As pundits rush to weigh in on last night's heroic Navy Seal/CIA raid that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden, there are several early conclusions we can draw, not all of which are obvious.
First, President Obama deserves enormous credit for approving this risky operation which easily could have (and almost did) go wrong like President Carter's disastrous 1980 mission to rescue the U.S. embassy hostages in Tehran. This raid showed a lot of guts by Obama since it went against his prior policies of treating counterterrorism as a law enforcement matter and by sending ground troops into a country we are not at war with.
Second, aside from President Obama, the U.S. official who deserves the most credit for this successful operation is CIA Director Leon Panetta. Panetta has kept the CIA on mission and its morale up despite unrelenting political attacks on the agency by congressional Democrats and Obama officials. Obama counterterrorism czar John Brennan said today that the president's senior aides did not unanimously support the raid but the president decided to side with the CIA, a decision that reflects Panetta's credibility and the enormous trust Obama has placed in him.
Third, this mission is a credit to the resiliency and professionalism of our intelligence officers who pressed on and did their jobs across administrations despite ten years of controversy.
Fourth, despite Obama's gutsy decision to approve this mission, it vindicates President Bush's determination to get bin Laden and his administration's aggressive counterterrorism policies that Obama and congressional Democrats tried to undermine and reverse. Former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld confirmed today that at least some of the intelligence that led to the death of bin Laden came from interrogations of terrorist suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility. It is interesting to recall Obama's previous criticism of the Bush administration for violating international law and mistreating terrorist suspects in light of the president's decision to covertly send U.S. troops into a friendly country to kill a terrorist leader. Obama made the right decision but it took several years of struggling with naive policies to get there. Yesterday's raid probably is related to the president's recent decisions to drop his plans to close the Guantanamo prison facility and try its dangerous terrorist inmates in U.S. civilian courts.
And fifth, we must recognize that the demise of bin Laden probably will have no effect in lowering the threat from radical Islam and could bolster it in the short term. Bin Laden has been isolated in recent years and the al-Qaida franchise has moved to Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is now a potent and independent terrorist organization behind the 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomber and the 2010 cargo plane bombing plot, both of which were sophisticated attempts to evade airport security and attack the United States. We must assume AQAP and other radical Islamic groups will now double down their efforts to avenge bin Laden's death and launch attacks against the U.S. and our allies.
Fred Fleitz recently joined Newsmax after a 25-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the US Department of State, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He served as Chief of Staff to Ambassador John Bolton and as a Senior Adviser to former House Intelligence Ranking Member Peter Hoekstra.
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