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Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 18:08 GMT
Hard choices
Charles Kupchan
Professor Kupchan warns of America losing it's credibility
In a HARDtalk interview on 18 March, Tim Sebastian and Professor Charles Kupchan of Washington's Georgetown University discuss the difficult choices that British Prime Minister, Tony Blair has had to make in the build up to a war against Iraq.


As military action against Iraq draws ever closer, it's clear that decisions made in Washington will have profound implications for Washington's allies - most notably, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Charles Kupchan, a former member of the National Security Council under President Clinton and professor of international relations at Washington's Georgetown University, told Tim Sebastian that President Bush is forcing Mr Blair to choose between its traditional allies in Europe and the United States.

America will lose its most precious commodity in the world, its international legitimacy."

Charles Kupchan

He said it is obvious that Mr Blair has made his choice because of personal convictions, because the political cost of supporting the US could be so high.

Increasing isolation

Professor Kupchan said any devaluation in the role of the United Nations will also devalue Britain's role as a world power.

He warned that Britain could find itself marginalised if it sides with the United States.

He said America might also find itself increasingly isolated as the world comes to resent its power.

Tony Blair and George Bush
Is Tony Blair being forced to choose between America and Europe?
"The real issue that I most fear here is that America will lose its most precious commodity in the world, and that is its international legitimacy."

Professor Kupchan told Tim Sebastian that he believes there has been a real struggle within the Bush administration between the unilateralist hawks and multilateralists like Secretary of State Colin Powell.

He said there is "no question" that Secretary Powell had been called into the Oval Office and told to get in line.

"Since that time his body language has changed, his language has changed .. his whole demeanour changed dramatically."

There has been much speculation that after the US has secured regime change in Iraq, it may start to look further afield at other regimes that it would like to change.

New targets

Professor Kupchan said that the Bush administration may look to target North Korea, Pakistan or Sudan next - but that he believes the enthusiasm may change.

He said that the new world may well be a world where the United States is the number one power, but it will lose interest in running the world.

He doesn't believe President Bush will make good on his desire to re-order the world: partly because the world doesn't want to be reordered, and partly because the President's constituency in heartland America don't see the importance of it.

Professor Kupchan said he thinks the future will bring a diffusion of power, with multiple centres of political influence such as America, Europe and China, and no one country calling the shots.

But he also said this could be a more dangerous world, as the old tensions between different centres of power could re-emerge.

This interview can be watched in full on Tuesday 18 March on BBC World and BBC News 24 at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in GMT) 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT) 0330, repeated 1130, 1530, 1930, 0030



HARDtalk with Tim Sebastian is broadcast Mon - Friday on BBC World and BBC News 24
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