The Washington Post leads with the Pakistani military moving into Peshawar, a northern city about 30 miles from Afghanistan, to counteract an impending attack by the Taliban and other Islamist fighters. The New York Timesleads with a sweeping Army self-study that identifies a number of problems contributing to the difficulty U.S. forces have faced in stabilizing Iraq since 2003. The Los Angeles Timesleads with an analysis of Sen. John McCain's campaign stops. This week, McCain has been to … Canada? Mexico?
Clouds of violence are gathering along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the WP reports, as the Pakistani military lines up to face the Taliban in Peshawar. The United States has been urging Pakistan to take a stronger approach toward insurgents, though Islamabad has carefully avoided a full-on confrontation until now. Fighting along the border has intensified this month, with more than 30 NATO soldiers being killed in Afghanistan and several mutilated or beheaded. The new force Pakistan is showing in Peshawar "may signal a strategic shift in the country's struggle to quell extremist activity." The NYT reports that Pakistani soldiers "shelled territory outside Peshawar held by an extremist leader. Army forces were not used, and the intent apparently was merely to push the militants back from the city's perimeter."
A new Army study titled "On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign" presents the results of 200 interviews in nearly 700 pages, including "long quotations" from military officers, according to the NYT. Its authors were "instructed not to shy away from controversy while withholding a final verdict on whether senior officials had made mistakes that decisively altered the course of the war." The problems diagnosed center around poor planning and misguided reactions to unanticipated problems—the Army, for example, assumed most of Iraq's ministries would continue operating after the fall of Saddam Hussein and reduced its forces too much too soon.
The LAT's lead story wonders if Sen. John McCain's unorthodox campaigning—traveling to foreign cities to underscore his foreign-policy image at a time Americans are most concerned with the economy—might actually be his best option. McCain seems to hope that being seen with foreign leaders will heighten the country's impression that he is a strong, presidential leader who takes national security seriously. But the lessons of previous Republican campaigns (Nixon in 1960, George H.W. Bush in 1992) remind us that banking on an issue voters don't care about is a recipe for disaster. Maybe this time, "given voters' contempt for Washington, the Republican Party and the incumbent president, it might be McCain's best chance of winning."
The NYT and WP front a pair of Supreme Court term analyses, both addressing the crucial new role of Justice Anthony Kennedy as the court's often-deciding swing vote. The NYT fleshes out a theme that both pieces mention—the unclassifiable nature of the past term—saying that the court "left a complicated and to some extent blurred imprint." The WP predicts the rather drastic role a John McCain presidency could have in moving the court to the right, as the justices most likely to retire are on the liberal end of the spectrum. Obama would likely nominate similar-minded individuals, but conservative replacements nominated by Sen. McCain would change the high court's political makeup for the next several decades.
In an Olympic season already riddled with controversy, the LAT uncovers one more: Mexican-American athletes who have decided to compete for the country of their ancestry rather than the one that helped them into the international spotlight. Giovanni Lanaro, the world's sixth-ranked pole vaulter, who was born in Los Angeles and attended California State University, Fullerton, says he "will always compete for Mexico" and would "never compete for any other country." (His mother was born there.) The LAT reports that this crossing over is a "growing practice" of athletes among the United States' 28 million Mexican-Americans. The practice is legal for both Mexicans and Americans under each nation's Olympic rules, but understandably doesn't please many north of the border.
In the WP Style section, a former Vogue employee briefly profiles the magazine and its famous editor, Anna Wintour, who may be the only editor widely known to people who have never seen a copy of her magazine. Wintour has been in charge of the leading women's style magazine for 20 years today, an occasion she will mark by doing "… nothing." As most of the nation now knows, thanks to a certain film that wrung comedy from her infamous fastidiousness, Wintour has spent the last two decades becoming a cultural icon—mysterious, glamorous, and never politically correct.