They compete over who can better attack Al Qaeda in Pakistan – unilaterally.
On one issue – who'd be tougher on Al Qaeda – John McCain and Barack Obama are one-upping each other in rhetoric. It's a risky dynamic and may be giving a green light to the current president. Just before President Bush met Pakistan's new prime minister Monday, the US conducted an attack on Al Qaeda – inside Pakistan.
The unilateral airstrike by an unmanned drone allegedly killed Al Qaeda's leading expert on chemical and biological weapons, Abu Khabab al-Masri. The result may be difficult to argue against but this US violation of Pakistani sovereignty was criticized by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and perhaps most Pakistanis who cherish their recent return to full democracy.
And as if to disregard his guest, Mr. Bush stated that he "supports the sovereignty of Pakistan" – despite the same-day attack on one of Al Qaeda's havens in the largely lawless tribal areas.
In America's post-9/11 politics, a neoconservative idea of unilateral, sovereignty-breaking, and preemptive attacks against Al Qaeda is little debated. The United Nations gave its approval for the 2001 invasion of Taliban-run Afghanistan to oust Al Qaeda but not so for ongoing US attacks inside Pakistan.