Updated 7:53 pm ET
It’s been more than three years since Obama was sworn into office, and since then there hasn’t been a single major terrorist attack within the United States. Just as Obama by now must take credit for the sagging economy, even though he inherited a recession from George W. Bush, he can also claim credit for preventing mass casualties on U.S. soil, even though he is building on the success of his predecessor.
Obama has succeeded in part maintaining Bush policies, keeping a strong focus on al Qaeda and letting law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies do their jobs.
But he has updated the Bush strategy in important ways.
First, Obama has directed more resources toward tracking and combating home-grown terrorists, an increasing threat as al Qaeda is stamped out overseas and our ability to prevent its penetration of the United States has grown. While it’s troubling that Obama fails to pinpoint Islamism as the chief culprit behind homegrown terrorism, it’s pretty clear that despite the political correctness, this is where the focus will be.
Obama has also stepped up the use of drones overseas, decimating bad guys in their havens in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
And while I don’t agree that it was the “gutsiest call” in modern presidential history, the killing of Osama Bin Laden was a success for Obama, who put his presidency on the line and moved in without waiting for absolute proof that Bin Laden was at the hideout. Less decisive action could have allowed Bin Laden to slip away.
While Obama’s record on preventing major attacks against the country is good, there are problems on the horizon.
Obama’s decision to signal our retreat from Afghanistan allows the Taliban to wait us out and may well result in the reconstitution of al Qaeda’s base of operations in the very place where we went to war to drive them out.
And ironically, Obama’s relentless efforts to kill terrorists and his resistance to taking prisoners who would then have to be messily interrogated is likely leading to a gap in our knowledge about al Qaeda and plans for future attacks.
It may well be planting season for the seeds of future disaster. But for more than three years, Obama has led an effort that has kept us safe.
UPDATE: By a “major attack” I meant mass casualties. I thought that was clear, but perhaps not. Attacks that have occurred under Obama are all tragedies, and some involve significant injury and loss of life, but there’s been nothing on the order of a repeat of 9/11, and for that Obama deserves some credit.