Former United States President Theodore Roosevelt once advised his country to "speak softly and carry a big stick."
His advice has been thrown in the dustbin by the current US administration, which has chosen to accompany its big stick with a loud voice.
The words from this administration - the conservative ideologues - denote a wildly-running "go-it-alone" approach.
The foreign policy of this administration, which smacks of unilateralism, is also more aggressive. It is one which combines isolationism and expansionism.
On the one hand, it has a palpable distaste for the international institutions and international law by withdrawing from multilateral agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
On the other hand, by frankly embracing expansionism by proclaiming that the goal of their policy is the maintenance and expression of unchallenged power, this administration has been building up its military muscles, which are already very strong.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, international sympathy for the United States was almost universal. Less than two years on, the United States has found itself outmanoeuvered on the Security Council - it could not have the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq passed because of the opposition from most of the members.
A global coalition behind the US-led campaign to fight terrorism has been falling apart. French President Jacques Chirac accused the United States of "breaching the legitimacy of the United Nations and putting a premium on the use of force."
Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader, claimed that the US president failed miserably at diplomacy.
The development of the Bush administration's grand strategy is worth noting.
Fighting terrorism or, to be more specific, wanting Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," topped the agenda of this administration shortly after the September 11 attacks.
On September 30, 2001, the US Department of Defence released the Quadrennial Defence Review Report and sent it, along with the Nuclear Posture Review, to Congress for deliberation.
The Nuclear Posture Review suggests transiting US strategic forces from the Cold-War trio of intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers and submarines launched ballistic missiles to a trio of forces that include non-nuclear and nuclear strike capabilities.
By and large, the review shows that the Bush administration has chosen to deal with weapons of mass destruction militarily rather than politically.
The review makes no mention of the US commitment under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to take concrete steps toward eliminating its nuclear arsenal, a commitment that was re-affirmed at the 2000 NPT conference. The United States and 186 other countries came to a global consensus on nuclear disarmament, declaring it the "only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons."
All in all, it is the road map to a unilateralist US nuclear policy.
On December 13, Bush announced the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
In his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, Bush specifically named the DPRK, Iran, and Iraq as regimes that "constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world" and stated that "by seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger."
Combating terrorism appears to have turned out to be an "ethnical" policy, in which the United States styles itself a responsible player to remove the "filth oppressors" worldwide in the order of the "filthy."
The "pre-emptive strike" theory was said to target the evil guys.
On September 17, Bush signed the National Security Strategy, which officially sees the US war against terrorists and "tyrants" in much the same way.
On October 10-11, 2002, the US Congress authorized the US president to attack Iraq. Two months later, the White House released the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, which, as part of the national security strategy and national homeland security strategy, is aimed at establishing a comprehensive approach to counter growing threat from the weapons of mass destruction.
A foreign policy reeking of isolationism and unilateralism was further established.
In September 5, 2002, former US President Jimmy Carter said in Washington Post that a core group of conservatives were trying to realize long pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism.
When accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in October 2002, Carter commented to the effect that the course defined by the White House is not pre-emption at all, but prevention, and that no one has the right to take such action.
He pointed out that if powerful countries adopt a principle of preventive war, this sets a bad example and may well have catastrophic global consequences.
The conception that action should be taken at a very early stage, or even before an attack happens, broadens the United States' own scope for action flying in the face of international law which after all explicitly prohibits preventive war.
Iraq has been picked up as the convenient guinea pig for the application of this pre-emptive strike.
The United States was preparing to deploy B-2 bombers to Britain and the Indian Ocean Island of Diego Garcia in October 2002, one month earlier when the Security Council endorsed the Resolution 1441 on disarmament in Iraq.
These unilateral acts and assertions have increasingly isolated the United States from the very nations it needed in combating terrorism.
The explicitly unilateral approach the United States has been taking does not derive from the belief that international co-operation is necessary, but from the conviction that terrorism is an immediate threat, which has to be defeated with all means, even if this means it needs to go it alone.
Former British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said the West was slowly putting behind them a period of history when it was unable to express a "legitimate" interest in the developing world without being accused of "neo-colonialism."
New brand names come and go in their pursuit of interest: "preventive diplomacy," "humanitarian intervention" and "pre-emptive strategy."
The resistance against the US-led invasion of Iraq and the strong opposition to the war worldwide show us that the Big Stick is not always a magic wand in handling the international conflicts. (China Daily News)