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on 29 July 2006
When trying to sum up 'Failed States', as with other books by Noam Chomsky, the words that spring to mind are 'thought provoking'. In this latest work professor Chomsky argues that America, whilst commonly accusing other nations of being failed states, can be fairly judged to be a failed state itself, or at least share some of the qualities that define a failed state. He bases this argument on America's demonstrable inability or unwillingness to protect its citizens from violence and possible destruction and its tendency to consider itself beyond domestic and international law. He also argues that America suffers from a 'democratic deficit' which is another indicator of a failed state. Each of these arguments, along with others, are discussed in detail and presented with Chomsky's usual clarity.

My early fears that Failed States would contain little that hadn't already been discussed in the excellent Hegemony or Survival were proven false as the book went on to cover fresh ground, including 'just war theory', an up to date analysis of the invasion of Iraq and the present chaotic situation, and possible future developments in the middle east and south America. Chomsky does discuss certain principles which will be familiar to those who have read him before, and which are central to his, and surely any right thinking persons, beliefs such as the principle of universality. This is understandable as keeping such principles in mind is important when considering the issues which the book discusses.

Professor Chomsky polarizes opinion like few others and there is a tendency for people to either dismiss him and his views entirely or to consider his every word and opinion to be the unequivocal truth. Maintaining an open mind, a topic which the book made me think deeply about, is clearly essential when reading Failed States.

Whatever your own thoughts on the many weighty issues may be, the book will make you think and force you to ask questions. Most importantly for me, Failed States made me think about the primary motivations that determine how the world works, be it in business, international relations or even at the level of the individual. Understanding these motivations will go some way to explaining why those in power behave, and have always behaved, the way they do.
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VINE VOICEon 7 February 2007
Failed States is Professor Noam Chomsky's latest state of the nation address, a critical snapshot of where the United States is right now.

The approach he takes is that 'Failed States' is a phrase used within the U.S. establishment to justify certain exercises of power, from financially supporting opponents of failed states, to regime change and invasion. 'Failed states', like 'rogue states' and 'states of concern' before it, is a vague term, perhaps deliberately so but Chomsky identifies some defining features of a failed state, among them, a failure to adequately protect its citizens from terrorism, a failure to provide reasonable health care for all, regardless of an ability to pay, a tendency to break international law and act regardless of treaties and conventions, a lack of representative democracy in its political processes.

Chomsky argues that a fundamental moral truism is that an individual or a country should judge oneself by the same standards that you apply to others, if not to a higher standard if you are completetly honest with yourself. Therefore, the United States should be examined on the basis of the criteria briefly laid out above. Chomsky undertakes this task and finds that the U.S. is sorely lacking in many crucial respects and indeed shares many of the key aspects of countries that are currently demonised by those who stalk the corridors of power.

As is probably familiar to readers of Chomsky, I approached this book with a little caution, fearing that Chomsky was simply going to rehash many of his familiar arguments and cases through this new prism; I was pleased to find that, whilst there is obviously some overlap with previous texts, there is a great deal of fascinating contemporary material in this highly detailed book. Those who are cautious about purchasing another Chomsky text, concerned about over-familiarity, need worry no more. Read alongside his previous excellent book, Hegemony or Survival, Failed States is yet another classic.
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on 22 July 2013
When history is crafted in the service of power, evidence and rationality are irrelevant.

Hazrat Chomsky is very popular with Pakistani literati and for good reason, as he presents the other aspects of the momentous world events which together makes the story somewhat complete.
Consider the very obvious and rational argument, the top nation of the world, número uno country of the world, the mighty USA, misbehaving, openly flaunting, imperiously rejecting all international laws it expects rogue and terrorist nations of the world to follow. Trouble is, USA and its foreign policies are the main reason why countries like North Korea and Iran are in their current state, as every country in the world will consciously or subconsciously follow the leader, copying its every move and behaviours. Unfortunately for the world, USA will not change, why should it? Why change a strategy which has got it at the top slot. All the world has to do now is wait for an able contender for the throne. In the meantime writers like Chomsky will have a field day arguing to their lefty brothers. The book makes completing reading though.

Check for yourself.....
'International court jurisdiction has proven inappropriate for the United States.' Condoleeza Rice 2005.

International law and court judgments are fine, but only when they come out the right way. Anything else is inappropriate for the United States.

Why are the US nuclear facilities not open to IAEA like Iraq and Iran?

The US has the right to attack any country that it thinks could attack it first.

The logic of the annexation of Texas was essentially attributed to Saddam Hussain when he conquered Kuwait.

A large majority of US public believe that the US should accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the World Court, sign the Kyoto protocols, allow the United Nations to take the lead in international crises, and rely on diplomatic and economic measures more than military ones in the 'war on terror'. ( A large scale survey conducted in the US by independent bodies).
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on 10 May 2014
Failed States calls into question much of what I learned about US history in university and quite a bit of what I’ve read in the news since. It argues, convincingly, with mountains of evidence, that the United States government repeatedly sabotages democracy in the name of democracy - almost everywhere.To this end, Chomsky is relentless, but so very compelling. He starts with ideas of social equality, fairness, fundamental decency, and other common, normal tenets involving basic morality, and goes on to illustrate how Washington (along with London) and its client states (e.g. Israel) care little about decency, morality, etc. and how it repeatedly works to screw this world up. The existence of anti-American extremism in certain parts of the world, and more thoughtful forms of dissent, seem entirely natural given the United States’s recurrent brutality and disdain for fundamental fairness, human rights, etc. I’ve read about Chomsky’s contributions to linguistics (i.e. universal grammar) and have listened to him YouTube a lot, but reading him talk about politics was impressive. It was also distressing and depressing. How messed up is this world? Even more than you think. Still, I think everyone should read this book. I can’t recommend it enough. I will read Chomsky again. Failed States is dark but brilliant.

Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 September 2011
For followers of Chomsky, it seems so long ago that he challenged BF Skinner and his behaviourist theory of language acquisition and broke new linguistic ground with his deep structures and transformational grammar; having turned the linguistic world on its head, he underwent various personae, emerging as a consistent political commentator on the United States. He is an Institute Professor and Professor (Emeritus) of in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT and has worked there for over fifty years.

"Failed States", with a sub-heading of "The Abuse of Power and the Assault of Democracy", seems to hint at other countries, e.g. the Middle East, Central America or Eastern Europe. It is the United States.

In part one, he deals with ways in which the United States state power is used in in violation of international law. In part two, he looks at ways in which democracy functions and examines ways in which the United States political system is not functioning democratically.

To many, Chomsky has become a loose-cannon, firing off randomly but consistently at a great national superpower attempting to bring freedom and democracy to other nations of the world; to others, he is a unique voice arguing rationally from a deeply intellectual,scholarly and well-researched position against an aggressive and overtly imperialist world power.

A "marmite" character though he may be, over many years he has been a consistent, thoughtful critic who cannot be ignored.
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on 29 May 2014
The ancient Greeks (and many since) said that if you gave a man the finest education, which included Art, Poetry, Philosophy and Music, the result would be a man of supreme moral character. If true, then everything in this book is rubbish... you choose.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This book will give some guidance as to what ‘absolutely’ means.
Anyone wishing to understand the effect of political power on the human mind, should read this book. It shows that the human mind is incapable of being trained to cope with political power.
Like all the other Chomsky books I’ve read, it’s written for academic intellectuals. The academic language used, makes reading by the general public, like wading knee deep though treacle. It’s worth the effort to catch the bits you can understand. You just don’t come across this info anywhere else.
Great book... when is this author going to write for the general public?
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on 11 August 2009
This book should be bought by all those ignorant people that think America has and continues to spread democracy around the world. America has supported many brutal and tyrannical dictators around the world and still continues to do so even under the presidency of President Barack "Mr Change" Obama.
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on 4 November 2014
Interesting read, with a lot of good points relating to US hegemonic power and its abuses. However, Chomsky does have an issue when it comes to re-writing history, as he does often throughout the book, especially when dealing with middle eastern conflicts. He also comes across as very one sided, not always acknowledging the other argument which is equally valid. His misconception and contempt for American imperial power and foreign policy is clearly seen and is therefore, something that takes away some of the merit of this book
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on 23 August 2009
Shows you what really goes on, this book is an unfiltered masterpiece (unlike tv or newspapers)
A must read just like all his other works
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on 8 February 2016
Powerful, a must read.
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