Streetwise Professor

May 2, 2011

Payback

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:08 am

Osama Bin Laden is dead, and blessedly at the hands of US Navy SEALs rather than as the result of kidney failure or somesuch.

President Obama deserves praise for approving a high risk operation.  He pulled the trigger–which can be a very hard thing to do–but the gun was nearly a decade in the making.

Obama’s announcement speech was too maudlin for my taste, and the “we are not at war with Islam” trope was grating.  Most disappointingly, however, he was characteristically churlish in his invidious, though implicit, comparison of himself to Bush:

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

The comparison is particularly disappointing given revelations that the key piece of intelligence that set off the painstaking effort that ultimately led to Osama’s demise was obtained as the result of an interrogation in the very Guantanamo Bay facility that Obama repeatedly demonized in his campaign and during his time in office (though he did not follow through on his promise to close it).  Somehow I’m guessing that they didn’t get the source to give up the information on OBL’s courier by bribing him with promises of an extra fig at dessert.

As for the consequences of the killing: viscerally satisfying, operationally irrelevant.  Operationally irrelevant because a man who is communicating to the world only through one or two couriers is incapable of exerting any real operational control over a far-flung terrorist network.

The most important consequences of eliminating Bin Laden will be what this causes to happen in Pakistan, and between Pakistan and the United States.  The answers to the who-knew-what-when-in-Pakistan questions could have explosive repercussions.  Along those lines, I have seen no reporting on what intelligence information (documents, computers, etc.) was obtained from the compound, or on who is in control of the site now and what is being done there to obtain information.  (Methinks that is part of the reason why Obama decided against a B-2 strike on the facility–and a good thing, too.)  What is learned from the detritus of Osama’s life could have seismic effects in that unstable country, and due to that very instability, predicting what those effects might be is virtually impossible.

In sum, this is finishing up some old business.  What it portends for the future depends on how it shakes things up in Pakistan.

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7 Comments »

  1. Again “I, I, I…. I gave an order to make it top priority”. Clinton put Osama on the most wanted list in 1999. Bush made it top priority to “capture or kill OBL” shortly after 9/11. This guy just can’t resist to stroke his own ego.

    Comment by voroBey — May 2, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

  2. 1) Where was it revealed the intel came from Guantanamo? The Wikileaks docs I saw were about info from 2003. Surely that was not the same lead and it was not successfully followed until 2010?

    2) Worth remarking that when Obama said during the 2008 campaign that he would track bin Laden down in Pakistan if necessary, he was mocked by McCain and the GOP as being hopelessly naive

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2011_05/029220.php

    Comment by curmudgeonly troll — May 2, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  3. SWP, it appears from photographs of the compound that the Pakistani Army is in control of the compound, and internally, it looks trashed. Combine that with the 40 minutes in and out, and it’s safe to say the SEALs removed every bit of actionable intelligence from the facility. I don’t think this saves Obama’s re-election hopes though.

    Comment by Jack — May 2, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  4. “President Obama deserves praise for approving a high risk operation. He pulled the trigger–which can be a very hard thing to do”

    Sorry Professor but you lost me on this-if he had pulled the trigger I would agree. But then it must have been tough spending a couple hours sequestered with Joe Biden and Hillary.

    I will contribute generously to a fund so these Seals have free beer for the rest of their lives.

    Comment by pahoben — May 2, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  5. Why the burial at sea? Why not feed him to the pigs with cameras rolling?

    Comment by So? — May 2, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

  6. One of the Wikileaks interrogation documents of al-libi mentions the trusted courier Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan asking him if he would serves as the messenger between bin Laden and various people in Pakistan. al-libi agreed and stated that he moved with his family to Abottabad and worked between that city and Peshawar. This seems to be pretty darn good locational intelligence. Let’s just assume his location was known since 2008 then why did they pick this moment to take him out. It’s a bit early for full election impact. Going away gift for Gates is not reasonable. Is it to have some impact on Pakistan or did Pakistan really approve the operation at this time because they are up to their necks in Taliban?

    I know hindsight is 20/20 but given the location as Abottabad any reasonable analyst would have flagged the compound as suspicious in a couple hours using just Google Earth.

    Comment by pahoben — May 2, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

  7. Also strange this Wikileaks was released last week-maybe that forced their hand and they had to use this earlier then was hoped for with respect to the election.

    Comment by pahoben — May 2, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

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