Obama's Big bin Laden Gamble

What if things went wrong? The president put his political future on the line in the operation to rid the world of Osama bin Laden.

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It has been a long haul. And it has been a discouraging decade when it comes to removing one of the true villains from the face of the earth. Many Americans grew discouraged and were convinced that Osama bin Laden was “untouchable.”

Thanks to our intelligence services, serious planning, military skills, and bold presidential leadership, Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid that was textbook—or at least tailor made for a Hollywood script. [See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]

But think back over 30 years to the failed effort to rescue the hostages in Tehran and the ensuing political bloodbath that became the Jimmy Carter presidency. A risky mission failed and a president was eviscerated. Barack Obama knew full well the risks of sending in a commando unit in a situation like this. He and his advisers worked through this over many months and weighed the chances for success and failure.

Think for a minute about where we would be this Monday morning had this operation failed and resulted in the loss of American life, the killing of civilians, and bin Laden still on the loose. President Obama made a very tough call, knowing that his presidency and his political future would be in tatters if the raid proved unsuccessful. [See a transcript of Obama's speech on bin Laden death.]

In short, he put his political future on the line in order to rid the world of bin Laden.

And it was not a snap decision, but typical of President Obama—well thought out, meticulously planned, with constant consulting of expert advisers. It was a true test of presidential leadership.

If, as Ernest Hemingway described it, courage is “grace under pressure,” this is precisely what Barack Obama displayed.

  • See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.
  • See a slide show of six potential terrorist targets.
  • See a transcript of Obama's speech on bin Laden death.
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