Sunday, May 8, 2011

Obama and Osama

It's been a week since the announcement that the United States, after a decade, had finally found Osama bin Laden. You know the story, so I won't rehash it here. I've read many different perspectives on the President's role and none of them have changed my mind that you are always going to believe what you want to believe.

This was making it's way to the feeds of some of my friends on Facebook:
Let's be clear on this: OBAMA did NOT kill Bin Laden. An American soldier, who Obama just a few weeks ago was debating on whether or not to PAY, did. Obama just happened to be the one in office when our soldiers finally found OBL and took him out. This is NOT an Obama victory, but an AMERICAN victory!! REPOST IF YOU AGREE

Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but there was something that bothered me about these postings.

I'm all for praising our soldiers, but this took stabs at the commander in chief. Some people will say it does not, it just directs praise in the right direction. The tone, however, speaks very differently. It assumes Obama's role was fairly minor (he just happened to be there) and it was the SEALs took the initiative, made the decisions and acted on the intelligence on their own. If so, they are rouge and I don't want them on my side.

But they are not rouge. They are doing exactly what they were trained to do: follow the orders of their superiors to the best of their abilities.

A few notes:
  • The evidence was strong, but not conclusive that Bin Laden was in the compound. The decision to send the SEALs was not a light decision. It involved a lot of wrangling for the President and within his staff.
  • Bombing would have been easier, but then there is the risk of not being able to identify the body.
  • What if it wasn't Osama Bin Laden hiding out there? Or what if it was a failure-- ala Bay of Pigs or Carter's attempt at rescuing the Iranian hostages? This was a huge gamble that if it did not work would have been disastrous to the President's political career. There were many reasons Jimmy Carter was only a one term president and the failure in the Iran Hostage Crisis didn't help.
  • Political opinions aside, could you imagine what this would have been instead of a dead Bin Laden we find some wealthy recluse and his family? Or if our soldiers were ambushed and the images that we're fighting to release or not release are the burned and mutilated bodies of American soldiers like we saw in Somalia, on which the book and movie Black Hawk Down was based? The video of slain Army Rangers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu still gives me shivers when I think of it.
  • Oh, and there's the entirely different and yet crucial issue of staging a raid in a sovereign nation without their knowledge and approval.
Barack Obama essentially had three choices: sit on the intelligence until it was more conclusive, bomb the compound from high above or send in the SEALs. The toughest decision was the latter. I'm not sure that if I were the guy calling the shots, that would be the choice I make. It was a decision that put American soldiers in harm's way, threatened our already somewhat fragile relationship with Pakistan and had the makings of a political disaster if not successful.

I commend the SEALs for a job well done. No one injured, much less killed. And they'll receive no credit for that's part of their job to be "quiet professionals". They will become anonymous and disappear into society like nothing every happened.

I commend the President for doing what politicians should do: make tough decisions.

Now I challenge him, House and Senate leaders and local and state governments to continue to make tough decisions. We need leaders in this country. We're not always going to work together and agree, but we need people who are willing to put country above politics. Maybe an electorate that could do that would be great too.

Opinions? Leave them in the comments. But please abide by the rule I tell my students: "We don't have to all agree; but we can disagree respectfully." For the most part, they get it.

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