Bridges, Bombs, or Bluster?

A woman passes rubble at a site of an explosion at the al-Muhaya expatriot housing compound in the Wadi Laban suburb, west of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 11, 2003. Sultan Al Fahed / Reuters


Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

There are only two powers now in the world. One is America, which is tyrannical and oppressive. The other is a warrior who has not yet been awakened from his slumber and that warrior is Islam.

Make no mistake about it: the choice for sure is between two visions of the world.

Few readers will fail to identify the first quotation cited above: it was uttered by President George W. Bush, speaking soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Few readers, similarly, will be surprised to learn that the second quote came from a Sunni Muslim cleric in Baghdad, Imam Mouaid al-Ubaidi. The third quote, however, may be a bit harder to identify: it was spoken by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, describing the different world views now held by Washington and Paris. And it should remind us that not everyone divides the world along the same lines as the United States.

Framing choices is central to national security policy. Since World War II, no nation has played a more influential role in defining such alternatives than the United States. Today, however, the Bush administration purports to be redefining the fundamental choice "every nation, in every region" must make. America's radical adversaries—eager to promote themselves as the United States' chief nemeses—are echoing the attempt. Those caught in the middle, however, suggest the choices before them may not be quite so simple.

For President Bush, September 11 came as a revelation, leading him to the startled conclusion that the globe had changed in ways gravely hazardous to the security—indeed, the very survival—of the United States. This conclusion soon led Bush to a fateful decision: to depart, in fundamental ways, from the approach that has characterized U.S. foreign policy for more than half a century. Soon, reliance on alliance had been replaced by redemption through

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