Wednesday, May 2nd marks the one year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death, the day when the world's most wanted man was finally brought to justice in his Abbottabad compound. Justice came at the hands of SEAL Team 6, via two 5.56 NATO rounds fired from a SOPMOD M4A1 rifle . The soldier who ultimately killed Bin Laden conveyed his accomplishment by declaring "For God and country - Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo!" These powerful words, a combination of a Latin phrase and the operational codename for their primary target, were the first uttered in a post-Bin Laden world.
In the 365 days since this successful mission was executed with surgical precision, a partisan dialogue has emerged over Operation Neptune Spear. Here are the two critiques of how President Barack Obama has tried to politicize his success in an election year:
1. Obama really didn't do anything of major operational significance, he just gave authorization for an obvious decision. This is an argument from ignorance, plain and simple. The outcome had the potential to be the worst American military fiasco since Operation Eagle Claw during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, or more recently, to 'Black Hawk Down' in 1993. Bin Laden was located within the borders of the sovereign nation of Pakistan, and only minutes away from the Pakistan Military Academy, their equivalent to West Point. Compounding the risk was the current anti-American political climate among Pakistanis, not to mention the fact that this was the first time a nuclear state would have their sovereignty directly challenged in such a manner.
Furthermore, as Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama is the supreme commander of the United States Armed Forces. This integral role should not be overlooked. SEAL Team 6 launching a ground operation was never set in stone. Obama was presented with three potential courses of action. The first was a joint US/Pakistani ground operation, easily the most diplomatic. Second was having the site renovated from a compound to a crater, courtesy of a B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. Third was the option of the Seal Team 6 raid. The decision to go with the latter of the three options was not the easiest choice. The joint operation had a high potential for error because of Pakistani intel leaks, logistical time delays, and a lack of prior precedent for how to conduct a US/PAK operation. The sortie would have guaranteed target annihilation, but would have had catastrophic levels of collateral damage, and no bodies to account for the mission's justification. So while the third option looked the most tantalizing, it put 79 American soldiers on the ground in pursuit of an unconfirmed target.
Regardless of what the President may or may not be doing in regards to referencing the success of this operation, credit must be given where credit is due. Diminishing Obama's role in Bin Laden's takedown is more petty, ignorant, and deleterious than what any superimposed political narrative is accusing the President of doing.
2. Obama is employing divisive and unethical rhetoric when using Bin Laden's death as a part of his 2012 campaign platform. There are so many elements wrong with this assertion. Most prominently is the fact that the majority of these attacks are coming from the right. While there may be legitimate critiques, Republicans are being hypocritical in their claims. The outline for what the Obama 2012 campaign is doing in terms of using national security, foreign policy, and successes in a war is no different than the Bush 2004 campaign (as Slate demonstrates).
Should President Obama be able to laud the success of killing Bin Laden as part of his campaign? Without question. Especially because of his visit to Afghanistan and Bagram Airbase yesterday. To question Obama's visit to an active war zone to visit American troops on the anniversary of Bin Laden's death, simply proves the foolishness and ignorance of those accusing him of grabbing cheap political gains.
Personally, I cannot think of a stronger message to send to the world than to return to the homeland of al-Qaeda on the one year anniversary of their founder's demise at our hands, and outlining a way to responsibly draw down a decade long conflict.
History has shown that hasty military withdrawals that are irrespective and inconsiderate of real world implications have extremely negative consequences. And before anybody scoffs at President Obama's announcement to commit U.S. and NATO forces to Afghanistan for the next decade, remember how all of this began in the first place. Like it or not, al-Qaeda grew from the seeds of the American-backed Afghan Mujahadeen that fought against the Soviets forces during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The gravitas of this salute to America's determination and accomplishments easily exceeds Bush's landing on an aircraft carrier to proclaim 'Mission Accomplished.' And if the question were asked "Would Mitt Romney visit American troops at Bagram Airbase, in an active war zone, on the one year anniversary of Bin Laden's demise?" The answer would be 'No.' Mitt Romney decided to just mail it in.