Katrina, thanks for quoting the allegedly damning MSNBC debate transcript where Mitt focuses on the larger picture of our global war. While President Obama undoubtedly deserves credit for making the right call in taking out bin Laden, it’s important to contrast Romney’s quite prescient debate answer with the administration’s seeming belief that they can basically declare victory and bring the troops home.
Mitt’s 2007 response outlining the jihadist effort to collapse moderate governments and replace them with a caliphate seems considerably less alarmist and considerably more prescient as Islamists rule Tunisia, the al-Qaeda flag flies in Tripoli, and the Muslim Brotherhood dominates Egypt. While we can debate the appropriate military strategies in response to the jihadist threat, we can be under no illusions of its extent and the intent of our enemies.
If I had to sum up my perception of the strategic difference in Romney’s and Obama’s thinking about the war, it would be this: Romney looks at the Middle East and sees a broad-based, ambitious jihadist effort that will have to be confronted over the very long term. Obama sees a much narrower fight against the “few extremists” that can be controlled through drones and perhaps even moderated through support for democratically elected Islamists and additional pressure on Israel. In other words, the two candidates have fundamentally different geopolitical world views.
Yet the evidence supports Romney’s view. Can we even use phrases such as “few extremists” when “extremists” win landslide elections? When confronting an Islamic Republic in Iran, a Muslim Brotherhood–dominated Egypt (two countries that arguably rank one and two in military power in the Muslim Middle East), a Taliban-sympathetic ISI in Pakistan, a terrorist-unity government in the West Bank and Gaza, a fully rearmed Hezbollah, and a Syrian war between a monstrous dictator and an increasingly Islamist opposition, how can anyone responsibly say the “War on Terror is over“?
Yes, Osama bin Laden is dead, but the death of a general doesn’t end a war, and anti-American terrorism did not begin with bin Laden and did not end with his death. On the one-year anniversary of bin Laden’s death, I’m thankful for a victory won, proud of the courage of the SEALs and all who supported them on their mission, and glad that the commander-in-chief made the right call. But I also believe that his opponent has the better grasp of the threat we all continue to face.