Chomsky Discusses Middle East Security at Lehigh
By Becca Bednarz ’15
Ted Morgan (right), professor of political science, welcomed linguist Noam Chomsky to Lehigh on Feb. 5 to deliver a lecture titled “Prospects for Peace in the Middle East.” Photo by Christa Neu
Lehigh welcomed distinguished linguist, author, social critic, and intellectual Renaissance man Dr. Noam Chomsky to campus Tuesday evening.
Members of the Lehigh community crammed into the aisles and stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the walls of Packard Auditorium to listen to the MIT professor’s lecture, entitled “Prospects for Peace in the Middle East.”
“It’s not easy to put the phrases ‘prospects for peace’ and ‘Middle East’ in the same sentence; they don’t really fall together easily,” Chomsky began gravely.
“Syria is careening into national suicide with no obvious way out, Egypt is in complete chaos, and the threat of serious war is now in place across the region,” he said.
Members of the “political class” in the United States believe that Israel and Iran pose the most significant security threats to the Middle East, according to Chomsky. During the third 2012 presidential debate, which centered on foreign policy, the two presidential candidates were almost entirely in agreement on this.
Yet Chomsky argued that Israel and the United States—rather than Iran—truly pose the greatest threats to Middle Eastern security.
Chomsky has long been a critic of U.S. foreign policy, particularly regarding its support of the Israeli government. He has criticized Israel for its treatment of the Palestinian people and has argued that supporters of Israel are supporters of its moral degeneration and probable destruction.
In his lecture, Chomsky stressed that nuclear power has become an integral issue for international diplomacy. The United States has refused to compromise on nuclear policies with Iran, he said. For instance, the U.S. canceled a conference in Helsinki last November—which had intended to establish “nuclear-free zones” in the Middle East—after learning that Iran had planned to attend. Furthermore, the U.S. has refused to allow Israel’s nuclear facilities to be placed under international inspection. The Israeli press has even assured citizens that Obama will “strike Iran within the year” if attempts at diplomacy continue to fail.
Yet attempts at Middle Eastern diplomacy have failed largely because it is in the United States and Israel’s best interest for them to do so, Chomsky said. The U.S.’s foreign policy regulations take the form of preemptive strikes against nations or people who could potentially (but have not actually) posed a direct threat to our security. “Of all the countries in the world, the U.S. is one of the few that has the obligation to enact ‘security conflict resolution,’” said Chomsky. “Other countries don’t have the rights that we do and are therefore just expected to obey.”
Americans are unlikely to know why diplomacy has failed with Iran simply because there has been not a word about the matter in the American press, Chomsky said. “But it’s not just a fault of the press; rather, we can attribute it to our intellectual community and government as a whole.”
Chomsky’s lecture was co-sponsored by Lehigh’s Visiting Lectures Committee; the Humanities Center; the Office of the Cshaplain; the South Side Initiative; and the Departments of Political Science, English, History, Journalism and Communication, as well as the Center for Global Islamic Studies.
February 11, 2013