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Homeland Security

SLUG: World Opinion Roundup










INTRO: In answer to a reporter's question, Australian Prime Minister John Howard set off a firestorm of controversy this week when he sanctioned pre-emptive foreign strikes against terrorists. The Australian leader was echoing comments made just a few weeks earlier by President Bush that in this new, global anti-terrorism war, preemptive strikes are not only justified, they may sometimes be a necessity.

However the Australian comments were not well received by the nation's Pacific neighbors, as we learn now from V-O-A's _____________ in this week's World Opinion Roundup.

TEXT: The Australian leader made the comments Sunday [12-1] and within a day, there was strong editorial reaction both within Australia and from the surrounding region. Most dailies in the region suggested that "any pretensions to respecting sovereignty are being shed" under this "Howard doctrine." Conservative Australian papers were more supportive, only suggesting that his timing might have been better and that the exaggerated adverse reaction from the region was due to its "xenophobic" character.

We begin in Sydney, where in The Australian Financial Review there is sympathy for the remark and how it was misunderstood.

VOICE: There has been an extraordinary misinterpretation and overreaction to the Prime Minister's answer to a journalist's legitimate question. The Prime Minister's answer - - n o t statement as some described it - was hedged in with restrictions entirely consistent with international law.

TEXT: However across town, in the national daily Australian, the timing of the remarks was questioned.

VOICE: John Howard has many political strengths for the war against terrorism, but he also has weaknesses - - and his key weakness of faulty judgment in dealing with South-East Asia is on display again. It is too reminiscent of the deputy sheriff blunder. An artificial and absurd reaction is now under way within a xenophobic region, repudiating Australia's so-called threat of a pre-emptive strike. This reflects as badly on the region as it does on [Mr.] Howard's judgment.

TEXT: In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post says:

VOICE: While the Australian leader has made it clear he has no intention of sending a strike force to his neighbors, the fact that he raised the possibility of tracking known terrorist units on foreign soil has done little to improve his nation's relations with Southeast Asia. His provocative remarks have succeeded in only creating tension with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Perhaps Mr. Howard feels he can afford to upset his neighbors when he knows he has Uncle Sam's backing.

TEXT: In neighboring Indonesia, the Koran Tempo suggests:

VOICE: [Mr.] Howard's bluff is only a resonance of a similar arrogance earlier raised by [President] Bush . known as the 'Bush Doctrine' . of pre-emptive strike against potential enemy. Terrorism does not sprout from an empty space. It would be more productive if the U-S and Australia, instead of being bullies, supported a more just international order.

TEXT: In Malaysia, the Malay-language Berita Harian runs this editorial in Thursday's [12-5] editions.

VOICE: No surprise that the U-S is supportive of . Prime Minister . Howard when he threatens to attack terrorists in any neighboring country in . Asia. At this point, Washington appears to receive more support for its flawed doctrine. What the two countries . [fail] to recognize is that other countries can also conduct attack operations on terrorist groups [hold] up in the two countries. . The Australian copy-cat acts are merely repeating the American mistakes.

TEXT: In Kuala Lumpur, the Malay-language Utusan Malaysia advises Mr. Howard.

VOICE: . do not try to act like the United States in this region. This will only create a sense of hatred against the land of the kangaroos. Without the cooperation of Southeast Asian countries, the threat of terrorists will never be eliminated.

TEXT: Another offended neighboring state is the Philippines, where from Manila, there is this in the Philippine Star.

VOICE: What did we expect? Of course, the Bush White House . backed up the arrogant Howard Plan of 'preemptive' strike against terror - in whatever country. After all, the threat of . Prime Minister . Howard which provoked fury all over Southeast Asia . is simply a reiteration of the . [President] Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strike - - against Iraq in particular, and anywhere else.

TEXT: Across the capital, a University of the Philippines professor writes in the Manila Standard:

VOICE: At the very least, [Mr.] Howard is being undiplomatic. But that disease seems to afflict more than just the Prime Minister. Last week, the Australian embassy, quoting 'credible' information that would not share with their hosts, dramatically closed down their embassy [in the Philippines]. a horribly undiplomatic act. Not only [Prime Minister] Howard but [also] his whole government seems to be losing poise in the wake of a tragedy.

TEXT: In Singapore, an editorial page commentary in the Straits Times includes these passages.

VOICE: Keeping faith with the rule of law and civilized norms is often a struggle when bullets are flying and bombs are exploding and the other side is not fighting fair. Which is why a canny politician like Mr. Howard knows, post-Bali, that he can skip the rule book and still get a pat on the back from his constituents. But he could tread carefully - - as the U-S has - - down this road.

TEXT: In Thailand, the English language Bangkok Post reacted this way.

VOICE: Australia has good reason to be nervous following the bombings in Bali on October 12. Sadly, more than half of the 180 victims on the resort island were Australian. But Canberra should not overreact to what was widely seen as a consequence of its decision years ago to act as deputy sheriff to the United States in this region.

TEXT: On that note we conclude this sampling of global editorial reaction to a preemptive strike comment from Australia's Prime Minister John Howard.


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