Noam Chomsky vs. Noam Chomsky

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