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Apr 17, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

Not being American, I've been really taken aback by the insularity of a lot of American discourse. They really have internalised, consciously or unconsciously, American hegemony as an immutable fact of the world – which is baffling given the result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Imperialism can come from any country, and in fact middle powers are often little hegemons in their own region. Many countries can be imperialist, and sometimes seemingly unlikely ones – Rwandan intervention in its region's many conflicts can definitely be characterised that way.

Most of all, though, it seems like a belief that other countries cannot exist except as a relation to America, as a reflection of some part of it. The role of Europe is totally ignored, even though the path to development EU market integration provides is the biggest reason not to get sucked into Russia's impoverishing orbit. Ukraine's decision isn't seen as about its future, or about the obvious misery in Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014, but essentially a vote on how they feel about America. Surrendering would be anti-American, and therefore good, so fighting for your life must be evil. It's an insane point of view, and a morally bankrupt one at that.

It's shocking that so few people seem to be against both Russian and American aggression, when 'countries should not invade one another' seems like a pretty simple moral principle.

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Yep

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Ukraine is asking for American armaments and funding. Are you really suggesting that Americans have no right to discuss whether their country sends funds and arms to foreign? That can't actually be your position.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

Obviously anyone is free to discuss any policy, and there are plenty of consistent, principled positions against supplying arms – 'no one should supply arms to anyone because it always intensifies conflict regardless of your intentions' would be one, though I would disagree with it.

What Chomsky is essentially advocating is that countries should always surrender to foreign aggressors, and that they should be encouraged or forced to do so, unless that foreign aggressor is the United States. They should not be supplied, because their refusal to submit is against 'the reality of the world.' I don't believe he would say this about Palestinians or Iraqis in conflict with a more powerful nation.

The undercurrent is that America, as the world's most powerful nation, is ultimately responsible for all major world events, and they are all in some way about America, and this is part of what I'm referring to as 'insularity'.

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> What Chomsky is essentially advocating is that countries should always surrender to foreign aggressors, and that they should be encouraged or forced to do so, unless that foreign aggressor is the United States.

The word "essentially" here meaning "not" — maybe Chomsky's advocated for universal-except-against-the-US surrender in another interview, but there's nothing like that in what Noah quoted, nor in the surrounding paragraphs of Chomsky's answer. In what's quoted Chomsky argues for a "diplomatic settlement" for Ukraine, which is wholly consistent with Ukraine continuing to fight right up until Putin's shelling and sieges stop.

> They should not be supplied, because their refusal to submit is against 'the reality of the world.'

Chomsky expresses skepticism of supplying Ukraine with "jet planes and advanced weapons", which isn't skepticism of supplying Ukraine in general.

> I don't believe he would say this about Palestinians or Iraqis in conflict with a more powerful nation.

People try to hit Chomsky with an inconsistency gotcha by comparing Ukrainians and Palestinians, but to quote him on Palestine: "I’ve long supported a two-state outcome, and in fact still do" (Chomsky last year, see https://www.pij.org/articles/2134/conversation-about-israelpalestine). Which would be...a diplomatic settlement for Palestinians.

Critiques of Chomsky have more bite when they attack what he actually says and writes!

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Skepticism with supplying Ukraine with advanced weapons just shows military ignorance.

In any case, Chomsky is wrong: wars don't have to end in only the destruction of one of 2 sides or a negotiated settlement. They could end in a stalemate (Korea, though I suppose you could call it a negotiated settlement) or they can end when the invader leaves the country (Afghanistan every war, Vietnam, etc.).

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You're free to discount Chomsky's remark about advanced weapons as ignorant; the fact remains that the remark was not about supplying Ukraine in general.

In any case, you're wrong about stalemates, because a stalemate isn't, in itself, an end to a war. Indeed the Korean War may be most famous among Americans nowadays for being the never-ending war!

But it is true that a war can end if the invader's demoralized enough to run away without bothering to negotiate a settlement, so inasmuch as that's a realistic option for Ukraine, Chomsky is incorrect.

I don't think Vietnam is actually an example of that, though. The US signed the Paris Peace Accords, and France participated in the Geneva Conference, before leaving Vietnam. Similarly, the US made agreements with its puppet government and the Taliban before pulling out last year. I guess the USSR in Afghanistan might count, so that could serve as your model for Ukraine.

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He'd no doubt say the difference is that defending Palestine or Iraq doesn't come with a large risk of nuclear war.

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By that reasoning, N Korea can take over S Korea and the US shouldn’t help. For that matter, nobody should support whoever Israel decides to invade in the future.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

A terrible point. North Korea has nowhere near the nuclear arsenal that Russia does and poses far less of a threat of mutually assured destruction.

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But they are getting there....

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Apr 18, 2022·edited Apr 18, 2022

Even without nukes, North Korea can take a whole lot of South Korea down with it if it were ever invaded; they've basically been holding Seoul's population hostage with long-range artillery for decades. It's not quite mutually assured destruction with the United States, but it's been enough of a deterrent that we haven't bombed them. The biggest difference between a North Korea with a small nuclear arsenal and one without it is that it's a lot cheaper to point a couple of nuclear weapons at Seoul than an army's worth of artillery.

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>>>By that reasoning, N Korea can take over S Korea and the US shouldn’t help.<<<

You write that as if it's self-evident that the United States should be prepared to sacrifice tens of millions of its citizens for a foreign country.

I get that the logic that deterrence suggests we very much want Pyongyang to >>think<< we would (or might). And yes, for the time being, America's nuclear arsenal is vastly more lethal than North Korea's, giving the former a big advantage, while providing a strong incentive for the Kim regime to stay in its cage (lest it commit suicide). But NK's capabilities in this area appear to be rapidly improving...

So, if push came to shove, are you personally willing to see your family die to prevent one part of the Korean peninsula from taking over the other? At very least, reasonable people can disagree whether this is a good idea. Maybe we'd be better off simply selling Seoul some nukes.

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Man, the Cold War ends and people forget the logic of MAD. You make it sound self-evident that Kim the Fat or Putler have a death wish.

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Since much of the world seems to think it's America's obligation to deal with world crises, your criticism seems a bit unfair. Certainly we don't relish being stuck with the lion's share of the obligation to Ukraine, Taiwan, the Baltic states, etc., and there are plenty of Americans (,many of whom are Trumpists) who want to abandon that. Would it make you happier to have Trump back in charge? Careful -- you may get your wish.

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Trump's not an isolationist at all, though, when it comes to East Asia and the Middle East. He promised fire and brimstone with respect to the Korean peninsula, and went out of his way to ratchet up tensions with China and Iran. His foreign policy basically consisted of a mixture of: 1) Pro-Putin 2) Pro-Netanyahu 3) Pro-Saudi 4) Anti-China 5) Anti-Iran 5) Anti-Nato.

It was an incoherent, dangerous mess.

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The problem is that you don't get to be a superpower without eventually getting dragged in to a major war. You can't just ignore it. The US tried to stay isolationist in both WWII and WWI. Did we succeed?

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It’s a little silly to make up a strawman and then get surprised by how strawman-like it is. Did this comment say “Americans have no right to discuss arming the Ukrainians?” (It didn’t, and we’re all discussing that right now.)

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Noah literally said that Chomsky has zero right to talk about the situation in Ukraine, and this comment's "insularity" argument suggests that leftists are being America-obsessed in their thinking. But the demand is that America do something! You can't say "America has to support Ukraine, and leftists are obsessing over America when they object." It's Ukrainians that are making America's conduct central to the conversation. You can't accuse Americans of insularity when they respond to demands for American intervention. It makes no sense.

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Chomsky doesn’t have the right to demand the Ukrainians surrender, for the obvious reason that he’s not the one that would be doing the surrendering. But sure, he has the right to say that we shouldn’t give them weapons — it’s just that he’s just wrong about that on the merits — not giving Ukraine arms makes Russia less likely to negotiate with Ukraine, not more.

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Chomsky has the right to demand Ukraine do whatever he wants. He has that right.

The Ukrainians also have the right to discern whether they will heed his counsel or not.

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Yes. And through their actions they've told the far left Putin-Versteher (such that pollute this substack) to STFU.

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Give them arms to do what? Perpetuate a conflict that will simply further ravage the country, with very little chance of actually pushing the Russians all the way out and achieving the crowd-pleasing victory people want? For what? To save face?

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

“Perpetuate the conflict” is a funny way to frame “continue to not be conquered by Russia”, but yes, the guns are meant to “perpetuate” the conflict and minimize Russian gains, restricting what they can do militarily such that they must negotiate. It’s not that complicated — a less-armed Ukraine is a weaker Ukraine, and the weaker Ukraine is, the less negotiation is needed by Russia. Why negotiate if you think you can win militarily?

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Dude. Since you're not the one being ravaged, what rights do you have to tell people what they should endure for their freedoms?

I read your letters and like your blog (though I'm not a paid subscriber) but this position really infuriates me. It basically marks you as a 'tankist'...

But if you dismiss that as 'ad hominem', what were you saying to Iraqis and Afghans? Were they supposed to bend the knee to American imperialism too? Or were you, by any chance, far more understanding and appreciative of their efforts to resist an invading force?

What about French resistance and WWII? Heck, what about the Soviets and WWII? Should they have bent the knee to the Nazis coz, hey, those guys had more weapons and any prolonging of the fight was only prolonging civilian suffering?

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Freddie. It's time to put up or shut up.

If the outcome of the Russian invasion if Ukraine is so certain, that you know arming the Ukrainians will only cause misery, place a public bet on the specific outcome of the conflict.

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Give them arms to drive the Russians out of Ukraine. For someone who talks a lot about the Ukrainian War, you don’t seem to keep up on developments on the battlefield.

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Honest question: if the formulation is that Ukraine needs American weapons to avoid imminent defeat (Zelenskyy's own assertion), does it not follow that the American policy on providing weapons is functionally indistinguishable from demands for Ukrainian surrender if that policy is in fact to deny weapons? And if Chomsky has a right to weigh in on American policy regarding those weapons, then well...

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***Chomsky doesn’t have the right to demand the Ukrainians surrender***

In sheer linguistic terms, you're dead wrong on this. Of course Chomsky has the "right to demand" whatever he likes of Ukraine's government. And Ukraine's government can reply by telling him to pound sand.

I interpret Chomsky as advocating a swift move to a cease-fire and negotiated settlement. I suspect he's being too naive vis-a-vis Putin, but ending the war does have some upside, no? And a complete annexation of Ukraine by Moscow looks flatly impossible at this stage: Russia lacks the resources and will to impose its will on the whole country, which would necessarily entail a long, bloody and expensive (and possibly interminable) occupation of a hostile land.

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Apr 18, 2022·edited Apr 18, 2022

Without getting into a semantic debate, I'm using "right" here normatively, not legally — Chomsky and the Ukrainians are not a collective "we" of which Chomsky can dictate the terms of surrender collectively and still expect to be taken seriously. And similarly, Chomsky asking Ukrainians if they *really* considered all the perks of losing to the Russians reads like this scene from Shrek:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiKuxfcSrEU

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Chomsky wasn't talking about Americans' choice the arm the Ukrainians (which he does have a right to have an opinion on). He was talking about the Ukrainians' choice to continue fighting for their homeland (which he doesn't).

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And yet presumably you feel that you have a right to have an opinion on Russia's choice to launch the invasion, right?

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?!? How is that related?

TBH, Chomsky can opine on anything he wishes even recommend surrendering to Russia. That makes him a hypocritical piece of sh%t but, hey, he's far from the only one.

But yeah - he's not the one paying the blood price for Ukrainians' freedoms so he does make his 'recommandations' absolutely appalling.

While pushing back on Russia's choice to invade Ukraine is simply saying that conquering and annexing countries is no longer an approved method of managing international affairs.

Try to see beyond your hatred of "American imperialism" and your nostalgia for the USSR.

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Seriously? Wow.

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Yet some commenting above do exactly that. Really, if you read enough commentary from other countries and points of view, you begin to realize that a lot of it is simply driven by anti-Americanism, disassociated from what America actually does (which, God knows, is bad enough).

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With you on this Freddie. Thucydides taught us that allies get their benefactors in trouble all the time. What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy but shipping arms, training Ukrainians to fight, and escalating increase the chances of a nuclear exchange. This is clearly not in the US interest. Russia has no prospect of dominating Europe as it did 75 years ago. It’s not even clear they could win a war with Poland. We should not be involved in this beyond trying to broker an end to the killing. And if you think the Germans are going to stay on side, I’ve got some bridges in Brooklyn to sell you. As soon as the dust settles they will cut a deal with Putin.

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If you want to go all realpolitik, while a possible nuclear exchange may not be in the US's interest, using Ukraine as a proxy to deplete Russian military capabilities and expose them as a paper tiger certainly seems to be. I prefer to frame the question on moral grounds, which is that Ukraine has the right to make its own sovereign decisions. But disavowing moral reasons doesn't necessarily get you to a different conclusion.

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Why is depleting Russian military capability in our interest? Russia has no ability to dominate Europe. It did 75 years ago but doesn’t now so why do we care? As for the moral question, I sympathize. Ukraine has the right to make its own decisions but it does not have the right to be armed and trained by the US nor does it have the right to join NATO unless we want them to. Plenty of countries are threatened and attacked by their neighbors. I sympathize with them all but it isn’t our problem to solve. Why is that the case in Ukraine?

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With Russia exposed as weaker than most people thought prior to this war, it allows the US to focus more on other issues. It also lowers the odds of Russia opportunistically trying something with NATO member countries while we're distracted (the 2-3 war scenario).

We give weapons to lots of countries. It seems odd to single out the country that is actually being attacked and subject to war crimes as the one we shouldn't help at least a little.

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Still don’t understand the threat Russia poses to us beyond a nuclear exchange which we are courting by arming its neighbor. Imagine if they did the same in Canada. Europe isn’t as important today and there are multiple countries that can contain Russia. My contention is that it is we that are distracted in Europe while losing focus on the only country that can challenge us: China.

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***Why is depleting Russian military capability in our interest?***

I agree talk of NATO ground troops is madness. I also agree NATO/US have to tread very carefully (especially moving forward) with respect to arms shipments. I'd also remind people that the USA grew into history's mightiest and richest power during the many, many decades when Ukraine was part of the Russian empire. So that country's independence doesn't seem to constitute a vital US interest.

BUT, it really would be a negative development for Europe if Russia under Putin decided it had developed a successful template for territorial expansion at the expense of its currently independent neighbors. The Baltics come to mind, and others. (The domination of the European continent by a single hostile power HAS long constituted a vital US interest.)

So, while no strategy is risk-free, it seems to me that, while and end to this terrible war is in the interest of the United States, it really would be better if, by the time the dust clears, Russia has paid a terrible price for whatever modest gains she is ultimately able to secure. We want Moscow to think long and hard before it embarks on this kind of reckless adventurism again.

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Again, the point I make is that Russia is not a global or even dominate regional power anymore. It’s GDP and population are minuscule compared to early 20th Century Germany and the Soviet Union (as a percentage of the total). At that time those countries were growing and represented a treat to our interests by potentially dominating Europe which was also growing and far more economically important then than it is now. All of this has changed. Russia has a third the GDP of Germany today. It has a third the population of the EU. As I said in another comment, it’s not even clear Russia could win a war with Poland much less Germany, France, etc. Russian aggression is bad for its immediate neighbors. I feel for them but the US has bigger fish to fry in Asia. The idea that Putin could somehow dominate a far wealthier and militarily capable Europe can’t really be a serious proposition.

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Furthermore, making Russia pay a terrible price deters China.

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I think you are being naïve in saying Russia has no ability to dominate Europe, or at any rate eastern Europe. Putin has said in so many words that that's his goal.

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I don't think it's apparent that anyone can accurately predict what will increase the risk of a nuclear exchange. Putin has made it obvious that his decision making process is, at best, *horribly* flawed, if not completely compromised by megalomania.

What if he never intended to launch nuclear weapons as a result of this conflict, but it turned out that letting him win this one bolstered his confidence enough that setbacks in the *next* war lead to him launching nuclear weapons?

What's the best course of action if Putin was going to use nuclear weapons all along anyway? Perhaps making this conflict as embarrassing as possible for him will help the Russian citizens who will actually be pushing the buttons to decide that they should not actually push the buttons. It would be better for this to happen sooner, rather than later.

What if his own sense of self-preservation (which, based on his extreme social distancing, seems nearly neurotic) means that he wouldn't *ever* launch nuclear weapons, and that instead we're just deciding how much havoc he should be allowed to wreak in Eastern Europe?

How about the fact that 150,000,000 people live in Eastern Europe and are all intensely interested in how the world responds to one of the largest, most brutal invasions in decades?

How about the fact that China is watching, and will very likely revise estimates of their own ability to project power downwards after watching such a massive reshuffle of military power in Europe, a reshuffle that did not even require American troops on the ground?

Or the fact that India is now much more interested in switching to Western weapons for their military as a direct result of both the sanctions and the embarrassments suffered by the Russian military?

Earning the trust of Eastern Europe and cultivating closer ties with India are both tremendously useful if our goal is to counter China's ability to influence events around the world.

Even in the most cynical, realpolitik terms, I can think of any number of reasons that arming Ukraine is in America's best interest.

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I don’t know how we would get involved in a nuclear confrontation with Russia without being involved in Ukraine. If we aren’t an antagonist, Putin isn’t going to worry about the US. I don’t follow the logic.

People in the West think Putin is crazy for some reason. Seems to me he’s about average for a Russian leader and probably represents the median Russian voter well. He may well be isolated and I think the maximalist invasion was clearly a strategic mistake but I don’t think you’d find a lot of people in Russia’s foreign policy establishment that have more pro western views or all that many Russians either.

I don’t think the US should care all that much about Eastern European public opinion. There are hundreds of millions of people living in terrible conditions all across the earth but we don’t consider it our problem to fix so why is Ukraine somehow more worthy of US attention? As for China, I think Xi is watching and smiling knowing that the pressure is off him at least for now. India will side with us against China for it’s own reasons but in the Russian case they are neutral at best.

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So you think the invasion is evidence of something like rational judgment? It may well be the thing that removes Russia from it's position as a relevant actor on the world stage. It seems far beyond a "strategic mistake" to me. The fact that a ton of people in Russia have an equally deluded view of the world isn't evidence that Putin is rational.

"If we aren't an antagonist, Putin isn't going to worry about the US." Didn't Russia literally have an agreement with Ukraine regarding not attacking Ukraine if Ukraine didn't antagonize Russia? Very intentional killing of civilians and violations of ceasefires aside, why would you think that you can trust his word? And I think the invasion is clear evidence that you can't trust him not to respond to perceived threats in irrational ways, and his judgment in perceiving threats seems highly suspect. And to reiterate, the fact that the median Russian voter would behave the same way doesn't make his position any less dumb.

I think it's equally plausible that Xi is watching and second guessing many of his plans, given the effectiveness of the resistance of a determined military, armed with a nominal quantity of Western arms. What exactly do you think the US can't currently do in regard to China because of the focus on Ukraine?

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We can get in to a nuclear confrontation with Putin without getting involved with Ukraine if the West had just let him take Ukraine without penalty (just like the West allowed Putin to reduce Chechnya to rubble, invade Georgia, commit war crimes in Syria, and take Crimea and the Donbas without much penalty, all of which emboldened Putin to risk ever greater conflicts). You have this odd idea that Putin would have stopped after Ukraine when his whole career, Putin has started wars to boost domestic approval. If Putin had taken Ukraine without much loss, he would have started an even bigger war later on, just like taking the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia didn't sate Hitler but actually emboldened him to start an even bigger war.

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that seems like the weakest strawman. Chomsky wasn't talking about arms shipments, and the aforementioned geniuses of rose twitter (US socialists) aren't talking about this either. anyone has the right to discuss anything.

and there's an argument for principled pacifism. maybe getting robbed by Putin's kleptocracy would have been still better than this war. but again no one made this argument.

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Noah literally says Chomsky has zero right to engage in this way. But then Noah says Ukraine would have fallen without American help. So which is it? Is America relevant to the discussion or not? If so, Chomsky has every right to discuss realpolitik. If it's not, then you can't demand it's money and arms and support.

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OK, so if you’re going to go all realpolitik, then why not abandon the Palestinians to whatever the Israelis decide? That’s the realpolitik position.

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Chomsky's position is that America should aggressively push for negotiation, not do nothing. I assume you've read the full interview? In your analogy, Chomsky would encourage Palestine to negotiate some peace deal with Israel, which is actually a position many leftists would agree with. But Palestine is not currently at war, so the analogy falls apart somewhat.

The hilarious thing though, is that Chomsky actually has written about Palestine in a series of essays, and his opinion is rigorously consistent- he opts for peace not war to resolve that conflict too. It amazes me how you think your one comment can completely erase the work of a man who has dedicated his life to studying this stuff.

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Hey Ukraine, some advice:

1. Negotiate harder!

2. But while you negotiate harder... please weaken your negotiating position by no longer defending your country.

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Nom de Flume illustrated the stupidity of your argument.

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Also, Chomsky's "realpolitik" isn't actually realpolitik in any way. A realpolitik US would . . . arm Ukraine to bleed Russia.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

"I've been really taken aback by the insularity of a lot of American discourse. They really have internalised, consciously or unconsciously, American hegemony as an immutable fact of the world "

Spot on!

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I don’t think most Americans believe in our hegemony as most Americans really don’t care about foreign policy unless it impacts them. American presidents can intervene in other countries as much as they want so long as Americans don’t come home in body bags and it doesn’t blow up the deficit. Iraq and Afghanistan failed on both counts hence why they became unpopular.

I would imagine that most countries follow the same path, but most countries don’t have the power and resources of America

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I agree abolutely about American insularity. However, while most people everywhere seem to agree that we should not invade other countries, not everyone agrees what any "other country" is or should be. Putin and friends believe that Ukraine (in whole or part) is actually part of Russia that must be brought back into the fold. Hitler and co believed Austria was really part of the Fatherland. Kind Henry V of England believed France was part of his Kingdom and he invaded to gain control. Williaim the Great of Normany though England was part of his kingdom, and he succeeded in taking it over and changing it radically back in 1066. I know there are American and Canadian examples, but this is a long post already.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

Yeah, it’s important to note that the left’s follies aren’t isolated incidents. The same anti-liberal priors that turn them into anti-anti-Russian-invasion activists when looking abroad *also* turn them into conspiracists at home.

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Noah actually wrote about how this exposed the worst people. Many of them showed up to expose themselves further, all far left nutters.

https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/putins-war-and-the-chaos-climbers?s=r

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Speaking of the worst people showing up to expose themselves, I remember you from the comments there: you singled out (Somali-immigrant Muslim) Ilhan Omar but not (US-born Christian) Cori Bush as an antisemite for opposing Russian fossil-fuel sanctions while supporting BDS.

https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/putins-war-and-the-chaos-climbers/comment/5643408

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Aww, you seem so intent on defending her. Really, it seems you're the definition of "a hit dog will holler". Nice try attempting to impute bigotry to my position. My comments from your link show plenty of other evidence of antisemitism from Omar that Bush hasn't said.

Can Noah explain why there's such an infestation of far leftists here that I don't see in Slow Boring (which has a good overlap with commentators)?

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Isn't it that Slow Boring has more subscriber-only posts?

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This comment section not being locked does explain it.

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Yeh, imagine that — an attempt to impute bigotry! Imagine!

Anyway. Your comments at my link certainly show your backfilling of a post hoc rationalization for singling out Omar. If I'd just been busted weaponizing an accusation of antisemitism against an African Muslim immigrant, I'd probably be less keen to use language like "far left nutters" and "infestation of far leftists". Personally.

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Yay! What about? Right? A nd remember that time 20 years ago that you .....never mind.

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No no, go ahead. That time 20 years ago that I what?

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Ok, now we count two or more antisemites in the Democratic Congressional caucus. Happy?

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Well, I can reassure you that you're at least maintaining intellectual consistency on the point, if that makes you happy.

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"This is not to say, of course, that the socialist Left has been as bad as the Trumpist Right in this episode. It has not. "

It is this sort of soft spot for the far-left that enabled its rise. "He may be a bastard, but he's our bastard."

Ultimately it all boils down to the fact that the legacy of the Soviet Union has not been unequivocally repudiated like that of Nazi Germany. Therefore, in the post-1945 marketplace of ideas, the left has a default advantage over the right, and the far-left doesn't get you banned from Twitter like the far-right does. After all the Soviets sent the Sputnik to the space, while Nazi Germany only made V-2 rockets...

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As a “Rightist” I have to say you have touched on a point that many in conservatives circles have pondered for quite a while.

There is a general impression that the the Left is uncomfortable repudiating the excesses of the Far Left in the same way as the Center Right repudiates the excesses of the Far Right.

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I think the problem with that view is Noah is right about the relative merits of each side’s extremes. Far left may have its excesses but nothing approaching the far right’s much more dangerous excesses.

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Ok, so, I'm an actual socialist and a Marxist. Oh well. But he's right, actually: Westerners seem to have anathemized *Russians and Russianness*, long before this fresh war, as their response to the Cold War, while treating *Sovietism* and Marxism-Leninism with a kid-gloves approach that nobody takes to, say, the ideas of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I have never met anyone who hesitated to bite the bullet that Hoppeism is anti-democratic. I have met many people, and not just on the "far left", who refuse to admit that Marxist-Leninist single-party states were not actually practicing some purer, more authentic form of direct democracy in which everyone just happened to support the regime.

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Hi Ei, Luke made a similar point below and I tried to clarify. I have no sympathy for Lenin or Stalin, both were butchers (and frankly there’s a good argument that Stalin was a worse person than Hitler in part because he stayed in power longer).

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Devin,

I beg to differ. A survey of the carnage wrought by Marxist regimes through-out the 20th Century should demonstrate that the Far Left’s excesses can easily match, and at times exceed those of the Far Right.

“Hitler” has become a byword and poster-boy for totalitarian excess in a way that Stalin, Lenin, Mao and others have not. Which reinforces the point. There seems a reticence on the mainstream Left to unambiguously repudiate Marxist excess. It just seems there is a much greater hesitancy than that displayed by the mainstream Right, in its willingness to condemn the more extremist elements on the Right.

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So, I agree with you on one point: Communism as an ideology has led to more death and human suffering than any other explicit ideology in human history.

But right now, the Authoritarian Right are a greater threat to democracy in both the US and other democracies than any Authoritarian Left (excluding China, which these days, is hard to characterize; they're more authoritarian nationalists than anything nowadays).

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Richard,

What do you mean by ‘Authoritarian Right?’ There is a tendency on the Left to cast conservative policies as authoritarian because they disagree with the objectives.

For example, the culture war surrounding the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida. The Right sees the implementation of the law as a protection of parental prerogatives regarding how parents want to broach the topic of sexuality to young children.

Within the framework of the Right’s worldview this is a reasonable thing to do. Within the framework of many on the Left, this is authoritarian in nature. So who is correct?

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I'm not talking about culture war stuff, which I frankly could care less about now that our democracy is in danger. I'm talking about how even mainstream Republicans are dangerously anti-democracy and anti-law and anti-fair-play these days. For instance, no strong condemnation of Trump trying to pressure/threaten Raffensberger and others to change votes like they do in dictatorships to give him the Presidency. In fact, some of them helped Trump! As chillingly, ostracizing a Republican like Liz Cheney who condemns a coup attempt as a coup attempt and wants to get all the truth out on what happened on 1/6.

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Hi Luke, I was imprecise. My view is that authoritarian regimes of all stripes tend toward entropy and inefficiency. There are exceptions, of course; I think living under an enlightened queen might be really great. But yes, in practice the excesses of nominally left and nominally right regimes reach the same lows. The point, though, is that’s not the case *at the moment*. Instead the Trump/Putin right poses a far clearer and graver threat of violence and to democracy. The over-woke left is mostly just annoying and self-defeating with its rhetoric.

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> Center Right repudiates ..

What? Does it really? /s

Okay, more seriously it seems that neither the rightist voter base nor the center-rightist "vanguard" has a problem with courting fascist ideas. (unless your center right definition is basically center)

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“Courting fascist ideas”…You have picked the most threadbare way possible to critique the Right. “Fascist” is the Left’s go to phrase to try to discount conservative perspectives without debating them on the merits.

What are the “fascist ideas” that the Center-Right courts?

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Abolishing popular democracy in favor of a minoritarian proceduralism that would give us, de facto, a party-state controlled exclusively by the Republican Party.

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Eli,

(1) What is “fascist” about that? Again, the Left uses that word as a rejoinder for anything they find objectionable about the Right.

(2) This is a bit more nuanced but I find the Left is generally unsatisfied with American civic structures, specifically how legislative bodies account for geographical as well as majoritarian considerations. That is, to win a majority in the State or National legislatures you need a plurality of voters AND districts. There is more to the country than urban enclaves (which the Democrats tend to perform well in). What does the Left do to court voters in rural districts? They could take some lessons from Joe Manchin.

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1. At the state level: exactly what the Wisconsin state legislature does. Every election, more votes go to democrats, but more representatives are republican.

2. At the federal level: those state legislatures choose their slate of electors for the presidency.

That's the ballgame.

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To your points:

(1) I must confess that I am not super familiar with Wisconsin politics but are Democrats also winning the plurality of the districts which send representatives to the State Legislature? You can win the most votes by focusing on a single urban enclave or two and just write-off the rest of the state. Is it possible that Wisconsin Democrats have done this?

(2) State legislatures do not choose electors. They prescribe the manner of elections in their state and then the voters decide. Again, if Democrats have concerns about state election laws what have they done to win elections at the state level to meet their aims?

It seems this is much more a critique of American civic structure than anything else.

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Well, for one, not standing up to Trump and various attempted coup attempts/circumventions of election law.

The Never-Trumpers are a tiny part of the center-right now.

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Apr 18, 2022·edited Apr 18, 2022

So, there was a far-right president (Trump) - but are there are any far-left politicians? I mean, real and authoritarian far-left - not just going to Pride week and using PC language. The Biden administration is extremely moderate, Bernie and the younger senators are kind of general university left. Any extremists you could name?

(Edit: to clarify, I mean the leftmost Dems are kind of similar to student activists)

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American socialist think they like socialism because they don't know wtf it means in reality. Place an American socialist in Cuba or Venezuela for a month, bring them back and see if they're still in favor.

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The DSA did get placed in Venezuela a year or two back. They were wined and dined and parties on the dictator's dime while posting it all to social media. And none of them drew any heat from within the organization because the organization is rotten.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

they have completely moved to Socialist Narnia in their head. because their belief that capitalism is making things bad in the world is so strong that they explain *everything* with it. Cuba is a shithole? Capitalism made the US come up with sanctions. (Never mind that it's not consistent with the principles of capitalism, it's a group of evildoers in their head. The rich! Also they want to eat them unironically, of course.) Dictator torturing and killing people and ruining Venezuela? The capitalists made the US do it.

In their head socialism is both perfect (and the answer to everything) and somehow still completely powerless against even the weakest capitalists' machinations. Because evil rich guys focusing on quarterly reports blindfolded the world to notice how socialism is the real answer.

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The worst part is, all this stupid moralizing lets them cover up for the fact that they have no actual vision for transcending and sublating capitalism in favor of a new, socialist political economy. They just want a big scoop of middle-class moralism on their social-democratic reformism.

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I think that's part of the reason some of the beliefs can be so wacky. They never have to collide with thr material world, so they're free to exist in their most impractical form. Ditto for libertarians. If you're not going to win anyway, why not oppose drivers licenses?

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What I've noticed is that both the DSA types and libertarians seem to have a blind spot on power dynamics/human beings. Like, sure, if you can make Star Trek Communism work, that's not a bad world! Same with any libertarian utopia. But amongst societies composed of human beings, what you end up with is Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot for one and Somalia on the other.

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My impression was that American "Socialists" thought it was more like Sweden etc.?

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Apr 17, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

> is why I’m taking the time to vent my exasperation with socialists instead of ranting on and on about why Tucker Carlson & co. are bad.

TRUE! But I would also like the Tucker Carlson & co. are bad post. Tucker Carlson & co. are both stupider and worse than what you see from the left and it's good to leave a marker explaining that for posterity.

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Oh yes. I just have to think of some more interesting commentary than "Here is a nest-feathering amoral careerist ghoul who cheerfully capes for invasions and coups"...

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Apr 17, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

It’s not so much that Tucker exists (of course people like Tucker exist) but that so many people watch, thereby giving tacit approval. Maybe there’s something on American credulity and the reasons for it?

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But the people who watch Tucker Carlson & co. won't read this Substack so its kind of moot...

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Not true, I do

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Apr 17, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

I think you might be underestimating how broken sunrise is. Number 7 on their list of principles is just nuts:

"Any group of 3 people can take action in the name of Sunrise. We ask for advice — not permission — from each other to make this happen. To make decisions, we ask ourselves, “does this bring us closer to our goal?” If yes, we simply do the work that is exciting and makes sense."

https://www.sunrisemovement.org/principles

That's not how you structure a broad based community and consensus driven organization seeking solutions. That's how you structure an attack platform to allow small groups to attack their enemies and cause chaos.

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Apr 17, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

As an American socialist since 2014 who excitedly watched our movement accelerate in 2016, this article genuinely stings. You’re right American socialism has gone completely off the rails and all I can feel is frustration and despair.

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Devil's advocating for a moment (though I largely agree with your critiques of socialists...)

1) the idea that this war in Ukraine must end with concessions to Russia to give Putin a way out is widely held by the foreign policy establishment and IR realists. Its not a uniquely chomskian or socialist view. This stems from the belief that if Putin is given no path to save face in Russia, the threat to his life/power within Russia is so great that it will make him so desperate as to risky anything - including nuclear war - to save himself. You may want to reconsider whether this is actually evidence of chomsky representing socialist foolishness - or its actually an example of a socialist demonstrating the capacity for genuine IR realism.

2) Your criticism of socialists' theory of change being poor, I think, is completely off the mark. Build Back Better is basically the Green New Deal rebranded as reasonable, moderate, liberal politics. Socialists and Sanders shifted the Overton window of the Democratic party and the national conversation so much that all but a handful of the most conservative Democrats are now going to bat for ideas that they would've called radical or socialist in 2015. This didn't result in BBB passing or any legislative victories at scale, yet, but the first step is getting your entire party to stand behind your platform to the degree that they don't even call it socialist anymore - which has happened in at least some of the issue areas that Sanders put on the map in 2015. This is the other part that you miss when you talk about Sanders losing in 2020 to Biden as a failure - in large part he lost because the entire presidential field had shifted its policy platform so far left that many voters saw far fewer reasons to vote for sanders. This means that the theory of changing of shifting the Overton window and asking for the moon actually worked- though I think we see now where it has hit its limits.

3) Robinson/Chomsky form one faction or perspective among socialists - and it is a minority perspective (though frankly the one I have the most sympathy for). Most socialists hold up Chomsky's Cambodia comments, just as you have, as a reason he should never be taken seriously - usually in response to him and Nathan arguing that socialists should align with and vote for Dems to prevent Republicans taking power. Chomsky made a grave error with Cambodia and has acknowledged

that. You, as a supporter of the Afghan war, have also made a grave error yourself that you still haven't acknowledged. People who comment on foreign policy make big mistakes and it sometimes takes them decades to unwind their thinking to be able to see how their entire ideology led them to make such those errors. I think some forgiveness is in order.

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I don't agree with your entire comment but it strikes me as notably better (more fair-minded, less tendentious) than Noah's top-level postletter!

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I find that a lot of IR realists are too rigid in their thinking. That is, they seem to think that humans in states are robots who can be manipulated and ordered around by their state. The fact of the matter is, even if Putin has a death wish and ordered a nuclear strike, the other Russians who would have to agree to that (including the peon who has to push the actual button) are unlikely to have the same death wish.

BTW, for all the blustering, Russia actually hasn't changed their nuclear operational stance. That because, yes, while not being able to save face threatens Putin's life/power, a Nuclear Holocaust threatens Putin's life even more.

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>Build Back Better is basically the Green New Deal rebranded as reasonable, moderate, liberal politics.

And BBB was killed in the Senate because Joe Manchin couldn't make money off it. Purely discursive moves like this do not work.

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I also don't agree with lots of this comment, but I think the point that BBB is ~ the Green new deal is correct and the overton window shifting part of the strategy has worked.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

Could you expand on Noah being wrong about Afghan war? Not implying you are wrong, just would like more context.

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Yes - I think the Afghan war was misguided for a myriad of reasons.

Most fundamentally, if the goal was to get Bin Laden, a full scale invasion was just bad strategy - there were many other pathways to getting him. The US military and foreign intelligence actually had an opportunity to go after him prior to the invasion with a more limited special ops incursion, and missed it. Strategies of special ops, CIA, and assassination were always going to work better (and that's ultimately how we killed him).

Then there's the obvious fact that invading a Muslim country is exactly the wrong way to fight a war on terror (that language itself is misguided - You cannot use military force to fight terror - that only creates more enemy compatants or terrorists opposed to you). You need to win hearts and minds in the general public - paired with special ops/intelligence, and refined diplomatic policy. The real response to 9-11 needed to be soul searching around why the US had so deeply antagonized the Arab world and how to rebuild our image with them - rather than destroy it.

Then there's the fact that it was actually our client state, Saudi Arabia, that financed 9-11, not the Taliban. An issue we still haven't addressed.

There's also the reality that we laid waste to an entire country for 2 decades - killing tens of thousands of civilians. It's completely immoral to subject an entire nation to such a terrible fate for something it had nothing to do with. Some people naively believed we could change afghanistan, And look where we are now. The same regime as before, except that the country has suffered severe destruction and trauma and is now worse off than before we invaded. It was completely immoral for us to invade.

Then lastly, there's the fact that invading Afghanistan is geopolitics of the most idiotic variety. Empires go to die in Afghanistan, and the US did too. It cost the US tremendously - financially, militarily, and diplomatically. The emboldening of both Russia and China on the world stage has everything to do with the US getting bogged down in completely immoral and unstrategic wars in Afghanistan and then again in iraq - basically distracting itself geopolitical for 10-15 years and wasting away our power.

No matter what your moral or strategic lens is... invading Afghanistan was a terrible idea.

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Thanks for your response. Interesting. Need to digest what you wrote.

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>Then there's the fact that it was actually our client state, Saudi Arabia, that financed 9-11, not the Taliban. An issue we still haven't addressed.

This militates *against* the idea of "winning hearts and minds" or "soul searching around why the US had so deeply antagonized the Arab world", and in fact suggests that 9-11 came out of the *most* pro-American and Americanized portion of the Muslim world.

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1. Chomsky is an American citizen. Ukraine is demanding American funding, weaponry, and support. That makes it 100% Chomsky's business. That's how democracy functions. Indeed, Chomsky has precisely as much right to weigh in as you do. So what's your complaint?

2. Chomsky is not a socialist. Do two seconds of research.

3. Lots of Americans have picked up rifles to go fight. Why haven't you, Noah?

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

How is Chomsky, self-proclaimed libertarian socialist or anarchist depending on the phase of the moon, not a socialist? Is this to refer to the anarchist vs Marxist distinction within socialism?

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I'm not sure how you're coming to the conclusion that Chomsky isn't a socialist.

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Who is this Freddie deBoer person, and why would anyone care about such obvious trolling?

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A pretty notable "heterodox" leftist writer whose writing I actually usually find interesting, but has the same anti-liberal->anti-Ukraine brainworms that the rest of that crowd has, typically under the guise of a newfound allegiance with foreign policy "realism" — that in practice just means that they just think Ukraine should lose as quickly as possible.

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I actually find a lot of Freddie's writing on education and some other stuff compelling. But him declaring that he is a Marxist/Communist should have been a tip-off. He tends to go in to theory on that stuff and kind of just ignores the fact that implementations of Communism in the real world has led to some of the greatest human suffering and carnage in human history.

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Pretty sure the complaint isn’t about whether Chomsky can weigh in—of course he can—but instead about whether he’s right or wrong—and he’s wrong on Ukraine.

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Apologies for replying to several of your comments, but that third point is not making the point you think it is. Do you think opinions on foreign policy should be restricted to members of the military and volunteer militia members? I doubt you would like the result of that. If you and Chomsky or anyone else has the right to opine on wars abroad, in spite of not fighting in them, as you keep insisting, so do the rest of us who might disagree with you.

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No, that's my point - the "you don't have skin in the game" argument that Noah is explicitly making has no ending. If you're going to insist that only certain people have the right to opine, then you're inviting the question of why you yourself don't have greater personal investment in the issue.

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Everyone has the right to opine, but, to contradict myself somewhat, the Ukrainians (and Russians for that matter) also have to right to dismiss our American opinions as removed from the stakes of the issues. Which is both of what “Ukrainians should fight to the last man” and “Ukrainians should surrender already” are, when spoken by Americans who will neither have to fight, nor surrender and live under Russian tyranny — nor even live under the spectre of Russian aggression, like the rest of Eastern Europe.

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I don't think it's worth going down the path of who has "the right" to discuss anything. Chomsky is a immensely knowledgeable individual, and I like to hear what he has to say on a variety of topics.

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Sure, anyone has a right to an opinion. It's just that in this case, a bunch of his assumptions are wrong/not based on reality and so his conclusions are ignorant/stupid.

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That is not an argument.

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Exactly!

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He's like 17 years old, give the dipshit kid a break.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

It's worth noting that Chomsky has pointed out that it's up to Ukrainians. What Chomsky said separately in a Jeremy Scahill interview and I think Scahill says as well, is basically the same as what Zelensky says. There will end up being some kind of negotiated settlement. The U.S. should support it.

The same position Chomsky holds with respect to Israel/Palestine.

Feeling it necessary to add that

1) Chomsky is not nor has ever been a Khmer Rouge apologist. Reading what Chomsky has written, not removed from context makes that clear. This is a favorite fabrication of propagandists

2) Not clear how Noah can say Chomsky's opinion matters zero and yet not look in the mirror to realize that Noah Smith's opinion matters zero. Both are true with respect to what Ukraine should do. Except Chomsky seems to at least respect Ukrainians.

Lost a lot of respect for Noah Smith today.

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Though Chomsky firmly denied the war crimes of the Serbs. Here is a well-researched video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCcX_xTLDIY

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What really strikes me about this is that like the right wing populists, the socialists in America don't care what their leaders say. Bernie Sanders, by far the most prominent socialist politician in America, has pretty sensible views on a lot of these issues, but the DSA/Sunrise Movement/NIMBY types don't care. He's not so much a leader they listen to as a vessel for their (inchoate, underbaked, and often risible) political fantasies.

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This seems like an essential difference between populists and establishment followers. Populists rule their leaders and establishment followers are ruled by their leaders.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

In terms of numbers, Bernie Sanders represents the vast majority of people who identify as democratic socialists and his views on Ukraine and other issues are quite sensible.

A lot of people associate democratic socialism to DSA but the fact is that DSA in 2022 is the far-left wing of a broader democratic socialist movement.

Even within DSA there are people who represent a more sensible point of view.

For example there is the DSA North Star Caucus:

https://twitter.com/DSANorthStar/status/1499136328729960450?t=Zhs_0l3syshJaPlMmRyWfg&s=19

https://twitter.com/DSANorthStar/status/1511042581446205450?t=s9wJLAENf4zBJDrvAjL78A&s=19

"“NATO ... is protecting millions of people from potential Russian invasion. Calling this ‘NATO expansion’ while just typing in the comfort of your home in New York or London” means you have not understood the perspectives of people in Eastern Europe."

There are DSA members like James Hughes:

https://twitter.com/citizencyborg/status/1508854667052154881?t=s20lkUHEGc0XKnPpoQebzQ&s=19

"Far from propping up the military-industrial complex—as NATO is often accused of doing—mutual defence and the guarantee of peace have allowed defence spending to be dramatically decreased throughout Europe..."

There are also writers that are DSA adjacent like Ryan Cooper and David Klion who consistently have sensible views on Ukraine and other issues.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

Then plainly there's some practice that channels the "broader democratic socialist movement" into "the far-left wing" as organization takes place. I don't mean to criticize "the broader movement" here, but come on, if every attempt to create a real organization winds up with "far-left" sectarians in control against the will of the mass support base, plainly the attempts are somehow going wrong. There's something broken in the representation/intermediation mechanism here.

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Agree that David Klion has been very sensible, but it is unfortunate that it appears to require a literal master's degree in Russian history for an American Leftist to be sensible on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

The point of the post you replied to is that most leftists agree roughly with Sanders-Klion on the Ukraine question. As usual, the left position is more intelligent and thoughtful than that of the the center. And as usual, the liberal center is going through one of its regular bouts of frothing-at-the-mouth paranoid hysteria, so you guys think that unease with American nationalist jingoism equals support for Putin.

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I think the issue I’ve seen is that most people who don’t think hard about the issue get the right position by default, but the ones who think too hard about it come to a crazy position about how Russia is actually right or actually means anything they say. Some of it is to be ironic but maybe some of it is overly rationalist - ie they think just because a Russian said something it’s an actual logical prior that needs to be considered instead of total bullshit.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

Without examples, I can't judge. I'm sure some people on the internet said some bad things. But if you put things in proper proportion it should be clear that the consensus left position is that the Russian regime today does not have even a single redeeming feature or positive attribute whatsoever; it is an ultra-right, bullshit regime that grew out of Russia's experience with bullshit neoliberalism. Total trash.

And if you read the intellectual left -- if you read Tooze, if you check out the latest issue of New Left Review, Jacobin, The Nation, N+1, the MMT-GNDers, and major area experts on the left like Nick Mulder, it should become pretty clear that this is a discussion of a much higher caliber than what you find in the NYT or ultra-'centrist' newsletters like this one (seriously, compare Mulder or Tooze to Noah). And America's actual leftwing leadership in government -- Sanders, AOC, Squad, Warren -- have led with aplomb.

But some people, like Noah Smith, hate the left. They want to defeat the left, so they adopt all the extremist, paranoid, red-baiting rhetoric and bullshit that Republicans have been using against the left (and liberals!) since forever. There's a sick thrill in it, too. You can see.

Unfortunately for Noah and the rest of us, there's an unsolvable medium-run energy crisis and that means the democrats are fucked. The war fever is already flagging and the materialist analysis always comes to bite you in the end. Noah's tankie obsession is just a messaging strategy for the center-right under these grim conditions. It's not going to be effective or good for anyone, but it's lucrative for him I guess; he's good at it.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

I agree the actual members of government have been fine. The popular online ones though haven't - Jacobin constantly publishes bad takes and I'm fairly sure they've been bad here too. NJR is being anti-anti-Russia here, so are the Red-Browns like Greenwald and Tracey, the DSA IC published a statement that we shouldn't support Ukraine (although the "top" of the DSA disagreed), and the Brooklyn podcaster caucus Chapo's position is that we shouldn't support Zelensky because he is "cringe" and your mom likes him.

Noah of course is a left-liberal so probably doesn't hate the entire left…

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 18, 2022

Jacobin publishes lots of takes, mostly fine; the articles that people freaked out over were fine, and people were willfully misinterpreting on the basis of war-fever stricken emotions and hysteria, plus cynicism among the big sub accounts like Noah. The NJR-Chomsky interview is being grossly strawmanned; it's fine, and I saw Ed Luce from FT agree as well. The reds do not like Greenwald or Tracy, who definitely are not red. DSA IC published a statement that was terrible on the politics but markedly less terrible on substance, and which was roundly criticized within DSA and the left; and DSA has published many more statements since that time that are more clear on the point that Russia fucking sucks. Mennaker said on Chapo that he supports arming Ukraine, but the boys are all clearly unhappy with the return of psychotic Bush-era war-fever political culture, which yes, is cringe and not cool.

And note-- this is all just a list of stuff Noah Smith and his followers have freaked out about i.e. the few points that are actually problematic (as opposed to straw men) get magnified out of all proportion. The way you guys talk about the left reminds me so much of how Tucker talks about you to his viewership; they are totally deluded by cherry-picked evidence that gets repeated over and over until it's common sense. Meanwhile the Noahs and Applebaums going *actually* insane with manic excitement at the new fun war and the good guys versus the bad guys, posting stuff like 'this is just like game of thrones'.

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What are these intelligent and thoughtful leftist positions?

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I understood the point of the post, sadly it was incorrect. As is the point of your post.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

Nice substance-free response. Keep up the good work, smooth brain.

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Do you think that you deserve a substantive response to a substance-less comment? You don't.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

You really have absolutely nothing. You're right-- we really don't deserve your brilliant comments, you are too smart haha

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Nah, it's just an issue of platforms, how many followers you have...In reality many if not most leftists probably agree with Klion. They agree with Sanders and his views aren't that different from Klion.

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We might have an issue of definitions here. I suspect you're referring to normie rank-and-file progressives and social democrats. I dont consider them part of the US capital 'l' Left.

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Apr 18, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

Noah, I'd be very keen to hear your thoughts on European socialism a la Piketty

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I like Piketty, but I'm not sure he's representative of, say, Jeremy Corbyn. The German Greens seem pretty good.

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I'm not so sure about the Greens in Germany...I mean, they are pro-Western, yes, but on the other hand (still?) anti-nuclear, anti-GMO and rather idealistic on too many issues (e.g. immigration) IMO...

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"simply de-emphasized by the Biden administration and the Democratic Congress, and no one except socialists seemed to care."

My aunt who can't afford insulin certainly cares Noah

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i love this. "the centrist democratic administration failed to push for healthcare reform, and its somehow the socialists fault"

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And in one article, you once again leave me wondering why I still click on your offerings when they hit my inbox.

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Re Gilens & Page not really saying what people think it says:

I would reply that the linked article doesn’t really stand as a refutation of Gilens & Page, because it doesn’t successfully refute the idea that our government operates in the interests of those entities that pay for their preferred legislation.

The linked article is essentially saying that no, we’re not run by rich powerful interests, because see here, Skippy: the middle class and poor agree with the rich on the vast majority of topics and issues!

That right there should raise some questions in anyone with modest critical faculties: “Hm, given their interests are so vastly different, what is causing the middle class and poor to agree with the rich on the vast majority of topics?”

It couldn’t possibly be related to the intense marketing of ideas, the information environment in which we live and breathe, which is run by large profit-seeking entities and their marketing campaigns, is it?

We live in an information environment where the majority of Americans, who want health care for everyone (like in Europe, say, or….basically everywhere else), are easily led to believe Obamacare was a good thing and a “compromise” and a “step in the right direction” instead of a giveaway to parasitic insurance companies who do f*ck-all for anyone’s health or well-being.

Yes, and it really doesn’t matter if you can point to a scrap that your family received from Obamacare and which you perceive as a benefit—for example, many middle class insured people point to the fact that they can keep their working-poor kids on their health plan till age 26. Yes that’s a good thing. It’s better than a poke in the eye.

And yet it didn’t solve the problem — a problem which most other countries have seemed to address — that health care is a right, not a frill, and profit-seeking middle-men like insurance companies are gobbling up resources that could be better spent providing health care for everyone, including the 27-year-old children of the American middle class, and including, say, the Walmart worker who is forced to buy subsidized “affordable” health insurance that covers so little as to be useless.

It’s really a marvel to watch how eagerly Americans slurp up the propaganda on offer. Yay, Obamacare.

But more to the point— the linked article which supposedly rebuts Gilens & Page sets up a straw man — because I don’t think anyone seriously supposes that America is run by individual rich people (although I suppose a few multi-billionaires have come to wield outsized amounts of personal power: ooh what is that fascinating and wacky rapscallion Elon Musk up to today?).

Sure: individual rich people — doctors and lawyers and run-of-the mill executives—if you were to poll them, might indeed think (for example, as the linked article states) that public funding of elections is a good idea.

But you know who _doesn’t_ want public funding of elections? The immortal corporate “persons” who currently pay for elections. That’s more to the point. That’s why you’re not going to ever see any of our legislators seriously entertain the notion of public funding. It’s _not_ because they’re “promoting the interests” of voters of more modest means who fear their taxes will go up if they have to pay for elections on top of everything else.

America is run not by our run-of-the-mill rich people but by large corporate entities and (for lack of a better word) “the deep state”— the entrenched and powerful entities that persist in pursuing their interests from election to election, and which run the very information campaigns whereby we miraculously find that rich, middle-class and poor “agree” on the vast majority of issues, making it rather easy for large corporate entities — immortal “persons” who write the legislation that our legislators rubber-stamp — to run the show. Not individual “rich people” and what they might want.

To put it another way: My doctor and his rich friends are not running the government. Blackwater is. Amazon is. The CIA is. Each large organization is run in its own interests, which are not identical with the interests of the individual people who keep the organizations running.

Justin Amash has described this phenomenon quite well. The members of Congress might indeed be mostly individual “rich people” but more to the point, they are compliant careerists who vote the way they’re told to vote, and the way they’re told to vote is to “dance with the one that brung ya.” One of our two powerful parties selected them and brought them before the voters (who are successfully indoctrinated to believe they must select one or the other, lest they “throw their votes away”), and the two powerful parties are funded by the same large entities that want what they want— more profits, more power, because their existence requires that they pursue profits for their shareholders — and so they write legislationfor Congress, and Congress votes for it. That’s why Amash got fed up and left.

But the voters are pacified by (1) the romantic notions they learned from Schoolhouse Rock and their high school US history class about how our government supposedly works (and make no mistake— centuries ago, our government was a bold, exciting, innovative experiment); and (2) information campaigns that make them think what they’re getting is what they wanted all along— or if it’s not what they wanted, it’s because those dastards in the “other party” are standing in the way and must be defeated. Then we’ll finally get somewhere!

Anyway— if it’s true that we find that rich, middle-class, and poor Americans all agree on the majority of topics, this is not a big surprise. But is this supposed to mean that the large corporate persons, who are manifestly running the show, are not really running the show, because most Americans are malleable and receptive to information campaigns?

Pfft. It’s hard to discuss this stuff because our underlying assumptions seem to be so vastly different that it would be hard to establish some common ground to proceed from.

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Apr 17, 2022·edited Apr 17, 2022

It didn't show that the poor and rich agree. It just showed that the rich and middle income people agree on the vast majority of bills in Congress. The results are still consistent with the bottom half of people having basically no influence. It's also pretty consistent with what I see: a hyper-focus on the nebulous "middle class" over issues facing poor people. See the focus on things like college admissions instead of unions.

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