[UPDATE 10-10-12 at 5:16 p.m.: Turns out part of my point is spot-on. A book about to be released by Mark Bowden that chronicles fairly in-depth details of the process within the Obama administration to hunt and get Osama corroborates my point that Obama hunted Osama as the sine qua non of foreign policy. Why did this article appear today and the book will be released soon? As @bdomenech put it, “Tiiiiiiiiiiiiming.”
I said my next “Obama is a liar” post would be on tax raises, and that one is coming, but the emerging exploding scandal over the Benghazi attack and the administration’s inept lying and then coverup delays that one another day or two.
All about a video, eh? That was laughable on its face, everyone knew it was, and yet they kept saying it anyway.
Disgusting. But it gives me a starting point for a post I’ve been mulling over for a while…
“Obama, Obama, We are all Osama!” they chanted.
“Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive,” Vice President Biden has been fond of saying.
Setting aside the dubious claim that the present state of GM is “alive” rather than “zombie/undead,” let’s look at the first half of that supposedly stirring line on Obama’s reelection resume.
Osama bin Laden is, indeed, dead…
See: Democrats hammered George W. Bush because, they claimed, he irresponsibly took his focus off of getting Osama bin Laden in favor of invading Iraq and the “global war on terror.” They seemed to believe that the only necessary action in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks here in the U.S. was the apprehension of Osama bin Laden and bringing him to justice, nothing more.
[Added 10-10-12 at 5:15 p.m.]
The book about to be released includes this:
On May 26, 2009, four months into his presidency, [President Obama] had ended a routine national security briefing in the Situation Room by pointing to [then-Deputy National Security Adviser Tom] Donilon, Leon Panetta, his newly appointed CIA director, Mike Leiter, director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, and Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff. “You, you, you, and you,” he said. “Come upstairs. I want to talk to you guys about something.”As Donilon would tell [Bowden], Obama said: “Here’s the deal. I want this hunt for Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri to come to the front of the line. I worry that the trail has gone cold. This has to be our top priority and it needs leadership in the tops of your organizations […] And I want regular reports on this to me, and I want them starting in thirty days.”
At his regular daily briefings, [President] Bush would routinely ask, “How’re we doing?” and everyone knew what he was talking about. It was the same with Obama. After that impromptu meeting in his office with his new intelligence chiefs in 2009, he would bring it up at nearly every security briefing.
“Are we any closer?”
“What have we learned?”
The newly elected president did make it clear that he regarded the hunt for bin Laden […] as the top national security priority of his administration. But did that really change anything? One senior intelligence official told [Bowden] that it did not […]
Emphasis mine. The article goes on to explain that while the President’s focus on this did cause the intelligence community to work harder producing reports and briefings, it did not accelerate the acquisition of information.
And the actual decision to go in with a raid to get Osama… does anyone really believe that any other President would have decided differently? So then where are we? We are still with a dead Osama bin Laden, but possibly with a still-diminished Al Qaeda incapable of murdering an ambassador and torching a consulate. Alas.
But Osama bin Laden was never the only terrorist mastermind, financer, or field general. There were always others ready and willing to step up when “Al Qaeda’s number 2″ or “the leader of Al Qaeda in X country” was killed or apprehended, which happened with some regularity under Bush. That was precisely because Bush recognized that the struggle against those who attacked us on 9/11 could not be simply against the specific chain of command that planned, financed, and executed that specific attack. He recognized that the struggle against global Islamist terrorism would have to attack the whole cancerous ideology and all workings of those networks.
This approach was effective. Remember: during the seven-plus years after September 11, 2001, during which Bush was president there was not one more successful major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Embassies and consulates count as American soil. If there was actionable intelligence, we acted on it, and stopped the attack.
Oh, sure, Osama was still alive—hiding in caves in Waziristan, scrambling for his dialysis, issuing grainy videos and more calls for death to America—but his effectiveness and that of his network were, clearly, diminished. They were on the run.
So which is more important? Getting that one guy who leads the network, or crippling and stopping the network’s activities such that it is no longer an effective terrorist force?
Both would be great, but I think if you’re forced to choose between them the answers will differ based on your mindset.
On the one hand you have folks like George W. Bush (and me, fwiw) who are more interested in keeping America and her allies safe while promoting our shared interests abroad. This mindset would like to get that one guy who is the leader of the opposing non-lateral paramilitary outfit, but reducing his effectiveness to practically nil while continuing to hunt him is also good. This mindset is also less concerned with the PR optics of an ample and appropriate security force for an ambassador in a war-torn region. His safety, as my representative there, is paramount. Since they are U.S. Marines his ample security force will not threaten those who do not wish us ill, and it will deter those who do.
On the other hand you have folks like Barack Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, who don’t regard the interests of our historic allies (or even our own historic national interests) with anything but disdain, and who think the proper response to any given terrorist attack is to either vaporize the terrorist via drone strike (which is far worse than anything Bush is accused of doing) or to try the non-citizen terrorist, taken on the foreign field of battle, in federal court as though he were a common criminal with all rights of due process available to a U.S. citizen. To this set of people, reducing the visibility of our presence in a country is more important than anyone’s personal safety or promoting the safety and interests of America and her allies.
The first mindset kept us safe and oversaw the establishment—belated, and more difficult than it ought to have been, no doubt—of a competent consensual government in Iraq. The second mindset has seen our consulate burned and our ambassador and three other Americans murdered in Libya by Osama bin Laden’s resurgent Al Qaeda, our embassies attacked by people chanting “We’re all Osama,” and Iraq signing a massive arms deal with Russia.
All just “bumps in the road” to Barack Obama.
If four murdered Americans and a resurgent Al Qaeda are mere “bumps in the road,” I have no desire to see where this road is leading.
But hey: “Osama bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive,” and, it was all about a video (until it wasn’t).
Note: I added “or apprehended” at 11:24 p.m. to the second sentence of the paragraph that starts “But Osama bin Laden was never the only terrorist mastermind.” I think this more accurately captures a major difference between Bush and Obama: the former was interested in collecting intelligence to further cripple the network, which requires getting information out of the terrorists, which requires taking them alive, if possible; the latter just vaporizes them with drone strikes, which means no information gathering is possible.