In today's Irish Times (subscription only) there's a report on a lecture by Noam Chomsky in Dublin:
Iran would be "crazy" if it did not develop nuclear weapons, the controversial US academic Noam Chomsky told an audience in Dublin last night.So the Iranian government is insane if it wants nuclear weapons and mad if it doesn't develop them. OK, only kidding. Some interpretative charity makes sense of it: sane non-Iranians won't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but the regime itself and its supporters would be mad if they didn't want them. (Iranian opponents of the regime I'll leave for Chomsky to deal with).
While he said "no sane person wants Iran to have nuclear weapons", the country would be mad not to develop them, given the manner in which it had been threatened by the United States and Israel, two nuclear powers - the latter of which Chomsky described as an "off-shoot" of America.
On the Iranian question, Chomsky said if the US was serious about stopping the spread of nuclear weapons it should "stop compelling" Iran to have them.
What I love here is the selectivity in how the man notices threats. Iran has been threatened by the US and Israel, and the US is 'compelling' Iran to have nuclear weapons. That the president of Iran recently called for Israel to be wiped from the face of the earth doesn't seem to figure. Along with some other commentators, Chomsky perhaps thinks that this is mere rhetoric, hot air, or what have you. But leaving aside what he and others who share this assumption would say if it were an Israeli or US leader talking of wiping some other country off the map, it's not just up to Chomsky what counts as a threat in international affairs. Public statements have public meanings, and when they come from key public figures, this gives them particular weight. If a country's president calls for the destruction of another country, that is a threat, whatever Chomsky may believe - just as publicly saluting a mass-murdering dictator is a gesture honouring that dictator, whatever the gesturer may later plead to the contrary. (See old normblog site, November 10 2003.)
There is a certain historical background here that should also be borne in mind: the infamous 'prophecy' by Adolf Hitler of January 30 1939; and the language of destroying the State of Israel that has been used by many of its enemies from the day of its birth.
Some may want to make light of the Iranian president's current posture, but others of us feel it ought to be taken seriously.
And amongst those listening to Chomsky in Dublin?
There were no protests at the venue, and few signs of dissent from the audience.The 'America first villain' crowd. (Thanks: PM.)
A significant portion of the attendance gave Chomsky a standing ovation at the end of his address.