Top conservative money man David Koch is going for some kind of prize in gracelessness and decided yesterday not only to reiterate his view that Barack Obama is a “hardcore socialist” but also deny him any credit for the operation that succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden:
He just made the decision, it was obvious where the guy is. He was one of the worst terrorists organizing attacks on the United States. I mean, no president in his right mind would not approve that decision to go eliminate him. So he’s getting a lot of recognition and his polls have jumped up, but his decision was the easiest of them all. The real hard work was done by the intelligence and the SEALs.
Obviously, the SEALs did the work here. But making decisions is the president’s job. And he made the right one. It’s easy to forget that we actually had a huge controversy during the 2008 about precisely this issue. Barack Obama said he would act unilaterally to kill high-value al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, and John McCain slammed him for it. George W Bush chimed in as well:
The United States fully respects Pakistan’s sovereignty, President George W Bush told President Pervez Musharraf Friday after a US presidential candidate backed unilateral military action against terrorist targets in the south Asian country. Bush telephoned Musharraf following comments by Democratic candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday that if elected he would support the use of US military strikes against al-Qaeda on Pakistani soil.
Obviously it’s not the case that Obama is temperamentally more of a unilateralist than Bush or McCain. But he may just have a better sense of what’s important and what’s not. I like to think, though, that part of the difference is that Obama takes the United Nations seriously. The UN Charter is often viewed in American circles as circumscribing American sovereignty, but in this case it’s relevant that the US had authorization from the UN Security Council to take “all necessary steps” to neutralize the “threat to international peace and security” posed by al-Qaeda. The President’s judgment was that that entailed striking the compound without telling the unreliable Pakistani security services in advance. Both Obama’s predecessor and his opponent in the campaign said they wouldn’t do that, and if they’d followed through on their word Bin Laden might have gotten away.