Noam Chomsky on Barack Obama and His Presidency

Noam Chomsky has had some fairly critical words on Barack Obama and his campaign running up to his first election as the U.S. president (as well as on his campaign overall. Perhaps speaking more to the lack of depth in the promises of the campaign, Chomsky criticized the “Time for change!” slogan as “meaningless.”

Just look at his campaign “(time for) change”- Change what?

As the presidency wore on over the next eight years, Noam was consistently critical of many aspects of Obama’s presidency ranging from his positions on economic matters to his drone policy.

Speaking to C.J. Polychroniou of Truthout Chomsky remarked on a one sentence evaluation of the Obama era:

“Overall, not a very impressive record. That seems to me a fair assessment.”

It is fair to note that the American people, particularly the left, were perhaps more wiling to trust Obama’s foreign policy without as much oversight which, in many ways, the former president took advantage of. In the same interview, Chomsky alluded to this reality while providing a fairly moderate critique:

He has been more reluctant to engage troops on the ground than some of his predecessors and advisers, and instead has rapidly escalated special operations and his global assassination (drone) campaign, a moral disaster and arguably illegal as well [on the latter matter, see Mary Ellen O’Connell, American Journal of International Law volume 109, 2015, 889f].

However during the presidency, Noam was perhaps more actively critical. Speaking to the BBC:

Interviewer: In regards to the middle east, do you think Obama’s no better (than Tony Blair and George Bush)?

Noam: In many ways, he’s worse.

Interviewer: (incredulous)  how is he worse?

Noam: I’ve been writing about it from before the election. In the case of Afghanistan he’s escalated the war which could lead to a breakup of Pakistan which could be a catastrophe for the west.

The main thrust of this particular argument by Noam is that there’s a threat over a potential breakup of Pakistan which would indeed be a disaster for the West as Pakistan, on the back of A.Q. Khan, is armed with nuclear weaponry. Though Pakistan did not breakup, and does not appear to be headed that way, it wasn’t unreasonable to think of this possibility at the time of the interview as ISIS was still a major threat to destabilizing the entire middle east.

Now let’s take Israel/Palestine which is closer to the bullseye of Noam’s political activism.

His position is shocking. There was a General Assembly UN resolution calling for an end to the Israel settlements..which is not even controversial..and Obama vetoed it. Alone, in conjunction with Israel and a couple island countries. This is the record all the way through.

This one is a little more complicated but everything Noam said is correct, however it’s par for the course in International High Court decisions or UN resolutions. How these decisions typically shake out, even if it’s a controversial decision such as a final status issue, is the international community will condemn Israel with support from every country except the United States, Israel and Tuvalu (an island nation threatened by climate change. The issue is the international community has little say as far as restrictions (or enforcement) go especially when in the United States lays in opposition. For that we mark Noam’s criticisms here as “fair but poorly framed.”

As always, we will continue to accept errors and, if we can confirm that any errors have been made or we discover we have missed relevant details, we will update this page and update our errors page that documents all additions or corrections to pages after they are published. Finally it is important to note, especially for this article, that we try to emphasize the most recent opinions rather than older opinions as more recent opinions will be closer to their actual opinions. Should we become aware of position changes by anyone on the Scholar Fact Check, we will make the change and note it on the relevant page. 

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