May 02 2012

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POTUS “Jumps the Shark”

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The Real Heroes

One year ago, Barack Obama made one of the most fateful and consequential decisions of his presidency.

With intelligence reports indicating that Osama bin Laden had been located in a safe-house in Pakistan, President Obama had to decide how to act on the intelligence. In the end, he chose the riskiest strategy on the table- a SEAL team insertion to take down bin Laden- over the objections of his Vice President and Secretary of Defense.

It was a bold and audacious decision.

For making that decision, President Obama deserves unqualified credit.

But to understand the success of the mission, it is necessary to understand the other components to the operation.

To implement the plan, the President had at his disposal the most capable special operations unit in the world; part of an elite cadre of US covert operations forces whose experience and skills had been honed over ten years of combat, and whose technology and equipment was second to none with the lavish funding that flowed after 9-11.

The intelligence upon which Obama based his decision had a bread-crumb trail back to the earliest days of the “War on Terror.” The composite intelligence compiled from detainees – including those subject to “enhanced interrogation” –  was crucial to the identification of the courier who eventually led the US to bin Laden.

Thus, without robust intelligence resources and assets, and superior military forces – both created well before Obama was a national candidate – there would have been nothing for Obama to decide.

Equally as important, the hunt for bin Laden was apolitical.

Bipartisan majorities in Congress provided the robust funding for military and intelligence services. Dedicated officials in the intelligence services pieced together the the scraps of information provided by electronic and human sources. The SEALs performed their daring mission with honor and distinction.

No one was asking whether participants whether they were Republican or Democrat, liberals or conservatives. Indeed if there was only one thing that America could agree upon in most walks of life, it would have been the need to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

It was not a political question; it was a national question. President Obama did not dispatch the SEALs as the head of the Democratic Party, but as President of the United States. He ordered the operation based on his most solemn responsibility, to protect the United States and its people – all of its people.

That is what makes the President’s performance this week so deeply disappointing.

At a time when the President could have recognized the anniversary of the bin Laden operation through any number of venues – focused attention on the SEALs, on injured veterans, on our troops still in the field, or on the intel operatives who, with the soldiers, risk their lives every day, the Administration decided instead to make it about Obama.

Now, no one is going to deny POTUS a victory lap one year after ordering the bin Laden operation. Osama is gone, Al Qaeda is decimated and fractured. We are not at the end of the road, but we have come a long way in a year. The bin Laden operation was key to our successes since.

But the incessant focus on Obama and his role – to the exclusion of the other parties that made the operation successful – was just unseemly.

Instead of a dignified memorial befitting a sitting President, the bin Laden operation has been cheapened as part of an overt partisan campaign advertisement. Squiring major news organizations around the Situation Room of the White House, and re-telling the tale, only adds to to sense of distasteful self-aggrandizement.

But just when you thought that it’s all over, President Obama pops up in Kabul.

When you thought it couldn’t get worse – it got worse.

Officially, Obama went to Kabul to sign an critical and time-sensitive agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, spelling out relations between our two nations over the next decade. That the timing was simple coincidence.

But even Obama’s most ardent supporters in the media weren’t buying that; seeing through the transparent attempt to capitalize politically on the anniversary of bin Laden’s death to create even more, tawdry, Obama glorification.

As much was apparent in Obama’s address from Kabul to the American people.

Forget, for a moment, how extraordinary it is for a US President to address the American people from a foreign land. Obama’s address was not only for domestic consumption, but also, inappropriately, for partisan advantage.

First, as a rule that Obama consistently breaks, you don’t trash your predecessors on foreign land for your own political gain. Not only did Obama slam the Bush administration, but he intimates that the only real progress began – coincidentally – when he took over.

“And so, 10 years ago, the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us. Despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated. In 2002, bin Laden and his lieutenants escaped across the border and established safe haven in Pakistan. America spent nearly eight years fighting a different war in Iraq….But over the last three years, the tide has turned…”

And then, strangely, Obama used the address – again, remember, on foreign soil – to call for a domestic renewal.

“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it’s time to renew America…”


This is the best place to make an argument for domestic activity?

It was surreal.

In a deadly shooting war, where Americans continue to die, the President’s address suddenly reduced the conflict, and its tools of the trade, to props for a domestic audience and a political agenda.

It was remarkably imprudent.

But the criticism here is not rooted in any tagnible gains, politicial or otherwise, that the President may have made as a result of this week’s serial spectacles. Rather it is the profound disservice that has been done to the true heroes in this saga – the intel experts and the SEALs – and the collateral damage done to the presidency itself when it is reduced to pursuing cheap, theatrical stunts for partisan advantage.

In pursuing an agenda of eye-popping political narcissism regarding the bin Laden take down, the President and the presidency are unnecessarily smaller today than they were a week ago.

No one is well served by that result on such a consequential occasion for all Americans.

For all the effort expended, “bin Laden Week” makes the case for better case for Obama’s replacement than his re-election.

















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