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How Risky Was the Osama bin Laden Raid?

CFR’s Micah Zenko asks, “How Risky Was the Osama bin Laden Raid?

The question, of course, is interesting on the first anniversary of that raid because of administration officials going around touting how “gutsy” the call was and a new Obama campaign ad featuring former President Bill Clinton declaring, “Suppose the Navy Seals had gone in there, and it hadn’t been bin Laden. Suppose they’d been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for [Obama].” Zenko surveys the history of such raids, failed and successful, and finds zero basis for this assertion.

Throughout recent history, U.S. presidents have authorized limited military operations that were mixed successes or outright failures. In most instances, the president neither suffered a noticeable decline in public support nor faced sustained criticism among elite observers for the decision. Policymakers and pundits generally refrain from criticizing presidents, military commanders, and the armed forces for failed operations.

Zenko provides several examples–and I commend the piece to you in full to read them–but the first is the best:

In perhaps the riskiest military misison authorized by a U.S. president, Jimmy Carter ordered the unsuccessful hostage rescue operation in Iran (Desert One) on April 24-25, 1980, which resulted in eight U.S. soldiers killed and no hostages freed. In the initial stages of planning, the Delta Force commander, Colonel Charlie Beckwith, admitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “the probability of success is zero and the risks are high.” According to aNewsweek article on June 30, 1980, the Pentagon estimated that as many as fifteen of the fifty-three hostages as well as thirty of the U.S. special operation forces would be killed or injured in a successful operation.

There is no evidence, however, that Carter’s decision-making negatively impacted the mission. An internal review conducted by the Pentagon found that “the decision process during planning and the command and control organization during execution of the Iran hostage rescue mission afforded clear lines of authority from the President to the appropriate echelon,” and, “the command and control arrangements at the higher echelons from the NCA [the President and Secretary of Defense] through the Joint Chiefs of Staff to [Combined Joint Task Force] were ideal.”

Although Carter was aware of the potential costs of the rescue attempt, he believed, according to a senior adviser, “Ending the crisis—once and for all—became the major factor in the president’s decision-making.” And the American public agreed: two-thirds approved of Carter’s decision to authorize the ill-fated mission. Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush was the most outspoken supporter: “I unequivocally support the president—no ifs, ands, or buts…He made a difficult, courageous decision.” Afterward, the president’s approval ratings, previously plummeting, actually stabilized—until he was easily defeated by Ronald Reagan.

I was but 14 at the time and just at the beginnings of my political consciousness–which was awakened by the Hostage Crisis and the 1980 campaign. I was no fan of Carter’s presidency and thought his handling of the hostage situation spineless (positions which I’ve somewhat revised given the advantages of maturity and hindsight). But, even in the wake of the disastrous mission, my sense was “Thank God he finally did something.” I think that was the consensus view.

To reiterate what I’ve said in several other posts on the general matter, Obama deserves credit for both making a decision against mixed advice from his senior foreign policy team and, especially, for ramping up the hunt for bin Laden, which had been all but called off under his predecessor. But even in today’s toxic political climate, most Americans would have applauded a SEAL raid to get the bastard behind 9/11 even if it had ended in catastrophe.

We seldom blame presidents for bold actions that go wrong. We despise them for appearing weak and indecisive.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. James says:

    Zenko oddly includeds Bill Clinton’s decision to authorize “cruise missile strikes against the El-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, and al-Qaeda’s Zhawar Kili complex in Khost, Afghanistan,” but completely ignores Operation Gothic Serpent, an incident dramatically depicted in both the book and the movie “Black Hawk Down”. Via Wikipedia:

    The mission in Somalia was seen by many as a failure. The Clinton administration in particular endured considerable criticism for the outcome of the operation. The main elements of the criticism surround the administration’s decision to leave the region before completing the humanitarian and security objectives of the operation, as well as the perceived failure to recognize the threat Al-Qaida elements posed in the region as well as threat against United States security interests at home.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. But even in today’s toxic political climate, most Americans would have applauded a SEAL raid to get the bastard behind 9/11 even if it had ended in catastrophe.

    You can’t possibly believe that. To a man and woman, the entire GOP establishment would have jumped down his throat. Limbaugh would have speculated darkly about how and why Obama had put limits on the SEALs that led to the disaster. All the chickenhawks would have come out of the woodwork to decry his lack of military service.

    You keep confusing your perspective for that of the rest of right-leaning America. But you’re a dying breed, that last of the sane conservatives.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 54 Thumb down 3

  3. michael reynolds says:

    What Bernard said. One would have to be spectacularly naive to believe the GOP would have applauded or failed to howl like jackals. Utter, pitiful nonsense.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 1

  4. James says:

    And:

    The loss of American military personnel during the Black Hawk Down operation evoked public outcry. Television images of American soldiers being dragged through the streets by Somalis were too graphic for the American public to endure. The Clinton Administration responded by scaling down US humanitarian efforts in the region.

    If the OBL raid had gone sour, similar atrocities against SEAL members who were captured or killed was certainly possible.

    TPM has a related article up today that really gets at the GOPs animus toward Obama taking any credit for the OBL raid decision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @Bernard Finel: I agree. In today’s climate it would nave been a political disaster.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  6. James Joyner says:

    @James: But that’s a completely different thing. Disastrous campaigns are certainly subject to criticism. We’re talking here about discrete rescue ops, punitive raids, and the like.

    @Bernard Finel: @michael reynolds: I don’t doubt that Rush Limbaugh and company would have howled like jackals. But the American people writ large would have almost certainly applauded a bold strike to get bin Laden.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 18

  7. al-Ameda says:

    When the mission that President Carter ordered failed, people blamed Carter, not the team sent to rescue the hostages.

    Today, Republicans generally refuse to give Obama credit for ordering the mission that resulted in the killing of Bin Laden – they choose instead to credit the Seal Team, or now to minimize the risk of the raid. Can we assume from current Republican attitudes on this, that had the mission failed that the Seal Team would have been blamed and not the president?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  8. Andy says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    To a man and woman, the entire GOP establishment would have jumped down his throat.

    Bernard, you’re an incredibly smart, articulate guy, but somehow I doubt you have the ability to see into the souls of your political enemies in order to make such sweeping conclusions.

    As for the “gutsy” question, personally I think it was a “tough call” no matter what choice was made. Let’s look at the options:

    1. Do nothing for now and hope for more intel confirming this really was where he was hiding. The risk here is that intel might never come (indeed the intel that led to this location took many years to develop) or that he’d move and we’d lose track of him.

    2. Airstrike or drone strike. The problem here is that we’d have to rely on the Pakistanis for confirmation he was killed and also it would have given Pakistan control of the media narrative. Pakistan would probably not admit UBL was there and would use the attack to blame the US for unprovoked aggression.

    3. Give the location to the Pakistani’s and ask to have him arrested. The problem here is that Pakistan isn’t a reliable ally and giving intel to them could just end up tipping UBL off.

    There are probably other alternatives. I think a raid was the right call given the alternatives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  9. James says:

    @James Joyner: I’m happy to defer to your expertise in international affairs and military operations, but I’m not seeing any distinguishing features between the ‘Black Hawk’ disaster, and a worst-case scenario of the OBL raid going sour. Wikipedia again:

    Task Force Ranger—which consisted of an assault force made up of US Army Delta Force, Ranger teams, an air element provided by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, four Navy SEAL operators from SEAL Team Six and members of the Air Force Pararescue/Air Force Combat Controllers—under the command of Major General William F. Garrison executed an operation that involved traveling from their compound on the outskirts of the city to the center with the aim of capturing the leaders of the Habr Gidr clan, headed by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The assault force consisted of nineteen aircraft, twelve vehicles (including nine Humvees), and 160 men.

    The OBL raid was:

    was carried out by approximately two dozen heliborne United States Navy SEALs from the Red Squadron[43] of the Joint Special Operations Command’s United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU).

    [...]

    According to The New York Times, a total of “79 commandos and a dog” were involved in the raid.[29]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. LaMont says:

    @James Joyner:

    But the American people (at least those of us that do not follow pollitics very closely – which are most) seem to be easily influenced (with much help by the media) by who barkes the loudest – ah la the manufactured crisis of the debt ceiling. The right has demonstrated an uncanning ability to use the media to get their opposing point of view to the masses. It doesn’t matter that their ideas may not be popular, at least initially. You can take an obvious and no brainer decision and at least question it on the basis of incompetence if it were not successful, thus, the far right republicans would do all the barking. And there are enough people conditioned in their minds (by demonizing the President for 3 years) to at least consider that line of questioning as fair.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  11. Gustopher says:

    And again, this doesn’t take into account the larger consequences of failure, such as losing Pakistan as an uneasy ally in the War On Terror.

    The raid to get bin Ladin was, quite simply, an act of war against Pakistan. Off the top of my head, I cannot recall another situation where the US has done a raid in the city of one of our alleged allies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  12. mantis says:

    I don’t doubt that Rush Limbaugh and company would have howled like jackals. But the American people writ large would have almost certainly applauded a bold strike to get bin Laden.

    James, you seem to have some difficulty adjusting to the political world of today. The right spent more than two years howling about the president’s birth certificate after his campaign had released the damned thing in 2008. It was quite successful, as even now after jumping through hoops to get a different version of his birth certificate from the State of Hawaii, a very large percentage of GOP primary voters (in many states, if not nationwide) still don’t believe the president was born in America.

    Are you so naive to not recognize that a failed raid to get bin Laden would have been the only thing Republicans would talk about from that day until the election? Hell, they would ignore the economy altogether if they had that example of “Obama’s lack of experience, failure to successfully continue Bush’s War on Terra, failure to protect the US, failure to avenge 9/11, failure failure failure, etc.” If there had been any casualties on our side in the attempt, they would have held memorials for those guys every day, twice a day. Fox News would run three hour specials analyzing how stupid the president is every day for a month. The rest of the rightwing nuthouse would claim Obama let bin Laden get away due to his black Muslimitude.

    And in the end, lots of Americans would dutifully agree, as they have with the stupid birth certificate crap. Your faith in the American people and the Republican Party makes me wonder about your ability to even recognize the reality in which we live. Seriously, wake up.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 1

  13. mantis says:

    And again, this doesn’t take into account the larger consequences of failure, such as losing Pakistan as an uneasy ally in the War On Terror.

    They harbored bin Laden for years. They are a supremely shitty ally.

    The raid to get bin Ladin was, quite simply, an act of war against Pakistan.

    The Pakistani intelligence services provide refuge and material support to the people fighting us in Afghanistan. In short, they started it. Again, Worst.Ally.Ever. (except maybe Stalin).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  14. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    That picture of President Obama et al. still reminds me of when one of the youngster would come over to the adults’ table at Christmas dinner.

    Back in my military daze, there was a bit of folk wisdom that went “Lead, follow, or stand out of the way.” The last is probably the best I can do for President Obama.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 24

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @Gustopher:

    And again, this doesn’t take into account the larger consequences of failure, such as losing Pakistan as an uneasy ally in the War On Terror.

    ‘… losing Pakistan”? I’m not sure had them. Are you sure that you want to say that our specifically targeting Bin Laden in a mansion in a small suburb, is the same as bombing an entire city – e.g. Karachi or Islamabad?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  16. LaMont says:

    @mantis:

    Precisely my point and totally agree. You identified another example of the height these far right conservative are willing to go to discredite this president and his administration. i don’t think we are just picking sides. We actually have examples of repulican actions that leads us to believe that Obama would have been torched if this were not successful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. Barry says:

    @Andy: “Bernard, you’re an incredibly smart, articulate guy, but somehow I doubt you have the ability to see into the souls of your political enemies in order to make such sweeping conclusions.”

    He’s judging them from their actions. Please notice that this post and others are discussing the reactions to a *successful* raid, which consisted of (1) blame Obama, (2) credit Bush, and (3) while like WATB about Evul Demonokrats daring to use a military operation for domestic political gain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Hey Norm says:

    “…But even in today’s toxic political climate, most Americans would have applauded a SEAL raid to get the bastard behind 9/11 even if it had ended in catastrophe…”

    To actually believe that you have to be living in a cave.
    Certainly an opposition party that refuses to vote for things they originally proposed and would usually support is going to attack even the whiff of failure. If you are willing to risk the world economy for political reasons, as they did during the debt ceiling faux kerfuffle, what are you not willing to do in the name of politics? It was all they could do to give Obama credit for overwhelming success. Some refused to even use his name as they congratulated only the military. Had it all gone South there is no doubt they would have portrayed it as soley Obama’s fault.
    In normal times I think that statement would probably be correct. These are not normal times and the Republicans of today are not normal Republicans.

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  19. Tsar Nicholas says:

    We seldom blame presidents for bold actions that go wrong. We despise them for appearing weak and indecisive.

    If by “we” you mean to say sentient, adult America, then, yes, of course, those statements would be correct. They don’t jibe, however, with the festering miasmas located at the very tail ends of the political spectrum.

    That aside, regardless of the relative risks, offing bin Laden by far is the best thing Obama has done since becoming president. It was a signature moment for Obama and a signature moment for the country. A+ work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    I doubt you have the ability to see into the souls of your political enemies in order to make such sweeping conclusions.

    The proof is in the fact that the GOP denies Obama credit even though the mission succeeded. No one needs to go soul-peeping. One would have to have spent the last 3 1/2 years living in a cave not to know how the GOP would react.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:
    A rare moment of agreement between us.

    When my government says it intends to get someone ‘dead or alive’ then by God I want to see that someone in a prison jump suit or on a slab.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  22. Barry says:

    sorry – “whine like WATB’s”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. anjin-san says:

    That picture of President Obama et al. still reminds me of when one of the youngster would come over to the adults’ table at Christmas dinner.

    Possibly you are still enamored of the photos of Bush, Cheney, & Rumsfeld at the ranch in Crawford, looking steely-eyed and determined as they led us into disaster in Iraq. Here’s one of President Bush striking a High Noon pose:

    http://www.pdnphotooftheday.com/tag/secretary-of-defense-donald-rumsfeld

    Maybe you can get it blown up and tack it up over your bed.

    Obama’s military actions must drive the right crazy. Not a lot of “shock and awe” highlights to watch from the safety of home, no macho swaggering. Just our enemies dead, at the lowest cost possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  24. @michael reynolds: Hell, conservatives are even blaming Obama because one of the helicopters crashed and parts of it were seized by Pakistan.

    And, sightly off topic, conservatives are attacking Obama for publishing photos of the White House Situation Room. The same Situation Room that Bush published photos of during its unveiling after it had been renovated. Or when Bush used it as a photo-op two days after the start of the invasion of Iraq. Ditto for Reagan and Libya.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  25. Also, too… remember that the context is that both McCain and Romney (Clinton too if I recall) — went after Obama hard on his statement that he’d go into Pakistan to get bin Laden if given a chance. This was a major talking point, remember? That Obama was naive, didn’t understand international relations or the military, and so on.

    Had the raid gone bad, there would also have been a lot of “I told you so” stuff in addition to the usual unhinged rants.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  26. Davebo says:

    Afterward, the president’s approval ratings, previously plummeting, actually stabilized—until he was easily defeated by Ronald Reagan.

    There is a reason Zenko doesn’t support this claim.

    Because it blatantly false. At least according to Gallup.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. James Joyner says:

    @Davebo: Hard to tell from that chart. It looks like, counterintuitively, Carter’s numbers soared after the hostages were taken, dropped around February, and spike slightly after the raid before falling back to pre-raid levels. But the wide spans on the chart make it a little hard to judge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. James Joyner says:

    @Davebo: If you look at the Gallup numbers in chart form, see Roper, I think Zenko’s assertion is right.

    Date Organization * Approve Disapprove
    No
    Opinion
    Sample
    Size
    Notes **
    12/5-8/80 Gallup 34 55 11 1549
    11/21-24/80 Gallup 31 56 13
    9/12-15/80 Gallup 37 55 8
    8/15-18/80 Gallup 32 55 13 1600
    7/11-14/80 Gallup 33 55 12 1548
    6/27-30/80 Gallup 31 58 11 1569
    6/13-16/80 Gallup 32 56 12 1583
    5/30-6/2/80 Gallup 38 52 10 1597
    5/16-19/80 Gallup 38 51 11 1582
    5/2-5/80 Gallup 43 47 10 1530
    4/11-14/80 Gallup 39 50 11 1549
    3/28-31/80 Gallup 39 51 10 1571
    3/7-10/80 Gallup 43 45 12 1583
    2/29-3/3/80 Gallup 52 38 10
    2/1-4/80 Gallup 55 36 9 1584
    1/25-28/80 Gallup 58 32 10 1597
    1/4-7/80 Gallup 56 33 11 1620

    Carter’s numbers had fallen from 56% approval at the beginning of 1980 to 39% in the last survey before the raid. They went up slightly in the poll taken right after the raid before settling down. Yes, Carter’s numbers dipped again, slighly, starting in June. But surely that’s a result of the Republican convention and a relentless presidential campaign, not a raid that happened in April.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Andy says:

    @Barry: @michael reynolds:

    I have no problem with calling out people for their dumb criticisms of the President or holding people to account for things they actually say and do. There have certainly been a lot of weak attempts to paint him as incompetent or whatever.

    What I object to are the sweeping generalizations that try to put everyone in the enemy tribe into a neat little box and then predict with absolute certainty how they all would act given a specific counterfactual. It may be a handy rhetorical device to get high-fives from the like-minded, but it’s still, at best, intellectually lazy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  30. mantis says:

    It may be a handy rhetorical device to get high-fives from the like-minded, but it’s still, at best, intellectually lazy.

    Hypotheticals/predictions based on a preponderance of evidence are not intellectually lazy. There is plenty to support the assumption that the right wing would have collectively attacked the president day and night had the raid failed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  31. I was a little older, and I do remember Carter carrying the stink of the failed mission. Fact

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  32. MM says:

    @Andy: I typically hate the “if something completely different had happened, here’s how you would have acted” argument, however I don’t think it unreasonable to make that assumption. As mentioned above, the Bin Laden raid was minimized by the right and the list helicopter was criticized (and this was a raid that succeeded). There were also point and sputter attacks about the disposal of the corpse. Michelle Malkin was trying to start the rumor that Obama chickened out and that the SEAL team told him to pound sand.

    The guy can’t even eat Dijon mustard, there’s no way he wouldn’t have been utterly battered over a failed raid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  33. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    What I object to are the sweeping generalizations that try to put everyone in the enemy tribe into a neat little box and then predict with absolute certainty how they all would act given a specific counterfactual. It may be a handy rhetorical device to get high-fives from the like-minded, but it’s still, at best, intellectually lazy.

    I’d say it’s intellectually lazy to palm it off as tribalism, (just another version of ‘both sides do it’) or to suggest that anyone said “all” Republicans would do anything. One can generalize about a political organization without meaning every last individual. I can say Democrats are pro-choice despite the fact that some are not.

    We don’t need to guess how Republicans might react, we’ve seen how they did react. How they did in fact react is a pretty darned good indicator of how they would have reacted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  34. Andy says:

    @MM: I’m not saying the President wouldn’t take criticism in the event of a failed raid and I’m sure he’d get criticism from the GoP. I simply think it’s a little much to opine with certainty that a large group of people, people who happen to be political adversaries or the American people (which was what James was talking about) , would act a certain way. In reality, I think the kind of criticism and how widespread it was would actually depend on the specifics of the counter-factual.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  35. Barry says:

    @Andy: “What I object to are the sweeping generalizations that try to put everyone in the enemy tribe into a neat little box and then predict with absolute certainty how they all would act given a specific counterfactual. It may be a handy rhetorical device to get high-fives from the like-minded, but it’s still, at best, intellectually lazy. ”

    Stop lying. We’ve repeatedly pointed out what they did with a successful raid.

    Do you actually believe that they’ve been less harsh if the raid had been a failure?

    As for tribalism, thanks for adding another point to the iron law of right-wing projection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  36. Andy says:

    @michael reynolds: Michael, if you have a better word than tribalism then I’m all ears. Maybe truthiness? And yeah, both sides do it – GoP partisans make unreasonable generalizations about Democrats all the time. That doesn’t make it right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Andy says:

    @Barry:

    Stop lying. We’ve repeatedly pointed out what they did with a successful raid.

    You have mind-reading powers too? Right-wing projection? All said without irony?

    What “they” did with a successful raid?

    Romney: “congratulations to our intelligence community, our military and the President.”
    Pawlenty: “I want to congratulate America’s armed forces and President Obama for a job well done.”
    GWB: “I congratulated him [President Obama] and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude.”
    McCain:”I commend the president and his team, as well as our men and women in uniform and our intelligence professionals, for this superb achievement.”
    Boehner: “I also want to commend President Obama and his team, as well as President Bush, for all of their efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.”
    Darth Cheney:”I also want to congratulate President Obama and the members of his national security team”
    Karl Rove: “Congratulations also to President Obama and his national security team for their adroit leadership of this operation.”

    He got a lot of congratulations. Could the GoP congrats have been more heartfelt? Sure.

    Look, this is going to me last comment on this topic so feel free to have the last word. The only point I’m trying to make is that generalizing about political opponents is usually kinda dumb and obviously subject to confirmation bias. I don’t rely on Republicans to tell me what Democrats wouldn’t or wouldn’t do in hypothetical situations and vice-versa. ’nuff said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  38. jukeboxgrad says:

    remember that the context is that both McCain and Romney (Clinton too if I recall) — went after Obama hard on his statement that he’d go into Pakistan to get bin Laden if given a chance. This was a major talking point, remember? That Obama was naive, didn’t understand international relations or the military, and so on.

    Exactly. In the prior thread I cited numerous examples of such statements.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  39. mantis says:

    GoP partisans make unreasonable generalizations about Democrats all the time. That doesn’t make it right.

    This particular generalization is quite reasonable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. Jeremy R says:

    @11B40:

    That picture of President Obama et al. still reminds me of when one of the youngster would come over to the adults’ table at Christmas dinner.

    Back in my military daze, there was a bit of folk wisdom that went “Lead, follow, or stand out of the way.” The last is probably the best I can do for President Obama.

    You folks at least nominally pretend to respect the military side of the Bin Laden raid, so then have the decency to take Adm. McRaven at his word when he describes the President as an exemplary leader & CiC:

    http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2101745_2102133_2102330-4,00.html

    “The President was at all times presidential,” he says. “I would contend he was the smartest guy in the room. He had leadership skills we’d expect from a guy who had 35 years in the military.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  41. Charlie says:

    McCain and Boehner accuse the President of using the raid for crass political purposes. Yes, they both congratulated him after the event, but how often have they stated or implied that Democrat Obama is incompetent, especially in regard to national defense? Countering that oft-repeated charge is just smart strategy.

    Read Graham Allison’s Time Magazine analysis “How It Went Down.”

    You may think I’m suggesting that a less intelligent man, say George W. or Mitt, would be less likely to achieve the same result; I am.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  42. Racehorse says:

    I certainly think that Obama deserves a lot of credit and history for his call on this operation.
    Here are the other great military operations of history:
    General Washington crosses the Delaware in a surprise attack on the British at Trenton
    Allied invasion of Normandy on DDay in WWII
    General Sam Houston’s victory over the Mexican army at San Jacinto
    General Andrew Jackson’s masterful victory over a larger, well armed British force at New Orleans
    Teddy Roosevelt’s charge at San Juan Hill
    What do you think?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Joyner: Hard to tell from that chart. It looks like, counterintuitively, Carter’s numbers soared after the hostages were taken, dropped around February, and spike slightly after the raid before falling back to pre-raid levels.

    That interpretation makes a lot of sense. At the hostage-taking, as in most crises, Americans tend to rally behind the president. We get pissed, and want our president to deal with it.

    Then, when it was clear Carter was going to do nothing, the support dropped.

    When the raid went down, people (including young me) said “hey, at least he tried!” and were impressed that he’d actually taken action. Then, as details came out and things settled right back to the status quo, the mood went back to the status quo.

    Lines up pretty nicely with my own memories of those times.

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  44. Dazedandconfused says:

    Partially agree. Mogadishu, despite the howling, didn’t cost Clinton much. Conversely, mousing out in Rwanda didn’t hurt him much (if at all) either.

    The all-important “middle” tends to give these guys the benefit of the doubt.

    How gutsy the OBL raid was from an operational stand point we can’t judge, IMO. What we see is only the unclassified stuff.

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  45. Jenos Idanian says:

    There are several reasons why people blame Clinton for Mogadishu. First, the mission was sold to us and started out as a purely humanitarian one. Then it became about building a functional nation out of extreme chaos.

    Second, Clinton had put limits on the military’s equipment in Mogadishu. When things started getting tense, the Army wanted to bring in tanks and other armored vehicles. Clinton’s Secretary of Defense said, essentially, that since the Somalis didn’t have tanks, we didn’t need them, either. So when the Blackhawks went down, we didn’t have the tanks and other armored vehicles that could simply plow through the Somalis and rescue our troops.

    Finally, we can be a vengeful people. And Clinton didn’t avenge those deaths.

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  46. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    There are several reasons why people blame Clinton for Mogadishu.

    Clinton deserved criticism for the Mogadishu failure. People did not like the outcome in Mogadishu, to be sure. However our attention span was fairly short on that one because we did not commit ourselves to a long-term involvement with tens of thousands of troops shipped out to Somalia.

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  47. Jenos Idanian says:

    @al-Ameda: I am sad to admit you’re right. I have to be reminded of my outrage at the time, and how Clinton’s very bad decisions led to it.

    Now that I think of it… I’m remembering CNN airing live the US special forces landing on the beaches, with cameras and lights. I’m getting pissed all over again…

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  48. Racehorse says:

    One other military operation, probably the greatest achievement in military history, was General Patton’s relief of the 101st. Airborne that was under siege at Bastogne in the famous Battle of the Bulge. Reading about this march, one is simply stunned by the figures: a million and a half mile march in some of the worst . Eisenhower told him to wait, but Patton had already planned this move ahead of orders from the Allied commanders.

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  49. Scott O. says:

    @Jenos Idanian: I hope you remember which president started our involvement in Somalia. In retrospect it might have been wise for Clinton to withdraw the troops shortly after taking office but I can imagine what the reaction to that would have been.

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  50. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Scott O.: Yes, I do remember — Bush I sent the troops in to take over the ports and administer the humanitarian aid for the starving.

    In December 1992. About a month before Clinton took office.

    Clinton then turned it into a nation-building exercise that resulted in a whole lot of deaths. Including too many Americans.

    Gee, a Bush plan of questionable wisdom is picked up and run with by his Democratic successor, who takes that bad idea and blows it up into a horrifically bad enterprise that ends up getting Americans killed.

    It’s like it was a dry run for Fast & Furious.

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  51. Racehorse says:

    Sorry about the omitted words (I’m not a good multitasker):>…in some of the worst weather in years.
    The million and a half miles was the combined distance covered by his battalions, vehicles, and supply chain.

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  52. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Actually, the Somalia operation was NOTHING like Fast & Furious.

    But your attempt to “blame Bush” for it is very, very reminiscent of the spin being used there, however.

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  53. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    No. We wanted to leave, but leaving with the guy who tried to starve the tribes of the south-central regions still in charge was not deemed a smart move at the time. Like freakin’ leaving Pol Pot in charge of Cambodia, or Hitler in charge of the Jews.

    They cobbled together a raid to take him out. It didn’t go well.

    Turned out that he had enough of being invaded and occupied, so he didn’t try to finish the job after we left.

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  54. Scott O. says:

    @Jenos Idanian:Did I blame Bush? I just wanted to point out that putting all the blame on Clinton as you have been doing omits part of the story. What do you think Clinton should have done differently?

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  55. 11B40 says:

    @Jeremy R:

    Greetings, Jeremy:

    At the risk of appearing contentious, I can’t help but wonder how much you know or understand about how officers attain general and flag (admiral) ranks. Politics, believe it or not, has quite a bit to do with it. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen officers of those ranks do anything but snap to when their rulers are involve. You can call a pig an eagle but it still ain’t going to fly.

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  56. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Clinton then turned it into a nation-building exercise that resulted in a whole lot of deaths. Including too many Americans.

    This too is wrong. The ramp up in logistical capabilities began in early January, right after Georges trip to Biadoa. The original plan to get-r-done with all indigenous capabilities was clearly not working fast enough.

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  57. An Interested Party says:

    That picture of President Obama et al. still reminds me of when one of the youngster would come over to the adults’ table at Christmas dinner.

    Back in my military daze, there was a bit of folk wisdom that went “Lead, follow, or stand out of the way.” The last is probably the best I can do for President Obama.

    I don’t doubt that it sticks in your craw that the little black boy was the president responsible for taking down bin Laden…

    And, sightly off topic, conservatives are attacking Obama for publishing photos of the White House Situation Room. The same Situation Room that Bush published photos of during its unveiling after it had been renovated. Or when Bush used it as a photo-op two days after the start of the invasion of Iraq. Ditto for Reagan and Libya.

    IOKIYAR, of course…

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  58. An Interested Party says:

    It’s interesting that the idea of the adults’ table at Christmas was mentioned…George W. Bush needed a few people from daddy’s table, not only to help him become president, but also to work in his administration, and he still screwed things up…

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  59. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Dazedandconfused: Yeah, that might have been a good idea. Would’ve been better if Clinton had let them have the troops and hardware to actually pull it off.

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  60. Ian says:

    James, I respectfully disagree. The Republicans have been trying to “Carter-ize” Obama from day one. Adding a failed military op to the current economic malaise would have legitimized this attack, and I do really believe that Romney would have been leading the charge. As such, I do think it required courage to order the attack. Conversely, I don’t see Romney as a particularly courageous man, for whatever nice things you can say about him. So it was a big deal to me, and it plays a large role in why I support Obama despite my disappointments with his first term.

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  61. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    They had everything they asked for.

    I may be in the minority, but I believe one of our moles ratted us out. There were too many fighters that showed up too quick. What threw them was they expected to have more warning. They expected us to roll in, not fast-rope, so several were rounded up anyway.

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  62. Will says:

    “Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush was the most outspoken supporter: “I unequivocally support the president—no ifs, ands, or buts…He made a difficult, courageous decision.””

    Does anyone honestly believe a statement like that would have been made by Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, et al, in the wake of a failed bin Laden raid?

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  63. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Dazedandconfused: I’ve heard several accounts that the commander on the ground wanted M1 tanks and Bradleys, but was denied them. If he’d had those, then “rolling in” might have been a better option.

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  64. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I’m sure you heard they were thinking he would stay put while the tanks rolled in too.

    They didn’t ask for shit. Didn’t even alert the 10th Mountain or the Pakis, who had tanks, before they did it. You heard hindsight CYA crap.

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