Los Angeles Times: President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell are doing an extraordinarily able job of putting together an international anti-terror coalition. A viable and effective coalition is essential for a number of reasons. It would allow the administration to avoid the impression that the United States is conducting a lone crusade against Islam. It would also allow the United States and its allies to coordinate their efforts, from keeping tabs on suspected terrorists to tracking the movement of money.
But some important figures inside the Bush administration such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz and others are challenging this policy. Restlessness is growing among those who want full support for the rebel Iraqi National Congress and an all-out assault on Iraq because they believe that Baghdad was tied to the Sept. 11 attacks and that Saddam Hussein poses a mortal danger to American interests.
Enemy: For many American conservatives, Colin Powell is the enemy. They view him as excessively cautious in the use of military power and too deferential to European and Middle Eastern countries. As this thinking goes, the United States risks losing the battle by taking the time needed to construct a coalition and by refraining from an immediate effort to drive Hussein out of power; allies can only impede the United States. This counterproductive, go-it-alone notion is the one that initially animated George W. Bush's foreign policy.
The experienced soldier is most likely to avoid a quick leap to military solutions. Powell may have gone too far in the first Bush administration with his reservations, but this time caution is necessary.
The second Bush administration is fortunate that it did not have more time to pursue its unilateralist foreign policy, which almost wrecked relations with its European allies. Until the terrorist attacks, Powell was largely relegated to the sidelines. Now Washington has been forced to rely upon the allies it once disdained, and Powell has made a comeback.
Nevertheless, the coalition is not an end in itself. The United States will need to lead the coalition, not be led by it. Powell's habitual caution about intervention abroad, rooted in a fear of repeating Vietnam, might allow his reluctance to intervene in Iraq to extend to attacking the Taliban directly. As the Taliban continues to shield Osama bin Laden, it becomes increasingly difficult to argue that t he two can be separated. Smashing the Bin Laden network will require toppling the Taliban. But intervening now in Iraq would crack up the international coalition before it has been built. Immediate intervention there wouldn't isolate terrorists. It would isolate the United States.