As George W. Bush starts his second term in office (as a war-time president), the world, with bated breath is seeking answer to the single important question: Will it be the US’ war or a global war on terror? Early indications are not so encouraging. Bush and his team are unapologetic about the fact that the US search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has officially ended without a trace of them. In its editorial, the New York Times has rightly called this search as the biggest non-event of the 20th century. The war in Iraq continues unabated, and most Americans, who till recently believed that Iraq indeed had deadly weapons, now feel that Bush may end his second term without concluding the Iraq war. Moreover, the neo-conservatives reign supreme in the Bush team. The only notable ouster is Gen. Colin Powell, the proverbial round peg in a square hole.
The president and his vice-president have already indicated that Iran is next on their radar screen. North Korea, however, will not be far behind. The other two Bush priorities, connected with his war on terror, will be proliferation and ballistic missile defence. Within proliferation, the US-inspired Proliferation Security Initiative (which allows interdiction and seizure of weapons of mass destruction material on the High Seas, and appears aimed at North Korea) has acquired legal teeth by UN Security Council resolution 1540, obliging all governments to adopt stringent domestic control to prevent trafficking in nuclear weapons materials and delivery systems. Both India and Pakistan, who have not signed the PSI, and like most of the world, swear by the UN, have endorsed new export-control mechanisms under the resolution.