October 31, 2004 - Lately John Kerry has made a point of accusing Bush of "outsourcing" the hunt for bin Laden by delegating the job to Afghan warlords at the battle of Tora Bora.
Is there any substance to this charge?
Very possibly, yes. Most likely bin Laden was in Tora Bora at the time. Even then, I felt we were letting him slip through our fingers by not going after him more aggressively during that battle. It's true that we needed the help of Afghans who knew the area. Still, I wasn't convinced that we couldn't have done more.
But would things have been any different under a Kerry leadership?
Not likely at all. At that time Kerry endorsed the administration's handling of the war. Here are excerpts from a Larry King interview from December 14, 2001, soon after that battle began:
LARRY KING: ... how goes it so far in Afghanistan, in your opinion?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think our guys are doing a superb job. I think we've had, things break for us, the way, one would want them to, but in addition, I think the people you just heard, they are trained, they are ready. I think we have been smart, I think the administration leadership has done it well and we are on right track....
CALLER: Hello. Yes, I would like to ask the panel why they don't use napalm or flamethrowers on those tunnels and caves up there in Afghanistan?
KING: Senator Kerry?
CALLER: My golly, I think they could smoke [bin Laden] out.
KING: Senator Kerry?
KERRY: Well, I think it depends on where you are tactically. They may well be doing that at some point in time. But for the moment, what we are doing, I think, is having its impact and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way. (emphasis added)
"It is the best way to protect our troops": this is General Tommy
Franks' defense of the way the U.S. handled Tora Bora, which Kerry
now calls "outsourcing."
Has the U.S. made mistakes in the way it has prosecuted the war against terrorism? Most definitely. Would Kerry have done a better job? Certainly not. From hindsight one can always appear to be the perfect general. It's a lot easier to talk about good leadership than to be a good leader.
CNN Larry King Live. "Interviews With John Kerry, Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, George Joulwan." CNN.com Transcipts, December 14, 2001.
Peace with Realism