Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Reversal on binLaden?!

Osama bin Laden has used the occasion- no, excuse- of the current Hamas-initiated conflict in the Middle East to release an audio tape blasting the United States and Israel. And Katie Couric of CBS News, in an interview conducted the same day the tape was released, used the occasion to ask President-elect Barack Obama "How important do you think it is, Mr. President-elect, to apprehend Osama bin Laden?"

Curiously, Obama replied (video below):

I think that we have to so weaken his infrastructure that, whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that he cannot function. My preference obviously would be to capture or kill him. But if we have so tightened the noose that he's in a cave somewhere and can't even communicate with his operatives, then we will meet our goal of protecting America.

Curious because on October 12, in the second presidential debate between Obama and John McCain, Senator Obama responded to a question about pursuing terrorists across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan by responding, in part:

And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.

And those remarks did not appear to be mere campaign rhetoric when eight days after the election, CNN.com reported

President-elect Barack Obama wants to renew the U.S. commitment to finding al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to his national security advisers. The Obama team believes the Bush administration has downplayed the importance of catching the FBI's most-wanted terrorist because it has not been able to find him.

And in his first televised interview since the election, Obama termed capturing binLaden "critical" (video way below).

Hopefully, Obama's most recent comment does not reflect a change of heart nor a strategy of arguing as President that bin Laden cannot communicate with his operatives (impossible to determine with certainty) and thus presents no threat. Nor does it brighten the day to consider the possibility that Obama's statement represents the opinion of his advisers that the famous Saudi national is unlikely to be caught. But unless he is merely trying to lower expectations (as he apparently has done repeatedly on the economy), President-elect Obama's reversal of his previous position on the need to apprehend the champion of all terrorists is a little disturbing.





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