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Reports of our unilateralism have been greatly exaggerated

The Washington Post reports that, in the event of a war with Iraq, many Arab countries will be supporting the United States.

A few weeks ago, the secretary general of the 22-member Arab League, Amr Moussa, declared that war with Iraq "will open the gates of Hell in the Middle East." But the reality is that some Arab nations are cooperating with preparations for a U.S. military campaign, while others remain on the sidelines.

Interviews with officials and observers from Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia reveal a common basis for Arab calculations. It boils down to a wish to maintain good relations with Washington, even at the expense of criticism and possible unrest within their borders.


Jordan's foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, said in an interview in Washington that despite strong misgivings about war, "Jordan has a strategic, political and economic relationship with the United States, and certainly, Jordan will not jeopardize this relationship." That is a contrast from a decade ago, when King Hussein came out against international intervention after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Apparently these Arab countries have a better grasp of the definition of the word "ally" than liberal pundits (or German politicians) do. More to the point, this underscores the failure of these pundits to understand the real nature of international relationships: self-interest. These countries were never going to support the United States in any endeavor out of love, so trying to woo them on that basis was doomed to fail. They are going to support the United States if the United States makes it clear that it's in their interests to do so. And to that end, Bush's unwavering focus on Saddam Hussein -- termed an "obsession" by Bush's detractors -- is an asset, not a liability. If the United States demonstrated a lack of seriousness about Iraq, then these countries wouldn't worry about standing with us. But if Bush makes it clear how important the issue is, then they would. And Bush has, and they will.

Once again, Bush is showing himself to be far more sophisticated strategically than his critics let on.


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