Date: Fri Dec 05 2003 - 18:46:49 EST
It is unusual, even when there is a split over policy within the ruling class, to see this sharp a criticism of state policy by a figure with Soros's economic clout (he is a multi- billionaire and one of the wealthiest individuals in the US and the world). The idea of a _political_ bubble is an interesting one .... In solidarity, Jerry > GEORGE SOROS-- The Bubble of American Supremacy > The Atlantic Monthly | December 2003 > > A prominent financier argues that the heedless assertion of American > power > in the world resembles a financial bubbleâ€”and the moment of > truth may be > here > > by George Soros > > It is generally agreed that September 11, 2001, changed the course of > history. But we must ask ourselves why that should be so. How could a > single > event, even one involving 3,000 civilian casualties, have such a > far-reaching effect? The answer lies not so much in the event itself > as in > the way the United States, under the leadership of President George W. > Bush, > responded to it. > > Admittedly, the terrorist attack was historic in its own right. > Hijacking fully fueled airliners and using them as suicide bombs was > an audacious idea, and its execution could not have been more > spectacular. The destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade > Center made a symbolic statement that reverberated around the world, > and the fact that people could > watch the event on their television sets endowed it with an emotional > impact > that no terrorist act had ever achieved before. The aim of terrorism > is to > terrorize, and the attack of September 11 fully accomplished this > objective. > > Even so, September 11 could not have changed the course of history to > the extent that it has if President Bush had not responded to it the > way he did. > He declared war on terrorism, and under that guise implemented a > radical foreign-policy agenda whose underlying principles predated the > tragedy. Those principles can be summed up as follows: International > relations are relations of power, not law; power prevails and law > legitimizes what prevails. The United States is unquestionably the > dominant power in the post-Cold War world; it is therefore in a > position to impose its views, interests, and values. The world would > benefit from adopting those values, > because the American model has demonstrated its superiority. The > Clinton and > first Bush Administrations failed to use the full potential of > American power. This must be corrected; the United States must find a > way to assert > its supremacy in the world. > > This foreign policy is part of a comprehensive ideology customarily > referred > to as neoconservatism, though I prefer to describe it as a crude form > of social Darwinism. I call it crude because it ignores the role of > cooperation > in the survival of the fittest, and puts all the emphasis on > competition. In > economic matters the competition is between firms; in international > relations it is between states. In economic matters social Darwinism > takes > the form of market fundamentalism; in international relations it is > now leading to the pursuit of American supremacy. > > Not all the members of the Bush Administration subscribe to this > ideology, > but neoconservatives form an influential group within it. They > publicly called for the invasion of Iraq as early as 1998. Their ideas > originated in > the Cold War and were further elaborated in the post-Cold War era. > Before September 11 the ideologues were hindered in implementing their > strategy by > two considerations: George W. Bush did not have a clear mandate (he > became > President by virtue of a single vote in the Supreme Court), and > America did > not have a clearly defined enemy that would have justified a dramatic > increase in military spending. > > September 11 removed both obstacles. President Bush declared war on > terrorism, and the nation lined up behind its President. Then the Bush > Administration proceeded to exploit the terrorist attack for its own > purposes. It fostered the fear that has gripped the country in order > to keep > the nation united behind the President, and it used the war on > terrorism to > execute an agenda of American supremacy. That is how September 11 > changed the course of history. > > Exploiting an event to further an agenda is not in itself > reprehensible. It > is the task of the President to provide leadership, and it is only > natural > for politicians to exploit or manipulate events so as to promote their > policies. The cause for concern lies in the policies that Bush is > promoting, > and in the way he is going about imposing them on the United States > and the > world. He is leading us in a very dangerous direction. > > The supremacist ideology of the Bush Administration stands in > opposition to > the principles of an open society, which recognize that people have > different views and that nobody is in possession of the ultimate > truth. The > supremacist ideology postulates that just because we are stronger than > others, we know better and have right on our side. The very first > sentence > of the September 2002 National Security Strategy (the President's > annual laying out to Congress of the country's security objectives) > reads, "The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty > and > totalitarianism > ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedomâ€”and a > single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and > free enterprise." > > The assumptions behind this statement are false on two counts. First, > there > is no single sustainable model for national success. Second, the > American model, which has indeed been successful, is not available to > others, because > our success depends greatly on our dominant position at the center of > the global capitalist system, and we are not willing to yield it. > > The Bush doctrine, first enunciated in a presidential speech at West > Point > in June of 2002, and incorporated into the National Security Strategy > three > months later, is built on two pillars: the United States will do > everything > in its power to maintain its unquestioned military supremacy; and the > United > States arrogates the right to pre-emptive action. In effect, the > doctrine establishes two classes of sovereignty: the sovereignty of > the United States, which takes precedence over international treaties > and > obligations; > and the sovereignty of all other states, which is subject to the will > of the > United States. This is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm: all > animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. > > To be sure, the Bush doctrine is not stated so starkly; it is shrouded > in doublespeak. The doublespeak is needed because of the contradiction > between > the Bush Administration's concept of freedom and democracy and the > actual principles and requirements of freedom and democracy. Talk of > spreading democracy looms large in the National Security Strategy. But > when President > Bush says, as he does frequently, that freedom will prevail, he means > that > America will prevail. In a free and open society, people are supposed > to decide for themselves what they mean by freedom and democracy, and > not simply follow America's lead. The contradiction is especially > apparent in the case of Iraq, and the occupation of Iraq has brought > the issue home. We > came as liberators, bringing freedom and democracy, but that is not > how we > are perceived by a large part of the population. > > It is ironic that the government of the most successful open society > in the > world should have fallen into the hands of people who ignore the first > principles of open society. At home Attorney General John Ashcroft has > used > the war on terrorism to curtail civil liberties. Abroad the United > States is > trying to impose its views and interests through the use of military > force. > The invasion of Iraq was the first practical application of the Bush > doctrine, and it has turned out to be counterproductive. A chasm has > opened > between America and the rest of the world. > > The size of the chasm is impressive. On September 12, 2001, a special > meeting of the North Atlantic Council invoked Article 5 of the NATO > Treaty > for the first time in the alliance's history, calling on all member > states > to treat the terrorist attack on the United States as an attack upon > their > own soil. The United Nations promptly endorsed punitive U.S. action > against > al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. A little more than a year later the United > States > could not secure a UN resolution to endorse the invasion of Iraq. > Gerhard SchrÃ¶der won re-election in Germany by refusing to > cooperate with the United > States. In South Korea an underdog candidate was elected to the > presidency > because he was considered the least friendly to the United States; > many South Koreans regard the United States as a greater danger to > their security > than North Korea. A large majority throughout the world opposed the > war on > Iraq. > > September 11 introduced a discontinuity into American foreign policy. > Violations of American standards of behavior that would have been > considered > objectionable in ordinary times became accepted as appropriate to the > circumstances. The abnormal, the radical, and the extreme have been > redefined as normal. The advocates of continuity have been pursuing a > rearguard action ever since. > > To explain the significance of the transition, I should like to draw > on my > experience in the financial markets. Stock markets often give rise to > a boom-bust process, or bubble. Bubbles do not grow out of thin air. > They have > a basis in realityâ€”but reality as distorted by a misconception. > Under normal > conditions misconceptions are self-correcting, and the markets tend > toward > some kind of equilibrium. Occasionally, a misconception is reinforced > by a > trend prevailing in reality, and that is when a boom-bust process gets > under > way. Eventually the gap between reality and its false interpretation > becomes > unsustainable, and the bubble bursts. > > Exactly when the boom-bust process enters far-from-equilibrium > territory can > be established only in retrospect. During the self-reinforcing phase > participants are under the spell of the prevailing bias. Events seem > to confirm their beliefs, strengthening their misconceptions. This > widens the > gap and sets the stage for a moment of truth and an eventual reversal. > When > that reversal comes, it is liable to have devastating consequences. > This course of events seems to have an inexorable quality, but a > boom-bust process can be aborted at any stage, and the adverse effects > can be reduced > or avoided altogether. Few bubbles reach the extremes of the > information-technology boom that ended in 2000. The sooner the process > is aborted, the better. > > The quest for American supremacy qualifies as a bubble. The dominant > position the United States occupies in the world is the element of > reality > that is being distorted. The proposition that the United States will > be better off if it uses its position to impose its values and > interests everywhere is the misconception. It is exactly by not > abusing its power that > America attained its current position. > > Where are we in this boom-bust process? The deteriorating situation in > Iraq > is either the moment of truth or a test that, if it is successfully > overcome, will only reinforce the trend. > > Whatever the justification for removing Saddam Hussein, there can be > no doubt that we invaded Iraq on false pretenses. Wittingly or > unwittingly, President Bush deceived the American public and Congress > and rode roughshod > over the opinions of our allies. The gap between the Administration's > expectations and the actual state of affairs could not be wider. It is > difficult to think of a recent military operation that has gone so > wrong. Our soldiers have been forced to do police duty in combat gear, > and they continue to be killed. We have put at risk not only our > soldiers' lives but > the combat effectiveness of our armed forces. Their morale is > impaired, and > we are no longer in a position to properly project our power. Yet > there are > more places than ever before where we might have legitimate need to > project > that power. North Korea is openly building nuclear weapons, and Iran > is clandestinely doing so. The Taliban is regrouping in Afghanistan. > The costs > of occupation and the prospect of permanent war are weighing heavily > on our > economy, and we are failing to address many festering > problemsâ€”domestic and > global. If we ever needed proof that the dream of American supremacy > is misconceived, the occupation of Iraq has provided it. If we fail to > heed the > evidence, we will have to pay a heavier price in the future. > > Meanwhile, largely as a result of our preoccupation with supremacy, > something has gone fundamentally wrong with the war on terrorism. > Indeed, war is a false metaphor in this context. Terrorists do pose a > threat to our > national and personal security, and we must protect ourselves. Many of > the > measures we have taken are necessary and proper. It can even be argued > that > not enough has been done to prevent future attacks. But the war being > waged > has little to do with ending terrorism or enhancing homeland security; > on the contrary, it endangers our security by engendering a vicious > circle of > escalating violence. > > The terrorist attack on the United States could have been treated as a > crime > against humanity rather than an act of war. Treating it as a crime > would have been more appropriate. Crimes require police work, not > military action. > Protection against terrorism requires precautionary measures, > awareness, and > intelligence gatheringâ€”all of which ultimately depend on the > support of the > populations among which the terrorists operate. Imagine for a moment > that September 11 had been treated as a crime. We would not have > invaded Iraq, and we would not have our military struggling to perform > police work and getting shot at. > > Declaring war on terrorism better suited the purposes of the Bush > Administration, because it invoked military might; but this is the > wrong way > to deal with the problem. Military action requires an identifiable > target, > preferably a state. As a result the war on terrorism has been directed > primarily against states harboring terrorists. Yet terrorists are by > definition non-state actors, even if they are often sponsored by > states. > > The war on terrorism as pursued by the Bush Administration cannot be > won. On > the contrary, it may bring about a permanent state of war. Terrorists > will > never disappear. They will continue to provide a pretext for the > pursuit of > American supremacy. That pursuit, in turn, will continue to generate > resistance. Further, by turning the hunt for terrorists into a war, we > are > bound to create innocent victims. The more innocent victims there are, > the > greater the resentment and the better the chances that some victims > will turn into perpetrators. > > The terrorist threat must be seen in proper perspective. Terrorism is > not new. It was an important factor in nineteenth-century Russia, and > it had a > great influence on the character of the czarist regime, enhancing the > importance of secret police and justifying authoritarianism. More > recently > several European countriesâ€”Italy, Germany, Great > Britainâ€”had to contend with > terrorist gangs, and it took those countries a decade or more to root > them > out. But those countries did not live under the spell of terrorism > during all that time. Granted, using hijacked planes for suicide > attacks is something new, and so is the prospect of terrorists with > weapons of mass destruction. To come to terms with these threats will > take some > adjustment; > but the threats cannot be allowed to dominate our existence. > Exaggerating them will only make them worse. The most powerful country > on earth cannot afford to be consumed by fear. To make the war on > terrorism the > centerpiece > of our national strategy is an abdication of our responsibility as the > leading nation in the world. Moreover, by allowing terrorism to become > our > principal preoccupation, we are playing into the terrorists' hands. > They are > setting our priorities. > > A recent Council on Foreign Relations publication sketches out three > alternative national-security strategies. The first calls for the > pursuit of > American supremacy through the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military > action. > It is advocated by neoconservatives. The second seeks the continuation > of our earlier policy of deterrence and containment. It is advocated > by Colin > Powell and other moderates, who may be associated with either > political party. The third would have the United States lead a > cooperative effort to > improve the world by engaging in preventive actions of a constructive > character. It is not advocated by any group of significance, although > President Bush pays lip service to it. That is the policy I stand for. > > The evidence shows the first option to be extremely dangerous, and I > believe > that the second is no longer practical. The Bush Administration has > done too > much damage to our standing in the world to permit a return to the > status quo. Moreover, the policies pursued before September 11 were > clearly inadequate for dealing with the problems of globalization. > Those problems require collective action. The United States is > uniquely positioned to lead > the effort. We cannot just do anything we want, as the Iraqi situation > demonstrates, but nothing much can be done in the way of international > cooperation without the leadershipâ€”or at least the > participationâ€”of the > United States. > > Globalization has rendered the world increasingly interdependent, but > international politics is still based on the sovereignty of states. > What goes on within individual states can be of vital interest to the > rest of the > world, but the principle of sovereignty militates against interfering > in their internal affairs. How to deal with failed states and > oppressive, corrupt, and inept regimes? How to get rid of the likes of > Saddam? There are > too many such regimes to wage war against every one. This is the great > unresolved problem confronting us today. > > I propose replacing the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military action > with preventive action of a constructive and affirmative nature. > Increased foreign aid or better and fairer trade rules, for example, > would not violate > the sovereignty of the recipients. Military action should remain a > last resort. The United States is currently preoccupied with issues of > security, > and rightly so. But the framework within which to think about security > is collective security. Neither nuclear proliferation nor > international terrorism can be successfully addressed without > international > cooperation. > The world is looking to us for leadership. We have provided it in the > past; > the main reason why anti-American feelings are so strong in the world > today > is that we are not providing it in the present.
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