Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bush's October Surprise: Surprise!

If it is true that the Bush administration is deliberately agitating the hornet’s nest that is Pakistan by escalating US military operations in the northwest area of that country, the question is, why now?

It has long been assumed that Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri are in the northwest area of Pakistan or even in adjacent Afghanistan. And while what seems to be a renewed interest in the area is a welcome development, one must cautiously look at the motivating factors behind the administration’s actions as well as the possibly destabilizing consequences such actions might produce.

Bush has had seven years to catch bin Laden, “dead or alive”. After saying bin Laden was the most important person in the war on terror, the administration did an apparent about-face and said that he didn’t matter all that much. The shifts (reversals, really) of the administration are troubling but, as anyone who has followed Bush closely through the years can tell you, they are not surprising.

What is surprising is how Bush -- as well as his hopeful successor McCain -- has moved closer to Obama’s positions with everything from Iran to Iraq to Afghanistan to, most recently Pakistan. Those “shifts” in policy are not meant to be noticed. In fact, as McCain proved with the “Change” slogan, they are meant to be owned without acknowledging that the mantra was stolen from the opponent in the first place.

But the focus on Pakistan while ignoring its democratically elected government in Islamabad is even more cynical than slogan stealing and even more dangerous than saber rattling. It is Bush’s last stand and the intent could not be any clearer. Bush is prepared to use the full force of the United States military in an extraordinary display of theatre to tilt the November elections.

This is his “October Surprise”. Bush thinks that in the last hour of his presidency he can run out and become a hero by catching bin Laden, a man Bush has been uninterested in catching for seven years. And he thinks that the big catch will ensure his party’s victory in November.

Is he that cynical? Does he think Americans are that stupid?

The better question, will it work?

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