I've been a harsh critic of President Obama. Anyone reading this blog for any length of time knows that I think he's a weak leader, clueless on foreign policy, and a big government liberal Democrat here at home. But one area where I haven't had much criticism of the president is in his handling of the war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates. In fact, I've noted before that attacks on Obama as soft on terrorism are ridiculous and don't match the evidence.
Although the president has given lip service to the ideas of terrorist rights supporters, and has made some cosmetic changes to our policies, for the most part he has continued the post-9/11 war on terror measures of the Bush administration. Unlike other foreign policy actions, such as Libya, where he foolishly tied the U.S. to a UN resolution, he has not crippled U.S. war efforts against Al Qaeda. He has ignored bleating about international law when it conflicted with American interests regarding targeting terrorists. He even expanded the drone assassination program, despite opposition from his own political base. The killing of Osama bin Laden is a prime example of how the president has taken a hard-edged approach to dealing with foreign terrorists -- as long as they are at large.
Obama ordered a U.S. kill team into Pakistan, violating Pakistani sovereignty. There was no order to capture bin Laden, and bring him back for trial as if he were a criminal. Instead the president ordered his execution without any legal niceties, treating him as the enemy he was. This action was exactly the type of response to terrorist enemies that is in America's interest. It sends a clear message to other terrorist leaders, and those who harbor them. We aren't going to try to arrest you. And the borders of the place you are hiding aren't going to protect you. We are going to kill you, even if it takes ten years to find you. Regardless of what you think of President Obama, he deserves credit for taking decisive action to eliminate one of the greatest enemies of the U.S.
I might also note that this operation was carried out in secret. There were no leaks to compromise it. The administration deserves significant credit for that alone. There has been far too little secrecy lately, and secrecy is critical to effective covert action.