So it looks like President Obama can handle that 3 a.m. national security phone call after all. Not to mention handling the most important matters of America’s national security, period.
Sunday’s killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was a major victory in the war against terrorism, one that finally brought a measure of justice to his many victims — nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. And nearly 20 years since the first assault on the United States linked to bin Laden, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
After just two years and three months in office, Obama was able to accomplish what his predecessor couldn’t manage over seven years and four months. He did it smartly, without tipping off the Pakistanis, and respectably, without any “Mission Accomplished” showboating afterward.
Both attributes stand in sharp contrast to the reckless cowboy “bring it on” approach displayed by George W. Bush when he was in office. And these are not just matters of style but of substance. The whole world watched as Bush failed to avenge the Sept. 11 attacks by not getting bin Laden, instead diverting precious military resources to the Iraq misadventure. He even declared in early 2002 that he wasn’t all that interested in the terror mastermind, that getting him wasn’t a priority. And it’s an open secret that the Pakistani government, which Bush seemed to trust, has always played both sides in the terror war, taking U.S. dollars and paying lip service to Western ideals but secretly working with al Qaeda and the Taliban all along.
And the whole world watched as Bush prematurely declared victory in Iraq, apparently never realizing the occupation would be far more difficult than the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government.
Obama demonstrated none of that bluster and bad judgment. He just got the job done. And he then made yet another smart move on Wednesday, deciding against releasing any photos of the dead bin Laden. Those would do far more to inflame anti-U.S. sentiment than they would to prove he’s dead. The public just has to take the government’s word for things sometimes.
Back when he was running for president, Obama warned Pakistan that if the United States discovered that terrorists were hiding on its territory and Pakistan refused to act, America would. At the time, at least two of his opponents, then-Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, criticized him for it. They were of course wrong to do so.
Somehow, despite that pledge, Obama was labeled soft on terror by the right wing during the campaign. But he never was. He’s kept the Guantanamo Bay prison operating. He’s decided against civilian trials for the likes of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. He’s stepped up the use of killer drone aircraft in Pakistan. He’s increased U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He’s used force to aid the oppressed in Libya. And now he’s shown that killing our enemies is more important to him than any of double-dealing Pakistan’s complaints about violating its sovereignty.
With bin Laden’s killing, even Sen. John McCain, Obama’s hawkish GOP opponent, praised the president.
The Bush administration may have gotten the initial tips that led to bin Laden’s death out of terrorists it captured, but the information was never translated into action. Obama, contrary to what his radical critics on the right have claimed, was fully prepared to act when the time was right.
People everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to the U.S. Navy Seals who took down bin Laden, and to the president who put down the order to do so. The world is now a better place, thanks to our military and Barack Obama.