BEIRUT: “Human beings are destroying themselves,” said luminary Noam Chomsky, warning that unrest in Syria could turn into a Sunni-Shiite conflict that would spread to the whole region and eventually lead to a global war.
“I aspire for a world in which my grandchildren can live in peace and I do not see that happening anytime soon. I think that if someone is watching us from Mars right now, he would be thinking that human beings are destroying themselves just like Syria is destroying itself,” Chomsky, a world-renowned linguist and anti-war activist, told The Daily Star.
Although he admitted that the demands of the Syrian people for a better life at the beginning of their uprising in March 2011 were “justified,” Chomsky said that the war-torn country is now heading towards “suicide.”
“The protests were entirely justified, the people could not have predicted that there will be this brutal response, and once the brutal response took place it was almost inevitable to help turning it into a militarized uprising, he said.
“The country is heading toward suicide, it is destroying itself and it is very dangerous. ... The only slim hope that I can see is the Geneva-style negotiated solution, although its prospects are very limited.”
Chomsky also said that the military involvement of Hezbollah in Syria is only going to make things worse, and increase the threat of turning the conflict into a sectarian one.
“The Sunni-Shiite conflict which was exasperated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq is now spreading to the whole region, and it is splitting it in two, and that is murderous, he said.
“What is happening in Syria is part of it. I mean it was an effort to achieve more democracy through peaceful means and it was crushed brutally and became more militarized.”
“Any kind of militarization is going to widen that conflict,” he added in reference to the growing military role of Lebanon’s Hezbollah in Syria unrest.
However, Chomsky seemed more optimistic about the so-called Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt.
“It was a spring. I think it achieved something, it achieved something not insignificant – mainly in Tunisia and Egypt there are gains and maybe permanent ones, there is more freedom of speech and freedom of press,” he said.
But he added: “The major aims were not achieved [and] the economic policies of the government [did not change]. I also think the people do not want the Muslim brothers in power.”
He also said that the Muslim Brothers will not stay in power for long because they will “fail to deal with the problems that led to the uprising against the earlier regime.
“They are following the same policies [although they are] not as repressive. The Arab Spring is kind of on hold but I think it will break out again.”
Chomsky also said that there is a “serious conflict throughout the region between the Islamic forces of various complexions and the secular population which wants a different path.”
“It is the same that is happening in Turkey right now, and unfortunately [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip]Erdogan’s tactics seem similar to Muarak’s and Assad’s tactics; he is acting the same,” he said.
“Democratic governments are better than totalitarian governments but we should not get delusional – they do not reflect the public,” he said in reference to recent protests in Turkey.
“The gap between what the public wants and the government wants, the gap is enormous.”
Chomsky, who made a visit to Beirut last week, attended a ceremony in which he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the American University of Beirut.
The luminary, who is known as the "father of modern linguistics" and an outspoken critic of the United States and Israel, said that he summed up his achievements in his “small participation in various efforts to oppose suffering and violence and repression and aggression and disaster.”
“No one makes change but if you are fortunate you participate in changes, he said.
“I have a played a role in restricting the massive American war crimes in Vietnam and help oppose repression in Turkey and supporting people who are trying to survive for some level of freedom in America, Palestine ...”
Although he has been engaged in world causes since a young age, Chomsky, an activist and freedom fighter, said that the only regret he has is that he did “not get involved early enough and actively enough.”
“There is always more that should have been done,” he said.
Now aged 84, Chomsky recalls that he wrote his first article when he was only 10 years old. The article titled “The Fall of Barcelona” addressed the spread of fascism in Europe.
“I was 10 years old but I was just as committed then as ever since,” he said.
Chomsky, who said he was jailed several time for his ideas, admitted that he was fortunate enough to live in a relatively free country.
“Any dissident is going to pay a price, that is automatic and dates back to early centuries. ... I have been in prison, but I did not pay a price people would normally pay in a repressive society,” he said.
According to Chomsky, an anti-Zionist who has repeatedly attacked Israel and opposed the establishment of a Jewish state, things have not changed much and have only got worse.
“My stance has never changed since 1940 ... I do not think there should be [such] things as an ethnic state,” he said.
Of the two-state solution, Chomsky said: “I do not like it, I never really liked it, but of the various options, it is the only one that seems to be possible.”
But he doesn’t hold out much hope for progress on the Israel-Palestine question.
“If you really evaluate the situation carefully, I think the only real hope is a change to the U.S. government foreign policy, he said.
“I mean for 35 years, the U.S. has been virtually alone [in] rejecting a short-term political settlement while the whole world supports that.”
The U.S. policy, according to the dissident, does not just cause harm to others but to its own citizens as well.
“The American people suffer from the policy too; states do not act in the interest of their population, it is a myth,” he said.