in the aftermath…#2

Following is the second in a series of opinions reacting to Osama bin Laden’s death, which I am sharing.

Bin Laden’s Last Challenge–to Republicans
by William McGurn

Osama bin Laden is dead; New York celebrates a...

Image by Dan Nguyen @ New York City via Flickr

In life, Osama bin Laden‘s ability to elude capture for almost a decade after 9/11 challenged the American claim that no enemy is beyond her reach. In death, the al Qaeda terrorist now presents a new challenge, mostly to Republicans hoping to run in 2012. The message is this: You better have a coherent foreign policy to go along with your fiscal agenda.

It’s not just that Barack Obama is looking strong. For the moment, at least, he is strong. In the nearly 10 years since our troops set foot in Afghanistan, a clear outcome remains far from sight, and many Americans have wearied of the effort. As President Obama reminded us Sunday night, getting bin Laden doesn’t mean our work there is done–but his success in bringing the world’s most hunted man to justice does reinvigorate that work.

It does so, moreover, in a way that few of Mr. Obama’s recent Democratic predecessors in the Oval Office have matched. The killing of bin Laden was no one-shot missile strike on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory suspected of making chemical weapons, as ordered by Bill Clinton. Nor was it a failed hostage rescue in Iran a la Jimmy Carter. Instead, it was a potent combination of American force and presidential decisiveness.

SEALs in from the water.

Image via Wikipedia

First, Mr. Obama authorized a ground operation with Navy Seals far inside Pakistani territory. Second, he did not inform the Pakistanis.

These are the kinds of hard decisions that presidents have to make, where the outcome is likely to be either spectacular success or equally spectacular failure. For taking the risks that would paralyze others, and for succeeding where others have failed, the president and his team have earned the credit they are now getting.

Yes, in the days to come we may learn that the real story is a little more complicated than the one Mr. Obama gave us Sunday night. Did enhanced interrogation play a role in generating vital intelligence? And about that order to the CIA to get bin Laden: Wasn’t that a modification of an order given by George W. Bush after 9/11?

Nevertheless, in going after and getting bin Laden as forcefully as he did, Mr. Obama has just undermined one of the primary narratives against him–that of an indecisive president who worries more about the rights of our enemies than the freedom and safety of our citizens. If Mr. Obama ends up toppling Moammar Gadhafi too, he will look even stronger.

In fact, even weaker policies–e.g., cutting defense, pulling out from Afghanistan, might now be argued from a position of strength: “I said I would get us out of Iraq, and I did–and Iraq is stronger. I said I would prosecute our real enemies in Afghanistan, and I did–and we got bin Laden. It is true that I am reluctant to commit America to overseas conflicts. But when we are engaged I will finish the job.”

Do Republican candidates even have an answer? Apart from Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin, few Republicans even talk about foreign policy. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty probably comes closest to offering a coherent vision, having come out for a robust foreign policy that backs up our friends and takes on our enemies without apology.

Within the GOP, however, there remains a strain that is deeply suspicious of U.S. involvement overseas, especially since the end of the Cold War. The irrepressible Ron Paul, of course, has been most explicit. Before announcing he wouldn’t run in the GOP presidential primaries, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour sounded a similar note when he complained about trying to turn Afghanistan into Ireland and suggested we start shrinking our troop presence there.

2012 Republican Presidential Candidates

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

As for the rest, the former governors from last time around (Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee) seem to be hedging their bets. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels served under President Bush, but he would hardly be confused for an advocate of any freedom agenda. For the most part, the Republican hope appears to be that eight-plus-percent unemployment along with six-dollar-a-gallon gasoline will be enough to defeat Barack Obama.

They may be right. Certainly one forceful strike is no guarantee that Mr. Obama will be re-elected, much less that he will follow-up with other muscular acts. But it does make the argument against him weaker. Up to now, Republican candidates seem to have believed they had been gifted with the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

President Obama makes surprise visit to Bagram...

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

If Republicans are smart they will recognize that this meme took a big hit when a Navy Seal put a bullet in bin Laden’s head. Along with his decision to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the president now has the opportunity to present himself in a way few Democrats ever have: as more hard-nosed about protecting the American people from foreign threats than his Republican opponents.

(Write to MainStreet@wsj.com)

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4 thoughts on “in the aftermath…#2

  1. Yes politician can and will screw up everything when they put our soldiers in harms way.

    Obama was “overruled” by senior military/intelligence officials regarding the decision to send in military specialists into the Osama Bin Laden compound. There had been a push to invade the compound for several months, primarily led by Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, and Jim Clapper. The primary opposition to this plan originated from Valerie Jarrett, and it was her opposition that was enough to create uncertainty within President Obama.

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    • Whatever took place in the heat of the discussion, a very important, history-making decision had to be made. In the end, Obama had to make it because the consequences would fall upon his head. If the mission failed, he would have been lambasted the world over, not to mention how monstrously he would be pilloried in America. The remainder of his days as president would be worse than the almost 3 years he has experienced thus far. So, it seems, the man can’t do right even when he does right. But that’s the way of mankind…to find fault. Heck, even the media is on board with that.

      we’re all free to exercise our freedom of speech…i do it by blogging…and others, like yourself, are more than welcome to express yours on my blog, Ed…hugmamma. 😉

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  2. politicians don’t do hand-to-hand combat. They make a mess of everything through mouth-mouth combat then, send young men
    and women to do the hand-to-hand stuff.
    The death of OBL doesn’t peace to the world. He is only part of the problem. The problem to world peace is two part. On the secular front, are those who worship collectivism thru force. The Communist, the Nazis and the Socialists. Then, on the religious side, there are those who believe the world should be united into one caliphate. Through the ‘sword’ if necessary. Recently Imam Choudray said that the U.S. must be made ‘shariah’ compliant. He has always claimed that it is the will of Allah that the whole world must be made Muslim. Those who refuse must be killed. The Quran demands it.
    I remember that in 2009 Obama said that he would never kill Bin Laden. Bill Clinton was offered OBL by the Yemenis
    in 1993 but he refused to capture OBL saying that we did not have the legal authrority to do so.
    Oh wel . . . . . brace for IMPACT and be vigilant
    Aloha from a makule kanaka

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    • I’m certain no person with a modicum of intelligence imagines that Osama bin Laden’s death means paradise on earth from here on out. But as with Hitler and other satanic evils before and after, bin Laden himself has exited the scene. But just as with Hitler, bin Laden’s ramifications in the franchisees which have been spun off will linger, probably forever. And again as with Hitler, we can still celebrate the moment of bin Laden’s passing from this world into the fiery one he so richly deserves. Hitler needed to be “taken out,” and it was done in a full-blown World War. Lucky for the world, we did not need another to demolish bin Laden.

      With bin Laden gone, I’m hopeful, as are millions of Arabs, not only in the Middle East, but certainly globally, that they can finally determine the course of their own lives rather than be the pawns of self-serving men who set themselves up as autocrats. People the world over go about their business the best they know how, I think, given the circumstances, physically and economically, in which they find themselves. Not everyone was fortunate to land in the United States of America where freedom of speech, and a right to happiness is guaranteed by the Constitution. And yet, even with those guarantees, there are no guarantees. Even Americans must eke out their lives the best they can.

      I’m of the mind that we’re all of this earth, so we’re all in this together, Arabs and non-Arabs, whether we like it or not. With industrialization and technology, we cannot climb back into the wombs from whence we came hoping that will spare us dealing with people and places in which we have no personal interest or concern. We are earthlings before we are Americans, and as such are already connected to non-Americans.

      I’m always hoping for the best for ALL of us who inhabit earth…a little naive, perhaps…but I feel good waking up with that thought, and laying my head back down upon my pillow at night with that thought. That’s probably why I’m still a practicing Catholic. The nuns’ teachings still resonate in that I can be a vessel for good, from which others might drink. That’s what Jesus was about while on earth. We all choose what we are about.

      mine is to be a positive-sayer…rather than a naysayer…hugmamma. 🙂

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hugs for sharing some brief thoughts...and keeping them positive

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