Commentary Magazine


Did a Name Change Catch bin Laden?

It has been less than 24 hours since bin Laden was run to ground, but already the historical revisionism is in full force.  The New York Times’s Roger Cohen weighs in on the news while on location in Libya and informs us that it was all made possible by a name change.

According to Cohen, the triumph of American arms yesterday in Pakistan was the result of President Obama’s linguistic ability:

This is a triumphant day for a young American president who changed policy, retiring his predecessor’s horrible misnomer, the Global War on Terror or G.W.O.T., in order to focus, laser-like, on the terrorists determined to do the United States and its allies harm. Bin Laden had enticed George W. Bush’s flailing America into his web. Obama saw the need for extraction and engagement—extraction from the wars and engagement with the moderate Muslim majority.

In fact, as we now know, the tracking down of the 9/11 plotter was in part the result of interrogations that took play at Guantanamo Bay, the prison that Obama had promised to shut down, and had already been under way long before he took office. The assault on the compound had nothing to do with “engagement with the moderate Muslim majority,” but rather was the work of a Bush-like unilateral military intervention in a Muslim country where the majority, whether moderate or not, don’t like the United States or Obama.

Barack Obama may no longer claim to be fighting a global war on terror, but that is what our armed forces continue to do, just as they did while Bush was president. Obama’s “engagement” with Islamist radicals, such as the government of Iran that Cohen lauded in his infamous attempt to downplay Tehran’s anti-Semitism, was an abject failure. Obama is entitled to claim the credit for his decision to launch the strike on Bin Laden, but any pretense that this victory has anything to do with president’s conceptual approach to the Muslim world is sheer bunk.