Well. This has to be welcome news for our friends on the left. For years they've been arguing on message boards, chat rooms, talk radio, blogs, and cable TV that America's priorities are all wrong in the GWoT, that we need to be going after the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11. We've been lectured and hectored that they aren't in Iraq, they are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Or, in the spirit of the late Ma Richards, "it's al Qaeda, stupid."
So let the spin begin, and there's certainly a variety of directions it could go. Start with the latest NIE, which pointed to a resurgence of AQ in the tribal areas. Musharraf has done little to stop them to date and we've been reluctant to violate his sovereignty due to the fear he could get removed in a coup leaving the Pakistani nuclear football (or is it a soccer ball?) in the hands of bin Laden acolytes. However, recent events surrounding the Red Mosque and now clashes along the border may be a signal that things are about to change, no matter what the official line might be.
Another is the inherent risk involved with going after Iran. A buildup in Pakistan while the political winds are blowing us out of Iraq would be a potential death knell in the GWoT. Weakening the enemy on our right flank keeps the Ayatollahs at bay since a weakened force in Afghanistan means more resources to keep tabs on them. But maybe this is part of the overall strategy? Time for a well-placed "hmm".
Guiltily speaking, the politics here is perhaps the most interesting aspect. The left (and a few former righties) have lately been running around telling anyone who'll listen that the next terror attack will be an inside job created by Bushitler goons to allow him to declare Marshall Law and actually officially become Bushitler, or in Bushspeak, "Dictator Guy". High hilarity in light of the NIE and the Taliban, who are simultaneously running around threatening more spectacular attacks. Following that "logic" would presumably render the Taliban as CIA black ops units--for those scoring at home.
But if Bush takes Iran off the table and simply swarms Pakistan in a chase for UBL and Zawahiri their conspiracy theory goes down the drain. After all, it would represent the heights of hypocrisy to suddenly change tactics and begin loudly complaining about chasing AQ and UBL since they've been asking for exactly that since 2002. Their only remaining play would be to whine "what took so long" or claim he waited until the approaching election, which aren't nearly as strong.
And if, like they believe, we get hit again after going into the territories it would be risky to blame it on an inside job. That's a big kerplunk. (Side note--this is no endorsement of the left's whacky attack/dictator theory, only pointing out the politics of it, which is not meaningless. The biggest inside job is actually being run by the enemy right now through the US media and left wing establishment).
Of course there's no problem with this on the right since we're all chickenhawk warmongers anyway. Many of us have wondered for years why Bush couldn't do some cross-border Rambo action into Waziristan and Baluchistan, the latter a well-known hotbed of terrorism since the early 90s and boyhood home to KSM and Yousef.
Alas, with everything else in this GWoT it's hard to gage whether we're just bluffing Musharraf or this is the real thing. Maybe Bush is resigned to the fact we'll have to draw down troops in Iraq and this is a last-ditch to keep from losing the war and his legacy along with it. For all we know both China and Russia are involved in this international conflict in a clandestine manner (think polonium-210), which complicates matters even more.
We'll have to wait and see. Discussing the politics might seem trivial and shallow but America has not been so ideologically fractured since the Civil War. The aftermath of another terror attack might depend on the mood of the country and how well we can all work together to get through it. Bush might figure it's better to go down chasing bin Laden and Zawahiri while diverting jihadi and media attention off Iraq for awhile. Capturing bin Laden or Zawahiri might do wonders for American resolve about now.