Key details to note re Sunday's killing....
Moreover, our soldiers killed him mano a mano, leaving a more powerful impact than if we had killed him by drone-fired missile. It is also good that the Pakistani gov't denied involvement. This both assures we get full credit & confirms OBL is really dead.
2. Bret Stephens sees vengeance as a legitimate motive behind Obama's "finest hour"--even as President Obama trumpeted justice in his speech. Stephens explains:
"Why does everyone root for the avenger in feature films?" asks my friend Thane Rosenbaum, who teaches law at Fordham and is writing a book about revenge. "Is it because people are immoral in the dark, or is it because we all realize that the avenger's quest and duty is righteous and true?"
Thane's point isn't that vengeance is better than justice. It's that there can be no true justice without vengeance. Oddly enough, this is something Barack Obama, Chicago liberal, seems to better grasp than George W. Bush, Texas cowboy.
The former president was fond of dilating on the point, as he put it just after 9/11, that "ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice." What on Earth did that mean? Of course we sought revenge. "Ridding the world of evil," Mr. Bush's other oft-stated ambition, was nonsense if we didn't make a credible go of ridding the world of the very specific evil named Osama bin Laden.
For all of Mr. Bush's successes—and yes, there were a few, including the vengeance served that other specific evil known as Saddam Hussein and those Gitmo interrogations that yielded bin Laden's location—you can trace the decline of his presidency from the moment he said, in March 2002, that "I really don't care [where bin Laden is]. It's not that important."
3. The huge OBL compound is 800 yards from Pakistan's Military Academy (their West Point)--and has been there since 2005. Pakistanis were not told of the raid. In 1998 Bill Clinton told Pakistan re his August cruise missile strike at OBL's base, & OBL was tipped off. By the time the missiles completed their two-hour journey OBL had departed. Over the past decade Pakistanis tipped off OBL whenever US forces came close. Christopher Hitchens calls for re-appraisal of our relations with Pakistan, whose perfidy prolonged the quest for OBL by many years. Bin Laden looked well fed, not like someone on the run. But on Greta van Susteren's "On the Record" ex-SecDef Donald Rumsfeld defended Pakistani cooperation with us, despite many problems. Pakistan, for its part, denies sheltering OBL.
4. We need, writes author Max Boot, bases in Afghanistan. The short-range chopper raid could not have been launched from a carrier offshore. But George Will argues that a "small footprint" strategy would enable us to kill terrorist leaders without tying up a large number of troops and complicating relations with countries hosting them. Whether we could have found OBL by a small footprint alone requires knowledge of much information that now is properly classified. But the debate is largely moot, as no one is arguing for major new troop commitments anytime soon, if only because the manpower for same is simply not there.
The estimable GW also argues two broader propositions: (a) we are not truly at "war" but rather doing police work & (b) NATO has outlived its usefulness. He is, I think, wrong on (a), as mere criminals could not have done 9/11; but as to (b) he is right. NATO's terminal irrelevance as a military forces has been, sadly, proven, in Afghanistan & now in Libya. We will need smaller coalitions of the willing, best done without the bureaucratic overhead NATO carries. Andy McCarthy explains why a criminal justice focus cannot suffice versus Islamist terror.
5. Obama ordered spec ops, not airstrikes, to preserve evidence. We used special secret elite units.
6. That Obama & Bush 43 agree re this shows that a wide consensus exists in USA, to kill those who launch terror attacks against Americans. Credit Obama also with having Israel informed two hours after the killing, a nice gesture towards an ally Obama has often slighted.
7. Credit goes to President Bush 43 as well, for: (a) the enhanced interrogation policy that produced the key lead; (b) building up the special forces & CIA counter-terror military & intelligence infrastructure that President Obama inherited and built upon.
8. Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Jane Harman (D-CA) gave Bill Clinton credit as well, for work in setting up the necessary infrastructure.
9. The DNA sample came from an unorthodox source.
10. The enhanced interrogations of two top al-Qaeda detainees took place not at Guantanamo, as LFTC erroneously reported, but under rendition of detainees to foreign lands.
12. Al-Qaeda will continue, but much of its mystique has been punctured. Author Steve Coll raises a batch of important follow-up questions to which we need to get answers.
Bottom Line. President Obama, as he did in ordering the killing of three pirates in 2009, demonstrated competence and courage in ordering specific actions against individuals. These are missions that while operationally complex are conceptually simple--kill the bad guys. Now if only he can match that competence in dealing with complex conceptual challenges--Libya, Syria, Iran, Arab - Israeli, etc.
Going forward, we must recognize that Pakistan is not an ally. It is a country with which we must deal, but do so on a businesslike basis, without any illusion of friendship or shared values. We should be polite in public, as Hillary was yesterday. But public politeness must be matched by private candor, and pressure whenever we deem it useful.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, 9/11, National Security, Terrorism, Homeland Security, WMD, Foreign Policy, Conservative Politics