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China Times, Taiwan

Going for the Jugular, Obama Is
Cool-Headed and Effective

By Yen Chen-Shen

Obama’s resolve demonstrates courage worthy of praise.

Translated By Daniel Kuey

3 May 2011

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Taiwan - China Times - Original Article (Chinese)

In 2001, when 9/11 occurred, Obama was as yet an unknown name, an Illinois state senator lacking authority. He was full of passion for politics, despite feeling down and out in 2000 at his misfortune in his bid for a Democratic Party seat in the federal House of Representatives, although he was still hopeful he could make the climb. But when Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida were confirmed as the culprits behind the scenes, Obama’s original plan for another election campaign had to be scrapped because, according to one elector, Obama was an unlucky man, as there was nothing he could do about a last name that rhymed with Osama.

Compared to that one elector, the American people have obviously been much more understanding, since Obama was not only elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 but won the general election in 2008 and became America’s first president of African descent. Obama’s middle name, Hussein, never became a drawback to achieving major roles. Today, four months ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this unusually named American president announced that Osama bin Laden had met a violent death at the hands of American special forces. You see how hard it is to predict things in life.

Since taking office, Obama has emphasized the principles for using the American military and believes that a war must first be just before the U.S. enters into combat. He had opposed the Iraq War because the U.S. had no conclusive evidence proving that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or that there was a link between the Saddam Hussein government and al-Qaida. Obama believes that the Afghan War is a just war because bin Laden obtained refuge under the Taliban in Afghanistan. Last year, Obama announced the withdrawal of troops from Iraq but still added troops to the Afghan War. This is all in line with his philosophy on war.

In a White House press conference, Obama explained in particular that the U.S. is not and never will be an enemy of Islam and that bin Laden is not a leader of Muslims but rather a thug who is a mass murderer of Muslims. Obama clearly hoped to bring the tragedy of 9/11 to a close, for the time being, through summary justice and the dispatching of bin Laden. However, U.S. anti-terrorism efforts will certainly not come to an end in this way. In the near term, the U.S. will still be actively defending against holy warriors plotting another wave of terrorist attacks.

With the violent demise of bin Laden, the Obama administration faces several challenges going forward. First, what impact will this action have on the Afghan War? Second, bin Laden’s leadership position will perhaps be filled by the No. 2 figure Ayman al-Zawahiri, but with his physican-turned-terrorist Egyptian background, will he have bin Laden’s mass charisma? Third, does bin Laden’s death mean that the U.S. can work on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan? With the human target gone, does this mean that a U.S. troop withdrawal would be timely and proper?

Throughout the kill-or-capture policy-making process, the most admirable thing has been Obama’s decisiveness. When Obama obtained intelligence information furnished by national security, he had to decide whether or not to take action. If bin Laden’s hideout had been in a desolate area outside of town, the U.S. raid would have been relatively simple. But if it were in a town with ordinary citizens nearby, then the case for a raid would be highly problematic. Obama’s resolve demonstrates courage worthy of praise.

After Obama made the decision, concerned American political observers have perhaps noted that he still went to see the disaster victims in the South. And during the White House Correspondents Dinner, with the rumors and the smiles as well as Republican Party opponents and the Donald Trump jokes, a major decision such as the one that was just made had gone entirely undetected. Obama’s cool-headedness is evidently emblematic of politicians, even of Republican military personnel and the widely held praise.

In early April, Obama had just announced his run for another term; less than a month later, he achieved an important victory in the area of homeland security. Wild with joy, the American people welcomed this news with chants demanding “four more years!” of his presidency. When alive, Osama bin Laden could have been a stumbling block to Obama’s chances at governing. But now that bin Laden is dead, there is still a chance of becoming the best campaign staffer of Obama’s next term. This is perhaps the greatest irony of the whole affair.

(The author is the director of the Institute of International Relations at Chengchi University, Taiwan.)



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