Over the past several years, the University of Southern California has bestowed upon individuals an honorary degree as a tribute to their dedication to advancing "expertise, social recognition, and service to clients and community". Past recipients include individuals such as Antonio Villaraigosa, the recently elected Mayor of Los Angeles, Neil Armstrong, the first man to step foot on the moon, John Williams, the famous music composer, and John McCain, the current Senator of Arizona who has distinguished himself with his military service in Vietnam. Within the field of international relations, there appears to be no one suited better than Noam Chomsky to receive this award. Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has dedicated himself to attempting to preserve the "American ideals" of democracy and freedom by critiquing the United States domestic and international politics over the past 50 years. Although he has been a harsh critic of America's foreign policy, Chomsky is a firm believer that the United States has the potential to lead the world into a much more amicable future. His main accomplishment has been the ability to enlighten people about the real reasons military intervention by the United States and its allies has occurred.
One of the criteria that measures a candidates worthiness of an honorary degree is his or her craft. According to Mike W. Martin, "a life is more than outward events, and we understand persons only when we grasp the value commitments embedded in their motives, character, and worldview." Noam Chomsky commits himself to enlightening individuals throughout society to expose corruption and deceit, and cares little about economic gain and notoriety. There is little doubt that Mr. Chomsky possesses the "expertise, technical skill, theoretical understanding, creativity" necessary to warrant an honorary degree. What is most original about Noam Chomsky is his ability to sift through the U.S. government's deceptive ploys to misinform the American public( this may somehow relate to his career as a professor of linguistics at MIT). He believes the best way to learn about the current issues concerning foreign policy is to look at past events. By looking at declassified government documents, Chomsky affirms that there are similarities between past policy decisions and present. The war in Iraq, Chomsky postulates, is similar to past military interventions. Past interventions by the U.S. have been similarly been justified through faulty intelligence and misleading justification for the use of military force. During the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was called "the Hitler of the Middle East" by both George Bush, Sr., and Margaret Thatcher. They told the American public that the reason for intervening was to prevent Saddam from destroying Kuwait and other neighboring countries. Chomsky states that the real reason America was involved in the conflict was because of their oil investments in Kuwait. He also
states that "no U.S. elected official or mainstream media commentator has even hinted that our (U.S.) invasion of Panama was just as much a violation of national sovereignty as Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Respect for national sovereignty is an after-the-fact rationalization of Desert Storm, not a motive." The U.S. had already supplied Iraq with chemical and biological weapons in their war against Iran, and they had no intentions of stopping Saddam from becoming a regional powerhouse in the Middle East. Once the U.S. oil was at stake, the U.S. quickly compared the recent ally as a vicious devil. A few years earlier the U.S. had turned away when Saddam attempted to ethnically cleanse the Kurds to the north, but once U.S. oil was in danger President Bush quickly used the U.N. to pass a resolution to go to war with Iraq.
Noam Chomsky's first involvement with international relations came with his criticism of the Vietnam War. Chomsky revealed to the public that the United States was not entering the Vietnam war to stop the North Vietnamese, but rather had entered the war in order to prevent the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam from establishing its own independence. He postulates that the "fact simply does not exist in official American history; there is no such event in American history as the attack on South Vietnam. That's gone. Of course, It is a part of real history." He also pointed out the government's use of "dual rhetoric": saying one thing and doing something entirely different. This "dual rhetoric", according to Chomsky, has been used on almost every military intervention since post World War II. Chomsky's evidence lies in declassified government documents. It is here that he has been able to find evidence of the government pursuing its own agenda while keeping the American public naive as to what was really occurring. Chomsky's ability to reveal "the real American history" may upset some, and according to Freedman, could result in events similar to the protesting of Ted Turner and William F. Buckley's honorary degree if Chomsky were awarded. Students and faculty may be upset at his meeting with the leaders of Hezbollah or his assault on current American foreign policy. Although many people may not like Chomsky, he is more than qualified to receive an honorary degree from USC.
One such example is in the case of this is the 1954 Guatemala coup supported by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1944, the Guatemalan people overthrew dictator Jorge Ubico Castaneda and were about to hold democratic elections. The U.S. government saw this as a danger to the rest of Latin America. If leaders were democratically elected and adhered to the will of their people, this could undermine the U.S. national interest. Knowing that the U.S. would disapprove of their actions, Guatemala sought to defend themselves from an invasion by obtaining rifles from Czechoslovakia. The U.S. did in fact enter in Operation PBSUCCESS, which led to the overthrow of democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz GuzmÃ¡n and the installation of Castillo Armas. Chomsky points out that Castillo's oppression of the Guatemalan people was even more ruthless than that of former dictator General Jorge Ubico, and that the U.S. overthrow was condemned by the U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold and by Western Germany, a country that was typically supportive of U.S. military action.
Another similar incident that Chomsky has revealed in his book Imperial Ambitions was the 1982 invasion of Grenada. The Reagan Administration told the public that the invasion occurred because of Grenada's alignment with Cuba and the Soviet Union and for "greatly militarizing" the previously small and neutral country. Reagan also claimed that he was intervening for the safety of U.S. medical students at the St. George University School of Medicine, which Chomsky believes is "laughable". Chomsky revealed that the country of Grenada was simply constructing an airport for peaceful purposes with the aid of Cuba and Britain. This invasion came several days after the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Lebanon, which killed 240 U.S. marines. Reagan used this previous attack to justify the invasion and instill fear in the American people, making them believe that an airport in Grenada could undermine U.S. national security.
Reagan and his administration used the same tactics for justification in the U.S. support of the Nicaraguan Contras. Reagan claimed that Nicaragua was a severe threat to national security and instilled fear in American people by stating it was only a two days car drive away. Chomsky informs people that the U.S. government uses scare tactics to gain their support in foreign policy decision making. These decisions, more often than not, are in the interests of the elite bourgeois class and large corporations, but rarely do they reflect the interests of the common man. So in order for the government to gain support for its policy making, it must make the common man fear the target country or regime. This is why Chomsky has listed the U.S. as one of the top "terrorist states" in the world, because it uses its military might in order to achieve its political agenda.
Another criteria for the honorary candidate is to demonstrate upstanding morals, which Chomsky has done by criticizing the U.S. for not living up to its own morals. One thing Chomsky is able to point out is the U.S. and its allies hypocrisies in international relations. Although the U.S. and Israel are key supporters of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, both have an absurd amount of nuclear warheads. Furthermore, Chomsky points out that it is dangerous for a country such as Israel to have nuclear weapons in a region as volatile as the Middle East because it will cause other neighboring states to acquire nuclear technology in order to protect themselves from their neighbors, thus lowering both of their security. This is what is known as a "security dilemma" in international relations. He believes that the U.S. is backing Israel because of the Jewish lobby in the U.S., which has been called the second largest lobby group in the U.S. behind the tobacco industry. Israel, Chomsky states, has the ability to wreak havoc upon the entire Middle East with little to no fear of repercussions because of its alliance with the U.S. Although the U.S. praises its small ally, Israel is not even a true democracy: religion and citizenship are intertwined. If an individual is not Jewish, he or she will be treated as a "second class" citizen. The country even promotes Jews from other parts of the world to move to Israel in order to increase the percentage of people who are Jewish in the country. Chomsky has stated that Israel is closer to a theology than it is to a democracy.
The U.S. is also a hypocrite when it comes to nuclear weapons. Iraq's so called nuclear weapons program never existed, yet it was used as a scare tactic in order to invade the country. The U.S. itself has over 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads, and has even begun creating a nuclear weapons program in space. This program could allow the U.S. to hit any target from space within a few minutes. This program has caused other nations such as Russia and China to create their own space weapons programs, which could lead to an all out nuclear war. Chomsky credits this to the U.S.'s short term versus long term thought process. In the short term, the U.S. may be winning the arms race, but in the long term, it has put itself and the rest of the world in much greater danger.
Critics of Chomsky believe that he is a pessimist who offers no real solutions to international problems. He is frequently dismissed as a "Utopian" that is out of touch with the real world. His response is that he offers solutions, but his solutions are not what the policy makers want. Chomsky believes that in order to stop terrorism, the U.S. must stop terrorizing the world. According to a BBC interview with Chomsky, all forms of human oppression throughout history have been chipped away at until they were defeated. One such institution that Chomsky supposes will change is the world economy. He credits the current new international economic order for enriching the top 20 percent of the world's population, while leaving the other 80 percent in poverty. According to Chomsky, a gradual shift will occur over time so that the lower 80 percent begins to move above the poverty line, similar to the gradual shift out of slavery. Chomsky feels that the economic institutions of the world today will eventually change so that people are no longer oppressed by transnational corporations and the bourgeois elite.
Given all of the presented evidence, one may think that Noam Chomsky despises the U.S. This is far from the case. Mr. Chomsky knows that the U.S. is capable of living up to its rhetoric and acting according to its philosophies. He wishes to see the U.S. shift towards policies that benefit not just the common man in the U.S., but the world. He believes by informing individuals of government cover-ups and supplying people with the truth, the U.S. can become a global leader in peace and prosperity. Noam sees a bright future, but knows that in order to achieve great things, one must first take small steps. Peaceful public demonstrations and fund raisers can help spread information and start a grass-roots change. He posits that if the general public becomes enlightened to information that is being kept secret, change will occur. Chomsky states he has already seen this change in modern times, in that there were no protests over the Vietnam War until several years after it began, while there were several protests around the country over the Iraq War prior during the first week of fighting.
One may ask "why is Mr. Chomsky more suited to receive an honorary degree than other left-wing intellects?". According to USC's Honorary Degree criteria, an individual is honored
"to elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor." Chomsky is world renown for his discourses on international politics. He has written dozens of books analyzing the foreign policy and domestic politics of the United States, many of which have become best sellers. Chomsky has visited numerous countries throughout the world to support oppressed peoples. Prior to the Israeli-Lebanon conflict of 2006, he visited the leader of Hezbollah. Although this appeared like Chomsky was supporting terrorists, he believes that he was supporting a smaller group that was defending itself from the true terrorist of the Middle East: Israel. His commencement speech would inspire individuals to help others rather than seek out material wealth. Noam Chomsky fights for what he believes is right, regardless of what other critics may perceive him as. Being called a terrorist, traitor, and communist has not deterred him from trying to open the eyes of individuals. This makes Chomsky a true patriot.