Pakistan gets Nuked, after US…

Scripps Howard News Service

Some unthinkable possibilitiesQuick! Name the country we turn into a parking lot the next time al-Qaida’s network pulls off a 9/11. If your knee jerks toward Pakistan instead of Iran, your instincts are sound because conditions are falling into place for that scary scenario to unfold.

No, we won’t be toppling a regime – much less nation building – anytime soon in a country of 170 million Muslims (eight times the size of Iraq). But the United States could readily find itself unleashing the “gravest possible consequences” (remember that spooky Cold War phrase?) inside Pakistan’s borders – specifically the federally administered tribal areas that border Afghanistan.

Now imagine some al Qaeda affiliate lights off a nuclear device inside the United States. While our intelligence agencies can’t quite pin down Tehran as the ultimate source (or North Korea, for that matter), we’re once again burying thousands of corpses in some major American city. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden publicly praises Allah from his lair in northwest Pakistan.

Then think about what a sitting U.S. president feels compelled to do next.

Americans, madder than hell, want al Qaeda to know that we’re just not going to take it anymore. But they’re also convinced that invading large Muslim states get us nothing but thousands more casualties and radicalized regimes.

With John McCain or Rudy Giuliani, the tough guy approach would be clear: going nuclear gets you nuclear in return. But don’t assume it would be any different for Hillary Clinton as she reaches for Margaret Thatcher’s mantle, or Barack Obama as he stretches for his own JFK-like mystique.

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