Sometimes something is written which has you shaking your head in both wonder and disgust as you read it. Michael Hirsh manages that in his National Journal article entitled “Obama’s War” where he states:
Ever so gingerly, even as they praised President Obama’s success against Osama bin Laden, some former senior Bush administration officials have sought to take a little credit for the mission themselves. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, interviewed by MSNBC this week, even called the operation “a good story for continuity across two presidencies.”
That assessment couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, in a convoluted way, he’s right – the major kudos should go to the Bush administration.
Look, you expect a little cheerleading concerning the killing of Osama because of the desperate desire by the left to make Obama into something he’s simply not – the steely eyed Commander-in-Chief solely responsible for the result of the bin Laden raid.
But any impartial observer who knows a thing or two about how taking down someone like OBL occurs simply knows that’s not the case.
Given, Osama bin Laden was killed on Obama’s watch. He gave the order. Good for him, and thank you for making the decision. But let’s be real – it wasn’t much of a decision to make. This was America’s most wanted – heck, he was the West’s most wanted. How do you not make that decision?
But Hirsh, goes off into history revision-land in an attempt to give all the credit to Obama and none to Bush. He seems to understand that making the decision really isn’t that special so he attempts to rewrite recent history in such a way that he can, one assumes, credibly make the claim that this was all Obama. He, among a long line of journalists who may know politics, but have little knowledge of intelligence operations, makes a hash of his attempt. He attempts to convince us the only thing Obama didn’t inherit from Bush was anything to do with taking out bin Laden.
Hirsh pitches this:
From his first great public moment when, as a state senator, he called Iraq a “dumb war,” Obama indicated that he thought that George W. Bush had badly misconceived the challenge of 9/11. And very quickly upon taking office as president, Obama reoriented the war back to where, in the view of many experts, it always belonged. He discarded the idea of a “global war on terror” that conflated all terror threats from al-Qaida to Hamas to Hezbollah. Obama replaced it with a covert, laserlike focus on al-Qaida and its spawn.
This reorientation was part of Obama’s reset of America’s relations with the world. Bush, having gradually expanded his definition of the war to include all Islamic “extremists,” had condemned the United States to a kind of permanent war, one that Americans had to fight all but alone because no one else agreed on such a broadly defined enemy. (Hezbollah and Hamas, for example, arguably had legitimate political aims that al-Qaida did not, which is one reason they distanced themselves from bin Laden.) In Obama’s view, only by focusing narrowly on true transnational terrorism, and winning back all of the natural allies that the United States had lost over the previous decade, could he achieve America’s goal of uniting the world around the goal of extinguishing al-Qaida.
Very quickly after taking the presidency he “reoriented the war back to where … it always belonged?”
Nonsense. In Iraq – the”dumb” war – Obama followed the Bush plan to the letter, not changing a thing. Nothing. It still continues down the Bush timeline.
In Afghanistan, where Obama said we should be fighting, he actually surged conventional troops, and not to hunt al-Qaeda. Instead the focus of the surge were the Taliban. Again, the same focus the Bush administration had and one upon which Obama doubled down. So much for that laserlike focus on al-Qaeda.
And unfortunately for Hirsh’s narrative, the focus on al-Qaeda was already in place and functioning when Obama took office. We immediately learned, upon hearing of bin Laden’s death, that the beginning threads of intelligence came from interrogations in secret CIA prisons 4 years ago. Prisons which no longer exist under Obama, nor would have existed had he been president on 9/11. Where was Mr. Obama 4 years ago?
We also know that during the Bush administration, our intelligence community was put through a major overhaul that has yielded much better, fresher and actionable intelligence – all of which Obama “inherited.” Drone strikes generated by fresh actionable intelligence didn’t start on Mr. Obama’s watch.
Finally, a robust Special Operations Force command was created by, oh my, the “dark knight” – Donald Rumsfeld.
At the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, special operations – Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and Delta Force, and Air Force AC-130 gunships – were generally neglected. The previous Clinton administration had not called on them to go after bin Laden or his network.
All that changed under Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld: Green Berets led the initial invasion of Afghanistan. Joint Special Operations Command enlarged and expanded its manhunting skills worldwide. The Marine Corps created its first special forces command.
“We increased the size of special operations forces,” said former Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “We obviously increased their funding for new technical capabilities.”
One key move was to make Special Operations Command a “supported” command, not just one that did the bidding of other commands, but could plan and execute battles.
“Rumsfeld elevated special operations to where they had field command empowerment, which is something they never had before,” Mr. Hunter said. “We increased generally across the board the size and the capability of special operation commands. … We made them more robust than they were.”
Shocking, I know, but then the media cheerleaders have never been particularly concerned with facts and history when they have a narrative to peddle.
It was Bush and Rumsfeld who built the organization that eventually got bin Laden:
President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism translated into robust spending on what are affectionately called “snake eaters.”
Special Operations Command’s budget grew from $2.3 billion in 2001 to nearly $10 billion today. Manpower expanded from 45,500 to 61,500.
“It’s an order of magnitude better,” said Adm. Worthington. “The training these guys are getting, it’s 10 times what we were getting when I went through. They’re getting training right now that makes them the best in the world.”
And it’s first success in getting a high profile al-Qaeda member didn’t come last Sunday. It came in 2006, something I’m sure Mr. Hirsh would find an inconvenient fact:
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Joint Special Operations Command has teamed with aviation units, CIA officers and agents of the eavesdropping National Security Agency to form potent manhunting groups.
This fusion first gained wide public notice in 2006, when the command, then led by Army Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, hunted down Abu Musab Zarqawi, a particularly deadly al Qaeda terrorist in Iraq.
That is the “gun” Mr. Obama inherited from Mr. Bush. And it had been fired a number of times successfully well before Mr. Obama ever darkened the entrance to the Oval Office.
Oh, and Mr. Hirsh? Even the Obama White House isn’t buying your claptrap theory:
An Obama White House official told reporters that killing bin Laden was the result of years of work.
“This remarkable achievement could not have happened without persistent effort and careful planning over many years,” the official said. “Our national security professionals did a superb job.”
Yes, Mr. Hirsh, Obama got Osama – but he pulled the trigger of the gun built and loaded by the Bush administration, and whether you like it or not, there’s simply no question about that.