If I had to grade President Obama’s interview with Steve Kroft on CBS’s “60 Minutes” last night, I’d give him a C+.
I know that’s apt to annoy a lot of people. The president certainly came across as sober, human, decisive and effective. But in the end, he didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. The interview was a bit too much James Bond and not enough Henry Kissinger.
Like all Americans, I was thrilled to hear Osama bin Laden met his fate last week and see America assert its influence in the Middle East. Still, the administration needs to resist viewing this successful battle as the end of the war. Coupled with the Arab Spring, the killing of bin Laden was certainly a significant blow to al Qaeda, but it remains largely symbolic. Placing too much weight on any one individual in our fight against Islamic fundamentalism is a dangerous path to start down. While bin Laden might have been the mastermind behind 9/11, it was the jihadist ideology he promoted that was at the heart of the attacks and continues to threaten us today.
Without a thoughtful and clear foreign policy moving forward, we are in danger of falling back into an era of complacency and a false sense of security. As I said on “Fox and Friends” this morning, what I was hoping to hear from the president was how bin Laden’s death fits into a larger, coherent foreign policy agenda. For the past two and half years, President Obama’s foreign policy has seemed haphazard, disjointed. On one hand he advocated for closing Guantánamo and holding a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suggesting he was downplaying the war on terror, while at the same time he dramatically escalated troops in Afghanistan.
Last night I wanted fewer details about this particular mission and more about what this means moving forward. How does Osama bin Laden’s death change the way we define the war on terror? What does it mean for our future in Afghanistan? What about the future of our homeland-security policies? How will this affect our relationship with Pakistan? What will be next for al Qaeda? And more importantly, what will be next for al Qaeda’s Pakistani allies — a much larger threat to our security?
The president only began to scratch the surface on these questions last night. But I guess it’s a lot easier to talk about the latest victory than the challenges that lie ahead — and certainly better for ratings. In the coming weeks and months, I hope this success doesn’t distract the president from what now needs to be done — and communicated to the American people.
Sabrina L. Schaeffer is a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum and managing partner of Evolving Strategies.