Commentary Magazine


Topic: SEALs

U.S. Can’t Lead From Behind on Pirates

First in Libya, and now in Somalia, the Europeans, amazingly enough, seem to be taking the lead in Western military operations. European Union warships off the coast of Somalia are now attacking pirate lairs inland, targeting and destroying pirate vessels. This is a long-overdue step to put some teeth into the anti-piracy campaign.

As long as a dozen or even two dozen Western warships are forced to police an area of ocean the size of Texas, hoping they will catch pirates in the act, they have little hope of stopping pirates. The only way to be effective is to hunt down the Somali pirates, on both the sea and on land, and mete out swift and certain justice.

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First in Libya, and now in Somalia, the Europeans, amazingly enough, seem to be taking the lead in Western military operations. European Union warships off the coast of Somalia are now attacking pirate lairs inland, targeting and destroying pirate vessels. This is a long-overdue step to put some teeth into the anti-piracy campaign.

As long as a dozen or even two dozen Western warships are forced to police an area of ocean the size of Texas, hoping they will catch pirates in the act, they have little hope of stopping pirates. The only way to be effective is to hunt down the Somali pirates, on both the sea and on land, and mete out swift and certain justice.

The U.S. has mounted a few daring operations that show the spirit required; in 2009, for example, SEALs killed three pirates who were holding an American merchant skipper. The U.S. Special Operations Command and CIA have also launched some strikes against Islamist terrorists in Somalia. But we have resisted doing what the Europeans just did–attacking pirate lairs. Presumably, this is another example of President Obama’s “lead from behind” doctrine which is thrusting European military forces, willy nilly, into the lead in all sorts of areas. It is a good thing the Europeans are doing more, but one can only imagine how much more effective anti-piracy efforts would be if the U.S. were to be as aggressive as our European partners, who have seldom been noted in recent years for a surplus of martial spirit.

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Vintage Obama Self-Absorption

The new web ad being run by the Obama re-election campaign stars Bill Clinton. The copy is priceless, vintage Obama self-absorption. It starts off with the words on the screen, “The commander-in-chief gets one chance to make the right decision.” Then President Clinton comes on and says,

Look, he knew what would happen. Suppose the Navy SEALs had gone in there and it hadn’t been bin Laden. Suppose they had been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him.

Isn’t that great? The Navy SEALs risk death or imprisonment in some filthy Pakistani jail and Obama risks . . . . a bad headline.

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The new web ad being run by the Obama re-election campaign stars Bill Clinton. The copy is priceless, vintage Obama self-absorption. It starts off with the words on the screen, “The commander-in-chief gets one chance to make the right decision.” Then President Clinton comes on and says,

Look, he knew what would happen. Suppose the Navy SEALs had gone in there and it hadn’t been bin Laden. Suppose they had been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him.

Isn’t that great? The Navy SEALs risk death or imprisonment in some filthy Pakistani jail and Obama risks . . . . a bad headline.

It reminds me of a story about Harold Ross, the legendary founding editor of The New Yorker. James Thurber had written a profile on someone and it was scheduled to run in the next issue as the lead article. About half an hour before the magazine was to close, however, Thurber ran into Ross’s office and told him they would have to kill the profile because the subject had just died. Ross’s reaction? “Goddamnit! Why does everything have to happen to me?”

At least Harold Ross was a great editor.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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