WASHINGTON — Candidate George Bush promised to treat foreign countries with humility. But since his inauguration, and especially since Sept. 11, he has acted otherwise.
He has enunciated a national strategy based on US military dominance. He has divided the world between those who are with us and those who are against us. He has defined an "axis of evil" of rogue states threatening America. And he has warned that unless supported by the United Nations, America will go it alone into Iraq or with its own coalition. If America invades Iraq, it will be with little or no Arab support and not very much European support beyond Britain.
There is no doubt about American power, but there is considerable doubt about American influence.
French President Jacques Chirac (a testy ally), Russia's Vladimir Putin (President Bush's new best friend), and even neighbor Vicente Fox of Mexico have not been willing to go along with an American-backed resolution in the UN Security Council authorizing the use of force against Iraq if inspection fails. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was helped to reelection by opposing Bush on Iraq something the White House has still not forgiven.
Pakistan, a major ally in the war against terrorism, turns out to have enabled North Korea of the evil axis to develop its nuclear-weapons program.
North Korea itself thumbs its nose at America over its now acknowledged nuclear program, and the Bush administration is having trouble trying to enlist China, Japan, and South Korea in a sanctions program.
Indonesia ignored repeated American warnings about terrorist activity until the massive bomb attack on tourists in Bali. Sixty years of good relations with Saudi Arabia lie in ruins, with the Zogby polling organization reporting that 87 percent of Saudis have an unfavorable view of the United States.
Almost everywhere you look, you will find that a superpower appears unable to exert its will.
America's chief foreign-policy success, a liberated Afghanistan, teeters on the edge of civil war. Al Qaeda is said by the CIA to be gearing up for massive new attacks. America has a strategy of preemption, but needs to know what and where to preempt.
Under the circumstances, Bush may look again at his campaign speeches promising to deal humbly with other countries, for America has a lot to be humble about.
Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.