BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. In the months since September 11th America's popularity in the foreign press has largely tracked with the successes and failures of its War on Terrorism. Editorialists have variously praised U.S. leadership, questioned its capacities, castigated its hegemony and called for its intervention. However since President Bush's state of the union address with his memorable locution, "axis of evil," grouping Iraq with Iran and North Korea, the world press has jointly recoiled. The reverberations continued to this week, compounded by other news. UPI senior correspondent Martin Walker reads us through Europe and Asia.
MARTIN WALKER: Spain's El Mundo, a centrist, even slightly conservative paper, I quote: The Western Alliance forged after September the 11th has begun to crack. The origin of the breach isn't in Europe whose solidarity with the United States and willingness to combat terrorism remains strong, but with the foreign policy of the American government, determined unilaterally to pursue its private war against evil without worrying too much about the cost for international peace.
BOB GARFIELD: What is it about that axis that strikes these editorialists as not sufficiently evil to be worried about?
MARTIN WALKER:I think most editorialists accept that there, there, there is something particularly shocking and unpleasant about Iraq itself and about the, the regime of Saddam Hussein. What they do seem to ask is what exactly is it --and this is a question that was raised in the very conservative and pro-American British Telegraph, what exactly is it that President Bush is trying to achieve? Is he trying to rally world opinion? He's failed. Is he trying to strengthen his coalition against 3 palpably wicked powers? Again, he appears to have failed. It's rather difficult to understand exactly what it is that Mr. Bush wants to achieve with his rhetoric except for some kind of moral distinction between the United States and those deemed its enemies.
BOB GARFIELD: What did the South Korean press have to say about the axis of evil?
MARTIN WALKER:Well bear in mind that President Bush is about to visit South Korea, and this is-- the pro-government Hankiora Shinmun [sp?] in an editorial. The Bush doctrine of the axis of evil only serves the interest of Bush and the Americans and poses a terrible threat to world peace, especially peace on the peninsula. The U.S. must halt its unilateral and militaristic moves undermining efforts for peace by North and South Korea, for we are the owners of the Korean peninsula; not the Americans. The centrist Yung Ang Ilbo [sp?] said that Mr. Bush is excessively self-righteous and aggressive -- all the moreso given that North Korea leaves open the possibility of resuming bilateral talks with the Americans, and the American government must end its impetuous approach to inter-Korean reconciliation. I was also struck by something from Vietnam. This is from Hanoi Moi [sp?] which is-- one of the, the official paper of the Vietnam government. While hunting for terrorism, Washington is paying no attention to eradicating the socio-economic causes of terrorism as well as the causes of the extremist attitudes towards the West in general and against the U.S. in particular. The strongarm tactics of Washington's global policy will only result in forces of resistance from others.
BOB GARFIELD:So in many papers, America's moral leadership continues to erode. I gather that hasn't been helped by the big financial story either, has it?
MARTIN WALKER: Well, that, that's absolutely right. One of the very striking features, I think, of recent days has been the way in which commentators around the world have, have been bringing in the Enron scandal as a way of targeting America's own sense of moral leadership here. In-- Le Figaro, a very, a very conservative Paris newspaper: It is sad that the old continent is lacking in economic growth and even sadder that it is incapable of proposing an alternative to the American system of market economy while the Enron scandal so highlights its excesses and its failures. Now here from, from Saudi Arabia is a very moderate Arab news. Multinationals need to have checks upon them, just as do global superpowers -- controls that superpower governments often are reluctant to exercise. But if a mammoth company like Enron is prepared to bribe and cheat within the establishment, perhaps we need the yelling anti-capitalist outsiders to keep on crying foul, even if they are wrong some of the time, just as America in its own best interests needs friendly critics of a sometimes wayward foreign policy.
BOB GARFIELD: Martin, thank you very much, as always.
MARTIN WALKER: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD:Martin Walker is the chief correspondent for United States Press International. He joins us for the 11,000th time and-- a delight as always. [MUSIC]