With this week’s news of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, America’s most wanted since Sept. 11, 2001, there should be enough acclamation to spread credit that no one feels shorted.
But already, partisanship has been injected, which does serve a purpose, exposing those who would give too much — or deny any credit at all — to either President Obama, or his predecessor, President Bush, who didn’t start this mess but vowed to finish it, but his time expired. Those who would do so betray their own agendas.
But at the top of the list for deserving praise are the Navy Seals, who were the ones with the most to lose — their lives — during the raid on the compound in Pakistan. But they carried out the plan almost to perfection — a helicopter that malfunctioned being the only red mark, and that likely wasn’t the fault of the Seals — killing bin Laden, his son, their henchmen, and getting out of Dodge with a treasure trove that will keep this country’s intelligent experts busy for a while.
They also managed what might have seemed impossible — growing the reputation of the Navy Seals as a covert killing unit.
Next up would be President Obama, who opted for the high-risk, high-reward strategy of sending in the Seals instead of bombing the compound from afar. Obama recognized that bombing and killing bin Laden would be a great-taste but less-filling scenario, because even if the murderer of 3,000 Americans were dead, finding enough pieces of him to prove that beyond any doubt would be difficult.
So he sent in the Seals, who not only carried with them the fate of bin Ladin, but to a large extent Obama’s presidency, which could have turned Jimmy Carter-like had things gone wrong, burying chances for re-election. It was a huge gamble on Obama’s part, but the Seals showed themselves to be a good bet.
In taking down bin Laden, Obama plucked another feather from the myth that he is a dove — perhaps the biggest worry among the 47 percent of voters in the 2008 presidential election who didn’t mark his name. Instead of surrendering in the War on Terror, he has taken the baton from Bush, preserving many of W’s tactics, some questionable, while continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and joining one in Libya.
There are others who deserve credit in the Obama administration, but we will skip ahead to George W. Bush, whose promise that this country would not rest until bin Ladin was brought to justice was finally met. Bush, on Sept. 12, 2001, set the course for the War on Terror, and many of the strategies — water boarding, wire taps, Guantanamo — came under attack, not only from the Fringe Left, but Democrats, Independents and Republicans whose words are worthy of contemplation.
Obama, to the disdain of many of those who supported him, found out soon enough that some of the strategies were not only effective, but passed constitutional muster. Monday’s assault, although launched by Obama, had been rehearsed for years, and much of the intelligence that was critical to its success was gathered because Bush did walk up to the line.
So Obama gets the basket, but credit Bush with an assist.
The question of whether or not bin Laden’s death will weaken al-Qaida will answer itself. There is no doubt that al-Qaida will try to avenge his death, although it’s less certain that such an attempt will come quickly. As terrorist organizations go, al-Qaida is among the more patient, understanding that for a while at least, this country will be on alert. But as always happens, we will drop our guard, and al-Qaida will take a swing.
Then we will know more about al-Qaida’s potency post bin Laden.