Jewish World Review Sept. 11, 2003 / 14 Elul, 5763

Jim Hoagland

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What's going right | For two years the United States has waged a furious campaign to put the forces of terrorism on the defensive in the Middle East and Central Asia. The second anniversary of 9/11 marks an appropriate moment for the Bush administration to consolidate the gains it has achieved and mold them into a strategy of regional containment.

Until Sunday night President Bush was clearer on vision than on strategy in describing his intentions in Afghanistan and Iraq. But his somber speech to the nation, and an earlier decision to seek greater involvement of the United Nations in Iraq, indicate new and more focused thinking at the White House.

Absent Sunday was the off-putting hubris that followed the quick collapse of Saddam Hussein's regular army last spring. The president also put aside his sweeping vision of democracy flowering throughout the Middle East if things go well in Iraq. He spoke instead of the financial burden that Americans must shoulder to make sure things do go well in Iraq.

The $87 billion price tag that Bush finally put on the next phases of the pacification of Iraq and Afghanistan seems to have been taken in stride by the public, according to initial vox populi interviews of citizens conducted by newspapers and broadcast media.

The new sea of red ink is depicted and broadly accepted as one more obstacle to be navigated in the challenging new world ushered in by al Qaeda's airborne attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The measured public response is another indicator of the failure of the crazed dream of Osama bin Laden's band of fanatics to bring the United States to its knees through spectacular terror strikes here and abroad.

Terrorism operates from a template. It is intended to provoke paralyzing fear, anger and humiliation and to break the will of a population on which atrocities are visited. But the reaction to terror once the initial outrage and horror fade is far less predictable than the terrorists imagine.

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Some societies do break apart on existing fault lines, as Lebanon did in the 1970s and as the car bombers of Baghdad and Najaf hope Iraq will. But other nations adjust and contain the terrorist threat, as Britain did against the Irish Republican Army, as India has in Kashmir and as the United States now does in the greater Middle East.

There is, of course, a crucial difference when the world's only remaining superpower is doing the responding. America's actions reshape the international environment and force other nations to adjust, whether they want to or not. Bush's brash, no-nonsense leadership style added to the sense of injury felt at the United Nations and elsewhere as he moved inexorably to invade Iraq last March.

The modest proposals contained in the new U.S. draft resolution on Iraq have met with a generally positive reception at the United Nations, even though they are more cosmetic than cosmic. They are intended to change the atmosphere in the Security Council more than the balance of forces on the ground in Iraq. That would be a welcome step forward.

In the resolution, the United States and Britain seek explicit U.N. legitimacy for the Governing Council of 25 Iraqis they have already put in place. In addition, they hope the resolution would provide political cover to India, Pakistan, Turkey or other nations to provide a total of 15,000 to 20,000 peacekeeping troops to form a multinational division that would operate under U.S. command.

France, the swing country on the Security Council, seems prepared to support a resolution that accomplishes both those purposes if it also contains a commitment to an urgent transfer of sovereignty to the Governing Council -- a body Paris once openly disdained. The exact political role of a new special U.N. representative is the main sticking point to be resolved in high-level talks to be held in Geneva on Saturday.

In Cairo this week, the Arab League voted to seat the Governing Council's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, who is a Kurd. The decision represents a small step toward tolerance and/or realism by Arab regimes. In New Delhi, Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to receive a public (and warm) welcome from an Indian government that is increasingly showing its concern about the linkages between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The world is beginning to absorb and adapt to the changes that the determined U.S. response to 9/11 has created abroad. This is a moment when more disciplined political leadership and more skillful diplomacy from Washington can bring dividends and should be pursued.

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09/08/03: 007 on Trial
08/25/03: In Iraq, Merchandising Mass Destruction
08/18/03: Doing democracy right
08/13/03: Israel's Red Flag on Iran
08/11/03: The Devil You Know
08/07/03: Saving The Saudi Connection
08/04/03: The Arab Stake in America's Success
07/28/03: The Kurdish Example
07/25/03: A Baghdad 'Roots' Story
07/21/03: Wolfowitz of Arabia?
07/18/03: Linking Liberia And Iraq
07/14/03: Why do they hate them?
07/09/03: In Africa, it pays to think small
07/07/03: Cherchez de Gaulle --- but not in France
07/03/03: If Bush asks, who will help?
06/30/03: Fool's gold in Pakistan
06/23/03: Waking up to Europe's uncertain future
06/19/03: Fusing force with diplomacy
06/16/03: All too prepared for the real world
06/12/03: The Limits Of Saudi Openness
06/09/03: Energized on Foreign Policy
06/02/03: Clarity: The Best Weapon
05/27/03: Talk plus muscle on North Korea
05/22/03: The war isn't over
05/19/03: Europe on its own
05/14/03: Globalization's evil offspring
05/12/03: No time for mixed messages
05/05/03: The case for patience on North Korea
04/30/03: Eroding Principles
04/28/03: Wars tailor made
04/25/03: De-Baathification, root and branch
04/21/03: Victims of civic passivity
04/14/03: Three miscreants
04/11/03: Saddam's final mistake

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