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US show of force galls Arab world

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For ordinary people around the Middle East, suspicious of American intentions in Iraq, the live TV coverage from Baghdad this week has been hard to swallow.

Watching "Rocky," not war

At a corner cafe in the Egyptian town of Ismailiya, patrons asked owner Riad Othman to switch from Al Jazeera to The Movie Channel on Wednesday. They sat there, drinking their coffee, glued to "Rocky II" rather than the images from Baghdad.

"This is not something we can bear to watch," explained Ibrahim Khader, a nut-shop owner. "It's pathetic, this capitulation."

Some dissidents raise their voices against the general tide of opinion, however, especially in Kuwait, where US-led forces evicted Iraqi occupiers in 1991.

"The success of the military campaign has definitely vindicated the decision to take Saddam head on," says Ahmed Bishara, head of the reformist National Democratic Movement in the Gulf kingdom. "And even if they don't find weapons of mass destruction, the torture chambers they have already found are enough to justify the war."

Even Dr. Bishara, though, cautions against success going to American policymakers' heads.

"Many nations around the world will realize now that there is muscle here that can be flexed," he says. "But I hope it will not increase belligerency in the US, giving them ideas about going around beating up other regimes."

That concern is shared further afield, too.

"They've demonstrated that they are willing to invade Muslim countries that they don't like, and they've shown that the United Nations has no ability to stop them," says Taufiq Amrullah, an Indonesian Muslim student leader.

"Now they say Syria and then maybe Iran. Where will they stop?"

Pax Americana?

Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri, an ally of Washington's, likened US policy to "the law of the jungle" in a speech this week, lamenting that "the powerful country feels it has the right to exert its will upon the weak."

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