- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

U.S. ready to act alone

The United States will act alone to pursue foreign-policy goals but prefers to have allies in international conflicts, the U.S. ambassador to Singapore said yesterday.

"American leadership most often succeeds through example, perseverance and persuasion," Ambassador Frank Lavin told the Singapore Press Club. "But when necessary, the United States is ready to do the needful on its own."

Mr. Lavin noted that in the current dispute with Iraq, the United States is trying to persuade the U.N. Security Council to enforce U.N. resolutions that call on Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons of mass destruction, guarantee civil rights to his oppressed people and live in peace with his neighbors.

"For all of our present power, America is ambivalent about its use of force. It is worth noting that the present Iraqi crisis stems in part from America's unwillingness to use force when there was an open road to Baghdad 11 years ago," he said, referring to the Persian Gulf war when the United States ceased hostilities after liberating Kuwait.

The press club asked Mr. Lavin to address the question, "Does the United States need the rest of the world?" The ambassador called it the "most provocative title possible" for a speech but insisted that the debate about multilateralism and unilateralism is based on a false premise.

"The premise is that international relations is either conducted unilaterally, which is bad, or multilaterally, which is good," Mr. Lavin said, adding that "multilateralism at its worst can mean inertia and lowest-common-denominator policies."

The reality is more complex, he said, adding that all nations seek to work with allies but each has "an inherent right to self-defense."

"Look at the United States' work in the United Nations regarding Iraq," he said. "The thrust of the U.S. work is to provide integrity to the U.N. system, to give weight and consequence to binding U.N. resolutions."

U.S. leadership is "ensuring that the U.N. maintains its relevance," he said, adding that U.S. foreign policy is based on the pursuit of peace, prosperity and freedom.

Those goals are "as ambitious as they are simple," he said.

However, as the most powerful nation in the world, the United States has many critics who, nevertheless, benefit by U.S. action.

"Some people will find leadership, American or otherwise, inherently troubling," he said. "And criticism of American leadership is enormously seductive to free riders. If the United States is going to do what needs to be done, it is quite tempting for some countries to criticize those steps, even as they enjoy the benefits of the actions."

When he hears criticism of U.S. leadership, he is reminded of a saying from his days in foreign service school, he said.

"There are only two times our allies complain," he said, "when we try to exert leadership and when we fail to exert leadership."

Lebanese students

American universities will not tolerate discrimination against Arab students, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon said yesterday, as he welcomed foreign students to study in the United States.

Ambassador Vincent Battle joined university officials who are on a tour of Arab countries to try to reassure foreign students against fear of a backlash from last year's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The university officials did not say how far Arab enrollment has fallen.

"The doors to American colleges and universities remain open to qualified Lebanese students," Mr. Battle told United Press International in Beirut.

He said the United States and Lebanon have a "long history of sharing education and cultural exchanges."

"I very much want those exchanges, which promote mutual understanding and tolerance, to continue," he added.

Howard Dooley of Western Michigan University said college administrators discipline any student who attempts to intimidate Arab and Muslim students.

"We want to make clear that those who pursue them have been and will continue to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

Patrick Plunkett of Northwestern University said, "We consider our Arab students to be a tremendous asset. They learn much about American culture and society, and they also provide their fellow students with an opportunity to learn more about the Arab world and Islam."

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