Saturday, May 10, 2008

Noam Chomsky on 1968

The New Statesman has an issue out commentrating the 40-year anniversary of 1968. As you probably know, '68 was an eventful year (to say the very least). There was My Lai, the Tet Offensive, the riots at the Democratic Convention, etc. So there are various writers penning essays on their reflections of 1968, Noam Chomsky being one of them. He looks back very fondly on it, and even goes so far to state that we're much more democratic today than we were back then. Some may argue with that. After all, there was a coup here less than 8 years ago. Inequality runs deeper than it has since the Depression. Business has never been more powerful and had a greater voice in our government.

But, he does raise some valid points. Widespread domestic opposition to Vietnam only began to spread after the mounting troop deaths and the draft really became a big thing. Before then, there were no marches or huge gatherings of opposition. With Iraq, there was a presence even before the invasion started. Also, it was taboo for a presidential candidate to even talk about "withdrawal" of troops from Vietnam in 1968. Now, it may be timid, but it's there. Sadly, the candidates who make no bones on withdrawing soldiers (Ron Paul, Kucinich) have long since ended their camapigns.

So I don't know how to feel about Chomsky's observation. I could go either way, I guess. I wasn't around in 1968, so I'd have a limited opinion just based on that. There may be opposition now, and it may not have taken 6 years to begin, but it isn't as widespread. The government isn't worried about not having enough troops to suppress the domestic population, like they did in 1968. There are small pockets of peace activists, but enough to have a meaningful impact? No. I think what really seperates these 2 eras is the presence (or non-presence) of the draft. The opposition to Vietnam was due to self-preservation; young people didn't want to be sent to Vietnam to die. But as we have an all-volunteer military now, today's youth don't have that worry. So that's why Iraq is probably the last thing on most young people's minds.

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