It was bound to happen. As the dust settles on the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy SEALS in a raid months in the making, the media spotlight is focusing on the President and what this victory means both to his sagging poll numbers and his image as a commander-in-chief. The short answer: how can this not be good for him politically?
Had this mission gone pear-shaped as did Jimmy Carter’s disastrous raid to re-take our Iranian hostages, as CIC, Obama would have been culpable. So then he must be given the credit for this stunning success.
But even his bodyguard of acolytes in the mainstream media are somewhat muted so far as to what this success really portends for their chosen one in the 2012 election. And, as with all military operations of such in-depth planning and complexity, the truth as to who deserves the credit for the success will be dispersed throughout all those who had a hand in its execution, from the intelligence gatherers to the troops firing the rounds and all support personnel in between.
One issue that could pop up though, that the President may prefer be lost in the euphoria, is how exactly did we get the information that pinpointed Osama’s location in the first place? This preliminary report
from Adam Goldman of the AP poses an interesting conundrum for Obama’s more left-leaning base going forward.
“Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“Current and former U.S. officials say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, provided the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden's most trusted aides. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed's successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.”
This revelation would seem a vindication of the Bush policies of harsh prisoner treatment that so insulted the sensibilities of the left who would accuse us of being "no better than the terrorists" (as if context matters not in their happy world). How then can those of Obama’s hard core liberal supporters look favorably upon the cold-blooded killing of Bin Laden, carried out by troops still in Afghanistan despite candidate Obama’s pledges to end the wars (a man who in fact put 30,000 more into the fight!) based on intelligence gathered by the most heinous of interrogation techniques, the approval for which has had them blue in the face labeling Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et. al. as war criminals deserving of a Nuremburg Trial? Wouldn't that make them "no better than the terrorists" to cheer for this success now? And more important, what does this say about our ability to gather intelligence going forward now that this administration has ended such treatment?
I always felt that once candidate Obama started getting regular intelligence briefings as President Obama, his views about the world would change as the real nature of those who hate us was revealed to him. It took some time to go from the knee-jerk closing of Gitmo to honor an ad hoc promise to a naïve wing of the Democratic machine to being the lord of the predator drones whose aggressive policies in the hills of Afghanistan make Bush seem like a boy scout. I think he finally had the moment that Richard Pryor famously described when he actually got a peek inside the prison walls and all illusions as to the inmates’ approachability was replaced with a more sober conclusion: “Thank God we got penitentiaries!” Perhaps this Bin Laden strike is Obama’s way of admitting maybe the people behind the wall before him knew what he the candidate on the outside looking in didn’t. But now he does know. Bombs away!
It is way too early to get into the nitty-gritty of political fall-out of this impressive achievement. Heck, the ex-terrorist is still presumably feeding marine life as I write this. My views like most others are just conjecture until the polls come out. And again, I give the President full credit for this mission. He made the call, he gets the ball. Such morale boosters are to be honored and should indeed make us feel good as a people who did not take Osama’s assault on our loved ones lying down.
But, as George Bush senior discovered despite his Gulf War success, and his son after the capture of Saddam, in the arena of politics, ultimately it’s the economy that trumps all. And many Americans will probably think as I do. Great job with Bin Laden, Mister President. But his capture will not create a job, or lower a heating bill, a food bill, a clothing bill, a family’s healthcare or tuition costs…nor does it cut the sky-rocketing deficit that still looms over our economic future.
It also shows that Obama is learning what many of us who study military history have always known to be the case. Success depends on being ruthless and being persistent. It means a willingness to apply violence to destroy your enemies in a dangerous world where there are no rule books. And it sometimes means breaking a few eggs (especially rotten ones) to make an omelet such as was announced last night. Those on the left who still believe this to be a criminal rather than practical mindset would be uttering the ultimate in hypocrisy if now for political expediency they applaud Bin Laden’s demise while ignoring that it is the tangible result of such a policy.
In the meantime, I thank the President and all involved for this long-overdue day! But as Obama basks in the deserved praise for this monumental achievement, he may want to enlist among his staff the equivalent of the Roman slave that Patton famously referred to who stood behind the conquering hero upon entering the gates of an adoring Rome at the head of his Triumph and whispered in his ear a warning: “All glory is fleeting.”