Jewish World Review April 15, 2003 /13 Nissan, 5763

Stanley Crouch

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Being top dog requires bark, bite & brains | Redefining human possibility is now the deepest American business, which means that our sense of responsibility has to be broader and more filled with nuance and less given to sentimentality or simplemindedness than what we have come to expect of ideologues from the right or the left.

Following 9/11, the world became aware of the fact that we are at war with Islamic terrorists determined to slaughter their way into a position of respect for their hatred of the U.S.A. and Israel. Military targets were not enough for them, and they wanted everyone to know that.

When Osama Bin Laden was found to be at the center of that act of mass murder and residing in Afghanistan as a welcome guest of the Taliban, the Bush administration responded by putting together an alliance that should be held onto throughout the roller coaster of international relationships in which friends become enemies become friends become enemies become friends. Pakistan, India, Russia and China were lined up, and our troops went in, taking down what Iran called "the worst regime in the world."

In the battles that the Bush administration had with the UN over going after Saddam Hussein, it eventually let those who disagreed know that this could be done alone. There were cries about the destruction of the UN as a body capable of holding aggressive forces in check.

What rhetorical posturing! The UN did not stop Russia from going into Afghanistan or stop China from taking over Tibet. The big dogs are never dictated to by the little dogs. That is the way the world is and always will be. At best, the big dogs can be convinced that benevolence is a good thing.

So the question in our case is whether we will allow ourselves to be defined merely as a rabid big dog in a time when world power is shifting. No longer does it rest with those little places in Europe, with histories based on their relationships to one another and to the kinds of technological advantages that allowed them to stand tall throughout the colonial era.

Over time, the world agenda will be set by large nations such as the U.S., Russia, India and China, especially as the last three develop their greatest resources - those large populations whose numerous minds will give this nation some very hot competition over the next few decades.

It is our moment, and we should be both strong and smart. So we need to lead on every front while being realistic about where we are and what can be done.

Clearly, there is still work in the Middle East. A tolerable deal can be made between Israel and the Palestinians if the Bush administration is willing to use this nation's economic influence on Israel while making it quite clear to the Islamic world that an attack upon Israel is an attack upon us. The Palestinians will have a homeland, but Israel's security will not be compromised. After watching how easily Iraq went down, that will be taken quite seriously by the Arabs.

Beyond that, of course, are crucial questions such as world health, the environment, education, birth control and a list of issues that Republicans rarely address with enough seriousness to create a real dialogue with their political opponents.

While licking the blood off its teeth, it is time for the biggest dog to do some thinking.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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