Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Denying The Obvious

Rush Limbaugh is right, you know.    He was right, yesterday, about one thing when he said of the raid in Abbottobad

Not Mitt Romney. Not John McCain. Not Jimmy Carter. Joe Biden is the only guy that said: Don't go get Bin Laden.

Jimmy Carter did not say "don't go get Bin Laden"- there has been no report of the former President's argument in favor of, or against, entering Pakistani territory to pursue Osama binLaden.  

There was, as we have been helpfully reminded, comment by both Mitt Romney and John McCain urging caution toward violating the sovereignty of a foreign nation and possibly upsetting Pervez Musharraf, who was later driven in disgrace from Pakistan.      But President Obama's decision to approve a helicopter raid to assassinate public enemy #1 was especially bold because Joe Biden was not "the only guy" to oppose the action, unless Bob Gates sexual identity is at issue.

Limbaugh argued in the same rant about President Obama "And he wasn't even the man in charge of the actual operation.  That was the guy named McRaven."

Fortunately, writing in The New Yorker on August 8, 2011, Nicholas Schmidle puts to rest both the claim that only the Vice-President opposed the raid and the inference that the decision to proceed was primarily that of Vice-Admiral Bill McRaven.    He explained

In late 2010, Obama ordered Panetta to begin exploring options for a military strike on the compound. Panetta contacted Vice-Admiral Bill McRaven, the SEAL in charge of JSOC. Traditionally, the Army has dominated the special-operations community, but in recent years the SEALs have become a more prominent presence; McRaven’s boss at the time of the raid, Eric Olson—the head of Special Operations Command, or SOCOM—is a Navy admiral who used to be a commander of DEVGRU. In January, 2011, McRaven asked a JSOC official named Brian, who had previously been a DEVGRU deputy commander, to present a raid plan....

On March 14th, Obama called his national-security advisers into the White House Situation Room and reviewed a spreadsheet listing possible courses of action against the Abbottabad compound. Most were variations of either a JSOC raid or an airstrike. Some versions included coöperating with the Pakistani military; some did not. Obama decided against informing or working with Pakistan. “There was a real lack of confidence that the Pakistanis could keep this secret for more than a nanosecond,” a senior adviser to the President told me. At the end of the meeting, Obama instructed McRaven to proceed with planning the raid.

Brian invited James, the commander of DEVGRU’s Red Squadron, and Mark, the master chief petty officer, to join him at C.I.A. headquarters....

On March 29th, McRaven brought the plan to Obama. The President’s military advisers were divided. Some supported a raid, some an airstrike, and others wanted to hold off until the intelligence improved. Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, was one of the most outspoken opponents of a helicopter assault. Gates reminded his colleagues that he had been in the Situation Room of the Carter White House when military officials presented Eagle Claw—the 1980 Delta Force operation that aimed at rescuing American hostages in Tehran but resulted in a disastrous collision in the Iranian desert, killing eight American soldiers. “They said that was a pretty good idea, too,” Gates warned. He and General James Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, favored an airstrike by B-2 Spirit bombers. That option would avoid the risk of having American boots on the ground in Pakistan. But the Air Force then calculated that a payload of thirty-two smart bombs, each weighing two thousand pounds, would be required to penetrate thirty feet below ground, insuring that any bunkers would collapse. “That much ordnance going off would be the equivalent of an earthquake,” Cartwright told me. The prospect of flattening a Pakistani city made Obama pause. He shelved the B-2 option and directed McRaven to start rehearsing the raid.

Brian, James, and Mark selected a team of two dozen SEALs from Red Squadron and told them to report to a densely forested site in North Carolina for a training exercise on April 10th.

The Vice-Admiral was the manager overseeing the operation.    But the plan was devised by a guy identified as "Brian," who was one of three individuals who scheduled training of the Navy SEALs.      McRaven, at Obama's direction, chose the specific night of the raid, but only after in late April then-C.I.A. Director Leon

Panetta and the rest of the national-security team met with the President. For the next few nights, there would be virtually no moonlight over Abbottabad—the ideal condition for a raid. After that, it would be another month until the lunar cycle was in its darkest phase. Several analysts from the National Counterterrorism Center were invited to critique the C.I.A.’s analysis; their confidence in the intelligence ranged between forty and sixty per cent. The center’s director, Michael Leiter, said that it would be preferable to wait for stronger confirmation of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. Yet, as Ben Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser, put it to me recently, the longer things dragged on, the greater the risk of a leak, “which would have upended the thing.” Obama adjourned the meeting just after 7 P.M. and said that he would sleep on it.

President Obama didn't merely order action to eliminate (capture or kill, apparently at the SEALs' discretion) Osama binLaden.    He opted- against the advice of Secretary Gates and others- for a helicopter assault rather than an airstrike, even though it exposed Americans to being killed, which would have been damaging operationally and disastrous politically.     He ordered the raid to take place within a few days of a meeting with his national-security team (which would not include McRaven) rather than to wait until the intelligence community might be able to confirm binLaden's presence.

Of course, President Obama's superb judgement in the events leading to the death of Osama binLaden sholdn't in itself be enough to warrant his re-election.   (His opposition is.)   But given the panic displayed by Republicans accusing the President of "spiking the ball," it appears the GOP fears that it will be a decisive factor.      If Barack Obama were taking untoward political advantage of this military action, he might have done something like this (from dailykos):

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