The Washington Post beats, if not the drums, than at least the bongos of war in today's editorial:
If Pakistani forces cannot -- or will not -- eliminate the [al Qaeda] sanctuary, President Bush must order targeted strikes or covert actions by American forces, as he has done several times in recent years. Such actions run the risk of further destabilizing Pakistan. Yet those risks must be weighed against the consequences of another large-scale attack on U.S. soil. "Direct intervention against the sanctuary in Afghanistan apparently must have seemed . . . disproportionate to the threat," the Sept. 11 commission noted. The United States must not repeat that tragic misjudgment.
The Post is reacting to increasingly dire warnings coming from the U.S. intelligence community saying that al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in the federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan. But the benefits of direct U.S. action have to be weighed against the strategic costs. Right now, Pakistani President Musharraf has a mandate to go after extremists: The militants holed up in the Red Mosque called for an Islamic revolution, but the Pakistani public mostly cheered as Musharraf's security forces took them down.
This is why al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri has repeatedly urged his followers to concentrate on the jihad in Afghanistan and avoid attacks in Pakistan. Zawahiri, who watched his previous organization get destroyed in Egypt during the 1990s, likely understands that the escalating campaign of terrorist bombings in Pakistan will strengthen Musharraf's hand still further. But al Qaeda would enjoy a propaganda bonanza if the U.S. started seriously mucking around in the tribal areas. And then there's the small problem that even the United States likely doesn't have the ability to sneak into the tribal wilds of Pakistan with a compact strike force, kill the bad guys, and make a clean getaway without anyone noticing. This ain't the movies. Better to give the Pakistanis the time to do it themselves.
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