In New US Foreign Policy, Unlikely Friends and Foes

By Hughes, John | The Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 2001 | Go to article overview

In New US Foreign Policy, Unlikely Friends and Foes


Hughes, John, The Christian Science Monitor


With the events of Sept. 11, US foreign policy has been turned upside down.

On that day, a savage attack by hate-filled terrorists brought a new kind of war to American soil and caused an overnight reappraisal of America's worldwide goals, friends, and foes.

The immediate goal became the defeat of those who had murdered thousands of innocent people - most of them American civilians - and who proclaimed the intent of murdering more.

Enlisted in this cause was an unlikely grouping of nations ranging from such stalwart democratic allies as Britain to former cold-war enemies like Russia to bewildering theocracies like Iran (yes, Iran!), which dislikes Taliban-style terrorism but not Hamas and Hizbullah-style terrorism.

Some of these uneasy coalitionists joined up because it was the right and principled thing to do. Some feared terrorism in their own backyards. Some feared the wrath of the United States if they didn't declare their allegiance. Terrorist-harboring countries like Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen were quick to proclaim their newly developed antiterrorism bona fides. Some governments were quick to offer tangible support. They included those of Germany and Japan, sensitive since World War II to foreign military commitments. And some presumed American friends, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, luke- warmly professed fidelity while muting their public support.

For President Bush, the ideological and democratic coloration of such nations was not the critical factor. The litmus test was whether they could and would help in defeating the immediate challenge of terrorism. Just as Roosevelt and Churchill wooed Stalinist Russia, hardly a champion of democracy, to their side in defeating Nazism, so did Mr. Bush recruit some less-than-engaging members of this melange to support him internationally in the war against terrorism even as he suborned the questionable Northern Alliance to spearhead the war against the unquestionably more-evil Taliban in Afghanistan.

It was an understandable political imperative, which, with a so- far brilliant military campaign, has served the United States well.

Osama bin Laden, of course, rails against democratic America's support of undemocratic regimes such as those in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as Israel (ironically, a lonely democracy in the Middle East). Never mind that Mr. bin Laden's own goal is not democracy, but the destruction of such democratic societies as exist in America and Israel. Never mind that his goal is not the implanting of democracy in Egypt and Saudi Arabia but the replacement of the regimes there by narrow Taliban-like dictatorships that would serve his Islamic extremist will. …

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