May 31, 2003 | Broadcast

Saturday Morning, CNN

Joining us from Washington, Eleana Gordon with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief for “As-Safir News.” Appreciate both of you joining us this morning.

Eleana, let’s start off with you. It’s well known that a lot of countries, a lot of people on the streets overseas do not look as favorably on U.S. foreign policy as many here in the United States do. Should the U.S. care?

ELEANA GORDON, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: I think it should certainly pay attention to what the world thinks. It’s a fair question, and the reason is because we are so powerful that whenever we move, we affect other countries. And I think it’s fair for them to say, Look, please take our needs into account.

On the other hand, I don’t think we can or should pursue policies that we don’t think are right or not pursue policies that we think are the right ones because the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily agree with them, because the question you then have to ask is, Do they have a fair view of what we’re doing? What is informing their perception of our policies?


GORDON: And I would argue that in many parts of the world, they don’t really have a fully objective view, or they bring their own fears and their own distortions to how they view the United States.

COOPER: OK, let me jump in here. Hisham, what do you think? I mean, Eleana brings up the point that perhaps the view of the United States abroad is shaped by misconceptions, or there — people’s own views, own self-interests for — of those countries.

HISHAM MELHEM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “AS-SAFIR” NEWSPAPER: Well, that’s in part — it’s in part the perception. It’s also in part reality. After all the United States is enjoying a tremendous moment of unipolarity, if you will, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is seen as an omniscient, omnipresent power…

COOPER: Is it seen as arrogant?

MELHEM: … (UNINTELLIGIBLE) — Of course it’s seen as arrogant. And sometimes the rhetoric of some officials in Washington in the last two years reinforced that sense in the world that this is a new imperial power, the way the United States withdrew from the Kyoto agreement, ABM agreement, and then the way it has conducted the campaign that led to the war on Iraq, unsettled many people in the world, including traditional allies.

After all, what you’ve seen at the Security Council, Anderson, was not — was something that went Iraq. It was an attempt by the United States to define its own role and leadership in the world at this historic moment. It was an attempt on the European side and the Russians and the Chinese to put some control on this unbridled use of power, as they see it, being exercised by the United States.

So it was really a debate on how — on the nature and the rule and the extent of American leadership at this historic moment.

And hence the conflict. The Americans should realize that they are seen as a colossus in the world. They have a tremendous military power, tremendous cultural pull, tremendous influence…

COOPER: All right…

MELHEM: … and in our part of the world…

GORDON: Can I say something here?

MELHEM: … there are…

COOPER: Yes, Eleana, go ahead.


GORDON: I like something, because I think that this is really the heart of the issue. It is about American power, and I think it’s right, Hisham is right, to argue that this is what the world is uncomfortable. It’s how we’re going to use our power.

But I don’t think that this issue’s going to be resolved immediately, because what’s happened is, we are facing a lot of dangers in this world, and we are starting to assert our power and to use it to protect ourselves. The rest of the world is coming to terms with just what this power means.

So there’s going to take a time for them to adjust and realize that we’re not necessarily going to use our power in bad ways. But they’re very focused on their fears.

I think only time is going to solve this. They have to see us succeed in Iraq, they have to see us bring peace there. They have to see us leave the world a better place than we left it when we exercise our power.

But right now, the option of simply not exercising our power because it makes other countries uncomfortable would be in some areas potentially suicidal for this country.

COOPER: Very briefly, Hisham, final thought?

MELHEM: Well, I mean, obviously you have to exercise power, you have to lead. When you lead, you have to have consensus, at least. You cannot drag people behind you. And you have to be — you have to — you have to — an element of morality in foreign policy, and you have to be balanced when you deal with the Arabs and the Israelis, for instance.

And you have — you cannot ignore also international organizations and international public opinion and international institutions.


MELHEM: After all…


MELHEM: Well, I guess we have to leave it there.

COOPER: Yes, we’re going to have to leave it there for this morning. Appreciate it. Eleana Gordon and Hisham Melhem, appreciate you joining us.

GORDON: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you.