The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, June 07, 2004

The Soros Doctrine?

The Dems' favourite sugar-daddy George Soros got right-wing media smearing wildly [1] with his speech on foreign policy (DOC) last week.

But what of the substance? It's not the clearest piece of prose in the world. But, after the formalities, he lights into the Bush doctrine (emphasis mine)
It's built on two pillars. One, that the United States must maintain its absolute military superiority in every part of the world and, second, that the United States has the right for preemptive action. Now, both these propositions taken on their own are quite valid propositions. But if you put them together, they establish two kinds of sovereignty in the world. One, where the sovereignty of the United States, which is in violate, not subject to any international constraints, and the rest of the world which is subject to the Bush doctrine.

Does he really mean that?

First, does the US have absolute military superiority in, say, China right now? Is that a phrase with a generally recognised technical meaning? (A cursory search suggests not [2].) Since the very notion of superiority is a relative concept, what does absolute add to the phrase?

And superior over how many nations at the same time? Some time ago, there used to be the two-war standard. The US would be superior to two nations at a time, and the rest were expected to take a number!

Second, any reference to pre-emption causes concern round here. And Soros seems to be approving pre-emption [3].

And then we go for an extended detour, via his Hungarian past, the influence of Karl Popper, his financial and philanthropic achievements - moolah has its privileges.

On page 5, we get back to international relations: he calls the system that Bush and the neocons took to an extreme dual political realism - it's not, unfortunately, an expression known to Mr Google. He says the Bush policy has it that
The United States is the most powerful and therefore it must use this power to impose itself on the world.
But the limits of military power have been shown up in Iraq - where the US has clear military superiority, but is nevertheless in difficulties controlling the country.

He likens the Bush post-9/11 foreign policy to the dotcom bubble - burst by failure in post-war Iraq.

Finally, at the end of a 3,000 word speech, he allows himself 300 words to suggest a policy alternative.

Like Kerry, he stresses cooperation:
We can't do just whatever we want, but there can be no cooperative effort without our participation and leadership. So we must change our attitude, and recognize the need to work together, and to correct the deficiencies, to improve our arrangements for security.

His final graf addresses the intervention issue (emphasis mine):
How to deal with the likes of Saddam is the great unresolved problem of our world order. The way we went about it makes it more difficult to deal with that problem. We must change that approach, and but we must help to develop better methods of intervening when it is necessary. We must not turn away from the world, because we are increasingly interdependent, and what happens, what kind of regime prevails in Iraq or Afghanistan does have a great bearing on our security and on our prosperity. So we must develop ways of intervening when there is a repressive regime or a rogue state, or a failed state. But we cannot do it alone, we must do it in cooperation with others.

His three classes of intervention candidates must run into several dozen countries. Won't President Kerry be a busy beaver!

And others sounds as if Soros would be satisfied by Bush-style coalitions of the willing, rather than demanding prior UN authorisation.

Of course, Soros isn't writing Kerry's foreign policy commitments. But he can warm the climate towards intervention, and that is worrying.

  1. As retailed on Media Matters, for instance.

  2. It's not used in the Bush National Security Strategy document of September 2002. The only use of the word superiority occurs in a passage referring to rogue states:
    Such states also see these weapons as their best means of overcoming the conventional superiority of the United States.
  3. I assume we're not talking about the sort of pre-emption allowed under the Caroline rule. But, rather, the sort of preventative action taken in Iraq, and, in 1981, by the Israelis in bombing Saddam's nuclear facility at Osirak (Osiraq).


I've previously discussed Kerry and pre-emptive war on April 27 and May 30.

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