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Obama: An effective commander

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Obama: An effective commander
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Obama: An effective commander

During the 2008 presidential campaign there was considerable debate about Barack Obama’s ability to be an effective commander in chief. There seemed to be an assumption that his years in the Ivy League (Columbia University and Harvard Law School) had vitiated any martial inclinations. As it turns out, few presidents have been as assertive as Obama in defense of the nation and American citizens.

Obama has been relentless in pursuit of al-Qaeda, the organization responsible for the 9/11 tragedies in the U.S. 10 years ago. With the unrelenting effort of the CIA, Osama bin Laden was potentially identified as a recluse in an estate in Pakistan. Although bin Laden’s identification was not absolutely certain, Obama assumed the political risk of violating Pakistan’s air space by sending in a team of Navy Seals under cover of darkness to capture or kill him.

Even before the strike to apprehend bin Laden, Obama employed an aggressive campaign of drone aircraft to terminate al-Qaeda leaders with missiles. These attacks have been successful, but the Pakistan government has complained that innocent citizens have been killed or injured in the process. However, the American policy remains that these terrorists should be isolated and given no place to hide. Those consorting with the enemy put themselves in danger of collateral damage.

Obama’s assertiveness was demonstrated in his response to the attack on the U.S. cargo ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. They took Capt. Richard Phillips as a hostage and held him for five days in a lifeboat. As the lifeboat drifted toward shore, and placed Phillips in greater danger, Navy Seal snipers fired simultaneously from the fantail of a destroyer to end the standoff. The Seals needed presidential approval because the pirates would have killed the captain if the snipers had missed, and that would have created a political crisis.

Despite some opposition from his own party, Obama has pursued the wars he inherited from President Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan. The purpose of the war in Iraq was primarily to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Bush predicted a quick and inexpensive conflict, but the Iraq War lasted nine years and cost the lives of 4,482 U.S. soldiers. With a price tag of $1.3 trillion, the war was not inexpensive, and the cost will continue to mount as the nation cares for the 32,195 troops that have been wounded.

The same conservatives who supported Bush’s misadventure in Iraq have attacked Obama for his strategy for removing Muammar Gaddafi from power in Libya. They berate Obama’s approach as “leading from behind” because he called upon NATO, France and England to be the main directors of the foreign opposition. The campaign was primarily an insurrection by Libyan citizens against Gaddafi’s tyrannical rule.

Now that Gaddafi is gone, the wisdom of Obama’s patient approach is clear. The U.S. involvement in Libya cost $1 billion, a relatively small sum for a military conflict, and no U.S. troops were killed or wounded. However, some liberals are also critical because Obama has not taken an active role in other protests of the Arab Spring. They see this as an inconsistent policy.

Perhaps Gaddafi’s involvement in the 1988 Pan Am flight 103 crash over Lockerbie Scotland condemned him. It is clear that Obama will retaliate against any attack on the United States or U.S. citizens anywhere in the world. There is no national policy in Syria or Bahrain that imperils American citizens. In fact, Bahrain is the home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

We live at a perilous time. Americans should take comfort in the awareness that there is a tough commander in chief occupying the White House.