obviously more equal. The US government positions itself alongside Russia, China and other non-complying states instead of the group of democracies. The practice further erodes US credibility. The third chapter destroys (if it ever needed destroying) the respectability of the notion of preemptive war. The value of this book lies in the discussion of the "illegal but legitimate" bombing of Serbia where Chomsky can convincingly (but thanks to hindsight) show that last-minute diplomacy could have achieved most of the good elements of the intervention without the (Serbian) human rights abuses which followed US intervention. Overall, "illegal but legitimate" actions have a bad track record and should only be undertaken with extreme caution. The fourth chapter shows that much what US governments call democracy promotion ends up supporting the opposite (creating nasty side effects, such as the Iranian Revolution). The fifth chapter is a valuable case-study in the well-intentioned but contra-productive support for Israel which discourages a reasonable conflict resolution. The sixth chapter deals with the US itself and lacks analytical sharpness. It is Chomsky's familiar lamentation about the corporate control and skewed playing field of US politics which while certainly accurate does not offer any solutions or improvements. Tacked on as an afterword is a list of (sensible) good global citizen measures the US should adopt.

Chomsky meticulously documents the transgressions the Americans overtly and covertly made in South America, Asia and the Middle East usually supporting the wrong guy for the wrong reasons. Sometimes, this results in Orwellian flip-flops ("Eurasia has always been at war with Oceania.") when formerly allied thugs (Saddam, Noriega, ...) become public enemies which have to be evicted by force. Chomsky is at his best in exposing the rhetoric contortions and inconsistencies of US government positions. The main problem is that the US allies itself to the local (undemocratic) rulers and supports them against their own people. Preaching democracy and supporting oligarchy (if not worse) is a double game the rest of the world less and less tolerates. Within the land of the free and home of the brave, the broken media environment does not prick the bubble. I learned from the book that the New York Times already in the Eighties had a tendency for selective reporting, so Judith Miller is a continuation not an aberration. The problems of US democracy become more and more apparent. Analysis is certainly not lacking. Unfortunately, realistic solutions remain elusive. Chomsky's book adds anger and frustration but does little to mend the broken government.
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LibraryThing member kiacyclic
This is a great digestion of the frightening state of human rights in the world, from one of the great anarchist (or anti-authoritarian if you prefer) thinkers of our time.

If you are familiar with the political work of Noam Chomsky, you are going to find the recycling of some historical examples
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from some of his other works. As we should expect from someone building their arguments on the shoulders of modern history.

What is new is the continued deteriorating state of world affairs.
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LibraryThing member danoomistmatiste
This book will give you a whole new perspective on the terms Rogue State and Axis of Evil. While the US of A is the main protagonist, tagging along is it's ever obedient dog and toilet bowl, the UK.

A lesson to be learnt when you elect a retarded neanderthal to two terms. He and his coterie
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comprising mostly of satan's offspring.
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Original publication date



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