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Archive for Monday, October 4, 2004

Global insecurity increasingly linked to U.S. aggression

October 4, 2004

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— International terrorism has given rise to new ground zeros. Much of Europe and the world feel insecure, but unlike the Cold War era, a growing number of nations no longer look to the United States for leadership and sanctuary.

The Bush administration's unilateralist policies in Iraq and its perceived aloofness in many foreign capitals have left it less trusted at a time of widening global vulnerability, according to polls and interviews in more than 30 countries.

Osama bin Laden remains on the loose. Videos of hostage beheadings flicker across the Internet. North Korea and Iran are troubling nuclear omens. Many countries feel powerless to stop the world's relentless onslaught and recognize that the United States is the only nation militarily strong enough to serve as a bulwark against increasing dangers. But they also feel diplomatically impotent at convincing Washington, D.C., to adopt a more nuanced and multi-lateral strategy toward reducing threats.

"You can't go around beating the heads of everybody around the world," said Franco Pavoncello, a political scientist at Rome's John Cabot University.

One of the sharpest differences between the United States and its longtime allies is the question of when to use force. A June poll conducted in part by the German Marshall Fund of the United States found that 54 percent of Americans compared with 28 percent of Europeans believe military strength ensures peace. Seventy-three percent of Europeans, the poll found, believe the Iraq war has increased the threat of terrorism.

The disparity represents two dynamics: The world has yet to understand how 9-11 jolted America's sense of security and the United States has underestimated the international credibility it sacrificed over Iraq.

International affairs analysts suggest America's foreign policy wouldn't change significantly if Sen. John Kerry defeats President Bush in November. The issue dividing the men, as seen by much of the world, comes down to style and personality.

Although his policies have yet to be fully articulated, Kerry is considered by much of the international community as the antidote to a bullying Bush administration. Bush's recent speech at the United Nations, analysts say, reaffirmed that the president is an ideologue with little inclination for building consensus, or for diffusing terrorism through quieter means such as political and economic reforms.

"It is such a great humiliation," said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the USA and Canada Institute in Moscow, "for other countries to be in a situation where they have to swallow something they do not like. And the one who makes them swallow this doesn't even try to put a decent face on this sorry business."

World supports Kerry

The citizens of 30 of 35 countries selected from different regions, including Germany, Mexico, Italy and Argentina, support Kerry by a more than 2-to-1 margin over Bush, according to a poll by the Canadian research group, GlobeScan, and the University of Maryland. The survey also found that on average 58 percent of respondents in those countries said the Bush administration made them feel "worse" about the United States versus 19 percent who said the president's policies made them feel "better."

No balance

America's lone military superpower status and the world's security fears have conjured conspiracy theories and made Washington, D.C., a prism for disenchantment over everything from war to holes in the ozone. The grist for much of this is the lack of a significant ideological counterbalance to U.S. power. With Soviet style communism vanquished, global anxiety is emanating not from Moscow but from masked men instigating jihad and cagey regimes such as those in Tehran, Iran, and Pyongyang, North Korea.

The United States has experienced intense periods of anti-Americanism throughout its history. Latin and South American regimes, for example, often consider Washington an imperialist troublemaker. In his book "The Sewers of the Empire," a best seller in Buenos Aires last spring, Spanish writer Santiago Camacho tell his readers the United States is a sham democracy run by secret societies, multi-national corporations and a "ministry of lies" operating out of the White House.

Despite such ill will, however, many capitals acknowledge that no other nation has the resources, technology and military force to combat al-Qaida, root out weapons of mass destruction and reign in reckless governments. U.S. troops protected Europe and South Korea against communist regimes for decades. And, although the international community condemned the invasion of Iraq, the war highlighted how U.S. military superiority can destroy rogue regimes.

"Think about it for a split second," said Kirill Dolinsky, a post-graduate biology student in Moscow. "The U.S. is paying its own money and exposing its own citizens to lethal danger just to make sure the rest of the world can sleep in peace and quiet, knowing that Saddam's or North Korea's missiles won't land in your courtyard one night."

North Korea threat

A dynamic of Japan's relationship with the United States is based on such anxiety. Tokyo fears nuclear strikes from North Korea's unpredictable leader Kim Jong II. Pyongyang last week vowed to turn Japan into a "nuclear sea of fire" if Washington moves against Jong. The Japanese consider U.S. military and diplomatic clout as paramount to stemming the threat. Moreover, the Japanese Foreign Ministry regards its deployment of 550 troops to Iraq as a small offering to ensure U.S. protection.

"Very few serious people believe Japan can deal with North Korea on its own without the U.S.," said Glen Fukushima, a Tokyo-based telecommunications executive and former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

Others question the intent of U.S. military power and suggest that Bush's rhetoric of a world under siege is an exaggeration when weighed against history and Europe's experience with its own terrorists.

"Europe has become safer," said Peter Rudolf, an analyst with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, and a child of the Cold War. "There are terrorist threats, but when I grew up we lived under the shadow of destruction in Germany. The American role as a protector, or as a pacifier is a role of the past."

The European Union wants to strengthen the continent's role in world affairs -- some say to complement, others suggest to contain, U.S. ambitions. Seventy-one percent of Europeans believe the EU should become a superpower, according to the German Marshall Fund poll. Converting such aspirations into reality appears unlikely any time soon as 47 percent of people polled withdrew support for such an idea if it meant higher military spending.

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