Republican strategists are certainly expecting a very tough political environment to retain the White House in 2008, and the Bush Administration is gearing up for a huge new military effort staged from Afghanistan to capture Osama Bin Laden and announce his capture right before the election in an effort to boost John McCain.
The hope is create a public euphoria in which many voters will ignore the meteoric rise in gas and oil prices, the bad economy, home foreclosures, joblessness, poor consumer protection leading to an unending series of contaminated food scares, defective imports, and many other problems. It is almost as if the Bush White House has been asleep at the switch for the last 8 years, and now plans to use the U.S. military in a blatantly political way to stage some grand last ditch event to eclipse all the bad memory of everything else that has gone wrong since Bush accidentally became President due to the electoral college glitch of 2000.
Bush is pulling out all the stops for his final grand effort to capture Osama bin Laden before he leaves office. Both his legacy as well as party position for the elections are at stake. Bush would desperately love to capture Bin Laden before he leaves office.
Today, public television aired a press statement from both Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has promised more British troops for Afghanistan. And the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, laid out new grounds for justification of military missions into neighboring Pakistan, by declaring that Afghanistan is being attacked by Taliban and Al Qaeda radicals operating in cross border missions.
Karzai's statement sets up an important standard that allows American forces to operate in military missions in Pakistan, and puts the government of Pakistan in a very difficult position. On one hand, the government of Pakistan has done a very poor job controlling extremists operating in the mountainous areas and villages near the border of Afghanistan.
On the other hand, the government in Pakistan operates with little real public support, and has even made a truce with some radicals that they could not control. But allowing cross border missions by American military forces into Pakistan could also create public anger in Pakistan and destabilize and collapse that government. There is some real risk in all of this, and the Bush Administration's instincts about Iraq, the Mid-East, and other regional issues has certainly not been very good so far.
There is certainly great potential danger that the government of Pakistan could possibly become very unstable with too much American military involvement there, creating angry mob protests and other dangers. During the Vietnam War, American efforts to attack Communist bases in Laos and Cambodia only served to destabilize and collapse both governments.
This last big push for some pre-election political theatre by the Bush Administration could be setting up a major crisis for the next president of the U.S. who could be facing a nuclear weapons armed Pakistan controlled by radicals friendly to Al Qaeda. This would certainly be a real crisis for the U.S.
Capturing Osama Bin Laden right after the 9/11 attacks would have been the very best thing. However, any current new drive to capture Osama Bin Laden, must involve the full cooperation of the government of Pakistan, and that government also needs to be able to stay in full control of the country as well. For the most part, Bin Laden is largely an irrelevant figure within Al Qaeda right now, and his capture would only be largely symbolic for American domestic political consumption.
Other less known Al Qaeda leadership is more likely far more dangerous as they are the ones actually responsible for violence in Iraq and elsewhere. This new 11th hour drive to capture Bin Laden years after 9/11 is hardly much more than political theatre for the most part, however virtually every American would certainly be more than happy to see him brought to justice and captured.
But it certainly will cast a huge new shadow over the election if it becomes a late October surprise. Even in the worst of times, the White House still holds certain advantages to manipulate events to boost their party right before the election. Such is the nature of October surprises.
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