After months of looking to its own resources for dealing with
international challenges, the US this summer is turning more to the
rest of the world - though perhaps out of pragmatism rather than
conviction. From Iraq to Liberia to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, the United States is confronting the limits of
superpowerdom. And a world that just months ago was most fearful of
a US "going it alone" is being called on increasingly to share in
the burdens of intervention.
On Iraq, the US is stepping up efforts to enlist foreign-troop -
and financial - contributions to help police and underwrite the
country's costly reconstruction. With a major donors' conference set
for October, US officials are seeking to warm the world toward
participating in Iraq.
For Liberia, President Bush has dispatched three ships of about
2,500 marines to the Liberian coast, to arrive as soon as the end of
this week. Although their exact assignment remains unclear, the
troops are expected to give logistical support to West African
peacekeepers, primarily from Nigeria.
As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's White House visit
Tuesday underscored, Mr. Bush is pursuing a deepening personal
commitment to husband the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But in
meeting both Mr. Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister
Mahmoud Abbas, who called at the White House last week, Bush
demonstrated that while the US can push the two sides toward
compromise, it alone can do little to require a settlement.
"This administration's approach to the world is 'unilateral if we
can and multilateral if we must' and what's happening now is a
situation where they're deciding we 'must,' " says Lawrence Korb, a
Reagan administration official now with the Council on Foreign
Relations in New York.
In Iraq, "They would have liked to be able to handle it without
worrying about the United Nations and the rest of the world, but
when you need more troops and money to secure things than you
planned on, you realize you're going to need help," adds Mr. Korb.
The return of a multilateral tilt signifies a correction after
the Iraq war, according to some analysts. These observers also say
it reveals how the US has lost ground in some central goals, and is
now playing catch-up. One of those buffeted priorities is the
international war on terrorism.
"A year ago, the administration had done a pretty good job
especially on the foreign-policy side of the war on terrorism: There
was a lot of international support and focus on Al Qaeda," says
Stephen Walt, an international-relations expert at the Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. "But
they took a sharp right turn towards Baghdad, and that has made it
more difficult to get cooperation on terrorism. …