America the Dangerous?

Activist and financier George Soros on the global energy crisis and why he thinks the United States has become an obstacle to a stable and just world.

By Susanna Schrobsdorff
Updated: 1 hour, 21 minutes ago
June 28, 2006 - George Soros has assigned himself a daunting mission. "Changing the attitude and policies of the United States remains my top priority," he writes in the introduction to his latest book, "The Age of Fallibility" (PublicAffairs). The billionaire investor is set on convincing Americans to renounce the idea of a "war on terror" because he believes that an "endless" war against an invisible enemy is counterproductive and dangerous. He argues that since the attacks of September 11, the Bush administration has suffered from a kind of infallibility complex which impedes progress and obscures reality.

While Soros has promoted political change around the world—particularly in the former Soviet Union—he hasn't yet succeeded in his quest to crack the conservative hold on American politics. He spent more than $25 million trying to unseat president Bush in 2004. Despite that defeat, the Hungarian-born philanthropist is encouraged that American public opinion has turned against the administration's policies in Iraq and says he will throw his support behind the Democrats in this fall's midterm elections. NEWSWEEK's Susanna Schrobsdorff spoke to Soros about American foreign policy, oil and the American economy. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: You say that the main obstacle to a stable and just world is the United States. That's a pretty strong statement.
George Soros: Yes, but it happens to coincide with the prevailing opinion in the world. And I think that's rather shocking for Americans to hear. The United States sets the agenda for the world. And the rest of the world has to respond to that agenda. By declaring a "war on terror" after September the 11th, we set the wrong agenda for the world. This is something that people in America find difficult to understand because war seems like the natural response.

Why is a "war on terror" the wrong response to the attacks on the United States?
First of all because when you wage war, you inevitably create innocent victims. When you wage war on terrorists who don't announce their whereabouts, the danger of hitting the innocent people is even greater. We abhor terrorists, because they kill innocent people for political goals. But by waging war on terror we are doing the same thing. And the people who are on the receiving end see us in the same light with the same negative attitude as we have towards terrorists. It's also a threat to our democracy. Because when you wage war, the president can appropriate for himself excessive powers. He can call anyone who criticizes his policies unpatriotic. That undermines the critical process of an open society and that is how we made this tremendous blunder of invading Iraq.

Polls indicate that American public opinion on Iraq has changed.
People in America now realize that the invasion of Iraq was a disaster. But we still think that the war on terror is the natural and obvious way to deal with the terrorist threat. But it's a counterproductive policy that has done untold damage to our standing in the world and to ourselves. No outside power, or alliance of powers could really endanger our dominant position, but our own stupidity can do it and has done [it].

You've gotten some flack for comparing Republican election tactics to Nazi propaganda. Do you consider yourself patriotic?
Yes. I chose America as the country I want to live in. America has set certain standards of behavior which we have lately abandoned. But those values attracted millions of immigrants and we need to recapture them.CONTINUED
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