geert lovink on Thu, 27 Mar 2003 09:14:57 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> George Soros: An Allergic Reaction To The Bush Doctrine

An Allergic Reaction To The Bush Doctrine

George Soros is chairman of the Open Society Institute and of Soros Fund

Iraq is the first instance in which the Bush doctrine is being applied, and
it is provoking an allergic reaction. The doctrine is built on two pillars:
First, the United States will do everything in its power to maintain
unquestioned military supremacy; second, it arrogates the right to
preemptive action. These pillars support two classes of sovereignty:
American sovereignty, which takes precedence over international treaties;
and the sovereignty of all other states, which is subject to the Bush
doctrine. This is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm: All animals
are equal but some are more equal than others.

The Bush doctrine is grounded in the belief that international relations are
relations of power; legality and legitimacy are decorations. This belief is
not entirely false but it exaggerates one aspect of reality -- military
power -- at the exclusion of others.

I see a parallel between the Bush administration's pursuit of American
supremacy and a boom-bust process or bubble in the stock market. Bubbles do
not grow out of thin air. They have a solid basis in reality but reality is
distorted by misconception. In this case, the dominant position of the
United States is the reality, the pursuit of supremacy the misconception.
Reality can reinforce the misconception but eventually the gap between
reality and its false interpretation becomes unsustainable. During the
self-reinforcing phase, the misconception may be tested and reinforced. This
widens the gap leading to an eventual reversal. The later it comes, the more
devastating the consequences.

This course of events seems inexorable but a boom-bust process can be
aborted at any stage and few of them reach the extremes of the recent stock
market bubble. The sooner the process is aborted, the better. This is how I
view the Bush administration's pursuit of American supremacy.

President George W. Bush came into office with a coherent strategy based on
market fundamentalism and military power. But before 9/11 he lacked a clear
mandate or a well-defined enemy. The terrorist attack changed all that.
Terrorism is the ideal enemy. It is invisible and therefore never
disappears. An enemy that poses a genuine and recognized threat can
effectively hold a nation together. That is particularly useful when the
prevailing ideology is based on the unabashed pursuit of self-interest. Mr.
Bush's administration deliberately fosters fear because it helps to keep the
nation lined up behind the president. We have come a long way from Franklin
D. Roosevelt's dictum that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

But the war on terrorism cannot be accepted as the guiding principle of U.S.
foreign policy. What will happen to the world if the most powerful country
on earth is solely preoccupied with self-preservation?

The Bush policies have already caused severe unintended adverse
consequences. The Atlantic Alliance is in a shambles and the European Union
divided. The United States is a fearful giant throwing its weight around.
Afghanistan has been liberated but law and order have not been established
beyond Kabul. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict festers. Beyond Iraq, an even
more dangerous threat looms in North Korea.

The global economy is in recession, stocks are in a bear market and the
dollar is in decline. In the United States, there has been a dramatic shift
from budget surplus to deficit. It is difficult to find a time when
political and economic conditions have deteriorated as rapidly.

The game is not yet over. A rapid victory in Iraq with little loss of life
could cause a dramatic reversal. The price of oil could fall; the stock
market could celebrate; consumers could overcome their anxieties and resume
spending; and business could respond by stepping up capital expenditure.
America would end its dependency on Saudi Arabian oil, the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict could become more tractable and negotiations
with North Korea could be started without a loss of face. This is what Mr.
Bush is counting on.

Military victory in Iraq would be the easy part. It is what follows that
should give us pause. In a boom-bust process, passing an early test tends to
reinforce the misconception that has given rise to it. That could happen

Let us hope that... war will be swift and claim few lives. Removing Mr.
Hussein is a good thing, yet the way Mr. Bush is going about it must be
condemned. America must play a more constructive role if humanity is to make
any progress.

(This article first appeared in The Financial Times on March 13, 2003)

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