The Politics of Bin Laden

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On September 17, 2001, President George W. Bush declared, "I want justice.” There’s an old poster out West: "Wanted, Dead or Alive." At the time some dubbed this "Wild West Rhetoric." But in the end, that’s how the order was carried out. A Navy Seal "took out" the greatest terrorist of our time.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden was the result of years of hard work by our intelligence and uniformed services. After Bin Laden escaped our clutches in Tora Bora, it was believed we had lost our last hope to nail him. It was believed that Bin Laden was hiding in caves in Afghanistan or Pakistan, never staying long enough to be tracked, and never using cell phones or the Internet.

It turns out the great ascetic was actually living in a mansion, "hiding in plain sight." Bin Laden had forgotten the most important rule of a wanted man on the run: to stay on the run. He’d gotten careless, or old, or sick, or all of the above.

The Pakistani "West Point" was just blocks away. Amazing how nobody there was curious about the compound with the 20-foot walls and barbed wire. The Pakistanis were "shocked, shocked." They are such a great ally that we didn’t dare share any details of the raid with them. With friends like these…

The raid that took out Bin Laden went almost precisely according to plan. Even the loss of a helicopter did not stop the Seals from carrying out their mission, which seems to have unfolded like something out of a movie.

There is much credit to go around. To the Seals, to the CIA, to our soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, and yes, to the President, who presided over the most difficult decisions, including whether to launch a raid or simply send in missiles.

Obama will obviously get a huge boost because of the success of the mission, and deservedly so. (We know if anything went wrong, he would surely get all the blame!)

Pundits will no doubt be asking if this means the President gets re-elected. It obviously doesn’t hurt. But foreign policy success does not always translate to success in the voting booth. Ask President George H. W. Bush, whose victory in the Gulf War had him soaring in the polls until the economy tanked.

The major issue of the 2012 race will still be the price of gas, and the state of unemployment, and the state of the budget, etc. Every Commander-in-Chief learns that it’s always about the economy, stupid!