Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chomsky proves Newton's Law

Noam Chomsky addressed an audience of about 1,000 in UCD last night. I would have liked to see him in action but the event was sold out weeks in advance. Hopefully, the lecture will be broadcast on TV at some future date.

According to the Irish Times he lambasted the British and US administrations, as well as most of the media. Well, at least we might have agreed on the latter point.

He’s also reported as saying that Iran would be crazy not to want to develop nuclear weapons when it feels threatened by two nuclear powers in the US and Israel. I doubt if either is contemplating a nuclear strike but clearly “conventional” military action is not ruled out.

However, he’s pointing to something important and almost universal. I suggest it’s Newton’s Third Law of Motion: To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, but adapted for political application.

Thus the reaction may be neither equal or opposite, but will almost invariably be disproportionate - too much or too little, too early or too late. The important thing is that action or the perceived threat of action will inevitably generate a reaction of some sort. The risk of rapid escalation is significant, as each side's "defensive" moves are perceived as "offensive" by the other side, creating a dangerous action/reaction cycle.

Chomsky would probably recommend the initial part of Newtons First Law of Motion as a model for international relations: Every body continues in its state of rest or motion in a straight line unless compelled to change that state by external forces exerted upon it.

I have little doubt that the rise in religious fundamentalism in the US is, at least in part, another example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion - fueled by the rise of the permissive society and the consequent decline in moral standards.

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