Commentary Magazine


Topic: Osama bin Laden

Anger Over Obama Leaks Isn’t Swift Boat II

Democrats are trying to portray ex-intelligence officials who are publicly criticizing the Obama administration’s leaking of sensitive material in order to boost the president’s political standing as partisans. They think by merely saying the words “Swift Boat,” the group, which calls itself Special Operations Opsec Education Fund, will be ignored or reviled. But the comparison to those Navy veterans who blasted John Kerry’s record during the 2004 campaign is not apt. Whatever the motivation of the original Swift Boat veterans, their beef was a personal grudge against Kerry. The issue the Opsec group is highlighting is a serious problem that has already resulted in federal investigations of the White House’s behavior.

Read More

Democrats are trying to portray ex-intelligence officials who are publicly criticizing the Obama administration’s leaking of sensitive material in order to boost the president’s political standing as partisans. They think by merely saying the words “Swift Boat,” the group, which calls itself Special Operations Opsec Education Fund, will be ignored or reviled. But the comparison to those Navy veterans who blasted John Kerry’s record during the 2004 campaign is not apt. Whatever the motivation of the original Swift Boat veterans, their beef was a personal grudge against Kerry. The issue the Opsec group is highlighting is a serious problem that has already resulted in federal investigations of the White House’s behavior.

The White House is particularly unhappy because the group’s efforts threaten to tarnish the one tangible achievement of this administration: the killing of Osama bin Laden. The operation that ended the life of the arch terrorist was a brilliant military maneuver but it has become a political totem for the president. The killing has allowed him to pretend that a record of foreign policy failure has somehow been transformed into one of unadulterated success. While the president deserves credit for giving the okay for the strike (after reportedly refusing to do it three previous times), the shameless manner with which the administration blabbed classified information so as to portray Obama and his staff as fearless war leaders understandably angered the intelligence community. More importantly, it was just one more instance in which the White House leaked secrets for political gain. While the investigations of these leaks by two U.S. Attorneys may eventually lead to serious consequences for some individuals, the president shouldn’t be surprised that there is going to be some political damage as well.

The Swift Boat attacks on Kerry were controversial because they were seen as an unfair attempt to besmirch a decorated veteran who did face enemy fire. Kerry’s fellow veterans resented his portrayal as a hero and were bitter about his unconscionable attacks on fellow serviceman after he returned home from Vietnam. But whatever you may think about that dispute, there really is no comparison to criticism of Obama’s promiscuous leaking of classified material.

This is an administration that hasn’t hesitated to blab details about the most important covert operations and research, such as cyber warfare and the drone attacks on terrorists, so as to paint the president as a great man. The White House has clearly broken the law but it is unclear whether they will be made to pay for these violations since Obama appointees rather than an independent special prosecutor are conducting the investigations.

It should also be admitted that some of the anger about the leaks about the bin Laden operation are due to natural resentment by those who carry out such operations at the way the president’s team has used them as props in his re-election campaign. The president rarely makes a speech without mentioning bin Laden’s killing, and while he has given proper credit to those who actually risked their lives on this mission, there’s little doubt that the White House has worked hard to paint him as the true “hero” of the story.

While the election will not be won or lost on this issue, the blowback on the leaks is a lesson for all political leaders. Presidents who seek to take the lion’s share of the credit for the actions of those who serve in the military and who leak information to puff their own reputations will always be resented for doing so. Rather than blasting the Opsec veterans, what is needed from the administration is a little more humility from the commander-in-chief.

Read Less

How Irrelevant is Amnesty International?

The news that Amnesty International’s annual report on the state of the world has condemned the American raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, as “unlawful” should surprise no one. The group’s obtuse effort to brand every effort of the United States to defend itself against terrorists has long since reached the level of parody. Where once it could claim some moral legitimacy as a neutral compiler and observer of human rights violations wherever they were committed, the decision of the group to treat the West’s ongoing conflict with al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies as if it were a matter of American persecution of Third World innocents has lost Amnesty its last shred of credibility.

The defense of Osama bin Laden’s right to life and liberty should place the group’s criticisms of Israel’s efforts to fend off Palestinian terrorism in perspective. While human rights monitors are vital in a world where tyrannies are still commonplace, the inability of groups like AI to tell the difference between the perpetrators of violence and those attempting to defend themselves is a fatal flaw that has rendered them irrelevant to useful discussions about how to advance the cause of humanity.

Read More

The news that Amnesty International’s annual report on the state of the world has condemned the American raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, as “unlawful” should surprise no one. The group’s obtuse effort to brand every effort of the United States to defend itself against terrorists has long since reached the level of parody. Where once it could claim some moral legitimacy as a neutral compiler and observer of human rights violations wherever they were committed, the decision of the group to treat the West’s ongoing conflict with al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies as if it were a matter of American persecution of Third World innocents has lost Amnesty its last shred of credibility.

The defense of Osama bin Laden’s right to life and liberty should place the group’s criticisms of Israel’s efforts to fend off Palestinian terrorism in perspective. While human rights monitors are vital in a world where tyrannies are still commonplace, the inability of groups like AI to tell the difference between the perpetrators of violence and those attempting to defend themselves is a fatal flaw that has rendered them irrelevant to useful discussions about how to advance the cause of humanity.

It’s not clear there was ever a time when Amnesty International deserved the moral standing that some in the press have accorded it. The human rights group’s greatest strength was its willingness to take on all countries, including those beloved of the left. That meant rather than just focus its attention on the alleged abuses of the West, it also devoted a great deal of attention on those nations where denial of human rights was not the exception to the rule but the whole point of the state apparatus. If that meant treating the Soviet Union as being on the same moral plane as the United States, we were instructed that this was the price to be paid for having a group lionized by the left pay some attention to the plight of those imprisoned in the Gulag Archipelago. But a willingness to treat genuine problems in democratic countries where the rule of law is respected as no different from dictatorships and totalitarian regimes was always absurd. Now it has been overshadowed by the group’s inability to comprehend that states have a right to defend themselves against terrorists.

In the case of Israel, the group largely ignores the fact that Gaza became a Hamas terrorist state after the Israeli withdrawal in 2005, and then its tyrannical Islamist masters allowed its territory to be used as a launching pad for terror strikes. Gaza’s leaders are at war with Israel, but AI treats the Jewish state’s attempts to keep military hardware out of the hands of those terrorists as a violation of human rights even though the flow of food and medicine into the area has not stopped. Israel is not perfect, but it is a functioning democracy where all have access to courts and a free press. The fact that AI also criticizes Hamas and Fatah for their tyrannical rule over Palestinians in the Gaza and West Bank doesn’t provide legitimacy for the group’s stands that have the effect of delegitimizing democratic Israel’s right of self-defense.

It’s not that every instance cited by AI is false. Many of their reports are reliable, especially those that note problems in the Third World, that few in the so-called human rights community that is obsessed with destroying Israel, care about. The organization’s commitment to neutrality in conflicts is fine, the problem is that this has always brought with it a willingness to treat every country and cause as morally equivalent. Such a stance has led them to condemn the raid on Osama bin Laden and in the same report condemn Canada for not arresting former President George W. Bush on bogus human rights charges. AI isn’t just a joke anymore; it’s rendered itself completely irrelevant to the cause that it claims to cherish.

Read Less

Is There a Difference Between “Moderate” and “Radical” Islamism?

Labels are always dangerous things. In the context of the U.S. policy debate, pundits attach labels to opponents in order to avoid debating issues or in order to construct straw man arguments. Seldom do people use labels with the precision they deserve. This is certainly the case when it comes to religion.

I use the term Islamism to depict the use of Islam as a political ideology and studiously avoid the term “Islamo-Fascism,” which is not accurate except, in very limited cases, to Hezbollah. (Several years ago, Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol falsely accused me of using the term; when I later saw him in Prague, he acknowledged his error, but neither he nor David Judson, his editor at the Turkish [now Hürriyet] Daily News, saw fit to correct their fabrication. To use labels precisely, it would be fair to call Akyol sloppy and, for failing to correct his error, lacking integrity).

Read More

Labels are always dangerous things. In the context of the U.S. policy debate, pundits attach labels to opponents in order to avoid debating issues or in order to construct straw man arguments. Seldom do people use labels with the precision they deserve. This is certainly the case when it comes to religion.

I use the term Islamism to depict the use of Islam as a political ideology and studiously avoid the term “Islamo-Fascism,” which is not accurate except, in very limited cases, to Hezbollah. (Several years ago, Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol falsely accused me of using the term; when I later saw him in Prague, he acknowledged his error, but neither he nor David Judson, his editor at the Turkish [now Hürriyet] Daily News, saw fit to correct their fabrication. To use labels precisely, it would be fair to call Akyol sloppy and, for failing to correct his error, lacking integrity).

The debate about Islamism (or Islamic fundamentalism, or jihadism) and labels is complex, and few people who engage in it choose their words with care. Martin Kramer did an admirable job explaining the evolution of terms, here, and others have since followed suit.

If newspapers and wire services are going to discuss Islamism and then modify it with terms such as “moderate” and “radical,” it would behoove them to define in advance what is “moderate” and what is not. Take this story, regarding Egyptian presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, which described Abul Fotouh as follows:

A moderate Islamist with support from both hardline fundamentalists and liberals, Abul Fotouh refused to describe bin Laden as a terrorist, saying the term was used by the United States to “hit Muslim interests.”

I know many moderate Muslims – who put their lives on the line every day to preserve liberty and freedom of religious interpretation—and I am also friends with many moderate Islamists. I know not a single moderate, however, who defends bin Laden. Does Agence France Presse (and Yahoo) really believe moderates embrace bin Laden’s legacy? Wouldn’t it be more likely that a man who praises and defends bin Laden is actually somewhat radical? Other outlets which define Abul Fotouh as “moderate” include the BBC, Tablet Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, and the Financial Times, among others. These outlets would do themselves and their readers a service if they would be so kind as to articulate the difference between “moderate” and “radical” Islamism. For that matter, it is never too early for the White House and the State Department to do likewise.

Read Less

SEALs to Attack Obama’s Football Spiking?

The group is called Veterans for a Strong America, and they’ve already released one ad blasting President Obama’s handling of the bin Laden death anniversary. BuzzFeed reports there’s more on the way:

In the wake of a warm conservative reception for a web video trashing the president for “spiking the football” on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, the conservative group Veterans for a Strong America plans to gather Navy SEALs and Special Forces operators to criticize the White House during the 2012 campaign.

“We’re looking to [put together] a coalition, to field SEALs and operators that want to come out publicly,” executive director of Veterans for a Strong America, Joel Arends, tells BuzzFeed. “I’ve had a lot of discussions with former SEALs and current SEALs. I’ve been talking to operators in the community. There is palatable discontent.”

Arends, a 35-year old Iraq war veteran who has spent the last six years in conservative activist circles, started the group last fall during the Republican primaries.

Read More

The group is called Veterans for a Strong America, and they’ve already released one ad blasting President Obama’s handling of the bin Laden death anniversary. BuzzFeed reports there’s more on the way:

In the wake of a warm conservative reception for a web video trashing the president for “spiking the football” on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, the conservative group Veterans for a Strong America plans to gather Navy SEALs and Special Forces operators to criticize the White House during the 2012 campaign.

“We’re looking to [put together] a coalition, to field SEALs and operators that want to come out publicly,” executive director of Veterans for a Strong America, Joel Arends, tells BuzzFeed. “I’ve had a lot of discussions with former SEALs and current SEALs. I’ve been talking to operators in the community. There is palatable discontent.”

Arends, a 35-year old Iraq war veteran who has spent the last six years in conservative activist circles, started the group last fall during the Republican primaries.

The campaign is already being compared to the ‘04 Swift Boat Veterans. And while this is probably the most effective tactic to take against the White House on the bin Laden issue, Allahpundit raises some concerns:

Turning the bin Laden raid into a story about Obama’s ego would break one of the biggest arrows in his electoral quiver. And needless to say, the optics of SEALs criticizing O for making the OBL raid all about him are … not so good for the White House. Are they worse, though, than Obama having to defend eight-plus percent unemployment? He’d much rather have an argument with conservatives over the OBL raid than the economy since every minute spent talking about Bin Laden is (a) a reminder that O did in fact give the order to liquidate the bastard, however shoddy his behavior might have been afterward, and (b) a minute not spent talking about the thoroughgoing crappiness of, oh, pretty much every other part of his record.

And that’s if the Veterans for a Strong America campaign is actually successful at turning the story into one about Obama’s ego. There’s also a chance it could backfire. Yes, Obama is politicizing the bin Laden raid to death (which is the crux of the VSA criticism), but what will SEALs think of a campaign bashing Obama for this on their behalf? If many of them found Obama’s football-spiking tasteless, quite a few would probably object to a campaign like this as well.

And the Obama campaign will not be blindsided by this line of attack, nor will they go down without a fight. They’re not about to relive the perceived failures of the 2004 campaign.

Read Less

Bin Laden Documents Show Obama Strategy a Farce

My AEI colleague Ahmad Majidyar points out to me that, amongst the declassified Bin Laden documents released today, was mention that Muhammad Tayib Agha, an intermediary between Taliban leader Mullah Omar and American diplomats, was double-dealing and in close contact with bin Laden (see cursory mentions in document 10 and 15) and was discussing, among other items, how al-Qaeda could overthrow Karzai after the American withdrawal.

That the Obama administration continues its ill-considered plan to “engage” the Taliban when it has zero positive to show for its efforts and against all evidence that its strategy is actively harming U.S. servicemen and the U.S. position in Afghanistan and undercutting the desired outcomes in Afghanistan, is nothing short of policy malpractice.

Read More

My AEI colleague Ahmad Majidyar points out to me that, amongst the declassified Bin Laden documents released today, was mention that Muhammad Tayib Agha, an intermediary between Taliban leader Mullah Omar and American diplomats, was double-dealing and in close contact with bin Laden (see cursory mentions in document 10 and 15) and was discussing, among other items, how al-Qaeda could overthrow Karzai after the American withdrawal.

That the Obama administration continues its ill-considered plan to “engage” the Taliban when it has zero positive to show for its efforts and against all evidence that its strategy is actively harming U.S. servicemen and the U.S. position in Afghanistan and undercutting the desired outcomes in Afghanistan, is nothing short of policy malpractice.

It is quite telling that if President Obama had to construct a strategy for defeat, it would not differ from what he and his aides describe as America’s way forward.

Read Less

Documents Show Bin Laden was Frustrated with Regional Jihadi Groups

There is no big news flash buried in the 17 al-Qaeda documents that were seized at Abbottabad and released today by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. They will enhance public understanding of al-Qaeda only marginally while, of course, helping to keep alive the Osama bin Laden raid which President Obama is using for all it’s worth as part of his reelection strategy.

What the documents show—and what we already knew—is that running a terrorist organization is pretty much like running any other organization, whether an NGO or a business or a government. There are always bureaucratic headaches, especially for the head of a far-flung multinational who is trying to keep various component units marching in lockstep. That was particularly difficult for bin Laden because he had limited communications from his house in Pakistan. He was often exercised, it seems, by the actions of al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb—his “branded” franchises—to say nothing of fellow traveler organizations such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Shabaab in Somalia. As the West Point summary notes:

Rather than a source of strength, bin Laden was burdened by what he viewed as the incompetence of the “affiliates,” including their lack of political acumen to win public support, their media campaigns and their poorly planned operations which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Muslims.

Read More

There is no big news flash buried in the 17 al-Qaeda documents that were seized at Abbottabad and released today by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. They will enhance public understanding of al-Qaeda only marginally while, of course, helping to keep alive the Osama bin Laden raid which President Obama is using for all it’s worth as part of his reelection strategy.

What the documents show—and what we already knew—is that running a terrorist organization is pretty much like running any other organization, whether an NGO or a business or a government. There are always bureaucratic headaches, especially for the head of a far-flung multinational who is trying to keep various component units marching in lockstep. That was particularly difficult for bin Laden because he had limited communications from his house in Pakistan. He was often exercised, it seems, by the actions of al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb—his “branded” franchises—to say nothing of fellow traveler organizations such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Shabaab in Somalia. As the West Point summary notes:

Rather than a source of strength, bin Laden was burdened by what he viewed as the incompetence of the “affiliates,” including their lack of political acumen to win public support, their media campaigns and their poorly planned operations which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Muslims.

The latter point is a particularly telling one, because some critics of American counterinsurgency strategy think our troops are too careful in the application of firepower—they should be willing to kill more people in order to achieve success. The counterargument is that unnecessary deaths detract from the larger task of accomplishing the mission because they alienate the population, and low-intensity warfare is always a battle for popular support. Bin Laden endorsed that very view—he was afraid, and rightly so, that the actions of al-Qaeda affiliates in killing Muslims had alienated Muslim opinion and made it harder for al-Qaeda to achieve its goals. You might say bin Laden was a believer in “population-centric” insurgency, a counterpoint to the current U.S. doctrine known as “population-centric counterinsurgency.” He just wasn’t very good at carrying it out because his bloodthirsty subordinates did not pay much attention to his edicts.

 

Read Less

Bin Laden and the Bush Years

The Pew Research Center released a poll showing support for Osama bin Laden had waned considerably among Muslims around the world. That’s not terribly surprising a year after his death. But what is worth calling attention to is that bin Laden’s popularity decreased substantially during the Bush years and the “war on terrorism.”

Why point this out at all? Because there was a popular theory advanced by foreign policy analysts like Peter Bergen, which (in 2007) sounded like this:

America’’s most formidable foe– once practically dead– is back. This is one of the most historically significant legacies of President Bush. At nearly every turn, he has made the wrong strategic choices in battling al-Qaeda. To understand the terror network’s’ resurgence –and its continued ability to harm us– we need to reexamine all the ways in which the administration has failed to crush it.

Read More

The Pew Research Center released a poll showing support for Osama bin Laden had waned considerably among Muslims around the world. That’s not terribly surprising a year after his death. But what is worth calling attention to is that bin Laden’s popularity decreased substantially during the Bush years and the “war on terrorism.”

Why point this out at all? Because there was a popular theory advanced by foreign policy analysts like Peter Bergen, which (in 2007) sounded like this:

America’’s most formidable foe– once practically dead– is back. This is one of the most historically significant legacies of President Bush. At nearly every turn, he has made the wrong strategic choices in battling al-Qaeda. To understand the terror network’s’ resurgence –and its continued ability to harm us– we need to reexamine all the ways in which the administration has failed to crush it.

Bergen also believed the war in Iraq gave new life to al-Qaeda; in fact, the war ended up dealing a devastating blow to al-Qaeda.

Bergen’s premise, as well as his analysis, were deeply flawed. The Bush years were very bad ones for bin Laden and for what Bergen called “America’s most formidable foe.” It’s worth adding, I suppose, that they weren’t good years for Bergen’s credibility as a commentator on world events.

 

Read Less

Obama Spiking the Football Before Forfeiting the Game

President Obama made a tough call to order the hit on Osama bin Laden. Had the operation failed, pundits and press would have fallen over themselves to liken him to Jimmy Carter and the ham-handed hostage rescue operation in Iran. And, contrary to Mitt Romney’s suggestion that anyone would have made the same call, even Carter, that’s clearly not true: When the U.S. intelligence community and military had bin Laden in its sights, Bill Clinton did not have the political courage to make the call.

Celebrating the much-ballyhooed strategic partnership deal finalized last month between the United States and Afghanistan is premature, however. With the smoke clears, details of the agreement are short, and Obama’s timeline continues to erode confidence in the wisdom of the alliance where it matters, among Afghans.

Read More

President Obama made a tough call to order the hit on Osama bin Laden. Had the operation failed, pundits and press would have fallen over themselves to liken him to Jimmy Carter and the ham-handed hostage rescue operation in Iran. And, contrary to Mitt Romney’s suggestion that anyone would have made the same call, even Carter, that’s clearly not true: When the U.S. intelligence community and military had bin Laden in its sights, Bill Clinton did not have the political courage to make the call.

Celebrating the much-ballyhooed strategic partnership deal finalized last month between the United States and Afghanistan is premature, however. With the smoke clears, details of the agreement are short, and Obama’s timeline continues to erode confidence in the wisdom of the alliance where it matters, among Afghans.

At present, the Afghans get perhaps $15 billion per year in foreign aid. The Afghan government estimates it needs $10 billion per year from donors after 2014. It will take $6 billion per year to finance a 352,000-man Afghan army and police force; extracting savings by shrinking the force is self-defeating. The World Bank has predicted an unmanageable fiscal crisis if Afghanistan has to finance its own security forces.

Beyond the lack of certainty regarding Afghanistan’s finances and American willingness to support Afghanistan and its mercurial president, the Obama team’s outreach to the Taliban promises to accelerate defeat. Hasht-e Sobh (8 a.m.),  Afghanistan’s newspaper of record, has published an article suggesting the following, according to an Open Source Center translation:

Reports said a few days ago that the United States will release former Taliban Interior Minister Mullah Khairkhwah and another key Taliban prisoner from Guantanamo prison. According to reports, these prisoners will be released as a confidence-building measure so that talks between the United States and Taliban can resume. Mullah Khairkhwah will be transferred to Qatar, the reports said. A number of MPs, who wished to remain anonymous, had even said that he might be sent to Kabul.

Colin Powell once famously proposed reaching out to “moderate Taliban.” Khairkhwah is no moderate.  As a key Taliban security official prior to 9/11, he protected bin Laden and has the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands.

Hasht-e Sobh continues:

A number of Pakistani media have also reported that the United States has asked the Taliban to issue a statement and declare their separation from Al-Qa’ida. The Taliban, however, have rejected to do so.

Celebrating the new U.S.-Afghan Agreement is premature; it is written in smoke rather than ink. Punting discussion of details and funding to the future will be no more successful than past administrations which celebrated Arab-Israeli breakthroughs while final status issues remained untouched and unresolved. Had Obama stopped there, perhaps no harm would have been done. However, the combination of a timeline and outreach to the Taliban is a noxious mix that destines any American strategy to defeat.  Until and unless the commander-in-chief is willing to sign on to a strategy to defeat the Taliban completely rather than co-opt and flee, he is simply spiking the football at halftime, before forfeiting the game.

Read Less

Obama’s Disastrous Political Overreach

Something fascinating–and potentially important–is happening in the 2012 presidential campaign.

The Obama campaign’s crass politicization of the killing of Osama bin Laden seems to have struck a nerve in just about everyone – from expected quarters (like the Wall Street Journal editorial page), to moderately conservative ones (like David Brooks of the New York Times), to liberal ones (like Dana Milbank of the Washington Post). But perhaps the most important criticisms are being made by Navy SEALs themselves, as Alana points out.

This cannot be what the Obama campaign predicted; and the fact that they would take their most notable achievement and employ it in a way that would be potentially counterproductive is a sign that the mindset of all the president’s men is so aggressive, so hyper-partisan, so mean-spirited and so desperate that they are acting in ways that are amateurish and self-defeating. It might also be a sign that Obama has so few genuine accomplishment to his name that when he actually is able to identify one, he mishandles it. They don’t have enough practice to know what to do with a real achievement.

Read More

Something fascinating–and potentially important–is happening in the 2012 presidential campaign.

The Obama campaign’s crass politicization of the killing of Osama bin Laden seems to have struck a nerve in just about everyone – from expected quarters (like the Wall Street Journal editorial page), to moderately conservative ones (like David Brooks of the New York Times), to liberal ones (like Dana Milbank of the Washington Post). But perhaps the most important criticisms are being made by Navy SEALs themselves, as Alana points out.

This cannot be what the Obama campaign predicted; and the fact that they would take their most notable achievement and employ it in a way that would be potentially counterproductive is a sign that the mindset of all the president’s men is so aggressive, so hyper-partisan, so mean-spirited and so desperate that they are acting in ways that are amateurish and self-defeating. It might also be a sign that Obama has so few genuine accomplishment to his name that when he actually is able to identify one, he mishandles it. They don’t have enough practice to know what to do with a real achievement.

I have felt for some time that the way in which Obama is running his campaign – splenetic, surly, petty, distracting, and dishonest – would end up doing significant damage to the president. It would diminish him in the eyes of the public, who actually do hold their presidents to certain standards of behavior, and undercut his impression as a likeable and essentially decent person.

You can’t use a (figurative) pick axe on your opponent day after day without chipping away at your own image. Jimmy Carter (who ran a very negative, and at times vicious, campaign against Ronald Reagan) discovered this in 1980. So will Barack Obama in 2012.

 

Read Less

SEALs Criticize Obama’s Grandstanding

Listening to the Obama campaign gush about the president’s courageous decision regarding the Osama bin Laden raid, you might think he was the one who piloted the helicopter, raided the compound, and fired the legendary shot. But what do the actual American heroes who risk their lives in these types of missions think? The Daily Mail spoke to several Navy SEALs who are mystified by the argument that President Obama’s decision was uniquely heroic:

A serving SEAL Team member said: ‘Obama wasn’t in the field, at risk, carrying a gun. As president, at every turn he should be thanking the guys who put their lives on the line to do this. He does so in his official speeches because the speechwriters are smart.

“But the more he tries to take the credit for it, the more the ground operators are saying, ‘Come on, man!’ It really didn’t matter who was president. At the end of the day, they were going to go.”

Chris Kyle, a former SEAL sniper with 160 confirmed and another 95 unconfirmed kills to his credit, said: ‘The operation itself was great and the nation felt immense pride. It was great that we did it.

“But bin Laden was just a figurehead. The war on terror continues. Taking him out didn’t really change anything as far as the war on terror is concerned and using it as a political attack is a cheap shot.”

Read More

Listening to the Obama campaign gush about the president’s courageous decision regarding the Osama bin Laden raid, you might think he was the one who piloted the helicopter, raided the compound, and fired the legendary shot. But what do the actual American heroes who risk their lives in these types of missions think? The Daily Mail spoke to several Navy SEALs who are mystified by the argument that President Obama’s decision was uniquely heroic:

A serving SEAL Team member said: ‘Obama wasn’t in the field, at risk, carrying a gun. As president, at every turn he should be thanking the guys who put their lives on the line to do this. He does so in his official speeches because the speechwriters are smart.

“But the more he tries to take the credit for it, the more the ground operators are saying, ‘Come on, man!’ It really didn’t matter who was president. At the end of the day, they were going to go.”

Chris Kyle, a former SEAL sniper with 160 confirmed and another 95 unconfirmed kills to his credit, said: ‘The operation itself was great and the nation felt immense pride. It was great that we did it.

“But bin Laden was just a figurehead. The war on terror continues. Taking him out didn’t really change anything as far as the war on terror is concerned and using it as a political attack is a cheap shot.”

Exactly. Every American will cheer on the bin Laden raid, and Obama’s gutsy decision to go ahead with it. Killing bin Laden was a wildly popular move – there has never been any serious debate in this country about whether or not to do it. The real debate has been about the less-popular steps that need to be taken to keep America safe in the War on Terror. Vice President Biden likes to say that Obama has a backbone “like a ramrod,” but where has that backbone been when it comes to the unpopular decisions during wartime? Obama is cutting out early in Afghanistan, quietly blasting away al-Qaeda leaders with drones instead of capturing them for intelligence, and hoping that tensions in Iraq don’t boil over before the November election, as not to mar his claim the was is over.

When you think of all the complex, critical, gut-wrenching decisions a commander-in-chief has to make during times of war, the decision to send in SEALs to bump off the world’s most hated terrorist leader and mass murderer of thousands of Americans is pretty cut-and-dry in the scheme of things.

Sen. John McCain made a similar point on Fox News yesterday:

“I say any president, Jimmy Carter, anybody, any president would have, obviously, under those circumstances, done the same thing. And to now take credit for something that any president would do is indicative of the kind of campaign we’re under — we’re — we’re seeing…So all I can say is that this is going to be a very rough campaign,” McCain told Fox News in an interview… “And I’ve had the great honor of serving in the company of heroes. And, you know the thing about heroes, they don’t brag.”

A lesson about how heroes don’t brag, from someone who would know. In fact, some would say McCain’s own modesty hurt him in 2008, because he was reluctant to make his time as a POW a focus of his campaign.

Read Less

Bin Laden Is Gone, But Al-Qaeda Is Not

The endless touchdown dance that President Obama and his surrogates are taking on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, which is turning what should be a unifying event into a partisan one, risks tarnishing the heroic work of the Special Operators and intelligence officers who tracked down and killed the world’s most wanted man. It also risks exaggerating the consequences of bin Laden’s demise.

Al-Qaeda “central” was already in decline prior to its leaders’ death, but as RAND political scientist Seth Jones rightly warns, al-Qaeda remains a very real threat. Especially potent are its regional affiliates (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and closely related terrorist organizations such as the Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Harem in Nigeria, and, in Pakistan, Lashkar e Taiba, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and others. And that’s not even to mention Hezbollah and Hamas, which in some ways remain the most potent Islamist terrorist organizations of all because they control actual territory. Oh, and in Iraq there is still a threat from various Mahdist army offshoots sponsored by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, which has terrorist tentacles stretching all the way from Latin America to the Levant.

Read More

The endless touchdown dance that President Obama and his surrogates are taking on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, which is turning what should be a unifying event into a partisan one, risks tarnishing the heroic work of the Special Operators and intelligence officers who tracked down and killed the world’s most wanted man. It also risks exaggerating the consequences of bin Laden’s demise.

Al-Qaeda “central” was already in decline prior to its leaders’ death, but as RAND political scientist Seth Jones rightly warns, al-Qaeda remains a very real threat. Especially potent are its regional affiliates (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and closely related terrorist organizations such as the Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Harem in Nigeria, and, in Pakistan, Lashkar e Taiba, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and others. And that’s not even to mention Hezbollah and Hamas, which in some ways remain the most potent Islamist terrorist organizations of all because they control actual territory. Oh, and in Iraq there is still a threat from various Mahdist army offshoots sponsored by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, which has terrorist tentacles stretching all the way from Latin America to the Levant.

Faced with this panoply of threats, we would be guilty of wishful thinking if we were to declare victory prematurely. Unfortunately, Islamist-inspired terrorists will continue to threaten our interests–and our homeland–for the foreseeable future. And it is not hard to sketch out possible scenarios–involving, say, a state collapse in Pakistan, a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, or an Islamist seizure of power in Yemen or Somalia, or the acquisition of WMD by any terrorist group–that could substantially heighten the threat.

I don’t  mean to dismiss the blows that al-Qaeda and its ilk have suffered, which are reflected in public opinion polls which show declining support across the Muslim world for al-Qaeda–the Pew Research Center finds 71 percent of Egyptians, 77 percent of Jordanians, 55 percent of Pakistanis, 73 percent of Turks, and 98 percent of Lebanese holding an unfavorable view of al-Qaeda. But groups such as al-Qaeda–or the Taliban, or Hezbollah, or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards–do not typically take power in free and fair elections and even relatively small numbers of determined terrorists, no matter how unpopular, can still cause considerable carnage. Especially if they can get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, something that the rising power of Islamism in Pakistan and the increasing progress of the Iranian nuclear program make more probable.

The biggest danger we face on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s well-deserved demise, for which President Obama deserves all the credit in the world, is that of complacency. If we let our guard down–if, for example, we leave Afghanistan prematurely before that country is more secure and stable–then we risk letting our mortal foes recover from the blows they have suffered in the past decade.

 

Read Less

Huffington Slams Obama’s Osama Ad

Via Beltway Confidential: When even Ariana Huffington isn’t buying the premise of Obama’s campaign ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have ordered the Osama bin Laden raid, it’s probably time to re-evaluate that message:

“I agree with the Romney campaign, that using the Osama bin Laden assassination killing the great news that we had a year ago, in order to say basically that Obama did it and Romney may not have done it,” said Huffington. “It is one thing to celebrate the fact that they did such a great job…but to turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do.”

If the message is so tasteless that it’s even offending Obama’s strident defenders, why did the campaign go ahead with it in the first place? Remember, this wasn’t just one commercial. Vice President Biden also brought up something similar in his foreign policy speech last week when he declared that “bin Laden is dead and GE is alive…If Romney was president, could we have used that same slogan in reverse?”

Read More

Via Beltway Confidential: When even Ariana Huffington isn’t buying the premise of Obama’s campaign ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have ordered the Osama bin Laden raid, it’s probably time to re-evaluate that message:

“I agree with the Romney campaign, that using the Osama bin Laden assassination killing the great news that we had a year ago, in order to say basically that Obama did it and Romney may not have done it,” said Huffington. “It is one thing to celebrate the fact that they did such a great job…but to turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do.”

If the message is so tasteless that it’s even offending Obama’s strident defenders, why did the campaign go ahead with it in the first place? Remember, this wasn’t just one commercial. Vice President Biden also brought up something similar in his foreign policy speech last week when he declared that “bin Laden is dead and GE is alive…If Romney was president, could we have used that same slogan in reverse?”

The way the Obama campaign has handled the bin Laden killing has been odd since the beginning. Sure, there were a few conservative detractors who tried to downplay Obama’s role, but for the most part the president was praised across the political spectrum for green-lighting the raid. He’s certainly received his fair share of credit.

But for some reason, the Obama campaign has needlessly tried to puff up the already-impressive mission, calling it the most “audacious plan” in “500 years” and overselling the risks of the president’s decision. Now they’re claiming that Romney wouldn’t have made the same call had he been president.

Why? Is Obama concerned that the raid itself isn’t extraordinary enough on its own? If that’s the case, ads like this certainly won’t help. Beyond the conceit contained in the anti-Romney message, the campaign calculation couldn’t be more transparent. The Obama campaign could have released an ad highlighting why the bin Laden raid was so momentous and what it meant for Americans in general and particularly 9/11 family members. Instead, it decided to go for a cheap and unsubstantiated attack on Romney. Huffington is right to call that despicable.

Read Less

Obama Hardly a Hawkish Warrior-in-Chief

In today’s New York Times, terrorism expert Peter Bergen, whose work I respect, presents an image of Barack Obama as he would like to be presented to the electorate–as a “warrior-in-chief” who has turned out to be far more hawkish than either liberal supporters or conservative critics anticipated. There is some truth to this portrait, but it is incomplete. It would have been considerably more convincing if written last year, immediately after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and seemed to liberate Obama’s inner dove, rather than today.

Here is how Bergen makes his case:

Mr. Obama decimated al-Qaeda’s leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in al-Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Read More

In today’s New York Times, terrorism expert Peter Bergen, whose work I respect, presents an image of Barack Obama as he would like to be presented to the electorate–as a “warrior-in-chief” who has turned out to be far more hawkish than either liberal supporters or conservative critics anticipated. There is some truth to this portrait, but it is incomplete. It would have been considerably more convincing if written last year, immediately after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and seemed to liberate Obama’s inner dove, rather than today.

Here is how Bergen makes his case:

Mr. Obama decimated al-Qaeda’s leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in al-Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The first thing that jumps out at me from this litany is that there is a lot of double-counting involved. There are seven discrete claims in this paragraph. Of these all but two–overthrowing Qaddafi and increasing American troop numbers in Afghanistan–relate to pinpoint CIA and/or Special Operations strikes against al-Qaeda leaders. No question, Obama has stepped up the program of covert drone strikes he inherited from Bush. And, also, no question, he authorized a risky raid to kill bin Laden. He deserves full credit for these steps, but it is also worth noting that they are not terribly difficult steps for an American president to take in the post-9/11 climate. Who, aside from some extreme ACLU types, actually opposes doing whatever we can to kill the leaders of a terrorist network responsible for the worst terrorist attack in history? There have been debates about the wisdom of particular operations–many senior officials opposed sending SEALs after bin Laden, favoring instead dropping a bomb on his head–but on the overall rightness of the campaign there is little dissension in the mainstream of American politics.

Much riskier would be to expand the drone strikes to groups, such as the Quetta Shura Taliban and Haqqani Network, which have not targeted the American homeland and are openly supported by our supposed ally Pakistan. This Obama has largely not done, which helps to explain why Islamist terrorist organizations such as the Haqqanis (responsible for killing lots of Americans in Afghanistan) continue to get stronger, even as al-Qaeda’s central core shrinks.

What of Bergen’s other claims? Yes, Obama deserves credit for more than tripling the number of American forces in Afghanistan. But he has also sharply time-limited their involvement, and he has begun withdrawing them faster than militarily prudent, which undercuts the effectiveness of his initial policies and suggests a deep-seated ambivalence on the part of this brainy former law professor. However steely in the battle against al-Qaeda, he has not been an unwavering war leader in the battle against the Taliban and Haqqani network; he has hardly even bothered to speak to the public to rally support for this war effort.

Obama also deserves credit for intervening to topple Qaddafi although his desire to “lead from behind” made the campaign more costly (for Libyans) and more protracted than it need have been, and our lack of follow through may yet doom Libya to years of chaos and in-fighting. Bergen contrasts Obama’s quick action in Libya with President Clinton’s two-year delay before acting in Bosnia. But what of Obama’s year-long delay in Syria where the killing goes on–and we are in serious danger of missing a major opportunity to shift the strategic balance in the Levant in our favor? There Obama’s actions are sadly reminiscent of Clinton’s–he, too, is marrying strong words (Bashar Assad must go, he has said) with weak actions that rely on ineffectual UN monitors.

And what of Obama’s pull-out from Iraq after he did not try terribly hard to negotiate an agreement that would allow our troops to stay? That jeopardizes a war effort that made impressive gains, but it goes unmentioned in Bergen’s op-ed.

There is also little or no mention in Bergen’s article of North Korea, where Obama just tried and failed to conclude the latest ill-advised attempt to bribe the regime into stopping its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs; of Iran, where Obama opposed strong sanctions on the Central Bank that were ultimately passed by Congress, and where he has tried to pressure Israel not to strike while all but ruling out the use of American force against this dangerous nuclear program; of Israel, whose leaders Obama has pressured into halts to West Bank settlements while not exerting comparable pressure on the Palestinians to make peace; or of Eastern European nations which have felt abandoned by Obama’s “reset” with Russia and his cancellation of missile interceptors that were to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Finally, Bergen ignores Obama’s support for crippling cuts in our defense budget–nearly $500 billion in cuts was legislated last summer with Obama’s support and another $600 billion or so of cuts could start to hit in January if sequestration, which Obama supports, takes place. Obama’s own defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have warned that those cuts could have “catastrophic” consequences for the armed forces yet Obama has done nothing so far to head them off.

These are hardly the actions of a hawkish commander-in-chief. (At least in my view as a Romney defense adviser.) Yet the reality of Obama’s foreign and defense policy, which especially because the death of bin Laden has turned notably more dovish, has been obscured by the president’s attempt to focus most of the public’s attention on his drone strikes and commando raids on al-Qaeda.

 

Read Less

Obama’s Bin Laden Pitch Jumps the Shark

A year ago even as relentlessly positive a chronicler of the Obama administration as the New York Times noted that the president had begun to use the killing of Osama bin Laden as an integral part of his standard political stump speech. Since then, the president and even Vice President Biden have rarely disappointed listeners waiting for the obligatory bin Laden reference. While President Obama deserves credit for ordering the operation and he was entitled to spike the ball over this a few times, the transformation of the tracking down of the arch terrorist into the central achievement of their years in power says a lot about just how thin their list of victories has turned out to be.

Indeed, as I first noted last May, it should be remembered that Biden made one of the few genuinely witty remarks in the 2008 campaign when he noted that a Rudy Giuliani campaign speech consisted solely of, “a noun, a verb and 9/11,” but in the last year the addresses of Obama and Biden have rarely omitted “a noun, a verb and bin Laden.” Yet as tiresome as the president’s attempt to drape himself in the heroism of the Navy Seals has been up until now, it just got a lot worse. The Obama campaign is not only highlighting the bin Laden killing but it is now, believe it or not, actually putting forward a counter-factual video asserting that a President Mitt Romney would never have tried to take out the al Qaeda leader.

Read More

A year ago even as relentlessly positive a chronicler of the Obama administration as the New York Times noted that the president had begun to use the killing of Osama bin Laden as an integral part of his standard political stump speech. Since then, the president and even Vice President Biden have rarely disappointed listeners waiting for the obligatory bin Laden reference. While President Obama deserves credit for ordering the operation and he was entitled to spike the ball over this a few times, the transformation of the tracking down of the arch terrorist into the central achievement of their years in power says a lot about just how thin their list of victories has turned out to be.

Indeed, as I first noted last May, it should be remembered that Biden made one of the few genuinely witty remarks in the 2008 campaign when he noted that a Rudy Giuliani campaign speech consisted solely of, “a noun, a verb and 9/11,” but in the last year the addresses of Obama and Biden have rarely omitted “a noun, a verb and bin Laden.” Yet as tiresome as the president’s attempt to drape himself in the heroism of the Navy Seals has been up until now, it just got a lot worse. The Obama campaign is not only highlighting the bin Laden killing but it is now, believe it or not, actually putting forward a counter-factual video asserting that a President Mitt Romney would never have tried to take out the al Qaeda leader.

 As Politico reports, a new Obama campaign video not only lavishes the president with extravagant praise for ordering the operation against bin Laden but also attempts to claim that Romney wouldn’t have done the same. The basis for this assertion is the fact that in 2007 Romney questioned whether the United States should be attacking targets in Pakistan and an out-of-context quote from that year in which the GOP nominee said, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

That doesn’t sound very good in retrospect but it reflected two sound positions. One was that the U.S. needed Pakistan if it was going to effectively fight the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The other was that the priority in the war on terror needed to be on ensuring that al Qaeda did have the capability to launch more terror attacks rather than merely getting bin Laden. While it can be construed as being one of many Romney verbal gaffes, it did not mean he was opposed to tracking down bin Laden if he could be found.

U.S. forces had been actively hunting Osama bin Laden for years. It was Barack Obama’s good fortune that, thanks to the Bush administration’s decision to conduct a war on terror and to use tactics that he largely opposed before entering the White House that the terrorist was found on his watch. The idea, put forward by former President Clinton (who did little to stop al Qaeda in the years after the first bombing of the World Trade Center and whose negligence materially contributed to the 9/11 disaster) in the campaign video, that there was a down side for Obama in ordering the mission is also, at best, an exaggeration. Though there were risks attached to the operation, the idea that Obama would have been lambasted for ordering an attack aimed at getting bin Laden is unfounded. Few Americans would have faulted him for trying, even if bin Laden had escaped again.

While it is to be expected that any president will take credit for the actions of the armed forces of which he is the commander-in-chief, it appears that in trying to make Romney look as if he was soft on al Qaeda, the president’s henchmen appear to have jumped the shark in a way that will do him little good. Such excesses serve only to diminish what may well be the one real foreign policy victory of his four years in office.

Read Less

Obama Will Have to Walk Fine Line on Foreign Policy Message

Vice President Biden gave a foreign policy address at NYU this morning, which, as you could probably guess, included numerous references to the fact that Osama bin Laden is no longer alive. But Biden also floated a new addition to the campaign’s OBL-centric foreign policy message by warning that a Mitt Romney presidency would be a rerun of the George W. Bush years.

“[Romney] takes us back to the failed policies that President Obama has dug us out of,” said Biden. “He would take us back to dangerous and discredited policy that would…make America less secure.”

The bulk of Biden’s speech was focused on attacking Romney. But it was full of apparent contradictions: Romney is too much of a hard-liner, but also can’t be counted on to make tough decisions. Romney is too inexperienced, and yet Obama was fully prepared in 2008. Romney has no interest in foreign policy and would outsource decisions to the State Department, and yet he’s also a dangerous ideologue who is “mired in a Cold War mindset.”

Read More

Vice President Biden gave a foreign policy address at NYU this morning, which, as you could probably guess, included numerous references to the fact that Osama bin Laden is no longer alive. But Biden also floated a new addition to the campaign’s OBL-centric foreign policy message by warning that a Mitt Romney presidency would be a rerun of the George W. Bush years.

“[Romney] takes us back to the failed policies that President Obama has dug us out of,” said Biden. “He would take us back to dangerous and discredited policy that would…make America less secure.”

The bulk of Biden’s speech was focused on attacking Romney. But it was full of apparent contradictions: Romney is too much of a hard-liner, but also can’t be counted on to make tough decisions. Romney is too inexperienced, and yet Obama was fully prepared in 2008. Romney has no interest in foreign policy and would outsource decisions to the State Department, and yet he’s also a dangerous ideologue who is “mired in a Cold War mindset.”

The speech illustrated the difficult line the Obama campaign will have to walk on its foreign policy message. It will have to simultaneously tout its accomplishments, which have practically all been achieved through the continuation (and escalation) of robust, Bush-era policies, while attacking Romney as Bush redux.

Yes, Obama has succeeded at killing a large number of al-Qaeda targets – but he did this by ramping up the drone program. Yes, Obama was able to locate and kill Osama bin Laden – but he did this by using intelligence and gathering methods put into place by the Bush administration. Yes, Obama has increased Iran’s isolation in the world – but only because hawks in Congress strong-armed him into implementing sanctions that he originally opposed.

Biden had to argue today that Romney would be too meek and indecisive to accomplish these things, but was also so hawkish and ideological that he would lead the U.S. into dangerous conflicts. It was a disjointed message, and one that didn’t draw much applause from the audience full of NYU students at the College Democrat event.

Read Less

The Audacity of Hype: Biden and Bin Laden

The Obama campaign must have thought it was giving Vice President Biden a job that even he couldn’t mess up. All he had to do was go out to fundraisers and remind everyone how impressive the bin Laden raid was.

It sounds simple enough in concept. Then again, this is Biden we’re talking about here:

Vice President Joseph Biden on Monday night upped the ante around the already quite-dramatic assassination of Osama bin Laden.

From the pool report of Biden’s comments during a fundraising event in New Jersey come these quotes.

“You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there.”

Not to take anything away from the bin Laden raid, which certainly carried its own risks, but seriously? Never a more audacious plan in 500 years? National Review’s Daniel Foster reminds Biden of a few he apparently overlooked:

Arguably, Operation Desert Storm — with pre-invasion coalition casualties projected into the thousands and fears of a protracted maneuver war and the deployment chemical/biological weapons — was more audacious. Unarguably, the Inchon landing and the breakout of the Pusan perimeter were.

In World War II alone: Overlord. The British commando raids. The miracle at Dunkirk. Okinawa. Jimmy friggin Doolittle.

Five hundred years is a long time. From Patton to Napoleon, John Paul Jones to Sir Francis Drake. I’m sure all you history buffs out there can think of another battle plan at least in the running to be more audacious than Operation Geronimo.

At New York Magazine, Dan Amira writes, “By the time the election season is over, Biden will be calling the bin Laden raid the ‘single most incredible feat performed by a sentient being, here on Earth or throughout the cosmos, at any time in the last 15 billion years.’”

Nobody should diminish Obama’s decision to order the raid on bin Laden’s compound. But that’s exactly what Biden ended up doing – unintentionally – by hyping it to the extreme. The raid was a success in its own right, and needs no additional embellishment.

The Obama campaign must have thought it was giving Vice President Biden a job that even he couldn’t mess up. All he had to do was go out to fundraisers and remind everyone how impressive the bin Laden raid was.

It sounds simple enough in concept. Then again, this is Biden we’re talking about here:

Vice President Joseph Biden on Monday night upped the ante around the already quite-dramatic assassination of Osama bin Laden.

From the pool report of Biden’s comments during a fundraising event in New Jersey come these quotes.

“You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there.”

Not to take anything away from the bin Laden raid, which certainly carried its own risks, but seriously? Never a more audacious plan in 500 years? National Review’s Daniel Foster reminds Biden of a few he apparently overlooked:

Arguably, Operation Desert Storm — with pre-invasion coalition casualties projected into the thousands and fears of a protracted maneuver war and the deployment chemical/biological weapons — was more audacious. Unarguably, the Inchon landing and the breakout of the Pusan perimeter were.

In World War II alone: Overlord. The British commando raids. The miracle at Dunkirk. Okinawa. Jimmy friggin Doolittle.

Five hundred years is a long time. From Patton to Napoleon, John Paul Jones to Sir Francis Drake. I’m sure all you history buffs out there can think of another battle plan at least in the running to be more audacious than Operation Geronimo.

At New York Magazine, Dan Amira writes, “By the time the election season is over, Biden will be calling the bin Laden raid the ‘single most incredible feat performed by a sentient being, here on Earth or throughout the cosmos, at any time in the last 15 billion years.’”

Nobody should diminish Obama’s decision to order the raid on bin Laden’s compound. But that’s exactly what Biden ended up doing – unintentionally – by hyping it to the extreme. The raid was a success in its own right, and needs no additional embellishment.

Read Less

Biden: Obama Courageously Risked His Reelection to Kill Bin Laden

President Obama’s decision to order the Seal Team Six raid against Osama bin Laden may seem like a no-brainer in hindsight, but in reality the president took on a lot of risk: American lives, a diplomatic or military conflict with Pakistan, and a failure to kill bin Laden that could have resulted in an international propaganda victory for al-Qaeda.

These are the disaster scenarios that typically come to mind when a White House official praises the president for his courage during the raid. But according to Vice President Biden, Obama’s real act of valor was ordering the operation despite the catastrophic possibility that a failed mission could tarnish his reelection chances:

“This guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod,” Biden said of Obama, according to the White House pool report. He cited the success of the military mission to capture Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last summer as a decisive moment for his presidency.

“He said, ‘Go,’ knowing his presidency was on the line,” Biden said of Obama. “Had he failed in that audacious mission, he would’ve been a one-term president.”

The Obama campaign has highlighted the Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the death of bin Laden as one of the top accomplishments of the president’s term. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who hosted the fundraiser at his Georgetown home, summed up Obama’s first term using a favorite line of Biden’s: “Osama bin Laden is dead. General Motors is alive.”

Read More

President Obama’s decision to order the Seal Team Six raid against Osama bin Laden may seem like a no-brainer in hindsight, but in reality the president took on a lot of risk: American lives, a diplomatic or military conflict with Pakistan, and a failure to kill bin Laden that could have resulted in an international propaganda victory for al-Qaeda.

These are the disaster scenarios that typically come to mind when a White House official praises the president for his courage during the raid. But according to Vice President Biden, Obama’s real act of valor was ordering the operation despite the catastrophic possibility that a failed mission could tarnish his reelection chances:

“This guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod,” Biden said of Obama, according to the White House pool report. He cited the success of the military mission to capture Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last summer as a decisive moment for his presidency.

“He said, ‘Go,’ knowing his presidency was on the line,” Biden said of Obama. “Had he failed in that audacious mission, he would’ve been a one-term president.”

The Obama campaign has highlighted the Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the death of bin Laden as one of the top accomplishments of the president’s term. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who hosted the fundraiser at his Georgetown home, summed up Obama’s first term using a favorite line of Biden’s: “Osama bin Laden is dead. General Motors is alive.”

If there’s one thing you’d hope the Commander in Chief isn’t preoccupied with during such a critical moment, it’s the risk to his own reelection. And the fact that Biden touts this as if it were the president’s most selfless act of courage really tells you where the Obama administration’s primary concerns lie. This White House has injected election politics into nearly every issue it’s tackled during the past three years, including national security. They’ve practically been running for reelection since the moment Obama was sworn in.

Which is yet another reason why America’s enemies don’t take Obama’s warnings seriously. When doubts have been raised about whether Obama has the backbone to take military action against Iran, his supporters point to the bin Laden raid as evidence of his fortitude. But if the White House was concerned about election-year fallout from the bin Laden raid – an operation that was risky, but was supported almost unanimously by the American public – what are the chances Obama would take on an even riskier mission that has less public support?

Read Less

Pakistan’s Guilt for Hosting Bin Laden

My American Enterprise Institute colleague Ahmad Majidyar is a one-man encyclopedia of all things Afghanistan and Pakistan, and probably the best Afghan analyst I have ever met.  He’s also an extremely incisive analyst. Today, he tweets:

Pakistan charges Osama’s widows for illegal entry. Wouldn’t it be better if they’d done this to Osama? Or Mullah Omar and Haqqani leaders?

Read More

My American Enterprise Institute colleague Ahmad Majidyar is a one-man encyclopedia of all things Afghanistan and Pakistan, and probably the best Afghan analyst I have ever met.  He’s also an extremely incisive analyst. Today, he tweets:

Pakistan charges Osama’s widows for illegal entry. Wouldn’t it be better if they’d done this to Osama? Or Mullah Omar and Haqqani leaders?

Indeed. And, at the same time, isn’t charging Shikal Afridi, the doctor who confirmed bin Laden’s whereabouts, with treason evidence that Pakistan itself is guilty? After all, if the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, wasn’t shielding bin Laden, then what’s the state secret Afridi exposed?

Pakistan is not an ally. It is as much a rogue actor as the Taliban.

Read Less

Obama Should Make More Tough Decisions

Give Vice President Biden kudos for honesty, if not for good judgment. Apparently, he said in a recent speech that he had advised President Obama against launching the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. As reported by the Daily Caller:

The president “went around the table with all the senior people, including the chiefs of staff,” Biden explained. “And he said, ‘I have to make this decision. What is your opinion?’ He started with the national security adviser and the secretary of state, and he ended with me. Every single person in that room hedged their bet except [Secretary of Defense] Leon Panetta. Leon said go. Everyone else said 49, 51, this got to be, ‘Joe, what do you think?’

“And I said, ‘You know, I didn’t know we had so many economists around the table.’ I said, ‘We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.’”

Read More

Give Vice President Biden kudos for honesty, if not for good judgment. Apparently, he said in a recent speech that he had advised President Obama against launching the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. As reported by the Daily Caller:

The president “went around the table with all the senior people, including the chiefs of staff,” Biden explained. “And he said, ‘I have to make this decision. What is your opinion?’ He started with the national security adviser and the secretary of state, and he ended with me. Every single person in that room hedged their bet except [Secretary of Defense] Leon Panetta. Leon said go. Everyone else said 49, 51, this got to be, ‘Joe, what do you think?’

“And I said, ‘You know, I didn’t know we had so many economists around the table.’ I said, ‘We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.’”

This does little to increase faith in the judgment of a vice president who, based on his track record, does not inspire much faith anyway–he was, after all, the senator who was for the war in Iraq but against the surge and called instead for breaking that country into three. But it reiterates that Obama is able to make tough decisions–sometimes. The president deserves, and will take, all the credit in the world for such gutsy calls as the bin Laden raid or the more recent SEAL mission in Somalia to rescue two hostages. I only wish he were wiling to make equally tough decisions by finding a way to keep troops in Iraq or avoid a premature drawdown in Afghanistan–or for that matter tackle the runaway entitlement spending which is bankrupting us.

 

Read Less

The Ron Paul Brand of Foreign Policy

At nutty as Ron Paul is on foreign policy, he typically tries to be consistent. But in this exchange with Newt Gingrich and Bret Baier at last night’s debate, Paul can’t even manage that. It’s impossible to understand what Paul’s position on this is – on one hand, he says he supported efforts to take out Osama bin Laden, but then says he disagrees with the actual mission that killed bin Laden because it was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. How exactly were we supposed to kill bin Laden without entering Pakistan, seeing as he was living there? This is the problem with the Paul brand of foreign policy theory. It all comes crashing down when it meets reality. (Video via HotAir):

Read More

At nutty as Ron Paul is on foreign policy, he typically tries to be consistent. But in this exchange with Newt Gingrich and Bret Baier at last night’s debate, Paul can’t even manage that. It’s impossible to understand what Paul’s position on this is – on one hand, he says he supported efforts to take out Osama bin Laden, but then says he disagrees with the actual mission that killed bin Laden because it was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. How exactly were we supposed to kill bin Laden without entering Pakistan, seeing as he was living there? This is the problem with the Paul brand of foreign policy theory. It all comes crashing down when it meets reality. (Video via HotAir):

Gingrich does a phenomenal job challenging Paul on this, and in the process gives us one of the best historical references of the night: “South Carolina in the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabered by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.