1: Two Cheers For Obama
I dislike Obama’s domestic agenda as much as any other sane human being, but on this issue I gotta give it to the President. Most striking is the nerve Obama displayed. There were only about a thousand things that could’ve gone wrong here. From faulty intel to equipment failure to poor planning, this mission could’ve gotten off track and ended in disaster. If that happened, it could’ve easily metastasized into a Jimmy Cartereqsue clusterfuck. A foul-up in Abbottabad could’ve effectively ended Barack Obama’s presidency.
Think about how Obama handled this situation, then compare it to how Bill Clinton handled similar circumstances. In 1998, Bubba threw some Tomahawk missiles at what he thought was bin Laden’s headquarters. He hit some tents and little else. By contrast, the President was presented with good verified intel, then sent a team into Pakistan and made sure SEAL Team Six got their man.
There were huge risks to the operation–potential damage to American prestige, possible negative political ramifications–and Obama still gave this mission the green light. Congratulations to the President for bucking up his courage and doing the right thing.
2: A Superpower Got A Much Needed Win
SEAL Team Six did something truly spectacular. From a military perspective, they killed the man responsible for 9/11. Osama bin Laden was also the head–at least from a spiritual perspective–of the most dangerous international terrorist organization in the world. This will have some effect on al-Qaeda’s future operations.
The slaying of the bin Laden dragon also gave America some much-needed swagger. The Afghan War has been seen as morass where our military has so far played for a costly blood-soaked tie with the Taliban/al-Qaeda/Islamist insurgency. While the US public hasn’t been screaming for a pull-out, there is a level of exhaustion creeping into people’s minds. Giving Osama a third eye settles a score America had with the al-Qaeda leader and with the Afghan War itself.
Beyond that, the American people were hungry for a win. Anemic economic growth, high unemployment, high gas prices and the creeping shadow of inflation have been a part of the daily lives of Americans for a quite a while. These pocketbook issues create downward pressure on the morale of US citizens. For a few days, folks can rally and celebrate the fact that our military finally scored a clear, unadulterated victory against an opponent that has slipped the noose for over a decade.
3: Don’t Expect Many Changes
Just how much day-to-day command of al-Qaeda…and international terrorism in general…did Osama bin Laden have at the time of his death? That has yet to be conclusively discussed, but signs point to not so much. The terrorist leader’s safehouse was apparently not wired for the internet or telephone. Bin Laden has to rely on couriers to send and receive messages. Barring new revelations about the connectedness of al-Qaeda’s top dog, it seems like Osama really wasn’t in the loop as much as he may have been ten or even five years ago.
That tells me that the Afghan War will continue to frustrate American patience. I’m currently reading “The Wrong War” by Bing West. One is struck by just how little Osama bin Laden figures into the daily problems involved in winning the Afghan conflict. Like an evil djinn from an old Arabian myth, Osama created massive chaos that has taken on a life independent of its malevolent architect. The death and misery that bin Laden helped bring to Afghanistan will sadly live on long after Osama’s corpse has sunk lower than whale shit.
In America, the killing of Osama bin Laden does not alter the reality on the ground. In my travels yesterday, I tried listening in to people’s conversations about the death of Osama and talking to them about it. In contrast to the spontaneous celebrations that occurred around the country, folks I ran into were basically happy that al-Qaeda’s leader was dead, but they weren’t overwhelmed by it either. What I saw was a quiet joy and a somber hopeful attitude.
What I gather is that the killing of bin Laden is a tremendous one-time event in the course of American life. As great as Osama bin Laden’s demise is–and it truly is an awesome accomplishment for Barack Obama and especially for our military–it doesn’t change the problems that have crowded into American life. Unemployment will not suddenly shrink back to five percent. The choking threat of inflation has not magically receded to manageable levels. The cost of energy and fuel have stubbornly failed to take precipitous drop in the last 24 hours.
The President scored a great victory for himself and for America, the country he leads and the nation he is basically ambivalent about. The problem for Barack Obama is this victory will not have a huge lasting impact on his political fortunes. Circumstances in Afghanistan are probably not going to change all the much from killing bin Laden. Also, Obama can’t blow a hole in Osama bin Laden’s skull every week until November 2012. These facts suggest that, while this is a large political game changer right now, OBL’s death cannot turn around Barack Obama’s poll numbers for very long. The President’s popularity is based on negative factors that cannot be changed with one grand event.
Update: AceOFSpadesHQ poster CAC does a nice break down on the “Osama is Dead” bounce Obama has received. Click the link to check out his snazzy chart, and here’s a cool quote.
Obama has received an average bounce- including the WaPo moonland poll, of about 6.6.
Yep, 6.6. Mind you there is time for more rescue polls, but the driving concerns for Americans aren’t in Afghanistan/Pakistan right now. They haven’t been there in nearly a decade.
President Obama in fact received a larger bounce at the end of last year thanks to the tax cut extension agreement with Republicans than he has so far [for] killing bin Laden.
Yeah, the MSM are gonna want to play this as the Great Obama Re-Election Clincher, but the numbers simply don’t bear this out.
Even More Gooderer Update: Iowahawk kills it.
As much as I am now embarrassed to admit it, if you had asked me 48 hours ago whether Osama Bin Laden would ever be brought to justice I would have probably answered “no.” Like many Americans I had all but abandoned hope that we would ever capture or kill the 9/11 mastermind, and had resigned myself to the idea he would die an old man thumbing his nose at us from some comfortable cave in Waziristan. Well, I can happily report that I completely underestimated the skill, courage, and perseverence of America’s military. And, almost as happily, I can report that I also completely underestimated the capacity of America’s erstwhile “peace community” for turning on a dime and embracing the kind of all-American xenophobic flag-waving bloodlust they only recently decried. So today I stand proudly with my new friends of the formerly antiwar left in a mindlessly jingoistic salute to President Obama for an extralegal military assassination well done.
Yes, it’s true that some pre-January 2009 antiwar activists have remained morally and logically consistent in their opposition to America’s military presence in the Mideast; but, thank God, it appears now they were only a tiny, insignificant minority. Recent events have happily made clear that the antiwar movement of 2001-8 was overwhelmingly dominated by a vast silent hypocritical majority of craven political opportunists awaiting a Democratic administration to gleefully celebrate the covert execution of a man whom, until 28 months ago, they would have described as a “tragic civilian casualty.”
Who is to credit for this rebirth in American national unity? First and foremost, we must cite the leadership of President Obama. Like many Americans – and the Nobel Peace Prize committee – I naively feared he was actually serious when he initially proposed shutting down Guantanamo, trying detainees in American civilian courts, and prior consultation with the international community. Little did I know that this untested young Commander-in-Chief would muster the courage to read his weekly Gallup numbers and, in one daring unilateral extra-judicial targeted hit job, toss aside every single idiotic foreign policy principle of his election campaign. Perhaps most satisfyingly, it was a mission made possible thanks to information extracted by methods he previously banned as “illegal torture.”
Read. The. Whole. Thing.