Brad deLong on Noam Chomsky

sokol at sokol at
Thu Oct 29 09:11:38 PST 1998

At 08:29 PM 10/28/98 -0800, Brad DeLong wrote:
>The book began with a sketch of the history of U.S. foreign relations since
>World War II. By the second page Chomsky was in the middle of a brief
>discussion of planning for the postwar period. Four paragraphs were devoted
>to NSC 68--the end-of-the-1940s policy planning document that proposed
>building a military strong enough to confront the Soviet Union on any
>continent, and settling down for a long Cold War of unlimited duration. But
>NSC 68 was exhibited in a vacuum. There was not a word about the gradual
>shift in the late 1940s of U.S. policy from Rooseveltian cooperation with
>Stalin to Trumanesque confrontation, not a word about escalation of
>tensions--the fate of former German prisoners returned by the western
>allies to Stalin, the failure of power-sharing in Poland, the Soviet coup
>in Czechoslovakia, the disputes over German reconstruction ending in the
>Soviet blockade of Berlin--and not a word about how NSC 68 had no prospects
>of becoming policy until Josef Stalin took off the leash and Kim Il Sung
>began the Korean War.

Professor DeLong wrote a thousand-or-so-word essay to convey a simple idea that the US foreign policy was justified because of the Communist threat (did I miss anything?). He also expressed his gut reaction against those who question that idea.

However, I cannot see what was so threating to the interests of the American people in the post-war political development in Eastern Europe. Could you enlighten me on that issue?

If you decide to do so, please do not waste your time citing your standard line about the alleged or real "communist attrocities." As you may know, those attrocities were justified by the responsible parties as an "imperialist threat to national soveriegnty," etc. In a word, the same argument you seem to be making re. the US. As you can see that can easily fall into a vicious circle, each side saying "we had to do it because they threatened us." So I am not concvinced by such intellectual gimmicks.

What would like to see is some solid evidence (declaration of politicians, at least alone, do not qualify as such) that:

1. There was a real threat of Eastern European policies to the American interests; what interests were involved, how they were threatened, how do we know about that threat, etc.

2. That the Cold War politics which, as you seemingly admitted "did immense damage to American democratic institutions and liberties" were a justified response to that threat; i.e. that there was no other alternative to those policies, and that their cost (i.e. the said immense damage) justified the benefits; what those benefits were and who accrued them, how do we know that, etc.

3. That in the absence of the US foreign policies as they were, the people of Eastern Europe would be worse off that they were with those policies in place; again what those higher costs would have been, how doe we know that etc.

Finally, your gut reaction against Chomsky's efforts to deconstruct the national security mentality, that also seems to be in line with your eagerness to denouce countries other than the US of various attrocities - you get the drift, no?

Well, I find such a gut reaction a sort of seeing a saw dust in the eye of your neighborr while not seeing a plank in your own that may smack of hypocrisy. As I undersant that was also the bottom line of Chomsky's criticism of the US intellectual establishment - so can that be that your gut reaction is, well, self-defenive - a sort of reaction formation to use your favourite Freudian lingo?



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