The Post today reports that Al Qaeda has endorsed John McCain for president. With seemingly impeccable logic, the cave dwellers — actually, more likely, Quetta-squatters — say that by electing McCain, the United States will commit itself to an extension of President Bush’s blunders and thus exhaust itself militarily and financially.

Of course, Al Qaeda says that the way it can assist McCain is through a terrorist act that will rally Americans to his side.

Saying that McCain will continue the “failing march of his predecessor,” Al Qaeda added:

“Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election. … [We] will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda then will succeed in exhausting America.”

The quotes came from an AQ-linked website called al-Hesbah and were written by Muhammad Haafid, a longtime contributor to the site.

Conspiracy theorists, along with pessimists and Cassandras on the left, will no doubt see in those words an imminent fatal blow to the Obama campaign in the form of a looming attack that would shift the electoral dynamic. I wouldn’t worry. If the cave-dwellers and Quetta-squatters could attack the United States, they would have done it by now. I suppose its remotely possible that Al Qaeda types might blow something up, but there isn’t a chance in the world that in the next two weeks they can do anything that could shift the election. In fact, by stepping up attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda does indeed have some actual ability to kill people, the organization will only add to Obama’s arguments that the Bush-McCain policies have failed.

And that’s the irony. It’s actually Obama, not McCain, who is pressing an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and promising to attack Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, as foolhardy and stupid as that might be. (No one has ever accused Al Qaeda of being politically astute.)

On October 10, I attended a forum organized by the New America Foundation and the Center on Law and Security called “Al Qaeda 3.0,” which brought together terrorism experts of all sorts, both sensible and not-so-sensible. Fran Townsend, the long-time adviser to the Bush administration — who bailed out earlier this year — spewed doom-and-gloom about AQ’s new potential to attack us, especially in the midst of an economic crisis. “Imagine, then, the vulnerability,” she warned.

And Bruce Hoffman, who is a lynchpin of the terrorism-industrial complex, warned darkly against complacency about Al Qaeda. “Al Qaeda has been written off before,” he said, adding that the organization’s “hard core” remains intact.

True enough, Al Qaeda can cause trouble, and the United States needs to be vigilant. But there is vigilance, and then there is insanity, paranoia, and, well, the creation of the Homeland Security Department and the passage of the Patriot Act. There is also the militarization of the anti-Al Qaeda effort, including the senseless and destructive war in Afghanistan. As Ray Bonner reports in the Times today, a top former British intelligence official is warning the United States that its counterterrorism strategy is wrong-headed:

“Stella Rimington, a former director general of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, said in an interview published over the weekend that she hoped the next American president ‘would stop using the phrase “war on terror.” She also said there had been a ‘huge overreaction’ to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Hear, hear.