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.

Comments

  1. One thing that bears reflection is the transparency of the excuse for why Osama Bin Laden was given a burial at sea:

    http://janbtucker.com/blog/2011/05/04/burial-at-sea/

  2. Quite contrary to Peeler, liberals and everyone SHOULD ‘find comfort’ in the notion that, if wars are to be waged at all then they should be waged to win. The point is to minimize conflict time and suffering. If the war aims are clear, realistically attainable, meritorious and sustainable then the war should be fight to win asap (e.g. in Libya, to get Qaddafi out). If no, then quit asap (e.g. Afghanistan). So an effectively tenacious and decisive Obama would be good news for liberals – and everyone.

    However, as Peeler in effect admits by displaying various examples, Obama’s effective tenacity vs Osama has so far proved to be an almost lone exception. On the contrary, Obama has wimped out on too many tiffs, foreign and domestic. His actions and omissions have sold out relatively progressive policies and allies, and emboldened and rewarded their enemies. Getting Osama was big-time revenge for the past, but small potatoes versus current threats. Obama’s take-our-time thoroughly loopholed ‘sanctions’ have given Iran plenty of time to get nukes. His overall mid-east and foreign policy has scant credibility: the relatively mild and non-meddling Mubarak and Gaddafi had to go, but the region-wide terror-sponsoring utterly repressive in-our-face Syrian and Iranian regimes get passes.

  3. I think that the actions were 10 years in coming. We don’t celebrate Nixon when we think about the day Man landed on the Moon (even though he was president at the time)… we instead remember Kennedy as the man that launched the effort. Of course Kennedy didn’t have anything to do with engineering a moon-shot… and similarly Obama would have had little to do with engineering covert military ops, other than a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Smart leaders delegate. What has been learned over the years are the frustrations of working with “locals” to get OBL. He escaped, narrowly, numerous times… and always because the US was working WITH locals. President Bush was raked over the coals by many for NOT working with local law enforcement in Iraq after the fall of SH… but nobody praised him for working with Afghans and the Pakistanis… alliances that always allowed OBL to escape.

    The frustration in the CIA and special services over the continual tip-offs for their actions would have caused them to recommend that we STOP informing our “allies” about our operations… something that Obama gets credit for listening to and approving. A tip of the hat most certainly.

    The SEAL team and the planners and the intel gatherers, especially those that followed leads obtained from detainees in our foreign prisons (which we could never have secured had they been held in the US, and thankfully obtained before President Obama shut them down), are the true brain power, and enablers of this exercise… all put in place by the previous administration.

    Re: the economy… he can’t get it moving again… because government does not make economies work outside of the basic framework of the rule of law (contracts), and ensuring free trade. All else lives in the private sector. What he can do is get government to stop SUPRESSING the economy by diverting wealth into wasteful efforts or raw consumption. There is no way to escape the need to go through the painful process of letting wealth depart from misallocated use, and reallocated according to the market, minus government distortion of markets (which is how bubbles are commonly created). By pumping printed and borrowed money into the economy of consumption, we only delay and worsen the inevitable.

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