Romney vs. Obama on Bin Laden, Fighting Terrorism, and the 'End State' in Afghanistan

By Steve Clemons

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photo credit: Reuters

The anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death has spiked public interest in the foreign policy positions of President Obama and Mitt Romney -- particularly with regards to fighting terrorism and the war in Afghanistan.  Over the last couple of days, I have done a number of shows across the networks -- but mostly have the clips from Current TV and MSNBC and want to post here (on next page).

I argue that Barack Obama deserves enormous credit (and political bragging rights) for the decision he made to send the Navy SEAL Team 6 in to get bin Laden.  He would have owned the disaster had things gone badly.  Mitt Romney's views -- or those he held previously criticizing the resources Obama was expending tracking down bin Laden -- are not shameful or unpresidential.  Those views were held by some around the President; some felt the risks were just too high to invade Pakistan's territory and attack the secret bin Laden compound.  President Obama overruled those on his team who conveyed their doubts.

The Bush/Cheney team took its eye off the bin Laden ball and turned attention and resources away from attacking bin Laden and al Qaeda and went after Saddam Hussein and later Iraqi insurgent forces instead.  Al Qaeda metastasized globally during that period - and Obama's national security team which meets every morning with him has been working one by one through the key al Qaeda commanders and plot integrators and attacking them.  The President has been at the helm of this process -- guided essentially by the work and focus of John Brennan, Denis McDonough, and NSC Advisor Tom Donilon.

Finally, Obama is connecting the anniversary of bin Laden's death to a pivot point in America's engagement with Afghanistan.  In other words, America -- completing substantially its strategic goal of decimating al Qaeda -- is now framing the enstate of its presence in Afghanistan. 

The strategic deal signed yesterday by Hamid Karzai and President Obama is binding but unspecific. Lots can go wrong with the vaguely constructed document which essentially promises that the United States will not abandon Afghanistan after combat troops fully end their mission in 2014.  But the President achieved what he wanted which was to fasten Obama's death and the general collapse of the core al Qaeda movement to a strategic shift for the United States.

Presidents find it very hard to end wars -- but Obama seems well on his way to ending America's overextension in Afghanistan as he did in Iraq.

On the following page are some video clips of conversations I have had with Chris Jansing, Eliot Spitzer, Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O'Donnell, Andrea Mitchell and Rachel Maddow on this arenas of bin Laden-related and US-Afghanistan issues.

See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/romney-vs-obama-on-bin-laden-fighting-terrorism-and-the-end-state-in-afghanistan/256635/

The Atlantic's Steve Clemons discussing Obama vs Mitt Romney on Osama bin Laden raid.


MSNBC Politics Nation with Al Sharpton: See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/romney-vs-obama-on-bin-laden-fighting-terrorism-and-the-end-state-in-afghanistan/256635/

Talking with The Atlantic's Steve Clemons on Osama bin Laden, presidential leadership, and the Obama-Romney tussle over who would make the tough calls.


Current TV Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer:


[Oops -- Seems that Spitzer's team has not posted video though it was a good show. If someone finds, please send me embed code.]

MSNBC The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell:

 See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/romney-vs-obama-on-bin-laden-fighting-terrorism-and-the-end-state-in-afghanistan/256635/

Speaking to Krystal Ball, Steve Kornacki, and Steve Clemons on politicization of bin Laden raid.

MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews (and Andrea Mitchell):
 See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/romney-vs-obama-on-bin-laden-fighting-terrorism-and-the-end-state-in-afghanistan/256635/

Chris Matthews talks with The Atlantic's Steve Clemons and NBC's Andrea Mitchell about Obama's performance rolling back al Qaeda network.


MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show:

 See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/romney-vs-obama-on-bin-laden-fighting-terrorism-and-the-end-state-in-afghanistan/256635/

Rachel Maddow speaks with Atlantic editor at large Steve Clemons on President Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/romney-vs-obama-on-bin-laden-fighting-terrorism-and-the-end-state-in-afghanistan/256635/