How do you see the global power dynamic in 2008?

Chomsky talks about the three major world power systems: North America, Europe and Northeast Asia
  • Transcript


Noam Chomsky: Well there are basically three major power systems, roughly speaking: North America, Europe and North East Asia, joined to Indian and South Asia and to South East Asia. There are lots of integration among them, they are not distinct, but they are identifiable power centers. Separate from them are the major oil producers, which have power, but have a lot of financial resources.

Europe and the United States are roughly comparable in every dimension except military force. The United States, its military spending now exceeds substantially that of the rest of the world combined, and nothing is even close.

The North East Asia is probably the most dynamic economic region in the world; China, Japan, North and South Korea. It has amassed enormous financial resources. In fact, Japan and China, and to some extent the oil producers, have been sustaining the U.S. economy. How long they will do it is unclear.

There’s plenty of violence all over the world, with the most extreme regions are the Middle East region, mainly because that’s the major energy sources of energy for the world. The U.S. invasion of Iraq is the central part of it, but not the only one. And it’s a very volatile area. There could be a confrontation between the U.S. and Iran, a U.S. attack on Iran, which one well known British military historian, Correlli Barnett, said that it would be world III. And he could be right.

There are other tendencies developing. South America, as you mentioned, is actually for the first time in its history since the Spanish invasion, is making significant moves towards integration. The society, countries have been very separate from one another. They have been ruled by tiny, wealthy, mostly Europeanized elites, related to the imperial societies, not to one another. And they are moving towards a degree of integration, its independence.

They are also beginning slowly to tackle some of their immense internal problems. There is a huge inequality. In fact some of the most exciting democratic experiments, may be the most exciting, are taking place right there, especially in Bolivia where the indigenous majority of the population has, for the first time, entered the political arena in a serious way, elected their own candidate from their own ranks. It’s leading to a possible threat of cessation by the white Europeanized elite, which has always around the country and has most of the resources. And there is plenty of sources of conflict there. An important development, in many ways the most exciting area of the world, I think.

There is the Bank of the South, which is broadly supported, could be an alternative development fund, just as the Asian Development Bank could be.

What happens in China and India will be no doubt be of enormous significance. They do have high growth rates. A lot of people have been taken out of poverty. It should be recalled that they have succeeded in doing this largely by violating the rules of game that the western powers have attempted to establish. That’s no surprise the economic historians, because it’s the way the developed countries got rich themselves. But they are now significant players around the world scene. Particularly China.

However, with extraordinary internal problems. Hundreds of millions of people either destitute or in serious economic problems, enormous ecological problems.

India which has developed significantly, starting in the 1980s, but particularly in the last 15 years, still ranks about 125th or so in the United Nation’s Human Development Index, has seen enormous poverty and destitution. But they have tremendous internal problems to deal with. They are nowhere near the level of the rich developed western European, North American countries. But shifting power in the world seems doubtless.

China happens to be the center of a developing strategic system. The Shanghai Corporation Organization, which is based in China, includes Russia with its quite enormous energy resources. India, Pakistan and Iran are associated, admitted observers. The central Asian states are part of it. The United States has sought observer status, but has been rejected. The organization has called on the U.S. to leave Central Asia and other regions. And this is slowly emerging power block that some regard as potentially a counterpart NATO, with substantial internal resources, Russian particularly, but if Iran joins in, even more. And they’re reaching out even towards Saudi Arabia, which is the jewel in the crown, as far as energy resources are concerned. So doubtless a source of enormous concern to the United States, which is trying pretty desperately to set up a Sunni counterforce and to somehow control Iraq, which has turned to total catastrophe. These are some, not all, of the major live issues on the global scene.


Recorded on: March 21, 2008