Presidential Surprises

The overnight raid of Osama Bin Laden’s lair lured me back to the George W. Bush era.

Not to the “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantanamo Bay that likely made the attack possible.

Not to Bush’s stubborn resolve to keep pursuing our enemies in the middle east despite mounting opposition at home.

Not to the “unilateral” nature of the Abbottobad mission, a concept demonized by the left during the Bush presidency.

Not even to Bush’s warning in September 2001 that the war on terror would not be swift or easy, that “the course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain…We’ll meet violence with patient justice.”

My mind went to November 2003 when, against the better judgment of the Secret Service no doubt, George W. Bush authorized a clandestine midnight mission to the Middle East. It was Thanksgiving and he wanted to celebrate with his troops on the ground in Iraq.

He slipped out of his Crawford ranch under the cover of night, boarded Air Force One in Waco and flew around the world to personally thank our service personnel.

The details mesmerized me. The idea. The secrecy. The risk. The execution. The success.

It could have ended badly. A radical with a rocket-propelled grenade. A suicide bomber in a green zone. A mysterious crash over the north Atlantic. Cooler heads surely suggested the safer option. Bush chose the heroic one.

The Navy Seal operation against Bin Laden was a surprise of historic proportions. It was a victory for the United States of America. It, too, could have ended badly.

The attack took courage, though one could argue that President Obama hardly had a choice. (“You had convincing evidence of the world’s most wanted’s whereabouts and you didn’t try to get him?”)

Nevertheless, I commend President Obama and the years of military and intelligence diligence that led to the successful operation.

President Obama made a heroic choice that didn’t necessarily match up with his previous words and deeds. Closing interrogation facilities; trying terrorists as civilians; quasi-apologizing for American strength and exceptionalism; these aren’t exactly conducive to locating and eliminating radical Islamists.

But even less conducive to maintaining military and intelligence superiority is the broader social agenda which Mr. Obama has pushed at home.

Once upon a time, Europe’s armies and armadas dominated land and sea. They were the most prolific in the world. Today, European nations spend less on defense as a percentage of their GDP than the U.S. It shows.

Could any other country have commandeered Bin Laden like we did? Not a chance, even if he was sitting in their own backyard, which he was.

Alarmingly, our defense spending has steadily decreased over time. In the early 1960s, our budget was split evenly between defense and non-defense spending. By 2009, it was 80% non-defense.

In Europe, the burgeoning welfare state has eaten away at military prowess. If the U.S. continues toward a cradle to grave entitlement society, our military and reconnaissance resources will decline, as well.

This week, we all have enjoyed having military and intelligence proficiency. But as our friends in the Old World have shown us, we can’t have Obamacare and Osama snared, too.

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