Remember at the debate when he vowed, “We will kill Bin Laden, we will crush al-Qaeda”? He’s stressed the importance of taking out Osama on other occasions, but never quite as forcefully as that. Why, enter the quote in Google and you’ll find it immortalized in the very first hit with an especially fulsome tribute at the Daily Dish.

Anyway, change of plans:

COURIC: How important do you think it is, Mr. President-elect, to apprehend Osama bin Laden?

OBAMA: I think that we have to so weaken his infrastructure that, whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that he cannot function. My preference obviously would be to capture or kill him. But if we have so tightened the noose that he’s in a cave somewhere and can’t even communicate with his operatives then we will meet our goal of protecting America.

This is the counterterror equivalent of The One promising that he’ll save three million jobs: He “succeeds” merely by maintaining the status quo. If pinning down Osama so that he can’t function is the goal, the goal was met literally years ago. Cofer Black described Bin Laden as far back as 2004 as having been reduced to a figurehead whose operational role had been taken over by Zawahiri; NBC’s investigative team talked to intel officials this past summer and found that judgment still held. In a speech given just two months ago, CIA chief Michael Hayden described it this way:

Osama bin Laden is alive and “putting a lot of energy into his own security,” the director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden, said today…

Without directly referring to the CIA’s offensive blitz of unmanned missile attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the CIA boss said the US had successfully isolated the al Qaeda leader bin Laden, referring to him in the present tense.

“He appears to be largely isolated from the day-to-day operations of the organization he leads,” Hayden said in a speech delivered to the Atlantic Council in Washington.

I.e. pinned down and unable to function. Ace wrote a shrewd post yesterday on the media lowering expectations for Obama by proclaiming that a build-up in Afghanistan would do no good when we’d been assured forever that only by redeploying troops from Bush’s war in Iraq could the “real war” be won. If you thought that volte face was egregious, just wait and watch them cover his ass on this climbdown. Exit question: Will the pass they give him extend for two full terms or will they nudge him a bit circa 2013 or so?

Update: Lest there be ambiguity, let me add that Obama’s totally right here. None of these turds will be safely neutralized until they’re dead or locked up, but if that’s impossible, he’s done his job by making sure they can’t operate. Oddly, though, the left never saw it that way vis-a-vis Bush. I wonder if they’ll see it now.