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August 31, 2011

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Thanks to Obama, U.S. is safer since 9/11

The President deserves credit for taking out bin Laden, Gadhafi, and al-Rahman, al Qaeda’s number two leader.Photo: The White House (Flickr)
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 – Ad Lib by Catherine Poe
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EASTON, Md, August 31, 2011 — President Obama has been taking it on the chin from both Right and the Left this past year.

The Right, of course, gives him credit for nothing, and the Left has been none too happy with his domestic agenda, from watered down health care reform to a weak stimulus package to his timid negotiations with GOP leaders.

However, there is one area where he deserves high praise, and that’s his foreign policy. While many Americans don’t always understand his strategy and have been irritated by the slow withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve generally underestimated his ability to be strong and decisive in the Middle East, resulting in a safer America.

It all began in June 2009 with his famous Cairo speech where he laid the groundwork for what has become known as The Arab Spring:

“I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”

Today in Egypt, those very words have become the seeds for the revolution that ultimately toppled Hosni Mubarek and then rode the winds of change to Syria and Libya. The Arab Summer is now in full flower.

Arab Summer in the Desert

Of course, his team of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates deserve a big chunk of the credit and our thanks. Fortunately, Obama kept Gates on. Originally appointed by George W. Bush, Gates has been one of the truly outstanding cabinet officers in both administrations. And again fortunately, Hillary Clinton didn’t go off in a snit after she lost the primary to Obama but agreed to be his Secretary of State.

We won’t know the full story behind this triumvirate’s successes until years from now when they sit down and write their memoirs, but it is obvious that Obama heeded President Teddy Roosevelt’s admonition that America’s leaders “need to speak softly, but carry a big stick and you will go far.”

Osama bin Laden

Now comes the results of that soft diplomacy on another level, the use of that “big stick” to put an end to three major terrorists: Osama bin Laden, Moammar Gadhafi and Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. What? You never heard of the last guy? A lot of people haven’t, but more on him later.

Bin Laden: When the world learned that President Obama had ordered the Navy Seals to take out Osama bin Laden on May 2, we were both shocked and joyous. Shocked that all along, the President had been zeroing in on bin Laden like a laser. “No Drama Obama” was patient, just biding his time.

And we were joyous, of course, that the mastermind behind the destruction of the Twin Towers and the deaths of thousands of Americans was no more. It is supposed to be heartless and wrong to celebrate the death of someone, even an enemy, but I suspect in this case, not even Jesus would have turned the other cheek.

Gadhafi: When the President first decided to help the Libyan rebels by lending air support to NATO’s efforts to pry Gadhafi out of Tripoli and then Libya, I was angry. He was acting unilaterally, only letting Congress and the American people know after the fact. It’s true that for 42 years Gadhafi was more than a thorn in America’s side. He was also a major exporter of terrorism, bringing down Pan Am 103 in 1988. But President Obama’s actions, even if he were “leading from behind” smacked of Cheney-style foreign policy.

However, if we and NATO had not stepped in, there is little doubt that Gadhafi would have mowed down the rebels like so much winter wheat. Our intervention – from air power to intelligence – gave the rebels the edge they needed and they soon put this cruel despot in a desperate situation.

His wife, two sons, and a daughter have escaped to Algeria. Where he is at this writing is not known. However, Gadhafi can run, but he can’t hide. Even now, he may be holed up as was Saddam Hussein in some “spider’s hole” in the desert. But he will be found and, if captured alive, he will be tried as a war criminal.

So President Obama’s plan, one of biding his time and patience, again paid off, with Libya being free within six months of our intervention and without a single American death or even one boot on the ground.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi (Photo: Associated Press)

Yes, I still wish the President had adhered to the War Powers Act of 1973, but to watch another terrorist bite the dust is oh, so sweet.

Is It A Trifecta?

Al-Rahman: Last week, a drone strike in Pakistan took out Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a Libyan and the No. 2 man who, as Al Qaeda’s top operations planner, was much more dangerous to us than some of the other No. 2’s who have been killed or captured in the past.

He had been bin Laden’s right hand man.

“Atiyah was at the top of Al Qaeda’s trusted core,” an unnamed American official has explained. “His combination of background, experience and abilities are unique in Al Qaeda — without question, they will not be easily replaced.”

Before bin Laden’s death, al-Rahman had not only been disseminating the leader’s messages to the terrorist network, but had ensured bin Laden’s words reached the world as well.

More importantly, the two men plotted strategy, from how to make a deal with Pakistan to be their safe haven to how to strengthen al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and North Africa, including better use of the radical American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in the Arabian Peninsula.

Losing someone as essential to al Qaeda operations as al-Rahman has severely undermined the core organization and further weakened the ability of its current leader Ayman al-Zawahri (who succeeded bin Laden) to keep control of the already fracturing group.

al-Rahman National Counter Terrorism Center

It is also true that during the seven years following 9/11, we had no attacks on our soil from terrorists outside of our country, and we thwarted a great many others here and abroad. And for this President Bush deserves credit and our thanks.

But the death of bin Laden and al-Rahman, and now the liberation of Libya are three events that have made us even safer. Not entirely safe, since our enemies are still out there, but we are safer than we were last year at this time.

So I must give credit where credit is due and say thanks to the President and his team for making the Arab Spring and now the Arab Summer possible.

Now if only President Obama would take that same steely resolve to facing down the implacable Republican Congress. I don’t know, but maybe fighting terrorism is easier.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib in the Communities at the Washington Times. She can also be heard on the Democrats for America’s Future.
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