On June 4, 2012 President Obama ordered a drone strike the ended the life of Al-Qaeda’s second in command in Pakistan. This man, Abu Yahya al-Libi had a one million dollar bounty on his head and was considered the most important leader of the terrorist organization who was left standing until Monday.
President Obama is an extraordinary person sitting in an extraordinary hot seat. In our opinion, the man has the focus of a laser beam, the wisdom of a Solomon, and the courage of a lion. Let’s explain.
In the tradition of Presidents Lincoln and Truman before him, this unusual chief executive makes deliberate decisions in the most admirable way. He gathers facts; he invites and listens to all divergent points of view; he makes a clear determination of direction; he brings in the best minds in the field to construct a plan of action; he fine tunes the plan and makes the final decision and issues orders to execute.
The true accomplishment of any decision making method can only be measured in hindsight by its ratio of successes to failures. It is certainly more likely that one will arrive at better policy decisions by a thoughtful informed route; than one to fitted into a pre-conceived notions that comes from the seat of ones pants, one’s ideology, or worse - from misinformation.
How the president makes a decision, and how he executes it, are fundamental criteria that voters will consider when they go to the polls this November. Today’s SNAP-CAP will examine one of President Obama’s creative and effective decisions; pursuing and expanding the Drone War against Al-Qaeda that was initiated by President George W. Bush.
From a political point of view, it is clear that President Obama is continuing a policy set under President Bush’s watch when the use of drones was initiated. Obama recognized the drone program as a viable way to pursue and eliminate the enemy, so he expanded both the scope and the breadth of the program.
Surely there is a moral dilemma here. No normal person delights in taking the life of another. Mr. Obama ruminates on life and death matters with solemnity and deliberation. He is acutely aware that taking a life is against most moral philosophies as well as religious beliefs (Judeo/Christian 6th Commandment) (Koran 17:33).
He is also aware that are exceptions; one is self-defense. Clearly the elimination of enemy leaders and combatants is justifiable as self-defense by any moral standard. Yet the President is under attack for his actions from many sides.
The Pakistani government has demanded that the drone strikes end. Although it is understandable for them to scapegoat the U.S. to point suspicion away from their own clumsier bombing campaign against al-Qaeda, they well know that our drone strikes have been precise, have produced relatively few civilian casualties, and have taken out important terrorist enemies of both America and Pakistan.
Professor Muhammad Zabair writes “Since 2004, 297 drone attacks have taken place in the tribal areas…. Undoubtedly, it has resulted in the elimination of the top al Qaeda leadership and weakening of its organizational structure and coordination capacities. It has also eliminated the most dreaded Pakistani militants like Baitullah Mehsud (leader and founder of the TTP), Qari Hussain (master of suicide bombers), Ilyas Kashmiri, and a score of other local and foreign militants. Many killed in drone attacks were involved in indiscriminate killing of thousands of innocent Pakistani civilians as well as attacks on the army, police and other law-enforcement organisations (sic) and their infrastructure.”
Professor Zabair goes on to opine that the Pakistani government’s opposition is self-serving and is primarily a negotiating tool to use in the general relationship discussions with the U.S. Perhaps it is a necessary political stance for their own citizenry as well. In any case, our President has defied the Pakistani pressure to stop the attacks. To date he continues to aggressively pursue this effective military option.
Needless to say, domestic criticism has come from Republicans who have made a profession of being against anything the President puts forth. There is no need to comment on this phenomenon here.
More concerning is the reproach coming from the left. The Rational Majority has no quarrel with those who have a sincere moral concern about killing other human beings, be they innocent bystanders or enemy warriors. There is no disputing a person’s right to these feelings but the facts say that we are at war and, in war people will die. The question to decide is - Is America acting in its own self-defense or not?
How do you feel about this issue? Here is a scorecard to help you decide by knowing the facts:
There have been about 300 drone sorties in Pakistan alone, as well as many attacks in Yemen (The Yemen drone war was recently covered in SNAP-CAP #187 & 188), and Somalia. Since the ground raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound, more than a dozen of Al-Qaeda’s top leadership has been wiped out the latest being Abu Yahya al-Libi along with 27 other militants in 3 days.
The London Daily Mail reports that White House spokesperson Jay Carney said: “His death is part of the degradation that has been taking place to core al Qaeda during the past several years and that degradation has depleted the ranks to such an extent that there's no clear successor.”
The following is an excerpt from a very informative New York Times report on the specifics of the President’s behind the scenes process. “In fact, in a 2007 campaign speech in which he vowed to pull the United States out of Iraq and refocus on Al Qaeda, Mr. Obama had trumpeted his plan to go after terrorist bases in Pakistan — even if Pakistani leaders objected. His rivals at the time, including Mitt Romney, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mrs. Clinton, had all pounced on what they considered a greenhorn’s campaign bluster. (Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had become “Dr. Strangelove.”).
Will you be voting for a man who “says” he will fight Al-Qaeda, or for one whose actions have reflected his words. Let us not forget that the President promised to destroy al-Qaeda all the way back in 2007. He has held steady to that promise through the domestic and international pressures condemning his actions for political reasons, and by any measurement he has succeeded in making al-Qaeda weaker and America safer.