Trying to find some way to attack the president in his moment of accomplishment, some of Obama’s most ardent antagonists are making it seem as though the CIA and the Pentagon had to drag the president into the operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death. Obama, they point out, delayed a decision by "SIXTEEN HOURS" (the capitalization is the Daily Mail's) before making the final call. Some are even peddling a theory that the CIA "overruled" the president and decided to go in, with or without approval.
What a desperate, low blow.
Let's review the reasons Obama could have had to sleep on the decision to authorize the bin Laden raid:
-Intelligence analysts argued about the likelihood that bin Laden was even living at the compound, concluding that there was only a 60 to 80 percent chance .
-Given the accounts we have, this was not a ticking time bomb-type scenario; America hadn't tipped anyone off that U.S. intelligence agencies thought bin Laden was there, least of all the Pakistanis. Commandos had time to practice the mission thoroughly at mock-ups of the compound. Obama had time to deliberate.
-The president still could have reconsidered his decision not to bomb the area into a giant crater, thereby keeping American troops from harm's way. Or he could have considered other options we haven't heard about.
-Sending in ground forces without notifying the Pakistanis — close to our allies' capital city and their elite military academy, in an upscale residential neighborhood — would have deeply affected that country's relationship with the United States, no matter how the operation ended. Even with a successful conclusion, there is a roiling debate about just how different relations will be with Pakistan, which is vacillating between taking credit for the strikes and condemning them. If the raid had failed, Pakistani leaders would have had no trouble doing a lot of the latter. Not to mention the effects the operation will have on the war in Afghanistan. The president should have considered these consequences carefully, and how to manage them after the raid.
-If the operation had failed, more Pakistanis and Americans could have died, mangling America's reputation abroad. And, by the way, Obama would have Jimmy Cartered himself. In 1980, Carter authorized a disastrous attempt to rescue American hostages in Tehran, involving special forces and helicopters. The fact that helicopters were destroyed in both the 1980 and the 2011 operations indicates the inherent risks associated with these sorts of covert missions. If Carter's raid had worked, many argue, history — and voters in 1980's presidential election — might have looked rather differently at his presidency.
We don't blame President Kennedy for taking 13 days to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis instead of immediately sending in the bombers. We don't have to blame Obama for taking a little while to think this one through. Careful reflection is not weakness. Those who can’t admit that the president made a big call and got it right might want to stay silent instead of resorting to this nonsense.