Mitt Romney said during his 2008 presidential campaign that he would not act unilaterally to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and the U.S. should not “move heaven and earth” to find him. But now, Romney says “of course” he would have done what President Obama did last year in ordering the raid that killed bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. “Any thinking American would have ordered exactly the same thing,” Romney said earlier this month. (Vice President Biden and then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration, actually advised against the raid.)
Romney has assumed that Obama was assured of bin Laden’s presence at the compound and all he had to do was give the order to get him. But as Gates (and others) has noted, “There wasn’t any direct evidence that he was there. It was all circumstantial.” The former defense secretary expounded on the difficulty surrounding Obama’s decision this morning during an interview on CBS This Morning, particularly regarding the lack of information on bin Laden’s presence at the compound, and the ramifications if the raid failed or bin Laden wasn’t there:
ROSE: What were your concerns?
GATES: I had no doubts that the SEALs could perform the mission. My concern was whether or not he was there. People don’t realize that what made the decision tough for the president was we didn’t have once single piece of hard data that he was actually in that compound. Not one. The whole thing was a circumstantial case built by analysts at CIA.
ROSE: There was no single person who could tell you he was in that building. No single person had seen him in that building.
GATES: Right. The crux of the decision revolved less about the efficacy of the military piece of it than the consequences for us if he wasn’t there in terms of the relationship with Pakistan, in terms of the war in Afghanistan. … But I’ve always thought that it was a very courageous call. If this mission had failed, it could have put the war in Afghanistan at risk and that was one of my principle concerns.
Watch the clip:
Romney doesn’t really know much about the raid that killed bin Laden, at least that’s the sentiment he displays in public. But perhaps that’s because, as one of his foreign policy advisers has said, Romney “doesn’t want to really engage these issues until he is in office.”