He is dead; what next?
With the death of Osama Bin Laden, I hope to see a few weeks of nonpartisan love. If there is one thing that the two political parties can agree on, it is that the world is a better place today with that monster off the face of the planet.
President Barack Obama clearly had the penultimate foreign policy achievement of his Presidency last night. Very little, excluding a 9/11 type disaster itself, could match what last night held in store. One can argue how much credit goes to whom, but ultimately, successes of the government and the military pass upward to the White House, and thus, Obama deserves the lion’s share of the credit.
However, as 9/11 showed us, the kumbaya moment can only last so long.
Already political hacks are starting the attacks, accusations, and the credit/blame game…as it should be…this is politics! The question is, after the dust has settled, what will be the effects of Bin Laden’s demise?
1. A Strong Foreign Policy President?
Liberals would love for us to believe that this completely solidifies Obama’s credentials as a foreign policy President. I, and would wager most of you, do not agree with this.
Killing one man, any single person, in not an earth shattering event. Killing Bin Laden was a huge success, but a symbolic one at that. The War on Terror will go on, with or without the philosophical leader of Al Qaead.
More importantly, killing of any single man is not a diplomatic strategy unto itself. As we have seen through out the Middle East, the Obama doctrine is simply lacking in definition and clarity. The Jasmine revolution revealed the Obama doctrine for what it is: a ‘wing-it’ approach to foreign policy. Additionally, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya continue, and it is questionable when they will come to an end. Not all of these problems are Obama’s fault…but he is still responsible for them.
Others, many on the right, would suggest that much of this was luck…and rightfully so. Although I give credit where credit is due, the luck of finding the courier associated with Bin Laden had much more to do with the success of this mission than any decision on the part of the President. Luck matters in life; here, it helped Obama. Next time, who knows?
Some liberals have stated that Obama answered his “3 a.m. call’, as Hillary put it. But was this really the case? This was months in development, and I am sure that the ‘Vulcan’ Obama went over every scenario time and again; that is much different than an immediate crisis, such as 9/11, which entails decisive action. Obama acted appropriately in this scenario, but that by no means answers the remainder of the question.
2. So, about those harsh interrogations…
So, what becomes to the concept of ‘harsh interrogations? Mr. Obama set out as a candidate to eliminate the process and close Guantanamo Bay. His failure to do so is a major Achilles’ heel when it comes to his political left.
But if he have learned anything in the last few days, it is that Obama is a true pragmatist on foreign policy. Even his past actions state this. Whether it be his choices in Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea…the President has taken the exact same course as his predecessor has.
Now, this success has a direct linear relationship to harsh interrogation. There is no way to separate the two. Liberals could potentially argue that the intelligence could have been obtained elsewhere. However, that is nonsensical, when the facts are what they are.
I will say this: this may be an argument more about history than on politics. If, as it now appears, the harsh interrogations were vital to the killing of OBL, then President Bush will at the very least be partially vindicated for his actions regarding interrogation policy and Guantanamo Bay, although many of us don’t believe he needs any vindication whatsoever. What may be more interesting is if this vindication will further anger extreme liberals who have long argued that Bush is a war criminal, and that Obama has failed to keep his promises is this area. It could potentially further anger an already unstable Left.
3. Here comes the poll number bump!
If Obama gets less than a 15 point bump in the polls, I will be shocked. This is a major event, and that is an understatement. This was the elimination of a man that largely defined the world and succeeding events for the last decade.
But as usual, people let emotions get ahead of reality. Numerous liberals are out stating that the GOP is done for 2012.
History shows us that is simply not the case.
George W. Bush saw his poll numbers increase by 8 points when Saddam Hussein was captured in a spider hole in December 2003.
Maybe a more apt comparison is George H.W. Bush. After winning the first Gulf War, Bush’s poll numbers skyrocketed. In March of 1991, his popularity peaked at 91%, and remained well over 50% for the rest of the year. He then lost re-election to Bill Clinton…because of the economy. Sound familiar?
This is a feather in Obama’s cap, to be sure. But it is no more than that.
Here is the more painful reality for liberals: victories are short lived in American politics. People simply don’t have long term memories. If this had happened in September 2012, that is a different story. But occurring 18 months before the election, the assassination of Bin Laden is largely going to be an afterthought on election day.
Ultimately, political hacks on both sides will go to their corners on this issue. Clearly, any honest evaluation of this event should lead us to believe that this is a huge plus for Mr. Obama. For most Americans, this is what they will remember of his foreign policy. But with the economy lagging, the budget deficit growing, and fights over spending, taxes, and entitlement reform coming in the next few weeks, Bin Laden likely will become what he should be: a faint memory. The actual effects on the Barack Obama 2012 re-election campaign is likely minimal at best.
This has been cross posted at Neoavatara.