Failed States Book Summary By Noam Chomsky

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In Failed States, Noam Chomsky provides an in-depth look at the United States' use of its power throughout history.

Describing how the pursuit of the US's own interests often contradicts their mission of promoting democracy, Chomsky provides documented examples from a wide range of time periods.

Failed States examines how US power is concentrated and abused to benefit only a select few, and looks at the results when this unchecked authority is unleashed on other countries.

By looking at both U.S.

foreign policy and its actions abroad, Failed States forces readers to confront uncomfortable truths about US power and exposes the harms global inequality can inflict on societies around the globe.

Failed States Book

Book Name: Failed States (The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy)

Author(s): Noam Chomsky

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 15 Minutes

Categories: Politics

Author Bio

Noam Chomsky is a prominent cultural figure and political thinker, and a renowned American linguist.

He has 36 years of teaching experience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently Professor Emeritus.

Over the course of his career as an author, Noam Chomsky has authored more than 100 books, making him one of the world's most published authors.

Furthermore, his work was honored in a 2005 global poll when he was voted the "world's top public intellectual".

If you're looking for an expert opinion on politics and culture than Noam Chomsky is your go-to guy.

His book, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy should definitely be on your reading list!

An In-Depth Look At How The United States Is A Danger To Democracy


The United States has long been viewed as a defender of democracy and freedom, yet US foreign policy does not live up to this promise.

Rather than supporting global stability, the US often creates more violence and unrest.

Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy by Emma Ashford reveals how US intervention in foreign affairs is detrimental to the cause of democracy all over the world.

Through this book, readers can learn why the United States is not a force for good in the world.

From greater risk of nuclear holocaust to hindrance in Middle East peace negotiations to lack of actual democracy, Failed States demonstrates why American involvement abroad should never be seen as a solution for global struggles.

The United Nations’ Unfortunate Lack Of Democracy: Power, Corruption And Discrepancies In Definitions

It’s no secret that the United States enjoys a unique and powerful position within the United Nations.

This has enabled US leaders to ignore international law or use its influence to avoid repercussions for their actions.

For instance, due to its permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council, the US has been able to brush by many of the organization’s decisions.

It is also able to bend rules when it comes to terms such as “torture” or other moral questions.

The US Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel defines “torture” in an incredibly limited way, compared to definitions defined by the Geneva Convention.

This gives the United States a special status that allows it to essentially go against common international law whenever they deem fit.

This was made vividly clear in 2005 when an investigation into Iraq’s Oil-for-Food Program revealed many US corporations had been involved in providing kickbacks worth $1.8 billion – and yet no punishments were inflicted because of the US’ powerful position at the UN.

Thus it becomes evident that while many individuals may think of the UN as a democratic body, certain countries have used their influence to seize special privileges and allow them break away from international law with impunity – one of those countries being none other than The United States of America.

The U.S.’S Twisted Logic Of Pre-Emptive Self-Defense Leads To A Dangerous Double Standard

The United States may be the most powerful nation on Earth, but it follows a set of rules that are quite different from other countries when it comes to meting out punishment for its enemies, real or perceived.

In the United Nations Charter, force can only be deployed after being authorized by the UN Security Council or after an act of self-defense if an armed attack is launched against a Member of the United Nations- however, this often gets ignored by Washington.

Former US President George W.

Bush justified his “war on terror” as an example of anticipatory self-defense as he believed terrorism posed a grave threat to America and thus it had to take preemptive action by sending troops into Afghanistan.

As such, this logic can also be followed by other countries who feel threatened by the US and could justify an armed attack against them in response.

As evidence of this point in time, between 1960-1961, The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) smuggled guns and explosives into Cuba which further qualified as terrorist activity and would have warranted a retaliatory attack against America had Cuba wanted to go down that route.

Moreover, Investigative journalist’s probe shortly after 9/11 revealed that Osama bin Laden and Taliban got issued threats for probable military strike from Americans which then enabled them to plan their own offensive against US.

The Cost Of Ignoring Global Threats: How Us Economic Interests Compromise Global Security

Global Security

When it comes to policy decisions, economics take precedence for the United States.

When the issue of climate change was brought to the forefront at the 2005 G8 summit in Scotland, the US did little to nothing to implement cost-effective ways of reducing emissions.

President Bush argued that scientific evidence on climate change was limited – and more importantly, taking action would potentially put its economic interests in jeopardy.

Moreover, when it comes to nuclear weapons, the US tends to prioritize economics over global safety.

In fact, former Senator Sam Nunn claimed that with most states having nuclear weapons available in their arsenals, there’s a very real danger of an accidental or unauthorized attack occurring – yet dismantling these weapons is something that has been left largely untouched by US policymakers due to the potential financial impact it could have.

By failing to make progress on climate change or preventing potential nuclear attacks, it’s clear that economic interest are more important to the United States than taking steps towards global security measures.

Unfortunately, this means that American interests come before that of other countries as well as future generations who will bear the brunt of these selfish policies.

The United States’ Fear Of An Independent Cuba Led To Decades Of Aggression And Contradictory Actions

The United States recongnized Fidel Castro’s ascent to power in Cuba with great alarm.

Convinced that the Communist form of government and its refusal to bow down to America could encourage other countries to become more independent, the US launched a relentless campaign against the island nation.

This included enacting an embargo and engaging in economic warfare, as well as more extreme measures such as burning plantations, factories and ships.

Louis Pérez, a scholar specialised in Latin American studies, explained that all of these tactics were used because “the US could not tolerate the refusal of the Castro regime to submit to the United States.” According to Louis Pérez, this deliberate campaign to antagonize Cuba was ultimately meant as a warning signal for other countries that may be tempted by Castro’s example.

It is evident from investigations conducted by OFAC into financial transactions related to Cuba that far more resources are spent on limiting a perceived communist threat than on pursuing terrorism-related investigations.

From 1990 to 2003 only $9,000 dollars were collected from 93 incidents related to terrorism – compared with over $8 million penalties raised in 11,000 cases involving Cuban financial records.

The Us Claims To Promote Democracy Abroad, But Their Actions Reflect Economic Interests

The US has a long-stated goal of promoting democracy abroad, and this goal is often cited as one of the pillars of its foreign policy.

In his 2005 scholarly article, former President Bush even declared that promoting democracy was an essential part of the “Bush Doctrine” for fighting terrorism.

However, in practice, US economic interests are often prioritized over its stated goals related to democratic values.

This contradiction between rhetoric and reality can be seen in the case of Azerbaijan: Former Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman praised Azerbaijan for building an oil pipeline in 2005 as a step towards democracy and prosperity; yet at the same time, an article from The New York Times reported that pro-democracy demonstrators had been beaten by police during a government crackdown on dissent.

Overall, it’s clear that US economic desires often overshadow its stated policy goals of fostering democracy abroad.

The Us Serves Its Own Interests By Undermining Solutions To Complex Conflicts Like Israel And Palestine


When it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the United States historically has had a vested interest in finding a solution that best serves its own interests rather than addressing the root causes of the conflict.

After Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, for example, American leaders promoted free elections in Palestine with the intent of strengthening Palestinian institutions overall – which would have also given Arafat’s brand of politics greater credibility and legitimacy.

In December 2003, after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators reached a compromised two-state solution outline known as the Geneva Accord, the United States declined to offer explicit support – allowing Israel to reject it more easily.

Ultimately, this suggests that while the United States contends it wants peace in the Middle East, what it really wants is peace that benefits them first and foremost.

The Iraq War Was A Failed Attempt At Establishing Democracy That Violated International Law

The US-led invasion of Iraq was not only a failure – it was legally and morally dubious.

This goes against the very rationale behind the war: to bring democracy to Iraq via a radical break with the old regime.

Unfortunately, this did not happen as expected.

Instead of a peaceful democracy, what followed were more violence and terrorism for Iraqi citizens.

The 2005 draft constitution was particularly concerning as it seemed to place more emphasis on Islamic principles than on democratic practices.

Moreover, US action in the war became even more questionable when troops launched a second attack on Fallujah in 2004.

A strategy was implemented which forced men and boys between 15 and 65 back into the city, trapping even some pregnant women and babies in the process – an act that could have been illegal under international conventions.

Additionally, a US airstrike on one of Fallujah’s health centers resulted in 35 patients and 24 staff members being killed – another event proven to be illegal by the Geneva Conventions.

The Us Claims To Promote Democracy, But Its Own Version Falls Short: Examining The Democracy Deficit Of The United States

Promote Democracy

It’s clear that the United States has a democracy deficit when we consider the government’s actions against what the majority of the people want.

Take, for example, the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite broad public support in the US, the Bush administration pulled out of it in 2001 and it eventually expired in 2012.

Furthermore, a large majority of Americans believe that diplomatic and economic measures are better than military engagement when it comes to tackling crises abroad, with even a slight majority supporting abolishing veto power by permanent members in UN Security Council- yet none of these opinions have been acted on by Congress or the White House.

This is a major failure of democratic governance and goes directly against the principles upon which democracy is based.

It can therefore be said that not only does the US have a significant democratic deficit but also could possibly be classified as a failed state – which isn’t far from President Bush’s original definition.

As much as he may have wished it was true for other countries, his own definition applies to his own country!

Wrap Up

The United States often claims to have an interest in promoting the spread of democracy worldwide, but Failed States reveals that this is far from the truth.

In reality, US policy at home and abroad reflects a strong desire for securing their own economic and geopolitical interests rather than furthering democracy’s cause.

Ultimately, Failed States presents powerful arguments against America’s hypocritical stance – that the US isn’t genuine about its support for spreading democracy because it serves its own interests before any others.

It offers insight into how our country can work to change course and become true promoters of global democratization in the future.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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