In his second inaugural address, President Bush pledged to spread freedom throughout the world, and he suggested an aggressive foreign policy to promote the ideals of liberty and democracy. But reaction abroad to his speech has been mixed. Journalists from Germany, China, Iran, and Lebanon talked with Judith Latham on VOA News Now’s “International Press Club” about how the President’s address is being interpreted overseas.
The response among many of America’s traditional allies was one of skepticism. Matthias Rueb, Washington bureau chief of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, said President Bush’s second inaugural did little to diminish the prevailing skepticism in Europe about a second Bush term, even though many people respect the ideas of freedom and democracy that America stands for. According to Mr. Rueb, the chairman of Germany’s Green Party – which is part of the governing coalition – said that President Bush is “hijacking the notion of freedom for a kind of imperialist policy.” And furthermore, Europeans in general are “quite pessimistic” about a second Bush term.
Hong Kong-based China analyst and journalist Willie Lam said the Chinese leadership closely monitored President Bush’s speech but has kept to what he calls “their fairly cautious stance in commenting on Sino-U.S. relations.” Although they have reiterated their opposition to unilateralism, Mr. Lam said the leadership has been careful not to pinpoint individual U.S. leaders or to “come across as excessively aggressive.” However, behind the scenes, Beijing is concerned that President Bush has targeted six countries where he said he hoped there would be accelerated changes in the direction of democracy. And Beijing is close to three of those countries – North Korea, Burma, and Iran.
Not coincidentally, London-based Iranian journalist Ali-Reza Nourizadeh said the Iranian government was not pleased by President Bush’s address. But people from all sectors of Iranian society warmly welcomed it. Mr. Nourizadeh said that’s because at this point “their only hope to have some sort of democracy established in Iran is to rely on American support.” According to Ali-Reza Nourizadah, Iranians in the diaspora also welcomed Mr. Bush’s inaugural address, calling it “one of the best speeches they had ever heard.”
In the Arab world, however, the editor of Beirut’s Daily Star said the prevalent reaction was that President Bush’s message about freedom was “nice, but the messenger was not credible.” Rami Khoury said that’s because during the first Bush administration the Israeli occupation was tightened and the Palestinians in fact now have less freedom. However, Mr. Khoury said a “small minority” in the Arab world want the United States to be “interventionist” and were enthusiastic about President Bush’s second inaugural address.
To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.