I love Ocean’s Eleven. I loved 12 and 13 too. Heck, I would have loved for it to go all the way to 21. I never thought I would be using a line from the movie in a conversation about foreign affairs. It fits though.
I had thought about going with something my Dad used to say when I was younger – “shit or get off the pot” – but figured Google might have a problem with me cussing in a blog post title. I think that it is rather appropriate for our foreign policy too. President Obama’s half-measures aren’t working, plain and simple. Just go ahead and look at the front page of any major media website. We are not in Iraq…except that we are. We are pulling our troops out of Afghanistan anymore….except for those that aren’t being pulled out. And who knows what the hell we are doing in regards to Russia and the Ukraine.
Many of the presidents in the last half of the 20th century served in WWII
Much talk has centered around which Senator/Representative/Governor will emerge as the front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2016. They will tout their conservative credentials, fiscal agendas and their plan for limited government. However, one thing is missing – military service.
With Russia re-emerging as a threat to the United States and the Middle East remaining a powder keg that is on the verge of explosion, it would seem that the time is right for someone with a background in the military or national security to enter the fray (and no, John McCain, I am not suggesting you run again).
Much has been made of Ronald Reagan’s legacy within both the Republican Party and American history. While he is not coming back, no matter how much the GOP wants him too, the leadership he exhibited can re-emerge. The question we have posited here many times before is: who will be that leader?
No, I am not saying that the person the Republicans nominate in 2016 should be a Reagan clone. In fact, far from it. What we can do is look to Reagan and see that the options may not be as concrete as some think they are.
Much has been made President’s Obama rhetoric last year in the midst of a campaign against Gov. Mitt Romney. Most the focus has been centered on the president’s “red line” on Syria, but less attention has been given to the president’s choice of words during the third and final debate with the former Massachusetts governor. The words in question are instructional in understanding the president’s understanding of foreign policy, diplomacy, and foresight.
Much has been written about the revolutions currently going on in the Middle East, but I am very concerned of the over-simplification of what is going on in the streets half a world away. Many members in Congress (on both sides) and the media have been quick to champion the revolution in Egypt, the rebels in Libya, and other similar movements. While I always believe in freedom and am against tyrants, our country has a perilous history. Far too many times in our past we have been quick to back one group from overthrowing a terrible dictator, only to have the new group take hold, bring far worse evils to its peoples. Many pundits have also been quick to criticize President Obama saying he lacks a clear “cookie-cutter” doctrine toward the Middle East. This concerns me, and shows one of the many short comings of our 24 hour news coverage that is made entirely of 60 second sound bites. Each one of these countries is in a different situation, with different groups revolting, with different intentions. All of these must be analyzed intensively by our analysts in the military and clandestine organizations. The solution isn’t to sit on the sidelines in every situation just as it isn’t rushing the 101st and 82nd Divisions into every fight we can get them in.
There is also a cost associated with the overthrow of governments, even if they are less than ideal. Many of these governments, Libya included, worked with organizations like the CIA in the sharing of intelligence against organizations like al-Qaeda. Now with a power vacuum in these countries we do not know who will emerge from power, and if they will work with the US or harbor organizations with the intent to do harm to us. While many of the leaders of these countries facing revolts and revolutions have been terrible human beings, there is that unknown if those who take their place will be any better. I dream of the day that the entire would has leaders elected in free democracies aimed at world peace. But the facts are that many of these countries are not ready for the heavy burden associated with a democracy or republic. We must be careful to understand if those in the streets even believe in a Western government, or if they want a different form of a radicalized Muslim government.
If you started reading this post looking for a solution for the Middle-East, you are probably disappointed at this point. A solution cannot be crafted in 500 words; rather it takes thousands of hours of intelligence work and hundreds of hours of briefing to come to a solution for what is going on in one country, let alone the entire region. I look forward to hearing the President’s speech, and I hope he provides one thing that has been missing in the uprising of these countries: leadership from the world’s most powerful nation. It is going to take a careful balance of military operations, clandestine operations, foreign aid, and other form of diplomacy in order to come to a mutually beneficial solution for the people in these countries and the world as a whole. What we need most, rather than the presentation of some all-inclusive doctrine, is true leadership and communication as to the approach we are taking with each one of these unique situations.
While I do not want to politicize the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound and the success of our men and women in the intelligence community and armed forces, I want to take on the debate if we should release the photos, and what this could do to inflame or deter those deciding if jihad is for them.
We have to remember the target audience is for these photos. It is not Osama’s staunch supporters and followers. Those who have already committed themselves into flying planes into buildings or blowing themselves up in a city market are going to be deterred by nothing. The target audience is the young men in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Britain, US, Qatar, the world around who aren’t sure if a life of jihad is for them. I have to believe that a photo of what happens to the “Michael Jordan of Jihad” when the Navy SEALs decide your days are done, is a strong deterrent for them to choose that lifestyle.
When I was a child growing up, groups would come into our schools and show us slide shows like the ones shown here. The slide shows would show the mug shots of the faces of drug attics over time. The hope was the shocking photos showed that by getting into drugs, not only would you end up serving time in jail, but the effects of the drugs on your body were a far worse price to pay. I feel like us releasing the photos could have the same effect on young men thinking that the ways of terrorism are a worthy calling in life. The message would be: “Not only are you committing heinous crimes against innocent people in a bastardized form of Islam, but also you are going to end up with the Navy SEALs at your doorstep and your final photo will be of your face and brain separated from the rest of you body.”
There is also a risk of this indeed looking like some sort of cover-up. We already have given light to this conspiracy theory by having the President delay the announcement on TV (looking like the story was already trying to be collaborated to conspiracy theorists), disposing of the body in the sea (a move I agree with, but also allows for conspiracy theories), and those in charge giving conflicting accounts of what happened. Any delay in releasing the photos makes it seem like some CIA analyst is trying to Photoshop the photos into looking more like Osama. Release the photos and hush some of those who will not be happy until they are. Additionally, there is the risk that the photos are going to get leaked anyway. Anything that has to get leaked from behind close doors always lends itself to more conspiracy theories. There are even those who think under the Freedom of Information Act that the photos will have to be released anyway. The President should get out in front of any of these risks, and look strong in releasing them now.
The releasing of the photos of what the compound look liked an hour after the raid is also a concern. There has been commentary that no one appears to be armed in the photo. I am sure the claims will soon follow that the US raided a compound full of unarmed non combatants and murdered everyone inside. While it is standard operating procedure (SOP) that anytime a US force takes an objective for the missions operation order will tell the forces to either destroy or seize all enemy weapons systems, the conspiracy theorists will ignore these claims and ask “where are the weapons?” The photos of Osama dead and the surrounding are around him will end that argument.
I recognize and respect the position that releasing the photos may cause retaliation from our enemy, heck these were the people that protested a cartoonist in Denmark. I feel like not releasing the photos could have just a dramatic of an effect. It is widely known that a new video from Osama has been in the works from al Qaeda for some time, and should be release soon. I suspect that his supporters will claim that this is proof he is still alive. A picture of the dead leader will be a response that this is not true.
I, along with the rest of the United States, should be congratulating President Obama for continuing the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The majority of our thanks should be directed towards our military and intelligence communities for not backing down on this task and not giving up. And lastly we need to thank President Bush for starting this massive manhunt in the first place. While it is wrong to be thankful for anyone’s death, it is nice to know the world can breathe a little bit easier now that this villain is fathoms deep in the Indian Ocean.
Now everyone is talking about the political bump that President Obama will receive from this great news. the problem with all of this is that it is May 2011. We are close 18 months on the nose away from the next President election. Aside from not knowing what in the world will happen in that time, we don’t even know who the GOP nominee will be. Yes, he is now stronger on National Security, that is hard to debate (unless you are Senator Dick Lugar from Indiana http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/54192.html). However, I am willing to bet that unless something happens to massively shift the debate (the economy rebounds substantially or we have a horrific event – Katrina or 9/11 like) the outcome of the election is going to be focused on the economics of America. Right now, people are selfish, and with good reason. Americans want to work, they want to provide for their children, and they want to live in a nice house and drive a nice car. All of those things have become harder to accomplish as of late, in part because of the policies of the Democratic Party.
In November of 2012, when citizens go to vote, Osama bin Laden will be on the minds of some, but the economy will likely be on the minds of all.
-Sam the Eagle