Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of Barack Obama’s announcement of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The raid was the undoubted high point of Obama’s presidency – nothing else he did was as popular across party lines – and contributed significantly to his re-election, inoculating him against criticism of much of the rest of his foreign policy. But for Democrats, there are two inconvenient facts about the raid, which I have detailed before at greater length. One, the hard part was finding bin Laden, and we found him in large part due to Bush-era policies that Obama and the Democrats had criticized. And two, while Obama deserves the credit for making the decision to go ahead with the raid (after a fair amount of hemming and hawing), and most of Obama’s team went along with the decision, the historical record is quite clear that Joe Biden opposed it.
CNN’s Zachary Wolf has a lengthy “analysis” entitled “Biden’s cautious stance on the bin Laden raid a decade ago tells us how he might handle a crisis now,” which does its best to soften, euphemize, and cloud that history without actually disputing any of it. Six paragraphs into the story, we get the first mention of what Biden’s stance was:
Would Biden have green-lit the bin Laden raid?
It’s impossible to say, since he was not President back in 2011, but Biden was in the room with Obama watching the bin Laden raid go down. In the many, many accounts of those days that have been published, Biden is universally portrayed as a skeptic of the raid.
It actually is not that hard to say. Biden was not just a “skeptic” – he thought the raid was too risky, militarily and politically, he told Obama, “Mr. President, my suggestion is: Don’t go,” and everybody in the room has confirmed it. Nobody but Biden and his most die-hard flacks claims otherwise. Wolf tries to offer an excuse:
It’s also important to note that Biden has a very good reason to view the direct use of US troops differently than any President. He’s the first since Eisenhower to have a child deployed to a combat zone.
Never mind that we have had multiple World War II veterans in the White House since then, two of whom (John F. Kennedy and George H.W. Bush) nearly died in the Pacific. Eisenhower himself had seen enough of war to want no part of unnecessary military engagements, but it is hard to imagine the architect of the Normandy invasion balking at sending a Special Forces team to get a man who killed thousands of Americans on American soil. Wolf notes that “Biden’s position on the raid was a minor campaign issue in 2020, during the presidential campaign,” which is really a damning indictment of the press and his primary opponents, neither of whom wanted to talk about the most significant evidence of Biden’s approach to being Commander-in-Chief. (Donald Trump and Mike Pence could have made a bigger issue of it, but at least both mentioned the issue).
Ten years later, Barack Obama can take a victory lap. Joe Biden can’t. On the biggest moment of decision of Obama’s presidency, Biden was there, and Biden was wrong.