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The Grand Global Coalition

The latest big ground battle in the Afghanistan war, while led by the US Army and Afghan allies, nonetheless includes a few hundred soldiers from other nations: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, and Norway.

Their participation serves as a reminder of just how international this war on terrorism has become, even though the Sept. 11 attacks were directed against the United States.

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Like the cold war, this grand coalition of nations will reshape the world in unforeseen ways for decades as it roots out the Al Qaeda network.

In all, 68 nations support the war effort in some way, while 17 nations have deployed forces to work directly with the Pentagon. Many acts of support aren't made public out of concern that terrorists might target a contributing nation.

Britain, of course, is the lead ally, both in military resources and diplomatic support. Italy has sent 15 percent of its Navy. Germany and Japan went through difficult domestic debates to deploy their forces. All of NATO has rallied in some way.

Australia has its special-operation forces on the ground. And beyond the war itself, some 6,000 peacekeepers from many nations are in Afghanistan.

Many nations are simply do-or-die friends of the US. Most see terrorists as able to target them someday as they did the US. A few, while backing the US, may just want to give their militaries a little real-world experience.

The war's reach now also includes anti-terrorist operations in the Philippines, Georgia, Yemen, and perhaps Indonesia. And President Bush hints at a new sort of "anticipatory self-defense" against Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Like Al Qaeda, the war is quickly becoming global.

Despite some nagging in Europe over aspects of the war, the US can be grateful that it has such active and widespread support. Doing it alone - despite the huge resources of the US - would have been impossible.

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By its might and its values, the US naturally attracts many nations as allies. In its time of need, the US must draw on those friendships.