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Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World (American Empire Project) Paperback – September 15, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The infuriating, indispensable dean of American dissidents returns with this new collection of interviews with long-time amanuensis Barsamian. In these wide-ranging conversations, linguist and philosopher Chomsky, author of Hegemony or Survival, applies his usual left-wing critique of U.S. foreign policy to recent developments in Iraq, but also revisits American infamies stretching back to the Kosovo conflict, the Vietnam War and even the Mexican War while weighing in on domestic issues like Social Security privatization, health insurance and the rise of the Religious Right. His caustic denunciations of American "war crimes" -comparisons to Nazi Germany are never far from hand-serve up plenty of red meat for his legions of fans on the disaffected left, but the discursive, unsystematic format is not the best introduction for readers unfamiliar with his nonconformist views. One wishes Chomsky would find a more challenging interlocutor than the always-reverent Barsamian to sharpen up his thinking. His estimate of the coherence and vigor of the American imperial project seems overwrought. His analysis of the role of oil politics in the Iraq war is murky. And his portrait of the media as a quasi-Orwellian "propaganda" system brainwashing the population on behalf of the ruling elite smacks of naïve populism. Still, it's hard to dismiss Chomsky's indictment of the damage done by U.S. policies abroad, his scornful dissection of the lies and hypocrisies of those who defend them, his insistence that wealth and class interests dominate American politics, or his uncompromising attack on the thoughtless presumption of America's right to impose its will by force on other countries. A sardonic, meticulous and always bracing critic of the powers that be, Chomsky remains a must-read for any thoughtful citizen.
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From Booklist

Chomsky occasionally takes flak from both fans and critics for preferring interviews, editorials, and speeches to academic prose in articulating his political analyses of current events. Probably the consequence of articulating arguments disquieting enough to precipitate ad hominem attacks, such shots will not end with this book, which consists of nine loosely thematic conversations on familiar Chomskian themes: hegemony, propaganda, activism, peace. Barsamian (Chomsky's most dedicated interviewer) lobs more than he probes, but his questions sometimes surprise with their directness: asking the "rebel without a pause" if he feels like Sisyphus, for example. Although sold as exploring topics never before discussed, Chomsky's comments on the 2004 presidential campaign, the dismantling of Social Security, and global warming perhaps predictably return to familiar insights. But several passages prove illuminating in other, perhaps less-intentional ways, exploring Chomsky's complicated relationship with elitism and eliciting some candid connections between his intellectual politics and his upbringing. With Chomsky as accessible and compelling as always, this book is also slated to be released as an audio CD. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: American Empire Project
  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (October 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080507967X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805079678
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,088,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 66 people found the following review helpful By David C N Swanson on September 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Imagine you could take years and years to carefully study political history, that you could read numerous sources of political news from around the world, that you could do your own research into declassified government documents and little known areas of information, and that you could travel extensively so that you might compare various societies and governments in the current day.

If you can get someone to pay you or feed you while you do all of that, then by all means do it. Otherwise, your second best option is to listen to Noam Chomsky. Chomsky knows an incredible amount of information and is brilliant at analyzing it. He does so without any theory or pretense, using a vocabulary that any high school graduate has mastered.

Sitting down and talking to Noam Chomsky at length about current affairs has to be one of the most illuminating experiences going. But, what if you got the chance to do that and couldn't always think of the best questions or cite the best examples for Noam to comment on?

Not to worry: David Barsamian has conducted a series of interviews with Chomsky between March 2003 and February 2005, and has consistently asked penetrating and provocative questions. These interviews have just been published in this book.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on October 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
There is an exquisitely satisfying moment in the DVD documentary "Manufacturing Consent" where Noam Chomsky flatly contradicts William F. Buckley's version of events in Greece in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Clearly flabbergasted by Chomsky's command of the facts but perhaps even more so by his refusal to accept the standard cold-war inspired interpretation of these events, Buckley eventually loses his temper and is reduced to insisting that he is right and that Chomsky is wrong. At this remove, the interview, conducted sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, is a disturbing artifact of a time when facts were important in the making of political argument, for it is apparent that Buckley is chagrined by his inability to rebut Chomsky on the facts and reduced to repeating his position with greater and greater insistence. Now, of course, as the right itself acknowledges, conservatives do not deign to traffic in "fact-based reality." They instead weave and then don bright, shining garments of red, white and blue, and viciously attack anyone who might suggest they are clothed in raiment of gray lies and dun dissemblance.

And that is precisely why Chomsky is so valuable. He offers a compelling, fact-based counternarrative to the triumphalist ideology of Buckley and the scores of conservative apparatchiks that Buckley and his billionaire inheritance-baby buddies have spawned over the past 30 years -- that same triumphalist nonsense that, for instance, predicted US troops would be greeted in Baghdad as they were Paris in WWII -- with flowers, champagne and kisses.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are always gems to be found in anything that Chomsky offers (I agree with the Boston Globe's assessment of him as "America's most useful citizen") but one can always be warned when the offering is interviews, double-spaced, over time.

In this instance, the Introduction is actually useful and I agree with David Barsamian when he describes Chomsky as an extraordinary distiller and interpreter of information, who represents all that intellectuals *should* be.

One aspect of the book that is new to Chomsky's writing is his clear and distinct appreciation for the freedom's that we enjoy in America. While we are all subject to the arbitrary declaration by the government that we are an "enemy combatant" with no rights, on balance Chomsky goes out of his way in this series of interviews to articulate his love for America and his appreciation of the privileges that attend one who is both a citizen and a tenured (now retired) professor.

As a long-time reader of Chomsky, I found some delight in his recollection of the beginnings of propaganda (in England, with the stated intent "to direct the thought of most of the world") and I learned for the first time that Chomsky credits Walter Lippman with the phrase "manufacturing consent" that Chomsky used as the title of his most famous co-authored work.

Chomsky offers some fascinating geopolitical insights with his suggestion that the Trans-Siberian Railway might be extended to run down through North Korean into South Korea, and his views that ASEAN plus 3 (China, Korea, Japan) might rise to super-power status. I am especially taken with his view that China might be the power that saves America from itself, orchestrating a balance of power and sanity arrangement from that side of the world.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hughes on May 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Recently I read "Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/II World," (2005, Metropolitan Books)," which contains interviews by David Barsamian with Noam Chomsky on a wide range of issues, including the Iraqi War. I was deeply disappointed with it. Not because there wasn't a lot of solid analysis in it. There was. My misgivings dealt with what was left out of the paperback. If the comedian Stephen Colbert could take on the hawkish Neocon William Kristol and his warmongering Project for the New American Century (PNAC)-a group which Kristol cofounded-why couldn't the leading Guru of the Left, also do so? In addition, Chomsky failed to mention either the repulsive Kristol or the PNAC.

Another thing missing: In Chomsky's book, the word, "Zionism," only appears once, and that is on p. 173, where he admitted that in his youth, during his Philadelphia salad days, he was "very involved in the Zionist Movement." I also noticed that the enormously powerful Israeli Lobby wasn't worth a cite at all in this paperback. Yet, we now know, thanks to the prestigious Harvard Study, that the Israeli Lobby, for over 40 years has exercised "unmatched power," which was not in the national interest, over the foreign policy of the U.S. Yet, Chomsky ignored this group completely! Why? Is this the same Chomsky, that Barsamian solemnly tells us, "sets the compass headings and describes the topography"? Barsamian goes on to say, "It is up to us to navigate the terrain...He [Chomsky] has an extraordinary power to distill and synthesize reams of information. And he misses nothing. "Really? Misses nothing! How can that be true if Chomsky missed that six ton elephant in the room of American politics: the Israeli Lobby?

When asked why the U.S. invaded Iraq, Chomsky said, at p.
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