- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

It is one of those weird coincidences that U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix will be making his second report to the United Nations on Valentines Day Friday regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It is not likely that Mr. Blix will receive bunches of red roses for his account of the U.N. inspections team's trials and tribulations. For that, the U.N. Security Council is still far too divided.
Even as international divisions over Iraq dominate the news, however, and have done so for weeks in some measure surely because the liberal media is sympathetic to reservations expressed abroad the American people have been listening to President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. And they have found them convincing.
Since Mr. Powell's speech before the U.N. Security Council last week, opinion polls have consistently shown rising American support for military action in Iraq and for Mr. Bush personally. Whatever others might think, Mr. Bush's most important constituency believes he is doing a good job of looking after their security and interests. It's a hugely important vote of confidence at a time when the country is on terrorist alert and may shortly be engaged in military action.
Two recent polls, from Newsweek and CNN/USA Today/Gallup, show just how well the Bush administration has made its case to the American people.
According to a Newsweek survey taken over the two days after Mr. Powell's speech, 70 percent of Americans now support military action against Iraq. (The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released on Monday put the figure at 63 percent.) Contrary to what has been reported about American public opinion, these figures reflect support for military action without the blessing of the United Nations, as long as the United States is joined by some allied nations.
According to the Newsweek poll, 50 percent endorsed U.S. military action if just one of two major allies signed on, a jump of 10 percent since Mr. Powell presented his case. A die hard 37 percent would support the United States going it alone. With U.N. support, the figure does get higher, rising to 85 percent in favor of military action.
These figures strongly indicate that Americans trust their elected president more than international institutions to defend them and their families. Which is entirely as it should be. As Mr. Bush said in his State of the Union address, "The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others."
Mr. Bush himself gets high marks. According to Newsweek, 60 percent of Americans approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq situation, and 69 percent felt that Mr. Powell's presentation was convincing. According to CNN/USA Today/Gallup, 82 percent feel confident that government can protect them from future attack.
Now, this vote of confidence is not repeated abroad, even in the many countries whose governments have remained loyal in expression of strong support to the U.S. administration. The sense of frustration at being unable to influence or change U.S. policy is widespread and palpable.
A clear manifestation of impotent anger is the latest gamble by France and Germany, joined by Belgium, who are trying to block NATO planning for the defense of Turkey, which will be crucial as a launching pad for U.S. military operations. Turkey, as a longstanding member of the NATO alliance, has every right to expect such protection in accordance with the Washington Treaty, NATO's founding document, and the idea that other NATO members would block it is nothing sort of outrageous. "Disappointing," Mr. Bush called it euphemistically.
Mr. Powell's speech at the United Nations has been dismissed by many abroad in public opinion polls as too little, too late. As reported by CNN yesterday, amazingly more people in Britain now believe the United States is a greater threat to international peace than Iraq and North Korea.
In other words, the disconnect between international and domestic public opinion on Iraq is profound. American public diplomacy can do only so much at this stage, and it has to be up to the leadership in countries that are friendly to the United States to attempt to convince their populations.
Hard as it may be for Mr. Bush's critics abroad (and at home, for that matter), it was the American people who elected him president in 2000 for their own reasons and according to their own electoral system, which is neither broken or in disrepair.
And in the middle of the war against terrorism, Americans believe they made a good choice.

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