In any event, Romney is likely to have some trouble undermining the President’s record on national-security issues and foreign policy. Last week, in Colorado, Admiral William McRaven, a Navy SEAL who oversees all American Special Forces, and who supervised the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was asked to evaluate Obama as a Commander-in-Chief. “I’m not a political guy,” McRaven stipulated. Still, he offered a crisp judgment of Obama’s performance: “Fantastic.” He went on to say that the President and his advisers value facts, take professional advice, and make careful judgments, adding, “I’m very impressed.” – Steve Coll, The New Yorker
REPUBLICAN SWIFTBOATING of Pres. Obama’s commander in chief skills continues apace. This time it’s Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller trumpeting a “book bombshell” alleging Obama took his cues from Valerie Jarrett on the bin Laden raid. The account strains credulity and not just because there is already evidence in the historical bloodstream directly contradicting it.
Long before Admiral William McRaven said he was “very impressed” with Pres. Obama’s actions and decisions, The New Yorker unpacked a detailed account of the history, which makes the latest swiftboating efforts destined to satisfy only low-information fringe junkies. Unfortunately, America’s got a lot of those, especially where foreign policy is concerned.
From “Getting Bin Laden – What happened that night in Abbottabad,” by Nicholas Schmidle, a person I’ve heard speak on national security particular to Pakistan, a country on which he’s a renowned expert.
Four months after Obama entered the White House, Leon Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., briefed the President on the agency’s latest programs and initiatives for tracking bin Laden. Obama was unimpressed. In June, 2009, he drafted a memo instructing Panetta to create a “detailed operation plan” for finding the Al Qaeda leader and to “ensure that we have expended every effort.”
[...] On March 14th, Obama called his national-security advisers into the White House Situation Room and reviewed a spreadsheet listing possible courses of action against the Abbottabad compound. Most were variations of either a JSOC raid or an airstrike. Some versions included coöperating with the Pakistani military; some did not. Obama decided against informing or working with Pakistan. “There was a real lack of confidence that the Pakistanis could keep this secret for more than a nanosecond,” a senior adviser to the President told me. At the end of the meeting, Obama instructed McRaven to proceed with planning the raid.
[...] On March 29th, McRaven brought the plan to Obama. The President’s military advisers were divided. Some supported a raid, some an airstrike, and others wanted to hold off until the intelligence improved. Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, was one of the most outspoken opponents of a helicopter assault. Gates reminded his colleagues that he had been in the Situation Room of the Carter White House when military officials presented Eagle Claw—the 1980 Delta Force operation that aimed at rescuing American hostages in Tehran but resulted in a disastrous collision in the Iranian desert, killing eight American soldiers. “They said that was a pretty good idea, too,” Gates warned. He and General James Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, favored an airstrike by B-2 Spirit bombers. That option would avoid the risk of having American boots on the ground in Pakistan. But the Air Force then calculated that a payload of thirty-two smart bombs, each weighing two thousand pounds, would be required to penetrate thirty feet below ground, insuring that any bunkers would collapse. “That much ordnance going off would be the equivalent of an earthquake,” Cartwright told me. The prospect of flattening a Pakistani city made Obama pause. He shelved the B-2 option and directed McRaven to start rehearsing the raid.
[...] That day in Washington, Panetta convened more than a dozen senior C.I.A. officials and analysts for a final preparatory meeting. Panetta asked the participants, one by one, to declare how confident they were that bin Laden was inside the Abbottabad compound. The counterterrorism official told me that the percentages “ranged from forty per cent to ninety or ninety-five per cent,” and added, “This was a circumstantial case.”
Panetta was mindful of the analysts’ doubts, but he believed that the intelligence was better than anything that the C.I.A. had gathered on bin Laden since his flight from Tora Bora. Late on Thursday afternoon, Panetta and the rest of the national-security team met with the President. For the next few nights, there would be virtually no moonlight over Abbottabad—the ideal condition for a raid. After that, it would be another month until the lunar cycle was in its darkest phase. Several analysts from the National Counterterrorism Center were invited to critique the C.I.A.’s analysis; their confidence in the intelligence ranged between forty and sixty per cent. The center’s director, Michael Leiter, said that it would be preferable to wait for stronger confirmation of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. Yet, as Ben Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser, put it to me recently, the longer things dragged on, the greater the risk of a leak, “which would have upended the thing.” Obama adjourned the meeting just after 7 P.M. and said that he would sleep on it.
There are very good reasons to oppose Pres. Obama’s reelection, starting with his conservative domestic policies. But on foreign policy the only vulnerability he has is from the left. More often than not he’s either towed the line most Republicans would prior to the neoconservative era that served our country so poorly, or one-upped them.
The latest “bombshell book” blast from the Daily Caller is to make Google sing with anti-Obama stories that are supposed to raise doubt about his competency as commander in chief. One right wing site blasts a negative headline, while Dick Cheney equates him to worse than Pres. Carter, as right-wing radio regurgitates the message Obama’s weak to combat “Mitt the Twit” being a “wimp” in Newsweek.
They’re just pissed because Barack Obama gave the order that got bin Laden and they couldn’t even find him. It’s a d*@! thing.
It’s also worth mentioning that while Republicans put political hacks or flaks at the C.I.A., Pres. Obama installed Gen. David Petraeus. Unless you’ve been under a rock for years, the drone program and other operations out of the C.I.A. basically constitute an unaccountable military arm that the President gets to use as he sees fit with little or not accountability. Pres. Obama, in fact, has taken this Executive Branch toy to a level even beyond Pres. George W. Bush. Someone “weak” or who couldn’t make a decision about the bin Laden raid doesn’t put someone like Petraeus in charge of the most secret and stealth, unaccountable, teams in the U.S. force structure.
So, if Republicans want to come at Pres. Obama without making themselves look like blithering idiots, they should stick with the economy. Because on foreign policy they’ve got nothing, at least nothing they can use from the right.
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