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Mr. McCain then offered categorical remarks, in an apparent attempt to play to the conservative audience, that he thinks evil should be vanquished. By contrast, Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was asked the same question earlier by Mr. Warren and provided a more carefully crafted answer, noting that “evil does exist… and I think it has to be confronted.” However, he called for “humility” in confronting evil because “you know, a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.”

Mr. McCain’s comments echoed similar sentiments of some U.S. special operations commandos who, as reported recently in this space, are frustrated by Bush administration defense and national security leaders for not unleashing the elite U.S. commando forces to do more to get bin Laden and his key deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.

The Pentagon insists it is doing everything possible to hunt down the al Qaeda leaders, who are thought to be hiding somewhere in the mountainous border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The area has been off-limits to U.S. commandos although there have been attacks on al Qaeda and Taliban leaders from the air.

One soldier who fought in Afghanistan told Inside the Ring that more needs to be done with special forces.

“From what I have seen in southern Afghanistan, there seemed to be a resistance to use special ops,” he said.

One of the problems is that Wazirstan, one of the target regions, “is probably the most defended, toughest terrain on the planet,” the soldier said.

“The mujahideen always expected the Soviets [in the 1980s] to come into the area and prepared positions in depth. It would take a lot of troops to clear that area.”

“It will come down to lives - how much are we willing to spend to get bin Laden? From what I see, it’s about zero, so here we sit. Lots of ‘specially trained guys’ sitting and waiting.”

A defense official said Mr. McCain’s comment about getting bin Laden suggested that a President McCain might change the current approach.

Michael Vickers, a former CIA officer who is assistant defense secretary for special operations, was quoted recently by one trade newspaper as saying he would like to stay on in the post after the Bush administration as a “holdover” for either a Republican or Democratic administration.

Opacity or Deception?

Pentagon officials are frustrated by the Chinese military’s continuing refusal to disclose or even discuss key questions about both its weapons buildup and military strategy with U.S. counterparts.

The stonewalling on U.S. efforts to coax China’s military into greater openness and end what is dubbed the lack of transparency is triggering a new debate within the Pentagon. The debate is fueled by some civilian and military officials who want to get tough with China rather than continuing to follow what one official called the use of European “diplospeak” to describe what he said was more akin to Soviet-style strategic deception being used by the Chinese to mask their true military intentions.

There is growing evidence, these officials say, that rather than simply adopting Western-style military secrecy, China’s military is engaged in a wider effort at denial and deception: denying the Pentagon even seemingly innocuous information about key Chinese military developments and also putting out false and misleading information to make the Chinese military appear non-threatening.

The key goal of the program, the officials say, is to prevent the United States and its allies in Asia from taking countermeasures to balance China’s military buildup.

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