This popular post was first published on January 31 here. (Be sure and see the shocking apologetics from Chomsky defenders in the comments.)
Whenever there is talk of an “open letter” circulating among academics, you can be sure the issue is serious enough to involve some aspect of U.S. foreign policy, usually Israel. (Remember the push for “divestment”?) And in that case it’s safe to assume that the vile creature from M.I.T. has been roused from his reptilian catacomb to endorse it.
Now, American academics, including the not great and not yet late Noam Chomsky, have put their names to an online letter addressed to President Obama that urges us
“…to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.”
The letter also states:
“There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy.”
If Chomsky’s name weren’t on this letter, I might think that that last statement sounded vaguely neoconservative. It has the universalist feel of an actual endorsement of Western values, and it seems to assume we might be capable of doing something other than waging war for capitalism.
The most revealing statement, however, is the one that closes the letter. This one reveals why Chomsky bothered with the letter at all. It enjoins Obama to
“…undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.”
Vague language means all sorts of rhetorical Trojan Horses can slip by unnoticed. By “democratic opposition” they don’t mean those Egyptians who genuinely want to cast off a dictatorship. When one hears the word “democracy” coming from academics, one knows at once what they mean by the word. Throw in Chomsky’s name and the forces of anti-Israel eliminationism can’t be far off. I of course can’t prove it, but the hope that a new Egypt might make nice with the Muslim Brotherhood must send a frisson of excitement up Chomsky’s crooked spine.
The letter’s language is vague for another reason. By asking Obama to support “democracy,” all sorts of people can say that they, too, support the idea of representative government (and that they even signed a letter proving it), so that if democracy does fail in Egypt, the United States has already been set up to take the blame for its failure to “review” its foreign policy, i.e., repudiate Israel.
It’s not yet clear to what extent the Islamist forces in Egypt will manifest themselves if this social unrest leads to a democratic (or should I write “democratic”) government in Egypt. Insofar as they do, Chomsky will have his democracy—the type that won’t mind reviving the old Six Day War/Yom Kippur War coalition.