Allies are cautious on "Bush doctrine"

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Allies Are Cautious On 'Bush Doctrine'

By Karen DeYoung, Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 16, 2001; Page A01

The world President Bush has described since Sept. 11 is divided between good and evil, a black-and-white map on which each country must choose its color. "Either you are with us," Bush said in his Sept. 20 speech to Congress, "or you are with the terrorists."

That is the essence of what the president now calls the Bush Doctrine. Asked to define it further, a senior White House official said: "We must eliminate the scourge of international terrorism. In order to do that, we need not only to eliminate the terrorists and their networks, but also those who harbor them."

The use of the word "doctrine" is intentional. It is meant to describe a new paradigm in U.S. foreign policy, a guiding principle through which other issues will be viewed and acted upon throughout the Bush presidency and beyond -- just as the Truman, Brezhnev and Reagan doctrines dictated international relations through four decades of Cold War.

But until the details are filled in beyond the current military campaign in Afghanistan, close U.S. allies and many inside the administration itself are uncertain whether the doctrine really means what it appears to say -- that the United States will be the unilateral judge of whether a country is supporting terrorism, and will determine the appropriate methods, including the use of military force, to impose behavioral change.

Many countries in the broad coalition formed against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and Afghanistan's Taliban regime insist they never signed up to follow the U.S. lead beyond those targets to other countries the United States has long accused of harboring terrorists.

Any U.S. military attack against the likes of Iraq, Iran or Syria would shatter the much-touted international alliance, they say, and also risk an even larger world conflagration. Some foreign officials say they have sought and received direct assurances from the administration that it will not try to take the coalition anywhere its members don't want to go.

"This is not a push-button procedure here that has been set in motion. It's an ongoing consultation process," said a senior Western European diplomat. While the coalition was in agreement over bin Laden and al Qaeda, he said, there would be "quite different views on the question of Iraq. . . . Even if the United States did wish to say, 'We want to do this alone, and we don't need the rest of the coalition' . . . I think it would still tend to have rather damaging effects on the cohesion of the grand coalition that you have put together on the anti-terrorist front."

He added: "I am quite confident that I have understood the U.S. government correctly. The United States government has told us at very high levels that what the president has said is . . . what we're working on: Al Qaeda, bin Laden and terrorism. Full stop." His government, the diplomat said, was "prepared and committed to cooperating with the United States . . . including the military. But again, not in the sense that wherever you want to go, whatever you want to do, we'll do it."

But others, including coalition partners in the Middle East, have less confidence in the consultative process. They are nervous spectators to an ongoing debate inside the administration between those reputedly led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a supposed hawk on the issue of moving the military campaign beyond Afghanistan, and those who agree with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who advocates a more circumscribed strategy.

"It seems to me there is a great deal of internal conflict. That's no secret," said Eliot Cohen, director of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a former Defense Department official. "Even some of the key decision-makers are of two minds."

Much of this battle has been fought publicly and during think-tank debates between proxies. On the side of more aggressive action, they include Cohen and Richard Perle, a former Defense Department official and current Pentagon adviser and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Perle has advocated using military force against one or two other countries, including Iraq, to make a point beyond Afghanistan. "Whether it is [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein or [Syrian President Bashar] Assad or the Lebanese or the Sudanese . . . the regimes involved have to be persuaded that we will use whatever tool is necessary and that they are truly in jeopardy," he said. "The best way to give that the necessary reality is to do it in a couple of cases."

Weighing in on the other side last week were 28 former U.S.ambassadors and envoys to the Middle East and South Asia. In a letter to Bush, they urged the United States to continue working with Arab and Muslim allies in the war against terrorism, rather than adopting a unilateralist approach that could fragment the alliance.

Asked by reporters yesterday as he flew to Pakistan if Iraq was the next U.S. target, Powell said: "No. . . . The president decided this a month ago, and we've been following the president's guidance ever since." In an interview Sunday on WJLA's "Capital Sunday," Powell deputy Richard L. Armitage said any decision to go after terrorist groups in other countries "would be a matter for the coalition to discuss among themselves."

Close U.S. allies in the Middle East have repeatedly cautioned the administration that any military move beyond Afghanistan would fracture the coalition. "The Middle East has accepted attacks against Afghanistan, but it would be a totally different matter if you were going to start hitting Iraq or Syria or some of these other countries," a senior Middle East diplomat said. "That has been made very clear to [the White House] by everybody, certainly by Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia."

Yet these allies worry that the United States is not taking their concerns seriously. "While they sent very clear signals in the beginning that they are not intending to target Arabs and Islam, and I don't think they are, the signals sent in the last [few] days have been truly confusing," the diplomat said.

Why, he asked, were there only Arab faces on last week's new FBI list of 22 "Most Wanted Terrorists," even though there are a number of non-Arab fugitives under U.S. indictment for international terrorist acts? "Are these for domestic consideration? I don't know. But they are not comforting signals."

At the same time, his government and others fear that the administration is backing away from its pre-Sept. 11 commitment to issue a substantive policy statement on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Washington, he said, "needs to tell people in the area that the United States . . . does not just ask them to support it on terrorism while ignoring their problems." "The president said this campaign is going to go on for a year or two. You're not going to have [Middle East] support for a year or two without [U.S.] support for some other things."

Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has allowed little daylight to come between him and Bush on the subject of terrorism, moved last week to quell growing Middle Eastern concern. On his third trip to the region to shore up coalition support, Blair authorized the leak to reporters of a strategy document drawn up by his war cabinet late last month.

Any British military action beyond Afghanistan, the document noted, must be "compatible with international law and legitimate self-defense." Blair himself told reporters that, before moving against Iraq, there would have to be "absolute evidence" of Iraqi complicity with al Qaeda. Right now, Blair said, there is not.

As a matter of policy, the United States has declined to close off any option. "Clearly, the focus initially is on al Qaeda," the senior White House official said. "But it's not as if things are not being done on other fronts. There have been some pretty blunt messages sent to other countries. You can't be against al Qaeda and in favor of Hezbollah." He was referring to the Lebanese-based anti-Israel group that is backed by Iran and Syria, two of the seven countries on the longstanding U.S. list of those engaged in state-sponsored terrorism.

These countries and others -- including other listed terrorist sponsors Iraq, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea and Libya -- "need to understand there is a new resoluteness," the official said. Although economic and other sanctions have been applied to all in the past, "I don't think anybody would believe the countries of the G-7 and others have been as aggressive as we could have been in making sure certain financial networks were cut off."

Blair notwithstanding, the official said it is not yet clear whether Iraq is linked to al Qaeda or the events of Sept. 11. "But let's be realistic," the official said. "We have other reasons to worry about Iraq. . . . My only point is that Iraq is a threat and everybody understands that. When and how we decide to deal with that threat is a matter that will be decided when the president is ready to decide it, at a time of his choosing."

At the same time the Bush Doctrine appears to claim unilateral U.S. decision-making power on when and how to strike terrorist sponsors, things already agreed by the coalition can apparently be unilaterally set aside.At his Thursday news conference, Bush seemed to open a door he and others had already declared firmly closed when he told the Taliban's leaders that if they would "cough up" bin Laden, they could have a "second chance" to stop the military assault. On Sunday, Bush rejected a Taliban offer to turn over bin Laden to a third country.

The administration has repeatedly emphasized the broad international support for the current Afghan offensive. Although airdropped food packets and bags of wheat being delivered by international aid agencies are clearly labeled led U.S.A., leaflets the U.S. military began dropping over Afghanistan Sunday say only that "The Partnership of Nations is here to Help," and picture a generic, camouflage-dressed Western soldier shaking hands with a traditionally garbed Afghan.

Separate leaflets, listing broadcast frequencies and invite those on the ground to tune in to "Information Radio," make no mention of the United States. But in background conversations, a number of senior officials have made it clear that if the doctrine is to be fully implemented, some vital missions may have to be carried out without coalition support.

"At the end of the day," said Perle said, "we have to defend the American people, and if no one else is with us, then we will defend ourselves alone. No American president can concede that responsibility to a coalition or to anyone else."

2001 The Washington Post Company

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), October 16, 2001


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