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Terror Attacks Forced Shift in Bush Foreign Policy - 2002-09-06

In the first eight months of the Bush presidency, foreign policy was mostly about being good neighbors. On his first foreign trip, a month after taking office, Mr. Bush went to Mexico. The former Texas governor already knew President Vicente Fox.

A week before the attacks, Mr. Bush welcomed the Mexican leader to the White House as his first official state guest, saying the United States had no more important ally than Mexico.

"We have a chance to build a century of the Americans, in which all our people, North and South, find the blessings of liberty," the president said.

But the terrorist attacks forced the president to pursue a different foreign policy. Less than 10 days after the attacks, the president challenged the rest of the world to choose sides.

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," he said. "From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism, will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."

There were two messages for getting allies on board. While he cautioned Europeans that they also faced terrorist threats, he reassured Arab leaders that this was not a fight against Islam.

In Europe, the president told the German parliament earlier this year, that terrorists follow in the path of fascists and Nazis.

"Those who seek missiles and terrible weapons are also familiar with the map of Europe," he said. "Like the threats of another era, this threat cannot be appeased, or cannot be ignored."

Mr. Bush met repeatedly with Arab leaders, seeking their support in the fight against terrorism.

Following a meeting with the president in February, Jordan's King Abdullah said Mr. Bush made it clear that Arab leaders could not be neutral in the fight.

"I think it is very obvious that there are those who are on the side of good, those who are on the side of bad, and there are some countries in the middle, who haven't made up their minds," he said. "So, I think that the policy of the United States and the rest of us has been very clear to everyone on: Which side do you want to choose?"

Many of those countries, which joined the anti-terror coalition hoped their support would make the president more cooperative on a variety of multi-lateral issues, from climate change to arms control. But the president's world view did not change much beyond the fight against terrorism.

His administration did become more involved in the Middle East, after European and Arab allies insisted he do more to stop the Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Europeans praised his nuclear arms cuts agreement with Russia, but criticized Mr. Bush's decision to unilaterally withdraw from a Cold War arms deal, so the United States can develop new missile defenses.

The president then refused to join more than 100 other countries in an international court for war crimes, and threatened to cut peacekeeping in Bosnia, unless the court exempted American soldiers from the court's jurisdiction.

"As the United States works to bring peace around the world, our diplomats and our soldiers could be drug into this court, and that's a very troubling - very troubling to me," he said. "And we'll try to work out the impasse at the United Nations. But one thing we're not going to do is sign on to the International Criminal Court."

The president is now trying to rally support for action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But he is finding that more difficult than pulling together the anti-terrorism coalition in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Many of the countries that joined in the fight against the al-Qaida terrorist network are reluctant to agree to support any military action against Iraq.

The president says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should be replaced because he is developing weapons of mass destruction, and could help terrorists acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

Mr. Bush makes his case against Iraq when he addresses the United Nations next week - a day after marking the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.