Rick Santorum, soon to be a 2012 GOP also-ran, appeared on CNN’s State of the Union this morning and, amid a broadside leveled against the President, declared that ‘as bad a job as this President has done on the economy, he has done a worse job keeping us safe.’* Characteristically, this attack was accompanied by no evidence. Nor could it be.
For all his failings, President Obama has been extraordinarily strident when it comes to national security. The rate of drone strikes in Pakistan has increased exponentially since the President took office, with the first such strike coming just two days after being sworn in. Targeted killings of suspected members of al-Qaeda have expanded to Somalia and they have returned to Yemen. There has been no successful major terrorist attack on the United States since Obama’s inauguration and the inevitable attempts have resulted in the quick apprehension of the would-be terrorists. Oh, and he got bin Laden—the guy who authored the 9/11 attacks and the Bush administration singularly failed to track down for seven years while spinning off to the adventure-cum-quagmire of Iraq.
Any of these may be of debatable merit when it comes to proving the relative state of U.S. national security—certainly there is a vigorous debate over the merit of the drone program in Pakistan. Yet, these are the sorts of anecdotes generally trotted out when politicians begin to debate whether we, the American people, are safer today than we were some number of years previously.
In fact, assessing the state of U.S. national security is a complex task. It requires a definition of time frames and metrics—are we talking near term or long term; are we discussing national security vis-à-vis non-state actors or rising powers—even before we come to the question of the causality, or the linkage between this relative security or insecurity and actions that the United States has, or even could, take.
But this is not what Rick Santorum has done. Instead he has, without explanation, evidence, or argument, leveled a bald charge that the President has rendered us less safe. The American people deserve more from their candidates for President.
*Please forgive your Editor for the paraphrase; he was unable to rewind the segment and no transcript is yet available.