The current campaign spat over whether Romney would have ordered the raid that killed Bin Laden is based on a series of assumptions that can never be tested. The only facts we can be sure of is that Obama ordered the Pentagon to launch the strike that finally killed bin Laden, his predecessor did not, and Romney said back in 2007 that he would not.
Romney is currently trying to claim that any US President, 'even' Jimmy Carter would have ordered the bin Laden strike (that would be the same President Carter who ordered a risky rescue mission of the embassy hostages in Iran). But here the evidence is against Romney. We have no way of knowing how Romney would have acted in the same circumstances, but we do have Romney's own words in 2007, when he said he criticized then candidate Obama for saying that he would launch a raid into Pakistan to catch bin Laden - Romney said he would not.
John's analysis of the spat seems perfectly fair to me: It is clear that judged by the standards Republicans set for Democrats, Obama deserves the credit for eliminating Bin Laden, who would still be alive if Romney had been president, as Romney made it explicit that he would not go into Pakistan for bin Laden, and that's exactly what Obama did. That is probably the strongest conclusion we will ever be able to draw on the particular question of Bin Laden. But that still leaves open the larger, rather more important question of whether conservatives really want the likes of bin Laden to be eliminated at all, or if they find it rather useful to have a convenient bogeyman around to help buttress their various 'war on terror' proposals.
That Bush and co found Bin Laden useful is beyond dispute. Without 9/11 there could never have been the PATRIOT act, the warrant-less wiretapping, the Gitmo gulag, the torture or the invasion of Iraq. Continuing and extending those policies would only be possible as long as Bin Laden was alive. Whether or not they intended to let Bin Laden escape the Tora Bora it was certainly very, very convenient for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.
We don't yet have the evidence to decide whether letting Bin Laden go was intentional but we do now have proof of an earlier and more significant act of conservative treachery and one that shows the true workings of the conservative mind.
In the fall of 2009 the Gorbachev archives accidentally released details of a conversation between Gorbachev and Thatcher that took place two months before the Berlin wall fell. While the provenance of the documents could be debated, the Margret Thatcher Foundation established to burnish her image for posterity is sufficiently convinced of their authenticity to publish them on her Web site
MT: I would like to raise the issue of the situation in the countries of Eastern Europe. I was very impressed by the courage and patriotism of General Jaruzelski in Poland. Of course, for you, the future of Poland and its alliance with you have a big significance. I noted that you calmly accepted the results of the elections in Poland, and, in general, the processes in that country and in other Eastern Europe countries. I understand your position in the following way: you are in favour of each country choosing its own road of development so long as the Warsaw Treaty is intact. I perfectly understand this position.
Now I would like to say something in a very confidential manner, and I would ask you not to record this part of the conversation.
Gorbachev: As you would like.
[The following part of the conversation is recorded from recollections.]
We are very concerned with the processes that are underway in East Germany. It is on the verge of big changes, which are caused by the situation in the society and to some extent by Erich Honecker's illness. The thousands of people escape from the GDR to the FRG are the primary example. All that is the external side things, and it is important for us, but another issue is even more important.
Britain and Western Europe are not interested in the unification of Germany. The words written in the NATO communique may sound different, but disregard them. We do not want the unification of Germany. It would lead to changes in the post-war borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the entire international situation, and could lead to threats to our security.
We are not interested in the destabilization of Eastern Europe or the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact either. Of course, the internal changes are ripe in all the countries of Eastern Europe, but in some countries they are more pronounced, in some countries not yet. However, we are in favour of those processes remaining strictly internal, we will not interfere in them and spur the decommunization [sic] of Eastern Europe. I can tell you that this is also the position of the US President. He sent a telegram to me in Tokyo, in which he asked me to tell you that the United States would not undertake anything that could threaten the security interests of the Soviet Union, or that could be perceived by the Soviet society as a threat. I am fulfilling his requestNote that Thatcher expressly claims to be speaking for President Bush. It is hard to see how she would make such a claim if it was not true since Gorbachev would almost certainly have had a followup conversation with Bush. The language is diplomatic but at minimum Thatcher is stating that the NATO powers would have no problem with the Soviet Union sending in the tanks to crush the 1989 protests that brought democracy to Eastern Europe. It can even be argued that Thatcher is asking for this to happen.
So why would Margaret Thatcher, the stalwart opponent of communism beg Gorbachev to send in the tanks? I think it is because the true Conservative mind is timid, weak and scared. The love of militarism, the tanks the guns, the planes is driven by fear, not strength. Above all conservatives are afraid of change, any change. They want the status quo to continue in perpetuity whether it is good one or a bad one. Without the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe it would be much harder for Western governments to justify cold war levels of military spending and the risk of nuclear Armageddon.
I suspect but cannot prove that a similar fear drove the conservative opposition to the Arab Spring and drives Israeli support for the regimes in Syria and Saudi Arabia. This mindset would also explain the otherwise inexplicable US policy towards Cuba: The reason conservatives insist on continuing the failed and counterproductive embargo is that they want the regime to continue.
And this is the real reason that Romney is not fit to be President. While he tries to project the appearance of resolution and strength he is really a weak, insecure, timid little man who was happy for other people to fight the wars that he supported because the idea of change was too frightening to him.