(OPE-L) George Soros, "The Bubble of American Spremacy"

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
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 bubble—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 freedom—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 Schröder 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 reality—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
> problems—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 gathering—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 countries—Italy, Germany, Great
> Britain—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 leadership—or at least the
> participation—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.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Dec 07 2003 - 00:00:00 EST