Noam Chomsky vs. Noam Chomsky

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As
we
find here (in his own words)
, and referenced
here
, in
words that can reasonably be attributed to him, he states that he
"never opposed the draft."

Mr.
Chomsky goes on:

"I might
add, for what it's worth, that although I was actively involved
in organizing and supporting resistance (including support for
draft resisters) in the 60s, and was saved from a likely prison
sentence only by the Tet offensive, I was never opposed to the
draft. If there is to be an army, it would be best, I think, for
it to be mainly a citizen's army. In part for the reasons that
the top command oppose that option."

This
is a terrible disappointment. Not only because he betrays any concept
of standing for fairness in support of a draft, but also because
the people that seem to regularly follow him and post comments to
his blogs are brain-washed at best; brain-dead at worst. For someone
who has made a name for himself as a bastion of intellectual resistance
to slave-minded mentality, he sure does have some dirty knees. The
people that read the ZMag blog and look to him as an intellectual
compass have gone along hook, line and sinker. Reading all the positive
comments is enough to make you shake your head in disbelief.

Mr.
Chomsky and others like him have managed to co-opt the revolutionary
perspective in defense of an indefensible institution. They should
be ashamed. When it came time to take a principled stand, they didn't.
It's hard to know their motives and whether Mr. Chomsky is just
plain wrong, or bent his principles to fit the tired leftist tenet
of “my reasoning is superior because it is unique." Maybe he
doesn't really mean what he says. There is a word for someone like
that, as well.

The
underlying theory Chomsky espouses, is that a citizen's conscript
army would not be willing to inflict the atrocities we see going
on today. It is difficult to argue with that because of all the
hypotheticals, and is a subject that warrants further debate. What
is fairly straightforward, is the fact that a draft does not give
the individual a choice to engage in the activity, lest he risk
punishment.

A
draft is a lose-lose situation on grounds that it places an individual
in a potentially dangerous situation with an individually unfavorable
economic trade-off, against his will – under threat of force. At
the same time, it would at least temporarily enable more of the
adventures we currently see in action. If a person, once drafted,
refuses to fight, he may be punished by prison, fines, or worse
(considering the treatment someone labeled as an "enemy combatant"
might be subjected to). How can Mr. Chomsky possibly NOT be opposed
to the draft? Fight for us, or fight us, is that it? John Ashcroft
would be proud.

Chomsky's
argument may be that the best army is a citizens’ conscript army
because a) they are bad at fighting colonial wars and b) the top
of the chain of command opposes it. I don't think it is necessary
to show why those arguments are flagrantly absurd (i.e., let's toss
as many people into the meat grinder as we need, in order to show
the system doesn't work). He may have some perverse reasoning that
if enough people are drafted and refuse to fight, it would undermine
the drive of the fighting machine and stop the jackboots in their
tracks. Even if this were true, thousands (tens of thousands, hundreds
of thousands, millions?) of people would have to cede control over
their own lives at gunpoint, and join an institution that is not
ethical (nor consistent) in its application of force – at which
point they become complicit in the atrocities. To me, that spells
faulty reasoning and a blatantly unethical position. It seems hypocritical
then, to make speeches criticizing the government in its use of
force, and then suggest a draft, but maybe with enough linguistic
camouflage Mr. Chomsky and his supporters can live with it.

It's
still wrong any way we slice it, unless the argument is based on
the belief that absolute force rules absolutely. Anything else implying
a judgment, choice or discrimination must be interpreted that morals
or values come into play and that force is not the preferred way
to determine a philosophical position. In doing so, Chomsky relies
on the individual exercising discretion at some point – and can
not mean that "the force of the many rules all." Perhaps
he should be reminded, the draft is a manifestation of absolute
force nullifying individual preference. So is socialism, and so
is communism. It all grows from the same tree. People like Noam
Chomsky are the gardeners who water it.

Chomsky
and his cohorts would deny the most basic of property rights, namely
that the individual retains ownership in himself. In doing so, he
is able to support a draft on grounds that it would be "more
fair" (note: more fair to whom?) and would limit some of atrocities
being carried out today. It is clear he detests property rights
on this argument alone, and his positions on all human rights should
be taken with a grain of salt. At the root of all the intellectual
swordplay for Chomsky and company is the belief that, when abstracted
enough, the individual does not own anything – including himself.
It is unclear how we are expected to trust anyone who doesn't own
his own words. It is hard to believe that anyone can stand for human
rights of any sort when the individual is denied the most basic
human right (human choice and self-determination) at gunpoint.

Perhaps
he will reconsider his position on the draft. Perhaps one day free
market anarchists can reach a working relationship with socialist
anarchists. My guess is that, should Chomsky respond to this, he'll
say something along the lines that his words were taken out of context.
He shouldn't be all that concerned, though. After all, they aren't
his words anyway, right?

March
30, 2005

Frank
Speiser [send him mail]
is a partner in a technology company in Manhattan where he lives
with his loving wife and two cats.

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