Interview. We spoke with the American philosopher Noam Chomsky about Donald Trump’s military strategy and the modern U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Noam Chomsky: Trump’s America is primed for nuclear catastrophe

“For the first time in the history of humanity, we are living in a dangerous situation that threatens the very survival of the human species. I am talking about the monstrous capacity for killing possessed nowadays by the United States. This is thanks to the project, started under the Obama administration and now in the hands of Trump, for the technological modernization of nuclear weapons, which has reached levels dramatically superior to those possessed by the Russian nuclear arsenal as a deterrent. The margins of error have been shrunk to the point that we cannot exclude a nuclear catastrophe.”

It is with these dramatic statements that our interview with Noam Chomsky began, an interview granted to il manifesto after the unilateral military strike on Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles; after the raid in Afghanistan which dropped the “mother of all bombs,” the Daisy Cutter, with technology perfected by the Pentagon and used in 1991 in Iraq; and after the threat of military retaliation for the tensions with North Korea. It came just as Trump was beginning to threaten not to certify that Tehran is following the terms of the nuclear deal, calling this ‘prudent.’

What is the strategy and motivation for the new military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan?

The unilateral acts of aggression by the United States in Syria and Afghanistan have been plotted by this new administration from an ivory tower, indifferent to the crimes being committed, which violate all the norms of international law. They are part of a show put on for American public opinion, who are expecting the “America First” policy they were promised.

This show is put on with the intention of proceeding undisturbed with the barbaric project of dismantling, step by step, the entirety of the federal legislation that was first established 70 years ago in order to protect the entire U.S. population from the logic of immediate profits and from the maximum concentration of power. In fact, Trump’s immediate reaction was meant to reassure the American public that a new sheriff is finally in town.

This was the direct message he wanted to send: “The brilliant results achieved by our men in the Pentagon in these past eight weeks are superior to everything that was achieved during the last eight years of the Obama presidency, and we are able to take courageous action. In short, here’s the new sheriff, showing himself to be the strongman that you crave.” And he gave free hand to those who wanted to take these so-called courageous actions. Such as dropping the “superbomb” in Afghanistan, not even having any idea about what particular territory we destroyed, or about how many civilians we killed.

Paradoxically, here in the United States the applause was unambiguous and universal, from the Democrats as well. With Syria, the “new sheriff” Trump sent a message to the international community showing that America is still a superpower that is able to respond with the new strength given by “America First.”

The American military strike in Syria has been interpreted in Europe and throughout the Western world as a message against Assad for having used weapons of mass destruction. But let’s say we don’t give any credence to the doubts, credible ones to be honest, raised by experts in chemical weapons, and by the Russians, who immediately asked for an independent international investigation by the U.N. institutions which deal with chemical weapons. The goal of Trump, Bannon and their mouthpieces is to focus the attention of the public, using constant televised images, Twitter and social media, on these issues and not on the real issues that “America First” promised to solve.

Step by step, legislation is approved behind the scenes that takes away any hope for the American people to claim the social security and economic benefits first set up 70 years ago. This is the most dangerous power configuration in the history of the world. Which, in order to continue to gather more profits and more and more power, is also capable of using nuclear weapons. All the way to the destruction of humanity.

What are the immediate risks expected in this situation, with a war strategy that, aiming at projecting the image it promised, is moving towards the catastrophe of a nuclear war?

In March of last year, the Atomic Bulletin of Scientists released a study on the nuclear arsenal modernization program implemented by the Obama administration, which is now in the hands of Trump. The study shows that the U.S. nuclear arsenal system has reached an advanced and radical new level with regard to atomic strategy, to such an extent that it could render irrelevant the deterrence factor of the Russian nuclear arsenal. Moscow is well aware of this. But with the intensification of direct tensions, especially in the Baltic countries on Russia’s borders, this fact results in the risk of a direct nuclear confrontation with Russia.

What should we expect then?

These data should help us understand the risks to global security, given the shrinking margins of error, already stretched to the very limit of being able to avoid a nuclear disaster caused by “mutual destruction.” And this is why a situation has been set in motion in which Russia, with the intensification of U.S. provocations, may decide, after the moment when they no longer have the ability to mount a nuclear arsenal that is effectively deterrent, to launch a nuclear preemptive strike in the hope of survival.

We are in a very serious and dangerous situation. The risk is due to Trump’s unpredictable reactions. If he will not be able to keep the promises of change that he made to the working class about which he spoke during the campaign (and which will be the first victims of his presidency), sooner or later a flood of accusations of Islamic terrorism directed at immigrants will follow, in order to justify extraordinary repressive measures and new bans. Fabricating evidence of an attack on America to such an extent that it would justify the use of nuclear weapons.

The missiles in Syria and the “superbomb” in Afghanistan illustrate that Trump’s America is ready for military retaliation on a scale that surpasses even the most disturbed imagination. And this is a political pattern that has been the historical practice in this country ever since the days of the Cold War.

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