A Speech Heard Round the World: Reaction to the President's Cincinnati Address
President Bush began his remarks on October 7 by saying, "Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace, and America's determination to lead the world in confronting that threat." This speech, however, was targeted primarily at an American audience and revealed quite nothing principally new, either about the Iraqi regime in general or Saddam Hussein personally.
What is interesting about Mr. Bush's position--most of all for his potential coalition partners--is his resolute determination (despite all the accusations of acting without advise and consent on the international arena as the only superpower) to secure a kind of a broad international coalition. Despite all the accusations that have been levied against him and his administration, of acting without the "advice and consent" of other states in the international arena, the President is anxious to marshal diplomatic support for his case against Saddam. The President does not wish to appear to be acting "unilaterally"; in his speech, he declared, "Many nations are joining us in insisting that Saddam Hussein's regime be held accountable. They are committed to defending the international security that protects the lives of both our citizens and theirs. And that's why America is challenging all nations to take the resolutions of the UN Security Council seriously." At minimum, Mr. Bush seeks to convince other partners to remain neutral in any clash between the United States and Iraq. After all, under current conditions, staying neutral is tantamount to reluctantly adhering to the American position.
I believe that Mr. Bush, so far, has been successful in mastering that type of international coalition--one that passively acquiesces to American action. However, this is not due to his propagandistic efforts. The speech revealed no new facts about Saddam Hussein's weapons program that were previously unknown to the international community (these programs are in fact no secret despite even the absence of clear UN-proven evidence). Instead, this coalition has formed due to the growing understanding around the world that there is probably no other way to preserve the existing international order other than to allow the only superpower (which is also the world's most powerful economic driving force) to strike against those "badly-behaving regimes" who don't find it acceptable to obey the "commonly-accepted" rules of international behavior.
What Mr. Bush is doing now is trying to use a military action to compensate for the lack of any new principles governing international affairs, principles that have become badly needed since 9/11 in order to address--and reassess--new international realities. Unfortunately, real dialogue about the contours of a new international order has not yet even begun, and the doctrines have yet to be drafted, whether in the halls of the United Nations, the summits of the G-8, or even in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia.
Georgy Bovt is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Russian newspaper Izvestia.
A Smoke Screen on the Ohio?
Most Europeans have made up their mind about George W. Bush and his intentions regarding Iraq. The President wants to go to war; most of his advisers want a war; and the majority of the American public will willingly acquiesce to this--even if only out of patriotic duty.
Once again, the Europeans might be proven wrong. Even though President Bush's address in Cincinnati, Ohio, was intended mainly for domestic consumption--designed to beef up public opinion in favor of war in the wake of the congressional vote and the looming midterm elections--there is a lot to draw from his words. Take the part where the President told the world that disarmament of Iraq would amount to "regime change." What a nice, if backhanded, way to admit that tough inspections could do the work: If Saddam Hussein disarms, then his regime will be changed and Washington would have achieved its goals without firing a single shot.
The President desires international approval; he has decided that he cannot go it alone. American voters wouldn't appreciate that at all. For this he needs a coalition. The speech in Ohio helped by laying down the smoke screen behind which the mechanism of bringing Iraq down to her knees can be hammered out. As Bush rightly said: He hasn't decided on going to war--yet.
Forget about Congress, forget about the panicky Democrats desperately trying to get out of the patriotism trap. "Showtime" won't be this week when all of Washington watches the formal debates and voting on the Hill. The fate of Iraq and the probability that there will be war will be decided within the next ten days or so behind closed doors--ironically enough for those assumingly unilateral "Bushies"--at the United Nations.
Stefan Kornelius is the editorial page editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung.