invasion of Iraq was the first practical application
of the pernicious Bush doctrine of pre-emptive
military action, and it elicited an allergic reaction
worldwide - not because anyone had a good word
to say about Saddam Hussein, but because we insisted
on invading Iraq unilaterally without any clear
evidence that he had anything to do with September
11 or that he possessed weapons of mass destruction.
gap in perceptions between America and the rest
of the world has never been wider. Abroad, America
is seen as abusing the dominant position it occupies;
opinion at home has been led to believe that Saddam
posed a clear and present danger to national security.
Only in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion are
people becoming aware they have been misled.
today, many people believe that September 11 justifies
behaviour that would be unacceptable in normal
times. The ideologues of American supremacy and
President Bush personally never cease to remind
us that September 11 changed the world. It is
only as the untoward consequences of the invasion
of Iraq become apparent that people are beginning
to realise something has gone woefully wrong.
have fallen into a trap. The suicide bombers'
motivation seemed incomprehensible at the time
of the attack; now a light begins to dawn: they
wanted us to react the way we did. Perhaps they
understood us better than we understand ourselves.
we have been deceived. When he stood for election
in 2000, President Bush promised a humble foreign
policy. I contend that the Bush administration
has deliberately exploited September 11 to pursue
policies that the American public would not have
otherwise tolerated. The US can lose its dominance
only as a result of its own mistakes. At present
the country is in the process of committing such
mistakes because it is in the hands of a group
of extremists whose strong sense of mission is
matched only by their false sense of certitude.
distorted view postulates that because we are
stronger than others, we must know better and
we must have right on our side. That is where
religious fundamentalism comes together with market
fundamentalism to form the ideology of American
may have more difficulty in perceiving the absurdity
of pursuing supremacy by military means, because
we have learned to rely on military power and
we particularly feel the need for it when our
very existence is threatened. But the most powerful
country on earth cannot afford to be consumed
by fear. To make the war on terrorism the centrepiece
of our national strategy is an abdication of our
responsibility as the leading nation in the world.
The US is the only country that can take the lead
in addressing problems that require collective
action: preserving peace and economic progress,
protecting the environment and so on.
the justification for removing Saddam, 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 our allies' opinions.
gap between the administration's expectations
and the actual state of affairs could not be wider.
We have put at risk not only our soldiers' lives
but the combat readiness of our armed forces.
We are overstretched and our ability to project
our power has been compromised. Yet there are
more places where we need to project our power
than ever. North Korea is openly building nuclear
weapons; Iran is doing so clandestinely. The Taliban
is regrouping in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan.
The costs of occupation and the prospect of permanent
war weigh on our economy, and we are failing to
address festering problems both at home and globally.
If we ever needed proof that the neo-cons' dream
of American supremacy is misconceived, Iraq has
is hard to imagine how the plans of the defence
department could have gone more awry. We find
ourselves in a quagmire that is in some ways reminiscent
of Vietnam. Having invaded Iraq, we cannot extricate
ourselves. Domestic pressure to withdraw is likely
to build, as in the Vietnam war, but withdrawing
would inflict irreparable damage on our standing
in the world. In this respect, Iraq is worse than
Vietnam because of our dependence on Middle East
forced us into it; on the contrary, everyone warned
us against it. Admittedly, Saddam was a heinous
tyrant and it was a good thing to get rid of him.
But at what cost? The occupying powers serve as
a focal point for attracting terrorists and radicalising
Islam. Our soldiers have to do police work in
full combat gear.
the cost of occupation is estimated at a staggering
$160bn for the the fiscal years 2003-2004 - $73bn
for 2003 and $87bn in a supplemental request for
2004 submitted at the last minute in September
2003. Of the $87bn, only $20bn is for reconstruction,
but the total cost of reconstruction is estimated
at $60bn. For comparison, our foreign aid budget
for 2002 was $10bn.
is no easy way out. The Bush administration is
eager to get the United Nations more involved
but is unwilling to make the necessary concessions.
We have no alternative to sticking it out and
paying the price for our mistake. Eventually a
different president with a different attitude
to international cooperation may be more successful
in extricating us.
US is not the only country at the centre of the
global capitalist system, but it is the most powerful
and it is the main driving force behind globalisation.
The European Union may equal the US in population
and gross national product, but it is far less
united and far less comfortable with globalisation.
In military terms, the EU does not even qualify
as a power, because members make their own decisions.
as any nation is in charge of the world order,
it is the US. That is not to suggest that other
countries are exempt from having to concern themselves
with the wellbeing of the world. Their attitudes
are not without consequence, but it is the US
that matters most.
Bush is rejected in 2004, his policies can be
written off as an aberration and America resume
its rightful place in the world. But if he is
re-elected, the electorate will have endorsed
his policies and we will have to live with the
consequences. But it isn't enough to defeat Bush
at the polls. The US must examine its global role
and adopt a more constructive vision. We cannot
merely pursue narrow, national self-interest.
Our dominant position imposes a unique responsibility.
George Soros 2004
is an edited extract from The Bubble of American
Supremacy, by George Soros, published by Weidenfeld
Posted: January 27, 2004