Obama Takes Out Osama

obama osama

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Assistant Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Standing, from left, are: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Tony Binken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Audrey Tomason Director for Counterterrorism; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A few things are clear in the wake of the stunning news of the operation that penetrated Osama bin-Laden’s hideout outside Islamabad, Pakistan, and killed him in the early hours of May 2.

The first, of course, is the ruthless skill with which the Special Forces carried out a mission that had been meticulously prepared by intelligence agencies. This is a business where we mostly learn about failures like the Bay of Pigs in 1961. This was a success.

Barack Obama and his national security team were effective in leading the operation and in keeping it secret. Too often, especially since Reagan’s adventure with the Contras in Nicaragua, American presidents have bragged about their “covert” actions. The key to the effectiveness of such actions is their secrecy.

Obama may not much like war, but he has shown that if he believes he must wage it, he intends to win it. Liberals who were hostile to the Iraq war, skeptical of the Afghanistan war, and dubious about the Libyan intervention will find little comfort here. But Obama will surely gain among moderates and swing voters. The spontaneous crowds at the White House and Ground Zero, celebrating the death of a sworn enemy, remind us that the scars of 9/11 are still raw, and vengeance still moves many people.

john peelerLong-term effects are problematic. Bin Laden was no longer in direct control of al-Qaeda, and Islamist terror has grown far beyond al-Qaeda. The death of Osama bin-Laden will likely provoke a spike in terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, the flickering hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement are dying, and the effort to force Qaddafi out in Libya is stalled. The Afghani government is weak and corrupt, yet repeatedly attacks the United States. The same can be said of the Iraqi government. In short, getting bin-Laden is about the only thing that’s going well in the Middle East. It’s possible, though, that Obama will gain more clout in the region as a result of this success.

None of this will matter to Obama’s reelection unless he can magically accomplish two contradictory goals: get the economy moving again, and get the deficit under control.

John Peeler

Published by the LA Progressive on May 3, 2011
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About John Peeler

John Peeler is a retired professor of political science at Bucknell University, specializing in Latin American and international affairs. His op-ed essays have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and USA Today, as well as many in local papers in central Pennsylvania where he lives. He has had letters published in both the New York Times and the Washington Post.