But as President Bush assumes command of a new international coalition, the United States risks unleashing competing regional forces that could jeopardize this support and undermine the leaders themselves.
Iraq from Kuwait a decade ago. Resentment has mounted over the humanitarian plight of ordinary Iraqis suffering under United Nations sanctions and over a widespread perception that the United States ignores Israeli shelling and siege of Palestinian towns.
In the age of satellite television, pro-American leaders -- most of them autocrats -- no longer have the power to control public opinion and must compete for the hearts and minds of their poor and uneducated with the anti-American clarion calls of militant Islamists.
Bush has put together some of the main pieces of an international coalition similar to the one his father mobilized against Iraq in 1990 and 1991, winning full backing from NATO and an anti-terror resolution from the U.N. Security Council.
Initial responses showed that American power to intimidate remained intact.
Even Syria's president and foreign minister -- kept at arm's length from Washington for supporting Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and providing haven for anti-Israel terror groups -- sent strong letters of support.
"It's a coalition that will stay intact, that will be built upon over time. And what we have to do is not just go after these perpetrators, and those who gave them haven, but the whole curse of terrorism that is upon the face of the earth," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday.
Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister who currently speaks for the European Union, said America's tough response "shouldn't go too far" and said Europe was "not at war." French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin stressed, "We are not at war against Islam or the Arab-Muslim world."
Their comments reflected fears that in the Middle East, that's how Bush's "war" will be perceived. A diplomat from a Muslim nation, who refused to be identified by name or country, said that while many in the region sympathize with the United States, there's a feeling that "when you bully around other countries, this is what happens to you."
Elsewhere, public opinion might restrict the kinds of support Muslim leaders are prepared to give Bush -- at least publicly.
"I have no doubt all will support them in terms of providing intelligence. This can be done discreetly. But they will not get into a clash with their people," said Mohammed Wahby, a former Egyptian diplomat and Washington columnist for the influential magazine Al-Mussawar.
The focus of popular feeling is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bush's hands-off treatment is seen as tacit endorsement of Israel's closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and its assassinations of militant leaders. The attacks against New York and Washington might have increased American empathy with Israelis threatened by suicide bombers, but that's not shared in the Arab world.