Opinion: Editorials

Killing bin Laden is not a foreign policy

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Photo - FILE - JUNE 16: JAKARTA, INDONESIA - A poster of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden i (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
FILE - JUNE 16: JAKARTA, INDONESIA - A poster of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden i (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Opinion,Editorial

Osama bin Laden is dead, but President Obama is determined not to let him rest. The bearded terrorist who once led al Qaeda has become, for Obama and his surrogates, a bumper-sticker slogan to be trotted out at campaign events -- a symbol of the supposed success of his administration's foreign policy.

"Osama bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive," is how Vice President Biden put it at the Democratic convention.

In a joking reference to Monday night's debate, President Obama said at last week's Al Smith dinner: "Spoiler alert: We got Bin Laden."

On ABC's "This Week," former White House green jobs czar Van Jones called his old boss a "towering figure in foreign policy: You've got somebody with a Nobel Peace Prize and he killed bin Laden." The administration has also leaked details of the raid and cooperated in the making of a Hollywood movie on the raid that is due later this year.

Those of us at The Washington Examiner fist-pumped like everyone else when we heard the news that the SEALs had taken out bin Laden. But is this a grand foreign policy triumph for the ages? We don't think so, especially given recent events. And one successful assassination does not a coherent foreign policy make.

Obama deserves credit for making the right call, but let's be honest: It was not a uniquely tough call to make. As "Black Hawk Down" author Mark Bowden wrote in Foreign Policy magazine: "[N]early all the [administration] principals favored sending in the SEALs at their final meeting on the topic, three days before the raid. The biggest exception was Vice President Biden, who was the only one who urged the president not to attack the Abbottabad compound ... yet." It can't be that hard to choose when a room full of experts says "Yes!" and Biden says "No!"

Even the hypothetical political consequences of failure are probably overestimated -- many Americans would have understood, had bin Laden been absent, or had the raid been repelled.

And frankly, getting bin Laden shouldn't have been the focus of America's anti-terror policy anyway. America's eye has been off the ball while far more important events transpired in the Arab world. The Arab Spring is being hijacked by increasingly radical and anti-American actors. The Arab world continues to hate America as much as it ever did, despite Obama's outreach efforts, which have at times approached the level of groveling. Unlike bin Laden, al Qaeda is very much still alive. It is not on its heels, on the run, or on the ropes, as developments in Afghanistan and elsewhere prove. Yes, bin Laden is dead, but so is Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed at the hands of bin Laden's followers.

"I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person -- Osama bin Laden -- because after we get him, there's going to be another and another," Mitt Romney said in 2007. The Obama campaign has tried to twist those and related comments into a claim that Romney would have opposed the raid. That's malarkey, as Biden would say. The comments merely show that Romney is more far-sighted on this issue than the present administration. No doubt the president will invoke bin Laden's death again during tonight's debate. Romney should call him out, and simply point out that the terrorist enemy is a radical movement, which is much bigger than any one man.

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