Today one of the top terrorists of the al Qaeda network, American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen. It’s one of several successful take-downs of top level al Qaeda terrorists that have come in the wake of the May raid on Usama bin Laden’s compound by Navy SEALs, where the man mainly responsible for the attacks of September 11th was finally killed.
It got me thinking about how, despite a reduced presence in the Middle East, we’ve managed to be doing pretty well when it came to fighting terrorists compared to how we were doing for nearly a decade. It soon became apparent that the difference could be compared to two distinct stereotypes of the silver screen: cowboys and gangsters.
Cowboys want a fight out in the open. When a cowboy was President of the United States, that’s what we got: two foreign wars fought with full military mobilization. We wanted our targets alive, to follow up with gut-wrenching instances of interrogation to lead us to more. If not that, we surrendered them to tribal codes of law televised for the whole world to see. It was how we decided to fight against the threat of terrorism for eight years. In the end, however, it proved ineffective against the enemy we were fighting against; by the end of George W. Bush’s second term the majority of top-level al Qaeda operatives and leaders remained at-large.
Gangsters choose to fight in the dark. Vicious gunfights in the middle of the street don’t do much but alienate you from the neighborhood. Casting aside the criminal activities associated with true gangsters (just like we cast aside the criminal activities of true cowboys when comparing former Presidents to them) that’s what we have in our current President Barack Obama. He comes from the land of backdoor politics, which is itself just a spin-off of the mafia mentality that’s dictated Illinois’s power structure for almost a century. This style has converted poorly when it comes to national domestic issues, but it reveals itself glaringly when it comes to the fight against terrorism.
The head honchos of al Qaeda have always been a scattered band of self-proclaimed freedom fighters hopping from hideout to hideout staying in touch on prepaid cell phones and other hard-to-trace means of communication. So instead of rolling the tanks in after these guys, the Obama “Chicago Way” has been to silently creep up on these targets with precise intelligence and careful planning. Then, in an instant, a drone missile is deployed, traveling hundreds of miles before crashing down into some hut somewhere (sparing the huts around it) and disintegrating the target before he has time to turn his head.
But in the end, the American system still fails to be properly activated when attempting to take down terrorist threats.
Under George W. Bush we did little to try and bring top terrorists to justice. We caught them, but then we chucked them into offshore jails and threw away the key. Not exactly the American way as far as the Constitution is concerned.
Under Barack Obama, we just go ahead and kill these guys. There’s no attempt to torture terrorists or bring them to trial, the only goal is absolute elimination. It’s less messy and looks better on paper and in the news. But the last time I checked, this is also not the American way.
It’s the Chicago way.