`Ugly American' back on display

March 05, 2003|By Jules Witcover

WASHINGTON - Let's see now, which countries are at odds with us over our foreign policy? There's France and Germany, of course, and Belgium, Turkey, Canada, the Philippines and South Korea. And these are just our friends and allies.

The first three are flat-out against an American invasion of Iraq without further U.N. inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's hands.

Turkey's parliament has rejected giving the United States use of Turkish soil from which to attack northern Iraq. As a result, Pentagon war planners face having to scramble plans in the event it's necessary to hit the region from more distant Kuwait to the south.

The Canadians are disturbed over an increased flow of Pakistani nationals from the United States fearful of U.S. immigration crackdowns and seeking entry into Canada. And the Philippines has blocked a planned military operation using U.S. forces against militant Muslims on its soil as contrary to its constitution.

The South Koreans are distressed that the Bush administration is resisting unilateral talks with North Korea to resolve what Secretary of State Colin L. Powell describes as a non-crisis over its resumption of a nuclear weapons program. Seoul seems unable to understand why President Bush, who seems so ready to invade Iraq with only a modest "coalition of the willing," demands multilateral negotiation on the Korean front.

Then there's China, Russia and just about all of the countries in the Middle East and Africa - either the governments or the people in the streets or both - who are digging in against the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive wars of "anticipatory self-defense."

Such is the current progress report on international support and cooperation with the United States on the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq. Against this lineup are only Britain, Spain and former satellite states of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe grateful to Uncle Sam for leading the way to their entry into NATO and whose arms have been twisted.

Meanwhile, anti-American or at least anti-Bush sentiment across the globe is giving peace advocates a field day. The demonstrators are dismissed by critics as left-wing fanatics and their crowd estimates of up to 12 million on Feb. 15 as wildly inflated. But few dispute that the outpouring was surprising. More and bigger demonstrations are being planned if the invasion starts.

For all this, Mr. Powell, the supposed guardian of American foreign policy as secretary of state, is still widely regarded as the voice of reasonableness in an administration led by a man seen abroad as having lost all reason.

Mr. Powell effectively detoured Mr. Bush's rush to war through the United Nations in the fall, but he has since played the good soldier in forcefully carrying Mr. Bush's mail for an end to inspections and a start to the pre-emptive war in Iraq.

After months of making the case for disarmament as the chief justification for military action, Mr. Powell now has swallowed the real Bush objective of "regime change." That's anathema to most other U.N. members who still believe it's not the world organization's role to decide on the leadership of any sovereign state.

While essentially embracing Mr. Bush's go-it-almost-alone policy toward Saddam Hussein, Mr. Powell has simultaneously taken on the role of point man in pleading for a multilateral approach against North Korea. The contradiction doesn't seem to faze him.

He finds himself running a State Department and a foreign policy that appears to go out of its way to offend, whether friend or foe, in spite of his personal reputation as a conciliator. For all his own efforts to the contrary, the "ugly American" of yesteryear is back in the eyes of hostile millions abroad, and his name is not Colin Powell.

Jules Witcover writes from The Sun's Washington bureau. His column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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