Bob Woodward, in “Obama’s Wars,” describes how the president-elect was told the nation’s most sensitive secrets on Nov. 6, 2008, two days after the election. “I’m inheriting a world that could blow up any minute in half a dozen ways,” he told an aide later. Obama immediately began to master the tools of counterterrorism.
The primacy of intelligence was clearest in the Abbottabad raid. Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt of the New York Times describe in their new book, “Counterstrike,” how Obama was presented on April 28 with three choices — the helicopter assault on the compound, a safer Predator attack or waiting for more intelligence to verify bin Laden’s presence. After deliberating for 16 hours, Obama chose the first, and riskiest, option.
Perhaps Obama’s comfort level with his intelligence role helps explain why he has done other parts of the job less well. He likes making decisions in private, where he has the undiluted authority of the commander in chief. He likes information, as raw and pertinent as possible, and he gets impatient listening to windy political debates. He likes action, especially when he doesn’t leave fingerprints.