Obama’s Long Game, Ctd

Jan 17 2012 @ 12:27pm

Andrew Exum does a point-by-point assessment of my Newsweek take on Obama's foreign policy. One bit:

The president deserves real and enduring credit for his bold decision to launch the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but let's not overstate the case here. Sullivan makes it sound as if the president was the de facto J3 for JSOC. (That was actually Rich Clark, if anyone at home is looking to assign credit.) The raid that killed Osama bin Laden was a great victory for the United States, but if victory truly has a thousand fathers, plenty of others deserve credit — including George W. Bush, who was the president as JSOC and its allies in the intelligence community built up many of the capabiltiies that allowed them to track and kill bin Laden. Bush most certainly did not "ignore" bin Laden. Ultimately, the raid was enabled because the United States caught a break on intelligence. And does anyone think that George W. Bush, if given a similar break, would not have made similar decisions?

Really? Andrew ignores the fact that Obama actually had a major fight with McCain in the debates in 2008 over whether he would unilaterally launch a mission into Pakistan to get the guy, without Pakistan's approval. McCain and the rest of the right cited this as evidence of Obama's naivete and incompetence in foreign policy. Obama set a new course in early 2009 – and did exactly what he said he'd do. Here's what we know of Bush and Bin Laden. He let him escape in Tora Bora; in 2002, he said this on Bin Laden:

In 2006, Bush stenographer, Fred Barnes, talked about the issue with Bush:

“Bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.” Barnes said Bush told him that capturing bin Laden is “not a top priority use of American resources.”

Obama changed that. And, as I said, if he were a Republican, and had this record on this issue, he'd be on Mount Rushmore by now. More to come – on Andrew's fair-minded critique and others'. This is a debate worth having.