Should Obama Hunt Osama?

In “Hunting Bin Laden,” a piece for New Atlanticist, I look at arguments made by Juan Cole and Robert Baer on President-Elect Obama’s vow to renew the effort to hunt down the al Qaeda leader.

Short version:  We’re already trying and success won’t matter all that much.

Long version: See the link.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Irony of the day. Your title here, given the play on words and the subject, brings a memory of an otherwise unmemorable work…

    “Was Dog A Dognut?” -Yusef Islam

  2. anjin-san says:

    Let’s set aside for a moment the question of Bin Laden’s death or capture having a significant impact in the war on terror.

    How about a little justice for the thousands of Americans he is responsible for murdering? That is a good enough reason to go at him a bit harder all by itself.

  3. Davebo says:

    I’m with you anjin-san.

    Additionally, my measly income tax liability this year will have absolutely no effect on the federal deficit so I’m trying to persuade Obama to appoint James as head of the IRS.

    After all, anjin-san is the central front on the war on tax evaders!

  4. Brian says:

    How about a little justice for the thousands of Americans he is responsible for murdering? That is a good enough reason to go at him a bit harder all by itself.

    Yes, there’s that. I think Bush had that in mind as well. But the question is, what exactly can Obama do more than what is already being done?

    If Osama is at the top of the CIA to-do list, and there are increasing military operations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan regions (where Osama is supposed to be)what else is there to do?

    I suppose the approach could be a bit different, but that’s not traditionally in the purview of the President. And rightly so, strategical matters should probably be left up top military brass.

    Obama’s public announcements seem more for political gain with the right than for actual military objectives.

  5. Eric says:

    Short version: We’re already trying and success won’t matter all that much.

    I disagree with this assessment as well and will hop on the Anjin-san Express.

    Certainly revitalizing the hunt for bin Laden could prove to wasted effort, or, as you say, an albatross around Obama’s neck as he has been for Bush. However, capturing (or killing) the figurehead of a movement, insurrection, government, et cetera seems to me to have always been high priority at any point in history.

    There may indeed come a point where perhaps it may be politically or militarily impossible, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near that point yet. And, at the risk of sounding snarky, let’s remember that we spared no expense in overthrowing a leader who did not attack us at all (Hussein). So why should we let bin Laden get away perpetrating so much more against us?

    As Anjin says, a little justice for the three thousand people killed is enough for me to continue the hunt for bin Laden.

  6. mannning says:

    What a thriller it would be if our forces, under Obama’s leadership, were able to capture or kill Osama!

    What a boost for Obama, too. In fact, he just might be “made” in the eyes of a huge majority by that one event. That would be a first class political victory for Obama.

    But, it seems to me that short of invading the tribal area, surrounding it, and then closing in on Osama’s possible hideouts, not much more can be done that isn’t already in the works. Not only would we have Pakistan on our backs for violating their sovereignty, but also we just might come up empty-handed in the process.

    Is Osama really where we believe him to be?

  7. markm says:

    Who says we are not chasing windmills?…i’d bet it’s better than 50/50 he’s already dead.

  8. M1EK says:

    think Bush had that in mind as well.

    Really? So he thought Osama was in Iraq? And we really strong-armed the Saudis instead of just keeping quiet while they continued to churn out extremists and money for the same?

    Do you people have any shame at all?

  9. markm says:

    I just watched a report on the news on this subject. Seems like many current and former CIA types think he’s already dead. They said they have no concrete evidence he survived 2001.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    To make the case for an action the action must be possible. If it’s not possible, the beneficial consequences of achieving the result are specious. Once it’s been determined that something is possible the question becomes whether the cost of doing it is worth achieving the positive results or avoiding the negative results.

    I haven’t seen anybody make the case so far that we can kill or apprehend Osama bin Laden let alone establish the costs of doing so.

  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I agree we should keep after Bin Ladin. However, wehre is it we propose to hunt for him? He is not in Afghanistan. Pakistan is a nuclear armed nation that might just resist an invasion of the size necessary to get Osama. If it would have been easy, I can assure you Pres. Bush would have gotten it done. It boggles the mind some think Obama would be competent in the area terror fighting.

  12. Michael says:

    How about a little justice for the thousands of Americans he is responsible for murdering? That is a good enough reason to go at him a bit harder all by itself.

    And will killing or capturing Bin Laden provide justice for those thousands of Americans? Will it be enough?

  13. Michael says:

    I haven’t seen anybody make the case so far that we can kill or apprehend Osama bin Laden let alone establish the costs of doing so.

    There is certainly nothing that would make it impossible to do, so the most you can really say is that nobody has made the case that it is probable.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Seems like many current and former CIA types think he’s already dead. They said they have no concrete evidence he survived 2001.

    Well, that is a convienient excuse for failure…

    And will killing or capturing Bin Laden provide justice for those thousands of Americans? Will it be enough?

    For me, I would say yes. The families of the victims might have more to say.

  15. anjin-san says:

    If it would have been easy, I can assure you Pres. Bush would have gotten it done.

    We don’t hire Presidents to do the easy stuff. Anyone can do that.

  16. Dave Schuler says:

    There is certainly nothing that would make it impossible to do, so the most you can really say is that nobody has made the case that it is probable.

    That’s called “burden shifting”. It’s another fallacy.

  17. markm says:

    Seems like many current and former CIA types think he’s already dead. They said they have no concrete evidence he survived 2001.

    Well, that is a convienient excuse for failure…

    Orrrrr just a fact that we have no credible intel on him post 2001. Most likely dead.

  18. Michael says:

    That’s called “burden shifting”. It’s another fallacy.

    I wasn’t shifting the burden, merely pointing out that it is technically possible to kill or capture Bin Laden, and that your previous statement was more trying to state that the probability of doing so was low, not that it was an impossible feat.

  19. Bithead says:

    DERAIL: (In the form of Britt Hume)

    As recently as the weekend President-elect Obama said that killing Usama bin Laden is a critical aspect of winning the War on Terror, but former CIA field officer Robert Baer asks at Time Magazine online, “When will Obama give up the bin Laden ghost hunt?”

    He says the last reliable sighting of the terror leader was in a 2001 video. He also says experts suggest those countless bin Laden audio tapes could have been old recordings edited with software to give the appearance that he is alive and, “There’s the mystery why bin Laden didn’t pop up during the election.”

    Baer says a number of his former CIA colleagues also assume bin Laden is dead. “One day Obama will need to give up the hunt… he has more important enemies to deal with, from Iran to Russia.”

  20. markm says:

    ….that sounds familiar……

  21. Bithead says:

    So it is.
    Thought an outside voice useful.

  22. Dave Schuler says:

    I wasn’t shifting the burden, merely pointing out that it is technically possible to kill or capture Bin Laden

    That’s not a proof; it’s an unsubstantiated claim.

  23. markm says:

    So it is.
    Thought an outside voice useful.

    Oh, thanks. Anyhow, let’s say we build a giant wooden badger and we roll through the Pakistani tribal areas and search for a grave, divet or a splatter mark.

    What a thriller it would be if…..

    snicker….now THAT is embarassing. Gather it up dude.

  24. Anderson says:

    That would be a first class political victory for Obama.

    Bingo. And he’s a politician.

    As for “Osama’s dead,” we heard that plenty before the 2004 videotape. What gives? What counts as “evidence” for anonymous self-proclaimed spooks?

  25. anjin-san says:

    Bit is still tuning in to Fox to find out what he thinks. There is a real shocker…

  26. markm says:

    As for “Osama’s dead,” we heard that plenty before the 2004 videotape. What gives? What counts as “evidence” for anonymous self-proclaimed spooks?

    Alllz you need to know is “that is a convienient excuse for failure…” and the CIA is in teh bag for GDub and he’s alive and well…no,suriously.

  27. markm says:

    Bit is still tuning in to Fox to find out what he thinks.

    Cause, according to Ayers, FOX is EEEEEEEvil. GODDDAMN AMERICUH. Sniff.

  28. Michael says:

    That’s not a proof; it’s an unsubstantiated claim.

    Wait, what? Are you being facetious?

  29. G.A.Phillips says:

    How about a little justice for the thousands of Americans he is responsible for murdering? That is a good enough reason to go at him a bit harder all by itself.

    I’m with you too bro, carpet bomb that Dirty cave dwelling camel blowing donkey humping spiderhole creeping^(*^(^er #^%#^ers head off!

  30. markm says:

    How about a little justice for the thousands of Americans he is responsible for murdering? That is a good enough reason to go at him a bit harder all by itself.

    I’m with you too bro, carpet bomb that Dirty cave dwelling camel…….

    Hawkey somehow doesn’t fit with Hopey/Changey.

  31. Bithead says:

    Cause, according to Ayers, FOX is EEEEEEEvil. GODDDAMN AMERICUH. Sniff.

    Yeah. Anjin still watching Ayers to se what Anjin is supposed to think. Big shock, that.

    Hawkey somehow doesn’t fit with Hopey/Changey.

    The left, after decades of campaigning against hate, has revealed in practice what it would never admit in it’s rhetoric… it’s not that you hate, but WHOM…

  32. markm says:

    AAAAAaaaaand sorda on the subject of hunting OBL we have a fresh splatter mark(s):

    http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=081119124755.jtc47ype&show_article=1

    SO…other than what we are doing, what more is a fella to do to get him…or find his stain???. Boots on the ground in Pakistan???. Hell, more boots on the ground in Afghanistan is gunna cause the Code Pink side of the party go silly..errr..sillier.

    What’s the new plan…what is to be done that isn’t being done now????.

  33. anjin-san says:

    The left, after decades of campaigning against hate, has revealed in practice what it would never admit in it’s rhetoric… it’s not that you hate, but WHOM…

    Well, we can always count on Captain Clueless not to get it.

    The far right produces far more hate than our country needs, I for one do not wish to add to it.

    Wanting justice is not an act of hate. The desire for justice is a positive act, justice is part of what makes a civilization. Going after Bin Laden is done out of necessity, with regret for the act of taking any life, even one we regard as evil.

  34. Bithead says:

    Wanting justice is not an act of hate.The desire for justice is a positive act, justice is part of what makes a civilization.

    YOu may not know this, but you’ve just opened yourself up for all kinds of comments. Keep this one bookmarked, kids. It will come up again, I promise you.

  35. markm says:

    The far right produces far more hate than our country needs, I for one do not wish to add to it.

    Wow..guess you haven’t seen a LWinger protest of any kind. And i’m sure the ruckos in San Fran is the gay fringe of the far right.

    Wanting justice is not an act of hate. The desire for justice is a positive act, justice is part of what makes a civilization.

    Splains why so many folks were a little upset about Ayers & Co. and the company he kept, not to mention the citizens he killed for his cause.

  36. anjin-san says:

    Splains why so many folks were a little upset about Ayers & Co. and the company he kept, not to mention the citizens he killed for his cause.

    The United States DOJ has access to Ayres any time they want him and they have had it for decades. In what way has he evaded justice?

  37. anjin-san says:

    And i’m sure the ruckos in San Fran is the gay fringe of the far right.

    I live about 20 minutes from San Francisco, I have a pretty good idea about what goes on there. The gay “rioting” we have heard about exists in the imagination of people like Hannity & Rush.

    The “White Night” riot of so many years ago was an actual riot.

  38. markm says:

    I live about 20 minutes from San Francisco, I have a pretty good idea about what goes on there.

    ..wow…I pictured Ssan Fran to be pretty big. For what it’s worth, I live about 30 minutes out of Auburn Hills. Not as big as Frisco…but i don’t have a f*cking clue what goes on there.

    The gay “rioting” we have heard about exists in the imagination of people like Hannity & Rush.

    Plenty of video takes the imagination out of it.

    Back on topic…What’s the new plan…what is to be done that isn’t being done now to get OBL????.

  39. anjin-san says:

    YOu may not know this, but you’ve just opened yourself up for all kinds of comments.

    Comment away dude. You might even contribute something worthwhile if you engage in enough typing.

  40. anjin-san says:

    Plenty of video takes the imagination out of it.

    Please share.

    but i don’t have a f*cking clue what goes on there.

    Well, maybe you should work at becoming less clueless.

  41. markm says:

    Plenty of video takes the imagination out of it.

    Please share.

    Is your Youtube broke?.

    Well, maybe you should work at becoming less clueless.

    Ouchy. Hater.

    Back on topic…What’s the new plan…what is to be done that isn’t being done now to get OBL????.

    Any reason for the prance around?

  42. anjin-san says:

    Is your Youtube broke

    Spoken like someone playing a very weak hand…

  43. anjin-san says:

    Back on topic…What’s the new plan…what is to be done that isn’t being done now to get OBL????.

    Its not complicated. Bush is on record saying Bin Laden is not a priority.

    http://thinkprogress.org/2006/09/14/barnes-osama/

    Any reason for the prance around

    Prance around? What’s up with that? Is all this talk about gay rioters getting you worked up?

  44. markm says:

    Is your Youtube broke

    Spoken like someone playing a very weak hand…

    Uh..there’s ton’s of videos there on the matter as well as videos being played on the TEE VEE.

  45. markm says:

    Back on topic…What’s the new plan…what is to be done that isn’t being done now to get OBL????.

    Its not complicated. Bush is on record saying Bin Laden is not a priority.

    That may have something to do with the fact that the CIA has no credible evidence he’s alive thus making it hard to make killing him or capturing him a priority.

    Prance around? What’s up with that? Is all this talk about gay rioters getting you worked up?

    No, just have not heard what we should do different. Still have not even with the segue through gay rioting.

  46. Bithead says:

    The United States DOJ has access to Ayres any time they want him and they have had it for decades. In what way has he evaded justice?

    So, does this mean you’re now calling for the arrest to Ayers and Dorn on Murder and terrorism charges?

    Somehow, I suspect your hunger for justice doesn’t extend quite so far.

  47. anjin-san says:

    So, does this mean you’re now calling for the arrest to Ayers and Dorn on Murder and terrorism charges?

    As far as I know there is no statute of limitations on murder. The DOJ can arrest him any time if he is guilty.

    By all means, continue your Ayers obsession bit, you are sort of the digital equivelent of the guy I see ranting on the corner by the overpass on my way to work.

    How about a word from the Fed who was in charge of prosecuting the Weathermen?

    In this letter to the editor of the NYTimes, ex Federal Eastern District, Weatherman Prosecutor William Ibershof calls the much overhyped link between Sen Obama and Ayers a fallacy. “Because Senator Obama recently served on a board of a charitable organization with Mr. Ayers cannot possibly link the senator to acts perpetrated by Mr. Ayers so many years ago.”