Osama bin Laden is dead: Three possible outcomes…

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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It’s still early, and it’s hard to predict the myriad of ramifications (what will this do to Donald Trump‘s chances?!) that may come from the death of Osama bin Laden. But here are a few possible important outcomes that come to mind immediately …

1. Obama finally exorcises the Jimmy Carter demons: Jimmy Carter could not free the hostages, and that plagued him and helped doom his reelection chances in 1980. It’s important to note that Carter’s problem wasn’t just his liberal policies — or the bad economy — but also the perception of his impotence. Americans love winners, and Carter was clearly a loser.

President Obama will benefit politically from the killing of bin Laden (just as he would be blamed if something had gone horribly wrong). By acting unilaterally — and succeeding — Obama has made it much tougher for his political opponents to portray him as a weak or impotent leader like Jimmy Carter.

2. Expedited Afghanistan exodus? The purpose of going to war in Afghanistan was ostensibly to dismantle al Qaeda and prevent the use of Afghanistan as a base for their future operations. With the death of bin Laden, it is reasonable to assume President Obama could use this as a rationale to declare victory and withdraw troops. I suspect there will be much written about this in the coming days…

3. George W. Bush vindicated? While Obama will clearly benefit politically, it is likely that some of the most controversial Bush-era policies made this possible. According to The Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius, enhanced interrogation techniques helped lead to Bin Laden’s capture.  Here’s what Ignatius had to say on Monday’s “Morning Joe”:

…Let me give you a concrete example in this case. The CIA got a nickname for one of bin Laden’s couriers in interrogation of high targets — very controversial interrogation — let’s make no bones about it in 2002-2004 range. It took them about four years to figure out who that nickname might really be. they finally got the true name in 2007. And then, they had to figure out where on earth was this, literally, where on earth was this person….

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has speculated that some of the intel used to track down bin Laden may have come from GITMO.  And on Fox & Friends, Karl Rove echoed the same point, saying,

Look, there is continuity in these kind of things and the tools that President Bush put into place, GITMO, rendition, enhanced interrogation, the vast effort to collect and collate this information, put it in a usable form obviously served his successor quite well because this served the information of the courier several years ago and moved forward to this administration. I think President Obama needs to be complimented on his handling of this operation. But he did make one minor misstatement last night in that he said he gave the order to the C.I.A. to make the capture of Osama bin Laden. That was to reaffirm an order given to the C.I.A. by President Bush in the aftermath of 9-11.

There will clearly be some debate over whether or not President Bush or Obama really deserves credit for this.

Regardless, while this may sound quixotic, but in the long run, it is possible that the killing of bin Laden, along with continued success in Iraq — and the “Arab Spring” blossoming in the Middle East — may make historians take a second look at the Bush years.

This may ironically help President Obama politically — but also help rehabilitate George W. Bush’s legacy.

Matt K. Lewis