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From The Asian Reporter, V15, #8 (February 22, 2005), page 15 and 16.

The bubble of American supremacy, about to burst

The Bubble of American Supremacy: The Costs of Bushís War in Iraq

By George Soros

PublicAffairs, 2004

Paperback, 207 pages, $13.00

By Pamela Ellgen

George Soros is candid about his purpose for writing The Bubble of American Supremacy ó getting President Bush out of office. The book came out in the final months before the last election, just enough time to convince the undecided and sway any reluctant Bush supporters.

While his primary purpose may have failed, he does a stunning job of highlighting the failures of the current administrationís war in Iraq. (Whether that does any good now that Bush will remain for another four years is open for debate.)

Soros begins by illustrating his conceptual framework versus that of the "neocons," one of the many terms he uses to describe the Bush camp. The difference lies primarily in Sorosís support for the idea of an open society: holding oneís beliefs as provisionally true while staying open to reexamination and keeping oneself and society open for improvement. Fueled by market fundamentalism and religious conviction, the Bush administration, Soros argues, sees the pursuit of American supremacy as tantamount to national security and national interests. He supports this judgment of the other side with a short manifesto well worth reading by anyone who casually aligns him or herself with the right. It is eye opening and foundational to the rest of Sorosís arguments.

The first half of The Bubble illustrates the myriad problems with the current war against terrorism, which has diverged into a war against Iraq. While Soros agrees that terrorism is a real and imminent threat, and believes more should be done to protect ourselves and our nation from it, he disagrees with Bushís warmongering tactics. Soros knowledgeably and confidently asserts that Bush wanted to develop Americaís missile-defense program and invoke the military from the moment he came to office, and the September 11 tragedy was the perfect excuse.

Unfortunately, these actions have created a quagmire, Soros says.

"By turning the hunt for terrorists into a war, we are bound to create some innocent victims. The more innocent victims there are, the greater the resentment and the better the chances that some victims will turn perpetrators."

In fact, Soros argues, America is a victim turned perpetrator itself. One need only glance at the numbers to discover that more people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the World Trade Center attack. This reinforces Sorosís conclusion that Bush and company see America and American lives as preeminent over the citizens of other nations.

Soros accurately highlights the declining international opinion of the U.S. following the initial wave of support following September 11, 2001. More than one-third of Britons said they found George W. Bush to be a more serious threat than Saddam.

Another consequence, Soros writes, is that "The war on terrorism is more likely to bring about a permanent state of war." The pursuit of American supremacy by military means "will continue to generate resistance, setting up a vicious circle of escalating violence."

So, should we withdraw from Iraq? Soros says no. "The outlook is grim, but we have no alternative to sticking it out and paying the price for our mistake."

The second and larger half of the book offers a more constructive vision for Americaís role in the world. This should come as an encouragement to those who, despite the recent election, desire change at the highest levels of government. Unfortunately, the constructive vision is somewhat encumbered by Sorosís lengthy lecture on globalization and international politics. Perhaps he felt this necessary to provide a foundation for the readerís understanding. And, though it seems like a diversion, it is interesting and highly informative.

Ultimately, Soros asserts that the United States is the most powerful country in the world and the driving force behind globalization. As such, it has a unique responsibility not to shamelessly pursue its own national interests, but to work systematically for the improvement of the rest of the world. The war in Iraq,

Soros argues, does not fulfill that objective. Whether or not the next four years provide any progress in this direction is yet to be determined. After reading Sorosís depiction of the situation, one certainly hopes so.


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