"Power should be checked with power."
America's preemptive attack on Iraq was an act of unchecked power, George Soros says. Riding the wave of patriotism that followed 9-11, President Bush was able to unleash his political agenda and the nation's military might to make the invasion happen. Not only did he use the emotion of the nation to dodge a domestic power check, but he used America's trust to brush past the international community, as well.
Soros, a powerful philanthropist, international investor and author, addressed the issue of Bush's misallocation of power in a lecture at Duke University on Feb. 17. The lecture was named after his new book, The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power.
As founder of the Soros foundation and the Open Society Institution, Soros oversees the spending of more than $400 million annually to promote open societies throughout the world. His fortune earned him the 28th spot in Forbes magazine's ranking of the richest Americans. Soros has used these funds to become the single largest donor to Democratic causes.
With unlimited financial resources, Soros is no stranger to power.
With this background, Soros addressed the dangers of misusing power. He referred to the United States as "the king of the global system," a regal position that he says Bush has abused. The root of this abuse, he says, is Bush's adherence to a crude form of social Darwinism. In a global rendition of survival of the fittest, Bush has set out to insure the United States takes all.
"In order to maintain our power, we [the United States] must have a different definition of power," Soros said. "The fittest has to be able to cooperate and get people to buy into the system."
Bush's agenda of perpetuating fear, dodging international institutions and engaging in preemptive war seems the antithesis of this cooperative model.
Robert Keohane, a political science professor at Duke and one of four men on a panel at Soros' lecture, expanded on Soros' ideas of global collaboration.
Keohane argued that international institutions that govern the global community should be given the authority to limit the unchecked power the Bush Administration has assumed in its winner-take-all philosophy.
"We need effective institutions against the pursuit of self-interest and for common interest," Keohane said.
To accomplish this power shift, Keohane said the American public must rethink where it obtains cues about political decisions. Because people cannot know about every political issue, the collective citizenry looks to authority figures for guidance.
In the case of Iraq, the American public heeded the fluctuating word of the President. Bush first rationalized war as a response to Iraq's connection with al Queda. When no connection was found, Bush turned the collective attention to weapons of mass destruction. When that proved fruitless, Bush announced Iraqi democracy was the goal of the war. Without looking to the international community, America accepted these wavering causes.
However, Keohane argued that if America had looked to international institutions, such as the United Nations, more people would have questioned Bush's flex of self-interest and power. Although the U.S. media shied away from critical reports, the international community was unwilling to accept Bush's plan. Despite the international backlash, global opinion failed to sway the collective consciousness of American voters. However, Soros seemed hopeful that America could regain respect from the international community by removing Bush from office.
"If Bush were thrown out," Soros said, "we could resume our place as a powerful but peace-loving nation."