Bush According to the World

The extremely polarized world of George Bush ends more or less here. The complex interests of international leaders paint the world in a wide variety of hues. If Bush is reelected, the 43rd American president will no longer be able to ignore them.

Ostensibly, the world that was divided by the Bush Administration into good guys and bad guys, Axis of Evil and Sons of Light, "those who are with us" or "those who are against us," "Old" Europe and "New" Europe - was expected to relate along these same lines to the matter of the reelection of the President of the United States.

Statements issued by several world leaders have conformed with this division. However, other leaders paint a picture of a much more complex world than the one the American administration generally presents.

During the American election campaign, we have heard supportive statements from what some might call "subordinate" leaders, such as Ariel Sharon ("We have not had with any other American president the sort of relationship that we now have") and Silvio Berlusconi ("We hope and believe that the next president will again be Bush"). There are also the predictable comments of leaders like Fidel Castro ("Bush could not debate a Cuban ninth grader, who knows more than he does") or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ("No president could be worse than Bush").

But the extremely polarized world of George Bush ends more or less here. The complex interests of international leaders paint the world in a wide variety of hues. Thus, the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin for Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder against the war in Iraq does not prevent him from declaring now that "the terror directed against the allies in Iraq is intended to prevent Bush's reelection," to which he added, "the realization of this objective would strengthen those who are behind international terror."

Even more surprising is the representative of the "Axis of Evil," Hassan Rowhani, the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, who expressed his objections to the candidacy of John Kerry ("Nothing good ever came of a Democrat"), and support for Bush, who "in spite of his hardline and baseless rhetoric, has not taken any dangerous action against Iran."

Conversely, several commentators believe the diplomatic neutrality of Tony Blair - "Bush's British poodle" - conceals a type of surprise. Deep in his heart, and opposed to conventional speculation, it has been claimed that Blair would like to see a new resident in the White House.

A victory by Kerry would offer an exit strategy from Iraq . It would make it possible for Blair to patch things up with his British electorate, rebuild his standing in Europe and once again serve as the bridge between Europe and the U.S.; all of this would leave him in 10 Downing Street after the next elections in 2005.

But while Bush's "European poodle" may not be too sad if the name on the mailbox changes, the "Asian Poodle" - as he is dubbed by his rivals - has been displaying a tenacious faith in the American president. "I am very close to President Bush and therefore want him to do his best (to be elected)," said Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in a decidedly undiplomatic recent statement.

And last week, when told that if he did not withdraw his soldiers from Iraq within 48 hours, a captive Japanese citizen would be beheaded, Koizumi held the resolute American line: "I will not give in to terror."

This was despite warnings that the murder of the Japanese citizen, which did transpire on Sunday, could potentially lead to the political "beheading" of the prime minister himself.

Yet this is precisely where Bush's problem lies - in the vast gulf that he created between the international coalition at his side, and the populations of those allied states; in the deep wedge he drove between their leaderships and their civil societies.

In conversation with Haaretz last month, well-known Japanese author Haruki Murakami agreed to disclose, for the first time, his political opinions and views on relations with the United States.

In summary - September 11 is the outcome of a conflict between two types of fundamentalism. The Bush Administration is built on messianic foundations and is just as destructive as Al-Qaida or Aum Shinrikyo (the cult responsible for the sarin gas attack in Tokyo in 1995). A Bush victory in the election would endanger America and the entire world.

Murakami is considered Japan's most popular and influential author. His books have been translated into 20 languages, and he enjoys a great deal of international prestige. His rare disclosure could surprise his fans, but his words reflect the opinions of many people in and out of Japan.

Last month, the University of Maryland conducted a survey among 34,000 people in 35 countries. In only three of them - Nigeria, the Philippines and Poland - did Bush have more supporters than Kerry.

Another survey, in which Haaretz took part, found that aside from Israel, in all of the other countries, including America's allies in the war on Iraq, negative anti-Bush opinions were held by 60 to 80 percent of respondents. It is hard to recall any other time when global public opinion was so interested and emotionally caught up in an American election.

Millions of people around the world would give a great deal to influence its results. If he is reelected, the 43rd American president will no longer be able to ignore them.