Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Stealing the Credit: Does Obama expect us to believe that Bush wouldn't have given his right arm to bring Bin Laden to justice before he left office?

…I found it refreshing to relive the same sense of national unity we all experienced after September 11—the same sense that fighting and killing Islamic terrorists is not a partisan issue but is, as it should be, bipartisan and uncontroversial…
Robert Tracinski shares his thoughts on what he calls The Petty, Blinkered Politics of the President's Bin Laden Speech.
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to pour some cold water on that afterglow, because it's not going to last. President Obama has not done what would be necessary to earn it.

I'm as happy as the next guy to see Osama bin Laden dead, and I'm particularly happy that he won't be around for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. …

So we now have a world without Osama Bin Laden out there as the most recognizable enemy on the other side. But we still have President Obama as the leader on our side, and his speech announcing Bin Laden's death was unfortunately typical of his style of non-leadership: vague, petty, partisan, and unable to rise to the actual demands of the moment.

What we know about the operation to kill Bin Laden is that it was many years in the making and that key breaks came in 2007 and before from information extracted from captured terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay. But this is precisely the sort of thing President Obama spent his campaign and the first two years of his presidency condemning.

Jack Wakeland sent me a note insisting that Obama does deserve credit for ordering a special forces raid deep inside Pakistani territory, without Pakistan's permission. But he then points out that,

After deriding George W. Bush's military policies as having an aspect of unilateral aggression and his anti-terrorism policies as being violations of international law, Barack Obama decided to adopt (second-hand) nearly every one of them. He should get very, very little credit for doing so.

So you would think a little humility might be in order. At the very least, Obama might have obliquely shared credit for this raid with the previous administration. Instead, he tried to steal all of the credit, and not just from the Bush administration, but also from dedicated military and intelligence professionals who have worked for years, across administrations, to win this victory.

For example, Obama began his description of the operation by saying that

shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda.
This is laughable. Does he really think anyone needed his orders to do that? Does he really expect us to believe that George W. Bush wouldn't have given his right arm to bring Bin Laden to justice before he left office? Does he expect us to believe that there were not already dozens, hundreds, thousands of people already working toward that goal over a period of years, as we now know they were?

But he goes on, emphasizing and inflating his own role: "I met repeatedly with my national security team," and "I determined that we had enough intelligence." Methinks he doth protest too much. This is the kind of situation in which a confident leader, one who is certain of his record of decisiveness and determination, would de-emphasize his own role and emphasize the role of the professionals, knowing that he doesn't have to tout his own leadership. But the fact that Obama does repeatedly tout it tells us that he is desperate to be seen to be bold and decisive, so he is milking this event for all it's worth. He has to milk it because he's got nothing else.

Leadership is not a matter of one-off special forces raids. George Bush didn't win the war in Iraq because our troops killed insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in mid-2006. He won it by orchestrating the "surge" in early 2007. But if we look at everything else in Obama's foreign policy, there are no other grounds for reassurance.