Was the fourth time the charm for the “gutsy call”?

posted at 12:01 pm on July 30, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Just how “gutsy” was the call to hit the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden?  Barack Obama’s supporters have insisted that the final green-light decision shows just how courageous a Commander in Chief the current President is, while his critics called the decision a no-brainer.  Perhaps both sides could find some support for their positions in a new book by Richard Miniter, who claims that Obama refused to give the green light three times before finally giving the go-ahead:

At the urging of Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden on three separate occasions before finally approving the May 2, 2011 Navy SEAL mission, according to an explosive new book scheduled for release August 21. The Daily Caller has seen a portion of the chapter in which the stunning revelation appears.

In ”Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him,“ Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the “kill” mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March. Obama’s close adviser Valerie Jarrett persuaded him to hold off each time, according to the book.

Miniter, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, cites an unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning.

The thrust of the book, clearly, is to paint Obama as a dilettante executive who doesn’t have the fortitude to make tough decisions.  Rumors of waffling arose shortly after the mission was made public, which had Leon Panetta supposedly demanding action from Obama and pushing him into giving approval.  The White House has denied that version of events, but if Miniter’s correct about the three previous cancellations, it provides a little more context for Panetta’s purported frustration.

Let’s presume Miniter’s source is accurate. Will it make much of a difference?  After all, the Special Ops mission succeeded in neutralizing Osama bin Laden and confiscating a treasure trove of intel.  Had we never succeeded and this came out, it would be devastating, but the success leaves the argument open that Obama had less confidence in the previous openings for the mission.  Reportedly, the intel was not 100% or even close to certainty that it was OBL at the compound at the time of the actual mission, and it might have been less certain than that in the earlier windows of opportunity.  Obama’s decisions to postpone might be used as an argument that he was careful with American assets and troops, and could emphasize that this was indeed a “gutsy call.”

That leaves us essentially where we were before Miniter’s revelation.  Obama’s supporters will continue to think this was a gutsy call for which Obama deserves credit, while his opponents will argue that any indecision to go after Enemy Number One shows a lack of fortitude.  The rest are probably just grateful that OBL has had justice delivered unto him, but care more about jobs and the economy than a 15-months-dead terrorist mastermind.


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