The reader will recall that following the long-awaited and much deserved demise of Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama went into overdrive in taking personal credit for the mission’s success. The courageous Navy Seals who put their lives on the line carrying out the mission rated barely a mention from their Commander-in-Chief. Of course, what the president failed to say in all of his comments was that while the Navy Seals were doing their dangerous work in the treacherous mountains of Pakistan, he was comfortably ensconced in an air-conditioned room watching events unfold on television.
Much has already been written and said about the unmitigated arrogance of the president in his handling of the Osama bin Laden takedown. But just when I thought there was nothing more to say on this topic, a memorandum surfaced that casts Barack Obama in a much different light than that of the self-anointed courageous president who had the moral courage to give the go-ahead on a mission that could blow up in his face, embarrassing him and the United States. The president who portrayed himself as a strong leader willing to make tough decisions turns out to be—no surprise here—a weak leader who was prepared to cover his tracks and blame the Navy should the mission fail.
Recall that even his most ardent detractors were willing to give the president credit for green-lighting the mission to take out bin Laden. It now appears that those detractors spoke too soon. A classic “CYA” memorandum addressed to Leon Panetta—Director of the CIA at the time—clearly shows that Obama gave only a tepid and impossibly conditional go-ahead to the Seals. This memo shows that the president wanted to have it both ways. He wanted to be able to claim credit if the mission succeeded and blame the Navy if it didn’t.
The following excerpt from the memorandum in question is revealing: “The timing, operational decision making, and control are in Adm. McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the president. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the president for his consideration.” Anyone who has ever served in the military can easily interpret the bureaucratic worm-wording in this memorandum. What the words actually mean are: 1) If things go south, Admiral McRaven is going to be blamed, and 2) The Seals are expected to stop in their tracks in the middle of the mission and contact the president before taking any action if conditions on the ground change. In other words, if the Seals do what they are trained to do—flexibly adapt and respond to ever-changing conditions on the ground—and the mission fails, the president will be able to blame them.
A good leader’s instructions to the Seals would have been simple and unambiguous. More importantly, the instructions would have contained the following message: “I am sending you in to take Osama bin Laden out. Do what you have been trained to do, and do your best. You have my full support. If things don’t work out, I have your back. The ultimate responsibility for this mission is mine and mine alone.” This is what General Eisenhower did on the eve of D-Day when he wrote a note to be read to the American people taking full blame onto himself should the mission fail, but commending the brave men who tried to carry out the mission under his orders. Do not expect to see the memorandum in question printed in the mainstream press, but you can find more details about it in the July 2012 issue of TOWHALL on page 70.