Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Detailed Account of President Obama's Great Accomplishment in Killing Usama bin Laden

This article is published in PajamasMedia. The full text is published here for your convenience.

By Barry Rubin

Military Officer: Mr. President, on the basis of hard work and intelligence-gathering over the last nine years we now know where bin Laden is. We believe we can kill him and get our men out again safely without causing many--if any--civilian casualties. Do we have your approval for the operation?

Obama: Let me think about it.

Obama (sixteen hours later): OK, go ahead.

I know many people will think the above account doesn't give the president enough credit. But as a corrective to many of the inflated accounts being offered in which the president is receiving--and taking--full credit for the operation, I think it is reasonable.

Moreover, I think there is no way that Obama could have said "no" and was quite aware that if he did not give the go-ahead sooner or later the news would have leaked out and he would have looked very bad indeed. There would have been a huge political cost.

Even if the team had failed to kill or capture bin Ladin, been wiped out, or killed civilians inadvertently, the domestic popular support for getting bin Laden is so great that no one would have faulted Obama for trying. Obama would have been given credit  even by his opponents and would have received sympathy for taking a tough decision and feeling remorse for the suffering incurred on others.

This was simply not a difficult or courageous decision to make. And that's an hone
st and accurate assessment--not a merely cynical one--even if one contrary to the general conventional wisdom reactions. The president made the right decision but any other outcome was quite unlikely.

It isn't that Obama hasn't made some tough or arguably courageous foreign policy decisions--the Afghan policy, the Libyan intervention, not to do more against the Syrian dictatorship, demanding the immediate downfall of the Egyptian regime, etc.--the problem is that all of those decisions were wrong ones.

All of the credit should belong to the career military and intelligence people who gathered the information, made the assessments, put together the operation's plan--if anything had gone wrong they, not Obama, would have been fired--and risked their lives to make this happen.

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