President Obama’s decisiveness, courage and leadership paved the way for the demise of Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the infamous attack on America on Sept. 11, 2001. Americans’ celebration of his death, at the hands of superbly trained Navy SEALs, is fully understandable and eminently reasonable, given the role he played in the deaths of thousands of innocents, here and abroad.
The bold leadership that Obama demonstrated in authorizing the lightening raid on the compound in which bin Laden lived, despite the counsel of some military advisers who urged an air attack, reflected his deep belief in the need for proof of bin Laden’s death. A ground attack raised the risk of U.S. casualties, while an air assault, likely to kill bin Laden, nevertheless, ran the risk of destroying the evidence. We needed the body, as Obama pointed out, but not to parade his head in public, as Sara Palin and others have urged him to do.
Military historians and experts may quibble, but this raid, which had the air and self-confidence, not to mention the grand success, of the Israelis’ raid on Entebbe in 1976, will further serve to bolster the reputation and morale of America’s fighting forces, which have faced challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq. It may well be the case that this nation has not seen such decisiveness from its commander in chief since Normandy.
Obama’s leadership won’t represent a game-changer in his presidency in the way 9/11 changed forever the course of President George W. Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office, for Obama is plagued with economic challenges that virtually preclude the sort of unity that typically surrounds presidential use of force that resonates with the public. Still, it ought to silence those critics who believed that Obama lacked the strength and fortitude necessary to make tough decisions.
President Obama’s executive decision to deploy military force, it should be emphasized, was lawful under American law. Unlike Obama’s exercise in unilateral war making against Libya, which, ironically, I criticized as unconstitutional on this very page on May 1 — the same day that he announced the death of bin Laden — his decision to use force in Abbottabad was grounded in a statute passed shortly after the 9/11 outrage — the Authorization to Use Military Force — which Bush invoked to invade Afghanistan. It authorizes the president to use force against those who planned or participated in the attack on America.
May 1, 2011, just months shy of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, will be recalled as a day of rejoice in the United States, if for no other reason than that bin Laden was forever halted in his ability to inflict injury and horror on America. That was made possible by the leadership of Barack Obama, president of the United States and an American citizen.