Tuesday, May 03, 2011
By Daniel Greenfield
The man who came into office promising multilateral engagement, no more torture and a civilian justice system for terrorists, now has only one accomplishment to his name. A unilateral invasion and assassination based on intelligence gained through enhanced interrogation, carried out by men whom his supporters had once condemned as a secret assassination squad. What a failure Obama is that even the one success to his name is a testament to the failure of his own ideas.
Liberals joyfully proclaimed that the One would redeem America's reputation. No longer would we torture terrorists, detain them in prison camps and try them with military tribunals. A shining new golden age was here. Two lawyers to every Al-Qaeda terrorist and a national apology for going outside the civilian justice system. Now three years later, the only thing they have to celebrate is that their man trashed every one of their hopes and dreams just to keep his head above water in the polls.
Samuel Johnson opined that, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel". And now the scoundrels are flocking to the red, white and blue as a a failed leader and his gaggle of supporters eagerly trade in their counterculture cred for apple pie and the Fourth of July. News stories are reinventing Obama as the Rambo of the Monitor, fitting moniker for the JFK of the Teleprompter, the man who courageously authorized a decision that would have been a no brainer for any American. A failure on every other front, his last refuge is also the thing he hates the most.
Smart power? Try stupid power. Obama wasn't willing to set aside his ideals for the sake of national security. Instead he did it because his ideals were too unpopular. The man who wouldn't sacrifice his politics for the sake of American lives, sacrificed them for his own popularity. It's not just that Obama suffers from the wrong ideas, but that he values his ideas more than America, but less than himself.
It wasn't smart power that took down Bin Laden. It wasn't the multilateral cooperation that Obama turned into his trademark when running for office. Instead it was an old fashioned unilateral operation that didn't even notify the Pakistanis ahead of time and even jammed their radar. An operation that assumed we couldn't trust our Muslim allies because they sympathize more with Al-Qaeda than they do with us. A unilateral assault that Pakistan would never have approved and that could even be considered an act of war.
Torture, Gitmo, Rendition and all those dirty words that stood for the dumb old war. The one where we grabbed terrorists and shook the truth out of them. Where we seized them wherever they were, without regard for jurisdiction or civil rights, got them into a room and dunked their heads until they talked. Where brave men went out into the night to get things done and it was best not to ask too many questions about how it got done or count the collateral damage when they were finished. That dumb old war is the one that scored a victory here.
And liberals have suddenly learned to love that dumb old war. The same one that not so long ago made them want to be Canadians. No more quibbles about waterboarding or giving Osama a trial. Now all you need is a kill order and a lot of stories about Obama heroically risking his life by watching it happen from thousands of miles away. Where Bush went to the trouble of getting Saddam alive and turning him over for trial, this administration decided it would be easier and more convenient to shoot Bin Laden full of holes the first chance they got. (Though it's anyone's guess if the decision was made at the top or really determined by the men in the field who weren't up for another round of debates on where to hold the trial.) Not better for America, better for themselves.
Obama's smart war died along with Bin Laden. The only thing his multilateralism has gotten us into is an entirely new war in Libya. The 'smart war' that ended up looking exactly like the dumb war he denounced in his widely circulated 2002 speech, a rash war, a cynical attempt to shove an ideological agenda down our throats, against a man who was no imminent or direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors. But now Bush's dumb war looks smart and Obama's smart war looks stupid.
Taking down Bin Laden didn't begin with Obama looking at a monitor, but with invading Afghanistan to capture and interrogate terrorists, beginning the long process of unraveling Al-Qaeda. All that Obama deserves credit for is that unlike Bill Clinton, when the word came up from the men in the field that they had a chance to get Bin Laden, he eventually went along. Which he might not have done without an election breathing down his neck.
Obama inherited a War on Terror that he never wanted, and after doing his best to scuttle it, he was forced to carry it on anyway. His administration has sabotaged terrorist prosecutions, but it was forced to back away from civilian trials or closing Gitmo. And by virtue of having his ass in the chair at the right time, he now takes credit for a victory that belongs to the men who were fighting and dying in the field, while he was yawning his way through Illinois State Senate sessions.
Truman didn't claim credit for defeating Hitler, even though the German surrender came while he was in office. It's just as ridiculous for Obama and his supporters to do cartwheels because a prolonged campaign against Islamic terrorists happened to bear fruit on his watch. He might as well claim credit for the highway system and the continuing implementation of every single law and safety regulation predating his administration.
The Bush Administration did the heavy lifting here, and the Obama Administration is taking the credit. That's nothing new in politics, where the policies of one administration carry over to the next, but the one most associated with a positive outcome gets the credit. It's cynical, but not extraordinarily so. What is cynical is how many media mouthpieces insist on hanging up a "Mission Accomplished" banner, as if we went into Afghanistan to get one man. And only that one man. As if thousands of lives had been lost just to kill that one man.
Now we're told that security measures can be dismantled and the troops can go home. There's no more need to worry about terrorism. It was all taken care of when Obama watched a satellite pay per view execution.
Bin Laden was the public face of Al-Qaeda, but if he hadn't been, it would have been someone else. It didn't have to be Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. We think of Islamic terrorism in terms of organizations, but the organizations are only functional executions of an idea. The idea is that for Islam to triumph, its followers must wage an armed conflict of terror around the world. Al-Qaeda was one projection of that idea. There were and are many others.
You don't need a Bin Laden to have an Al-Qaeda, and you don't need an Al-Qaeda to have terrorism. Bin Laden's death fulfilled the cycle of an Islamic terrorist's life as a martyr. In the short term, our enemies have been reminded that we can and will get to them no matter where they hide. But in the long term, Bin Laden's death is a canonization that completes his place in the Islamist narrative. Now his story is told and will be retold over and over again.
The problem was never one man in a cave in Afghanistan or an estate in Pakistan. Islamic terror derives from a culture of supremacy. And Obama has spent enough time in the Muslim world to know that. Osama's death allows him and us to count coup, but the problem is getting worse, not better. Afghanistan and Pakistan were the homeland of terror, but the road that Bin Laden's butchers followed lies through Europe and America. Muslim immigrants and students moving out into the West mark the trail of terror. That road is a dagger pointed at the heart of the free world.
The interoperability of Pakistan's intelligence service and military with Al-Qaeda is not some unique phenomenon, it reflects the will of the Pakistani people, only 3 percent of whom think Bin Laden was a terrorist. Muslim terrorists work hand in glove with Muslim countries, even when they fight and quarrel with them. Because they have more in common with each other, than they do with us. Just as we support people who share our culture and values, so do they. Muslims may have different views on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, but they still like them more than they do us. Which is why Bin Laden was able to live comfortably not far from the capitol without any worries that he would be turned in.
The problem was never Al-Qaeda. The problem is Islam. While the SEALS were off putting an end to Bin Laden, the growth of Islam in the free world continues to pose a dire threat to the survival of the free world. Osama's quick burial showed that we were still cowed by his religion's demands even in death. Killing one man did not end that regime of terror. Not so long as it remains lodged inside the heads of our leaders. Patriotism is the first resort of patriots and the last resort of men who have already sold out their country.