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article imageOp-Ed: Commander in Chief Barack Obama

By Sadiq Green     May 2, 2012 in Politics
It was a year ago that President Obama ordered the successful Navy SEAL mission to get Osama bin Laden, and suddenly the dead Osama bin Laden has become issue one in the presidential campaign.
When President Obama ordered the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, he was fulfilling a promise he made to the American people during his Campaign in 2008. In advance of the May Day anniversary of Osama bin Laden's assassination, the Obama campaign released a new Obama campaign video entitled "One Chance." It takes footage from the recently released 17-minute campaign commercial and starts with the message: "The Commander-in-Chief gets one chance to make the right decision."
In the video’s opening sequence, Former President Bill Clinton is shown saying: "That's one thing George Bush said that was right: The president is the decider in chief. Nobody can make that decision for you." Clinton continued, "…. Suppose the Navy Seals had gone in there and it hadn't been bin Laden? Suppose they had been captured or killed? The downside would have been horrible for him, but he reasoned I cannot in good conscience do nothing. He took the harder and the more honorable path and the one that produced in my opinion the best result."
The video also refers viewers to an April 2007 AP interview in which Romney said in part: "'s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person." That was the first of varying statements over time that disagreed with what then Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama laid out as his strategy.
Romney remarks on the matter a few days later at a GOP debate May 3, 2007 when he was asked about his comment and said: "We’ll move everything to get him. But I don’t want to buy into the Democratic pitch, that this is all about one person, Osama bin Laden." Romney criticized candidate Obama once again, for saying he would be willing to send U.S. troops into Pakistan without the Pakistani government's permission, in order to capture or kill Bin Laden. "I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours. ... I don't think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort," Romney said on Aug. 3, 2007, according to Reuters.
Romney and Republicans have decried the new ad as divisive and claims the Obama campaign is playing politics with a topic that should unite all Americans. The Romney campaigns entire foreign policy strategy, has been to portray President Obama as weak. In every speech about foreign policy, Mitt Romney returns to the notion that President Obama’s foreign policy consists of travelling the world apologizing for America to our enemies. It is a blatant lie, but Mitt Romney has been running a campaign of lies, first against his Republican rivals and now against the president. Against a campaign using those tactics, the Obama campaign is engaging in sound politics in pointing out the differences for a plan of action. It is perfectly understandable and defensible.
In 2007 and 2008, what the conventional or prevailing wisdom from Mitt Romney, John McCain, many on the right and the so-called elite class of political observers, was that Candidate Obama's strategy was naive. Mr. Obama really went out on a limb as a presidential candidate in taking that decision. The argument Republicans are now making is that the Obama campaign is making the issue political by inserting into the video a direct contrast with their presumptive opponent.
Eric Edelman, a foreign policy adviser to the Romney campaign, told The Huffington Post by e-mail. "He was talking about the necessity for a strategy that deals with the longer-term challenge of violent jihadist groups. There is no question that the comments by Governor Romney were taken out of context in a way that distorts their meaning."
Edelman was a high ranking Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration. He added a jab at President Clinton for not catching or killing bin Laden during his presidency, despite the opportunity. "Interesting choice of messenger since Clinton declined to 'make the tough choice' when he had the chance," Edelman said. The statement by Edelman only serves to re-enforce President Obama’s decision to send the Seals.
Romney clumsily attempted to deflect the criticism from the Obama campaign away, treating it as a ridiculous claim. "Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order," Romney said at a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H. It was a cheap shot against President Carter, who made the very tough decision to send the U.S. Special Forces on a mission to rescue Americans held hostages in Iran on April 24, 1980. I`ve often thought that if they had not gotten Osama bin Laden on that night, that it could have brought down the president`s presidency, much in the way the crash of Desert One during that mission in the Iranian desert contributed in bringing down Jimmy Carter’s presidency. And if it did not bring Mr. Obama down it would have seriously damaged his presidency. It was a big call.
I just recommend that everybody take a look at people`s previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That`s been at least my practice. I said that I`d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they do something else, then I`d go ahead and let them explain - President Obama at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, 4/30/12
The Carter comment by Romney gets to the heart of the ad, that Americans have grounds to question the former Massachusetts governor on his foreign policy views. It is fair game to question if Mr. Romney would have ordered the strike on the safe house in Abbottabad a year ago. Not because Romney lacks mettle to make a decision, as Republicans suggest whilst they are busy decrying it. On the contrary, it shows that Romney had taken a position that may have prohibited him from giving the go ahead. Furthermore, Romney is also diminishing the presidential decision making process with his jab at Carter.
Probably the most difficult moments for any president, is making the fateful decisions that put young men and young women in harm`s way. More often than not, the tendency is to want to back up from it and use some other option. So, when you do decide to make that call, whether it be Dwight Eisenhower using the CIA to overthrow the Iranian government in 1953 and reopening the Suez Canal in 1956; John Kennedy considering whether to approve the Bay of Pigs or not, and the Cuban missile crisis; Jimmy Carter approving Operation Eagle Claw, these are real defining moments for a president. And in success or failure, they should be applauded for it.
What should be noted by American voters is that currently 17 of Romney’s advisors on foreign policy come from the Bush administration. We have a sitting president who has a defined foreign policy, with some real successes. Then we have a Republican candidate whose many foreign affairs advisors come from the president who failed to do some of those things.
Mitt Romney and Republicans object to President Obama highlighting his strategy for killing Osama Bin Laden, a major act of foreign policy that the previous administration was incapable of or unwilling to do.
But in Romney objecting to President Obama, is he by the same token objecting to the moral trajectory of his own party? By normal Republican standards, Barack Obama has done something extraordinary. Something the Bush administration repeatedly indicated was necessary for them in order to be seen successfully in executing the War on Terror. Something they did not accomplish. Now, that Barack Obama has done so and he chooses to mark the anniversary of that occurrence, Mitt Romney and Republicans cry foul. It`s ridiculous hypocrisy on the part of the GOP and their presumptive nominee.
It’s worth noting that the mission to Bin Laden mission is only one in a series of foreign policy triumphs for the current White House. The administrations military record - which also includes; ending the war in Iraq; establishing a timeline to withdraw from the Afghanistan occupation and helping to topple the Gadhafi regime in Libya - is quite significant.
Mr. Obama as a military figure should be considered downright terrifying for Americas enemies.Mr. Obama can have many titles: Air Master of the Libyan conflict; Defender the Drone-strike; Acolyte of SEAL Team Six; Warden of Guantanamo Bay - despite his campaign promises to close the facility; Messiah of the Patriot Act. President Obama appears to be, notwithstanding his conservative detractors claims, the military’s best friend. Without hesitation he dispatches Navy SEALs to rescue hostages on the southern coast of Somalia. He authorizes private military contracts with groups like Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan, and finds himself at odds with the Pakistani government as US Predator Drones accidentally gun down Pakistani soldiers, near Peshawar. Yes, Commander Obama looks very much like a Hawk.
The administration’s detractors continually attempt to paint Obama as weak and giving up in Iraq for withdrawing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq in 2011 and the rest out by 2012. Conveniently forgotten was that the George W. Bush set the timetable and Obama agreed and followed it through. On Afghanistan, Dick Cheney once faulted President Obama for allegedly failing to "talk about how we win," as if he were doing less than the Bush administration by not talking about it. In fact, Obama more than tripled the U.S. troop presence and expanded drone attacks into other countries, expanding the war that his predecessor only talked about winning.
The GOP and its surrogates have nevertheless entertained the fantasy that at heart Mr. Obama is a pacifist – among other things. A lot of mud has been and will remain being slung at President Obama, but very little seems to be hitting its mark. Pundits are even arguing as to whether the recent attacks on Obama have backfired, ultimately helping the incumbent on his way to a second term. The most amusing of these many misfires comes from the pro-military panderers of right-wing America, many of whom have neither been enlisted, nor have they seen combat.
Mr. Obama came into office offering bipartisanship. He kept Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense. He had a strategic plan for his foreign policy. He did not go on an apology tour as Republican have repeatedly suggested. He did apologize for American error. He strengthened and reinforced Americans` strength in the world without being brutal. And then he executed the plan with brilliance and the Seals conducted the successful mission. Republicans, it seems, never be satisfied. They will never give President Obama the credit he deserves, to acknowledge him as the brilliant foreign policy tactician he is. He remains active in securing our interests around the world. The White House decision to remind the American people of the mission and its successful conclusion is appropriate.
What should be clearly evident to Americans is that Republicans have always attacked Democrats on national security. Republicans as a whole can dish it out, but they surely can`t take it. In the past they have seemed to own the foreign policy debate in this country. For Republicans it`s traditionally been all about national security. But with a very strong foreign policy Democrat in the White House, Republicans can no longer control the narrative in the domain.
But really; how can anyone who calls themselves Republican, and who supports a strong foreign policy, vote for this Republican candidate? So far Mitt Romney has offered nothing of substance, domestic or foreign. They should want to hear some body of substance from their candidate, instead of just blindly following. Looking at Mitt Romney, what national security credentials does he have? I see none right now and the party as a whole does not have any other ideas. Throughout the primaries, all I heard was recklessness - whether it was coming from Romney, Santorum, Gingrich or whoever. The Republican who made any sense on the foreign policy was Ron Paul.
Is it hard for the Americans to be on the same page when it comes to national security because it is so ideologically divided in the country? If one were to honestly look at foreign policy and security policy from World War II forward, there has not really been a difference between presidents, Republican or Democratic, when it came to the basics of national security. Sometimes there were difference on the peripheral matters, sometimes in the way it was defined, but there hasn`t been much difference. You have to come to George W. Bush to find some real significant difference. Now the country is tracking back to the center where both parties understand U.S. national security interests. The Democrats have articulated that understanding, when will the Republicans?
For Republicans to be playing this game of outrage today at the president`s campaign is an amazing turnaround from where Dick Cheney was in 2004 when he said of Democratic nominee John Kerry, “It`s absolutely essential that eight weeks from day on November 2nd, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we`ll get hit again, and that we`ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”
Suddenly Republicans have decided that since they are now on the losing end of the foreign policy debate, frankly for the first time in quite a long time, they deem it out of bounds to talk about. It’s now too political. The hypocrisy is laughable in that Bush and Cheney ran on 9/11 and they ran on the war on terror in 2004.The event brings up all of that previous bluster once again. For Republicans it’s obvious; when they feel they can benefit from it, they are perfectly willing to talk about foreign policy successes.
On a scale of politicizing, the recent campaign ad is nothing compared to the scale of what Bush and Republicans did in the last decade. The Republican Party spent ten years politicizing Osama bin laden. They held the 2004 GOP convention in New York and made a great display of using images of 9/11 for political props. What also needs to be remembered and what the so-called mainstream media rarely brings up is the Bush/Cheney administration made a decision to roll back the resources committed to chasing bin Laden as they got distracted and dragged into Iraq. The Bush administration made the decision that Saddam Hussein was more important as a national security target than was Osama bin Laden.
Yesterday, Romney was campaigning with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at an event at the firehouse where the city of New York set up its first response center in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. It was an event intended to bolster Romney's non-existent foreign policy credentials while pushing back at Obama and his campaign. As rivals for the 2008 Republican nomination, Romney and Giuliani disagreed on a course of action for capturing bin Laden.
But the broader point is that when Mr. Obama took office, he said that leaving Afghanistan for Iraq was the wrong decision and going after bin Laden was his priority. Given Romney’s previous statements that might have been a very different choice for him. President Obama reminding Americans of that is not political, it is commanding.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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