World braces for 'triumphant' Bush.

By MARTIN WALKER, UPI Chief International Correspondent   |   Nov. 6, 2002 at 1:04 PM   |   0 comments

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- The world now faces President George W. Bush triumphant after the midterm elections. His Republican Party is in command of both Houses of Congress, and Bush can claim a potent new mandate for an assertive foreign policy whose unilateralist "America First" implications have disconcerted friends and foes alike.

"We are dealing with a power that has no limit in its dealing with foreign issues," said Mohammed Shaker, head of the Egyptian Council on Foreign Relations, whose wariness of a Bush administration unrestrained by any other branch of government was widely shared beyond U.S. shores.

Diplomats in Washington Wednesday, while noting that the executive branch was always in charge of foreign policy, suggested that the Republican majorities in Congress would give the Bush administration even more self-assurance in foreign policy, and adding weight to its more hawkish voices and weakening the doves.

"My guess is that one of the losers of this election campaign might be (Secretary of State) Colin Powell, who has been seen by most foreign governments as a voice of caution and of wisdom in an administration that otherwise seems largely filled with hawks," commented one senior NATO diplomat based in Washington.

"When Powell and other administration officials go up to Capitol Hill to explain their policies, he will no longer be facing that internationalist Democrat, Sen. Joe Biden. The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could be a very different type of interlocutor. And certainly the majority on that committee, and the chairmen of the important sub-committees, will be very different," the NATO diplomat added.

Other diplomats suggested the United States would become tougher to deal with on international issues and was likely to be more dismissive of the United Nations and cooler to traditional allies like Germany and France that are now perceived as critics of the Bush administration's policy on Iraq.

"If there were much hope for any American compromises on international issues like the Kyoto Protocol (on global warming) and the International Criminal Court, this election result probably knocks all that on the head," commented one European ambassador. "This might not be an easy administration to work with in the sense of finding agreed solutions. I suspect we might hear rather more 'take it or leave it.'"

On the whole, diplomats seem to expect a change in tone coming from Washington rather than any dramatic new shifts in policy. The executive branch always runs foreign policy, aside from big issues like war or peace or the ratification of treaties. And on the main issues, like threatening war on Iraq or the new national security doctrine that authorizes pre-emptive strikes, have already been decided.

In Asia, officials were trying to assess what the elections could mean for their region. Taku Yamasaki, secretary-general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, concluded that America's War on terrorism would continue even more forcefully, since the Republican victory "confirms that public opinion remained united behind the Bush administration's policy."

"In terms of foreign policy, Mr. Bush would gain much more leeway in dealing with the war on terrorism and the Iraq threat," said Singapore's Straits Times.

In South Korea, some commentators saw the election result strengthening Bush's hands if he decided to get tough with North Korea over its admission that it was enriching uranium with a view to developing nuclear weapons. But they also feared the Korean issues might be on the back burner, after Powell called Foreign Minister Choi Sung-hong on Wednesday and said he had to cancel a planned visit to South Korea next week because of "unavoidable circumstances" related to the U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq.

In Europe and the Middle East, media comment seemed to expect a tougher line coming from Washington over Iraq, with an agreed resolution in the U.N. Security Council said to be very close.

"The prospect of waging war on Iraq looks to be increased," Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV said Wednesday.

"Not quite elected in 2000, Monsieur Bush sees his political base reinforced by a remarkable electoral success that offers him an even greater freedom of maneuver in his strategy towards Iraq," commented France's leading daily, Le Monde.

"The big loser of these elections, apart from the democrats, is none other than Saddam Hussein," commented the left-wing French daily Liberation. "An election setback for Bush would have been inevitably interpreted as a rejection by the American people of his threatening rhetoric against 'the axis of evil' whose pivot lies in Baghdad. Bush can thus henceforth claim a strong mandate of popular support for his politics of enforced disarmament of Iraq, and also in his dealing with the U.N."

"The results staggered many pundits who saw Bush as a dimwit who had become president through good fortune and a court-managed technicality," said The Times of India Wednesday. "The president appeared to have erased that stigma. Pundits and pollsters saw the results as an affirmation of the American people's faith in George Bush in the face of the challenges he is facing. They also surmised that the events of 9/11 had a profound effect on America despite previews suggesting the elections would be based on local issues."

Only in Israel did there seem to be little new deference to the Bush administration and its striking new mandate. Israel's new Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marked his own return to government by asserting the Bush administration's latest "roadmap for peace" was "not on the agenda." Netanyahu also told Israeli TV Wednesday he thought the attack on Saddam would be a good time to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, despite earlier promises from Israeli premier Ariel Sharon to President Bush that Arafat "would not be harmed."

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