As more details have come out about the decision-making process which led to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compount, it is clear that the decision was tantamount to placing a bet.
As Obama acknowledged during his 60 Minutes interview, there was only slightly better than a 50/50 chance bin Laden was present.
The bet on the bin Laden attack paid off, so Obama looks like the master of cool deliberation (or so he is portrayed).
But not all of Obama’s bets in the Middle East are paying off.
Interviews with several administration officials suggest that the tensions in his Middle East policy are less the product of a debate among advisers than of a tug of war within the president himself.
In Egypt, for example, Mr. Obama’s advisers say he decided to push for President Hosni Mubarak’s exit early on, against the advice of aides, after watching Mr. Mubarak’s defiant televised address on a screen in the White House Situation Room. Even then, they said, he feared that the dreams of young activists, like the Google executive Wael Ghonim, would be let down by the fitful transition to democracy.
One of his aides said that when he asked Mr. Obama to predict the outcome, the president said: “What I want is for the kids on the street to win and for the Google guy to become president. What I think is that this is going to be long and hard.”
The Google Guy is history.
As I reported in February, Ghonim was forced off the stage (both literally and figuratively) by the Islamists. As Barry Rubin documents, the Islamists continue to rise in Egypt, and either directly or indirectly we can expect a Muslim Brotherhood driven agenda. Egypt already has realigned itself to support Hamas and to unify the conflicted Palestinian groups against Israel.
The bet is not paying off in Egypt. Rather than working towards a transition which provided time for more secular parties to organize, Obama cast his bet with the Google Guy. And lost.
Next gamble? From The Times (emphasis mine):
Even before the Bin Laden raid, officials said, Mr. Obama was casting about for ways to tie together events in the Middle East. White House officials had weighed a speech in which the president would link the upheaval to the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations — a process that seems, if anything, even more paralyzed after the recent agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the militant group Hamas.
Having won one bet, and having basked in the glory, can The Gambler stop?