By FOUAD AJAMI, OPINION Updated May 1, 2012, WSJ
In a speech at New York University last week, Vice President Joe Biden laid out the case for the Democratic ticket’s re-election: “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”
Good riddance to bin Laden. That our Navy SEALs killed him is the settlement of an account overdue. The commander in chief who authorized and oversaw that operation deserves his satisfaction—and the country grants it to him. But the public will draw its own subtle line on the exploitation of that event, and it will not abide the SEALs’ bravery being used as a campaign prop.
The American people demand more by way of a foreign policy than the killing of bin Laden and the hunting down of Somali pirates. But this administration has done its best to take the vital matter of America’s place and interest in the foreign world off the board. The strategic retreats, the concessions made to Iran and Syria, the lack of faith in liberty’s place in the order of nations have been hidden and brushed aside.
We had secured gains in Iraq, but they were given up at the altar of the president’s political needs. As a candidate, he had promised a complete withdrawal, and he did so at great risk to the future stability of a nascent democracy.
Afghanistan, too, has been neutralized as a political issue: The war is Mr. Obama’s and it isn’t. To set apart the good war of necessity in Kabul from the bad war of choice in Baghdad, he announced a surge in troop levels but then set a date for withdrawal in 2014. His surprise visit to Afghanistan Tuesday was political inoculation in its purest form.
Dissent, sanctified when it raged against George W. Bush, was now a manifestation of ill will and impatience with a president who had to be given the benefit of the doubt. Those dreaded drones over the Hindu Kush—brutal instruments of war in the Bush presidency—were now legitimate means of combat. The lawyers who hounded the Bush presidency over the rights of jihadists went silent even as our drones killed them at record pace.