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Strongman Act

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
May 1, 2012
The Daily


The one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, on May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan (it was still May 1 back in the United States), is certain to be the occasion for a victory lap by the Obama administration. Or two. In fact, the demise of al Qaeda's leader has already become a centerpiece of the president's re-election campaign. Vice President Joe Biden recently said that the entire presidency could be summed up as follows: "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."

Republicans may well say this is not much to boast of, after four years in office, but it's a lot more than the last Democratic incumbent who was in serious danger of losing a bid for re-election could say. Jimmy Carter might well have won in 1980 if his Special Operations raid — the one designed to free the U.S. hostages in Tehran — had succeeded rather than ending in a fiery crash in the Iranian desert.

No one can deny Obama a rightful measure of pride in a gutsy order to proceed with a high-risk operation. Nor can anyone deny that, along with a series of other strikes, Operation Neptune Spear (as the SEAL raid was formally known) has helped to cripple al Qaeda "central," if not its far-flung franchises. Other terror groups, from the Taliban and the Haqqani network to Hezbollah and Hamas, continue to go strong. But not al Qaeda. Bin Laden's successor and former deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is simply not the Saudi's equal as a charismatic figure able to motivate and direct a far-flung terror network.

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