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George Soros Op Ed

by rdf Tue Aug 15th, 2006 at 06:19:42 PM EST

George Soros had this editorial in the Wall Street Journal today. (I don't think there are any copyright issues since he has been emailing it around and asking people to forward it.)

It's nice to see someone with a bit of authority echoing some of the comments we have been discussing of late, specifically the use of the metaphor "war on terror".

Wall Street Journal
"A Self-Defeating War"
By George Soros

By George Soros -- The war on terror is a false metaphor that has led to counterproductive and self-defeating policies. Five years after 9/11, a misleading figure of speech applied literally has unleashed a real war fought on several fronts -- Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia -- a war that has killed thousands of innocent civilians and enraged millions around the world. Yet al Qaeda has not been subdued; a plot that could have claimed more victims than 9/11 has just been foiled by the vigilance of British intelligence.

Unfortunately, the "war on terror" metaphor was uncritically accepted by the American public as the obvious response to 9/11. It is now widely admitted that the invasion of Iraq was a blunder. But the war on terror remains the frame into which American policy has to fit. Most Democratic politicians subscribe to it for fear of being tagged as weak on defense.

What makes the war on terror self-defeating?

  • First, war by its very nature creates innocent victims. A war waged against terrorists is even more likely to claim innocent victims because terrorists tend to keep their whereabouts hidden. The deaths, injuries and humiliation of civilians generate rage and resentment among their families and communities that in turn serves to build support for terrorists.

  • Second, terrorism is an abstraction. It lumps together all political movements that use terrorist tactics. Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi army in Iraq are very different forces, but President Bush's global war on terror prevents us from differentiating between them and dealing with them accordingly. It inhibits much-needed negotiations with Iran and Syria because they are states that support terrorist groups.

  • Third, the war on terror emphasizes military action while most territorial conflicts require political solutions. And, as the British have shown, al Qaeda is best dealt with by good intelligence. The war on terror increases the terrorist threat and makes the task of the intelligence agencies more difficult. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large; we need to focus on finding them, and preventing attacks like the one foiled in England.

  • Fourth, the war on terror drives a wedge between "us" and "them." We are innocent victims. They are perpetrators. But we fail to notice that we also become perpetrators in the process; the rest of the world, however, does notice. That is how such a wide gap has arisen between America and much of the world.

Taken together, these four factors ensure that the war on terror cannot be won. An endless war waged against an unseen enemy is doing great damage to our power and prestige abroad and to our open society at home. It has led to a dangerous extension of executive powers; it has tarnished our adherence to universal human rights; it has inhibited the critical process that is at the heart of an open society; and it has cost a lot of money. Most importantly, it has diverted attention from other urgent tasks that require American leadership, such as finishing the job we so correctly began in Afghanistan, addressing the looming global energy crisis, and dealing with nuclear proliferation.

With American influence at low ebb, the world is in danger of sliding into a vicious circle of escalating violence. We can escape it only if we Americans repudiate the war on terror as a false metaphor. If we persevere on the wrong course, the situation will continue to deteriorate. It is not our will that is being tested, but our understanding of reality. It is painful to admit that our current predicaments are brought about by our own misconceptions. However, not admitting it is bound to prove even more painful in the long run. The strength of an open society lies in its ability to recognize and correct its mistakes. This is the test that confronts us.

Mr. Soros, a financier, is author of "The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror" (Public Affairs, 2006).

Will the Dem bigs listen? Or did some already respond negatively?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Aug 16th, 2006 at 06:20:35 AM EST
It's a shame. What he is saying is really only a statement of the obvious, but it seems to be something those whom we elect are unable to understand.

Alright, GWB has an excuse, but the others are by no means completely stupid.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Aug 16th, 2006 at 09:37:33 AM EST
It is not our will that is being tested, but our understanding of reality.

Great quote.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 16th, 2006 at 09:41:18 AM EST
The wind may be shifting direction. In today's NY Times Thomas (flat earth) Friedman slams the Bush administration and especially Cheney for being out of touch with reality.

He also concedes that the Dems are not in power and that therefore the problems in Iraq and high oil prices/consumption are completely the fault of those in office.

This is a major change for a long-time Bush supporter. He pleads with the admin to acknowledge the realities of the wars and the lack of an energy conservation effort.

What he still hasn't realized is that these people aren't going to change policies, it will require a new team. If, and when, he does his conversion will be complete.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Aug 16th, 2006 at 09:51:11 AM EST
Friedman, a Bush supporter? IMO he always had criticisms for Dubya, his support was (just) this side of Lieberman. Mr. "let war give a chance" is not a neocon but a neoliberal and liberal interventionist.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Aug 16th, 2006 at 10:10:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I often find it difficult to find any fundamental difference between liberal interventionist like Friedman and neocon interventionists like the crowd at The Weekly Standard. The rhetoric might be flavored a bit differently, but the practical outcome is the same. This is really not something new. It just has a new cast of players.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Wed Aug 16th, 2006 at 10:42:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
bbbut, don't the neoliberals want pretty much the same as the neocons?

and is there a non-interventionist liberal stripe?

can you be conservative and interventionist, does that require the neo-prefix?

kornfused in kansas...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Aug 18th, 2006 at 02:43:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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