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Bin Laden's Dead and We Must Give Obama His Due

Usama Bin Laden is dead. The President of the United States Barack Obama ordered the successful SEAL Special Forces operation that killed him. The nearly 3,000 innocent Americans who were massacred on 9/11 have been avenged.

Let there be no mistake. The president acted wisely and decisively in this matter. It was right and proper for him to decide to appear at Ground Zero. George W. Bush took the wrong decision in deciding not to appear with Obama at Ground Zero. His father would have done it. And Bill Clinton would have done it. That would have been the right decision, the patriotic decision.

It was also exceptionally right and proper for Obama to decide to take the risk of sending in a team to take out Bin Laden on the ground – face to face. Any bombing operation would have left complete uncertainty whether Bin Laden was indeed dead. It would also have denied a true catharsis to the multiple thousands of people whose loved ones perished on 9/11. Barack Obama took the difficult but entirely right course. It was a gutsy decision.

The operation that brought Bin Laden to the justice he had fled for so long was a cooperative and bipartisan achievement. It is already clear that intelligence sharing and inter-agency cooperation was crucial to its success.

That could not have happened while Donald Rumsfeld and his lieutenants ran the Department of Defense. They were notorious, especially Rumsfeld himself, for the arrogance with which they refused to cooperate constructively with and share their own intel with the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, since 80 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget goes to agencies run by the DoD that intransigent attitude made inter-agency cooperation virtually impossible.That cooperation only became possible when President Bush reluctantly replaced Rumsfeld as SecDef in November 2006 with Robert Gates. Gates, a former Director of Central Intelligence himself, worked constructively and cooperatively with the CIA and other intelligence agencies in his nearly four and a half years in the job. 

President Obama did the Right Thing by keeping him on as his secretary of defense to ensure confidence and continuity. The destruction of Bin Laden was one of the fruits of that wise bipartisan decision.

The decision by Gen. David Petraeus, a conservative icon for his exceptionally successful “surge” strategy in Iraq in 2007-8, to accept to President Obama’s offer to run the CIA was another truly bipartisan and patriotic decision.

Petraeus, as everyone who has covered him knows, is no fool: He understood that by accepting this appointment he was opening himself up to poisonous new world of political backbiting and intrigue from thousands of people who had previously revered him. But the CIA and the U.S, intelligence community needs his vast experience and his "fingerspitzengefuehl," what Field Marshal Erwin Rommel called his instinct to do the right thing in battle command situations, to make U.S. intel gathering more responsive and relevant to the real-time demands of modern war.

The killing of Bin Laden does not guarantee or transform the president’s dimming political prospects for reelection. I have been repeatedly critical of his failed economic policies and remain so. If the president does not turn from his catastrophic course of out of control deficit spending and surge of self-indulgent, pork-barrel indulgence for the trivial fantasies of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Those problems have not gone away.

President George Herbert Walker Bush won the greatest and most decisive battlefield victories in nearly half a century since the end of World War II in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. Bush I’s approval ratings then surged above 90 percent. Yet less than two years later, he was out of a job, defeated by Bill Clinton because of an economic downturn that was far less than the deterioration the U.S. economy and population have suffered under Obama. As James Carville memorably said, it was “the economy, stupid” then, and it’s “the economy, stupid” now.

Obama’s economic policies remain catastrophic. He continues to ignore the neglected issue of ballistic missile defense which puts tens of millions of Americans, including the president himself, at risk from strategic nuclear attack. 

Republicans need to find a strong, credible candidate with convincing clear and constructive policies or they can still lose next year’s election.

But for now, the president deserves the applause and gratitude of all the American people, Republicans and conservatives included, for the decisions he took that brought Bin Laden to justice. He did the patriotic thing, the courageous thing, the Right Thing. Thank you, Mr. President.

Martin Sieff is former Managing Editor, International Affairs of United Press International. He is the author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East.”