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NYT: Warrior in Chief

Author: Peter Lampert Bergen
April 28, 2012

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From both the right and left, there has been a dramatic disconnect between President Obama's record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is, writes Peter L. Bergen.

The president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.

Liberals helped to elect Barack Obama in part because of his opposition to the Iraq war, and probably don't celebrate all of the president's many military accomplishments. But they are sizable.

Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda's leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Ironically, the president used the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech as an occasion to articulate his philosophy of war. He made it very clear that his opposition to the Iraq war didn't mean that he embraced pacifism — not at all.

"I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people," the president told the Nobel committee — and the world. "For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man, and the limits of reason."

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