Deftness Where It's Needed

The Bush administration's first string - including Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the president himself - is showing the world that acting with resolve does not mean acting with haste.

Secretary Powell, in particular, is proving that he's one of many individuals likely to be seen as being in the right place at the right time as the world attempts to join forces to fight terrorism. This battle requires tremendous military and diplomatic know-how, and Mr. Powell has both.

He knows the lessons of deployment in a tense region, learned from the Gulf War. And his diplomatic skills were evident in persuading an uncertain, even reluctant Pakistan, to help root out Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cells.

Powell and others in the Bush administration have correctly urged a broader definition of the war against terrorism as not solely military, but one that must be fought on economic, diplomatic, and political fronts as well.

Much time and careful diplomacy will be necessary to bring fragile governments in the Middle East into a coalition without inflaming hostile elements in those societies, should US retaliation be anything but careful and decisive. As coalition-building proceeds, the US will inevitably have to convince Arab countries that it remains committed to a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Getting support from such diverse nations as India, Turkey, Russia, and China is a big order in itself. Add to that the need to deal with countries that have not been considered friends or partners of the US, and the demand for a deft diplomatic hand becomes even clearer.

Within the US, too, the demand is for leadership capable of fostering much greater cooperation among the numerous domestic agencies that have had a role in fighting terrorism. Intelligent teamwork is paramount.

Secretary Powell is a pillar in that regard. And as an African-American, he speaks with special resonance, as some Americans are tempted to respond negatively to others of different ethnicity or religion. The country relies on e pluribus unum, and, to a significant degree, its current leadership embodies that motto.

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