- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

The president should consider a world speaking tour over the next few months to make his case for our policy in Iraq and the broader war on terror. We concede that this may seem counterintuitive in light of the security cost, nasty reporters and public demonstrations in London last week. But a closer look at the British reaction reveals genuine value in the trip.

Both man-in-the-street comments and antiwar editorials in London after President Bush’s speech showed a more measured and thoughtful assessment of the president’s policy and personality. The widely held, ludicrously malignant caricature of the president gave way to a perception of a normal, decent, humorous man, with whom his opponents may still disagree, but who they no longer see as evil or foolish.

No presidential speech from Washington or New York can have the same effect. The intensity and personal focus of coverage when an American president visits a foreign city forces the local public and its elites to see him more completely, more humanly. Importantly, the very fact that the president goes to the bother of personally visiting a country and meeting with its leaders and people tends to belie the charges of unilateralism and American arrogance. The visit itself is a sign of respect and shows the local people that the American president values their opinion. Just as American voters are more likely to give their votes to a candidate who comes to them and asks for it, so foreign people are more likely to support the president’s war on terrorism, if he pays them the respect of coming and explaining our views and asking for their support.

As the president has repeatedly and correctly pointed out, we are in a vast struggle of ideas across the globe. The president should personally take our case to a confused and leaderless world. He should not hesitate to let the people of the world take his measure and his conviction in person in Paris, Berlin, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Manila, New Delhi and Johannesburg. He has nothing to lose but his caricature — and the world to gain.

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