Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Avoiding bin Laden

I generally try to avoid the inside blogsball thing, but apparently not today. For on Josh Marshall's blog is an interesting commentary on this piece by Chris Suellentrop on Slate, which is a pretty bloggy site.

What caught my attention initially was the tarnish Suellentrop's piece may or may not put on Wesley Clark's spit-polish-and-brass image. Josh Marshall unveils the mountain-out-of-molehill assessment that Suellentrop has given some of the general's utterances. But what held me is this one: "We bombed Afghanistan, we missed Osama Bin Laden, partly because the president never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden. All along, right after 9/11, they'd made their mind up, I guess, that we were going to go after Saddam Hussein."

I don't really find this Clark quote so outrageous. He is probably right. And while the Iraq war seems to be the result of craven motiviations, the avoidance of bin Laden's capture may be based on some very real geopolitical concerns.

Has anybody really thought about what could happen if the U.S. actually captures Osama bin Laden? If the generally accepted conjecture on bin Laden's whereabouts is true, his capture will require trangressing the borders of Pakistan--to enter a territory in which even Pakistani military rarely dare to venture.

And speaking of the Pakistani military, it would be foolish to assume their loyalties reside with the U.S. Many of Pakistan's top military figures are known to be supporters of the Taliban and sympathetic to al Qaeda. There's good reason to wonder whether General Pervez Musharaf, Pakistan's self-appointed president, would survive bin Laden's capture, and I mean that literally. Musharaf narrowly escaped assassination twice this month.

Who is more valuable to the U.S. at this moment? Osama bin Laden, or Pervez Musharaf? With peace talks likely in the offing between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, I'd put my money on the general.

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