The one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death has brought out the worst in President Obama’s supporters. The football spiking and victory dancing has spun out of control. However, the more liberals hype Mr. Obama’s supposed role in the process, the less relevant he seems to be.
The Obama re-election campaign has come under fire for questioning whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would have ordered the bin Laden mission. Recent revelations about the operation show it wasn’t exactly a profile in courage for Mr. Obama. According to a memo from then-director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta, obtained by Time magazine, the most critical decisions were delegated to Adm. William McRaven as the head of Joint Special Operations Command. “The timing, operational decision-making and control are in Adm. McRaven’s hands,” Mr. Panetta wrote.
All Mr. Obama did was approve the “risk profile,” the broad framework of the operation. Had things gone wrong, the buck would have landed on Adm. McRaven’s head. In any case, it is unseemly to talk about the president’s “courage” when the real courage was demonstrated by the special operations forces who actually undertook the mission. They are the men with the claim to bravery, not anyone sitting safely in Washington, D.C.
The premise behind the notion that the bin Laden raid decision was a “gutsy call” is that Mr. Obama would have paid a political price had the mission failed. Some liken it to the 1980 “Desert One” Iranian hostage-rescue-mission fiasco that harmed President Carter’s re-election effort. This is false. Had the bin Laden takedown failed, there would have been no political price because no one would have known about it. The mission would have been just another of the many secret government operations kept under wraps. Because there was no downside risk – at least not to Mr. Obama personally – the decision cannot legitimately be called gutsy. Politically, it was a gimme.
The bin Laden takedown hardly makes the case for re-election. It was a good day for America, something dedicated members of the intelligence community and the military had been working toward long before Mr. Obama appeared on the scene. It also is something that cannot be repeated. The way Obama campaign operatives are hyping the event makes it look like it is the only significant achievement in foreign affairs during Mr. Obama’s tenure in office, which in fact it is.
Barack Obama is no Jimmy Carter. Despite being a general joke as president, the Georgia peanut farmer did broker the historic Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt. And Mr. Carter did the honorable but not easy thing when he called off the Iranian hostage-rescue mission with full knowledge that it would harm his re-election chances. That decision was not only more courageous than the bin Laden authorization, it was gutsier than any decision Mr. Obama has made in office on any issue at all.
The fact remains that if Mr. Obama simply had stayed on the golf course a year ago, everything could have happened in Abbottabad exactly as it did, with bin Laden dead and America safer. Giving the go signal didn’t take guts; it was a no-brainer.