Smile for the Predator, Sheikh.
Included in the pile of messes that George W. Bush left to his successor in office were: a nation divided, not united, an economy about to plunge into a depression, two wars, a skyrocketing debt to nations eating our lunch in international trade and a GOP whose vocabulary had dwindled to the word no.
Despite all that, W inadvertently bequeathed to Barack Obama one great gift: the opportunity to become the president whose efforts capture or kill the chief SOB behind the 9/11 attacks.
As a stand-alone achievement, that would assure President Obama high standing on a list of commanders-in-chief. It would go a long way toward justifying his decision to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan. It would give the Democrats a big boost when the Congressional elections of 2010 roll around.
But if Obama could also nail Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and a baker’s dozen of the Al Qaeda and Taliban high commands at the same time, that would be plenty of justification for bringing all the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Because the message would have been sent: if you attack the United States, no matter where you try to hide, or how long it takes, we will find you and we will kill you. That’s a deterrent with teeth, big, pointy teeth.
As a political achievement, it would neutralize any Republican charge that Democrats are soft on defense. It would thwart any future claim that the public should be afraid to elect a Democrat. And it would put a gilded frame around the incompetence of cowboy George and the Bush gang.
Of course, all of this assumes that getting Osama is a top priority for Obama. The president hasn’t come right out and issued any Wanted, Dead or Alive statements. That’s not his style. But he certainly has increased the number of Predator attacks on the Pakistani badlands.
Actually, the surge in Predator strikes began in August 2008, nearly seven years after the 9/11 attacks, and just three months before Barack Obama was elected president. So maybe W didn’t want to leave a gift behind after all. It would have been a grace note to Bush's failed presidency if he had succeeded in killing bin Laden, but W’s effort was too little, too late.
So now the gift card has been passed to Barack Obama, but he has a limited time to redeem it. Because the Grim Reaper will come for Osama eventually, if a Hellfire missile doesn’t get him. Then the sheikh would forever be thumbing his nose at us.
To forestall such a galling possibility, Obama has authorized more Predator attacks against terrorists in Pakistan by July 2009 than had been launched in all of 2008. The Long War Journal estimates that by the end of this year, the number of U.S. Predator attacks on enemy targets in Pakistan will have doubled the 2008 total.
In a story dated September 2009, Strategy Page asserts that tribal leaders in Pakistan have no love for Al Qaeda terrorists, whom they consider foreigners, and may at long last be providing information as to where the terrorists may be found and targeted in return for reward money.
Just two days ago, on Friday, December 11, 2009, Fox News reported that a drone attack in Pakistan killed Saleh al-Somali, Al Qaeda’s external operations chief, the man responsible for devising attacks on targets outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
All of which must leave Osama Bin Laden feeling a bit like one of those characters seen from a bird’s eye point of view in old The Far Side cartoons. You know, the people with the bull's-eyes painted on the tops of their heads.
It’s not too far-fetched to imagine that sometime before November 2010 Barack Obama will step in front of a television camera and tell the world, “Today, I have good news…”
You’ll have to excuse him if he doesn’t thank George W. Bush publicly.