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Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Redux

So, invariably, the question will arise, to what extent is Bin Laden's demise the result of efforts by the Obama Administration, and to what extent It was the end result of actions initiated by the Bush administration. It's also worth remembering that the president only directs the work of others, and not necessarily closely either (Nobody's an expert in everything. Also, an idiot can be surrounded by competent people, who may or may not make up for the idiot's idiocy).  Apparently, he was found by tracking one of his couriers. It seems that we were long aware of this courier's existence, but did not identify him until four years ago. His rough location was determined two years ago, and the exact location of his residence was determined in august. The CIA concluded in February that Bin Laden was most likely hiding there.  And yesterday, this was confirmed.

In apportioning credit between the two administrations and the CIA, it is important to distinguish between actions taken at the request of an administration, and things they would do as a matter of course. From what we're being told, the existence of the courier was learned from detainees at Guantanamo bay. Interrogating terrorism suspects is something the CIA would likely have done without input from the White House. I was  watching ABC last night, and one of the analysts they had on made the point that Bush's anti terrorism policy focused mainly on making the US safer, whereas Obama has actually focused more on neutralising Al Qaida leadership. That suggests to me that while the Bush administration may have been aware of this courier, and their potential to lead us to Bin Laden, it may have been given lower priority than other things. Much has been made about Obama's instruction to the CIA to make the neutralization of Bin Laden its top priority.
That is likely to have been a major factor, but his opponents will likely argue that the groundwork for Bin Laden's demise was laid during the Bush era, and so the credit should go to Bush.
My opinion is that we can only make an informed judgement on the subject with at least 15- 20 years of hindsight.

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