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Obama's Profile in Courage

Monday, 09 May 2011 10:48 PM Current | Bio | Archive

As the dust settles on our military's successful raid on the Pakistan compound of Osama bin Laden and the targeted killing of the terror leader, it is clear that President Barack Obama's actions merit a profile in courage.

A profile in courage, John F. Kennedy wrote in his 1955 best-selling book, is when an ordinary political figure becomes a statesman by making a decision that challenges even his own worldview, a decision that may sacrifice his very own position "if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men . . .”

Earlier this year I wrote about Sen. Joe Lieberman's profile in courage after his announcement that he would retire from the Senate after a long public career. Sen. Lieberman had sacrificed his high standing among many in his own party to do what was right for the country's security.

Barack Obama took a similar stand by authorizing the commando raid on bin Laden's hideout.

A friend of mine, who has held several ranking national security positions in the federal government, recounted, in amazement, Obama's actions.

Often a critic of the Obama administration, my friend outlined what Obama did that was courageous:

  • He didn't have to authorize the strike.
  • He could have said no to the plan for many reasons.
  • The mission violated Obama's own position on not taking unilateral action.
  • He didn't bother getting permission from Pakistan.
  • He didn't ask the UN for authority.
  • He didn't take the easy way out by authorizing a simple surgical bombing or cruise missile strike.
  • He let the military do its job without interference and allowed it to take on a risky mission. Had it gone awry, had our men been killed, it may have caused him political harm.
  • And he authorized the military to execute Osama bin Laden on the spot — nothing less than an out-and-out assassination.

It was a job well done and, in this instance, the commander in chief deserves the credit.

CIA Director Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have urged him to undertake the mission, but the decision was Obama's. The buck stopped at his desk.

There was, and there remains, a political downside for Obama.

Obama has long espoused a more kind, less aggressive foreign policy. He advocated such positions during the heated Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton, winning the nomination by pulling the party's liberal rug out from under her.

Just two days after the bin Laden raid, Newsmax conducted a national poll with Insider Advantage. Matt Towery, its well-regarded pollster, noted that Obama received a positive bounce in his approval ratings, but only about 5 points.

Typically, presidents get a much bigger bounce. Why not Obama?

Towery told me that the data was quite revealing. It showed that about 20 percent of Democrats disapproved of the president. The party's liberal base was just not happy with Obama.

They have reason not to be so happy. Obama has, surprisingly, kept many of the anti-terror policies the Bush administration had implemented.

As for the war on terror, if there has been a change since the Bush administration, it has been a change of rhetoric, not so much policy.

If anything, Obama has stepped up military action, dramatically increasing our military presence in Afghanistan, for example.

He has significantly increased the use of drone strikes — in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and even Libya.

And Obama's national security picks generally have been strong: Hillary at State, Gates at Defense, Panetta at CIA. The recent transfers of Panetta to Defense and Petraeus to the CIA underscore Obama’s desire to hold a strong security suit in the cards he holds.

The Obama administration has famously stopped the so-called "harsh interrogations," including waterboarding. In the wake of the bin Laden raid, both the public and Congress are debating the effectiveness of such techniques.

Hopefully, full-scale congressional hearings will help ferret out the truth: Did these techniques help our anti-terror efforts, including the killing of bin Laden?

And any debate should also ask whether such techniques are consistent with American principles and the Constitution.

In foreign policy and security matters, Obama has clearly set a course that is his own, and has moved away from narrow political interests.

This is a positive thing, and I applaud him.

Many of us may have serious disagreement with President Obama on his domestic policies, and even some of his foreign ones. But when he takes a bold action that advances the interests of the country and our freedom, he deserves nothing but praise.

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As the dust settles on our military's successful raid on the Pakistan compound of Osama bin Laden and the targeted killing of the terror leader, it is clear that President Barack Obama's actions merit a profile in courage. A profile in courage, John F. Kennedy wrote in his...
Monday, 09 May 2011 10:48 PM
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