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Jewish World Review
April 14, 2009
/ 20 Nisan 5769
"President Pantywaist" was how Gerald Warner, a columnist for the London
Telegraph, described Barack Obama at the conclusion of his European tour,
which he compared to Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.
Mr. Warner was particularly scornful of the president's tepid response to
North Korea's provocative launch of a Taepodong 2 rocket, which conceivably
could deliver a nuclear warhead to targets in Alaska:
"America had Aegis destroyers tracking the missile and could have shot it
down," Mr. Warner wrote. "But Uncle Sam had a sterner reprisal in store
for lil ole Kim (Jong Il, North Korea's dictator). A multi-megaton strike
of Obama hot air…Watch out, France and co., there is a new surrender monkey
on the block."
Others, perturbed by the administration's announcement of proposed cuts in
ballistic missile defense in the immediate aftermath of the North Korean
provocation, expressed the same sentiment in gentler terms.
Then Somali pirates seized the Maersk Alabama. The crew recaptured the
ship, but the pirates took the ship's captain, Richard Phillips, hostage in
one of the Maersk Alabama's lifeboats. The five day crisis ended happily for
Americans with Captain Phillips rescued unharmed, three pirates dead, and
the fourth in custody.
After Mr. Phillips, the biggest beneficiary of the successful rescue is
President Obama, who now has the opportunity to mitigate, if not reverse
entirely, the harsh judgment Mr. Warner and others formed of him after his
Spring Apology Tour. As the crisis dragged on, and the lifeboat containing the
pirates and their hostage drew ever closer to the Somali shore, many
myself among them feared the president's reluctance to use force would
result in another humiliation for the United States, akin to that we suffered
when Iranian Islamists seized our embassy in Tehran during the Carter
administration. But the president had authorized the use of deadly force if the
on scene commander should determine that Captain Phillips' life was in "
After the fact, some Obama aides and his sycophants in the news media are
pretending the president was more actively involved in the rescue than in
fact he was. All Mr. Obama did was to assent to standard operating
procedure, procedure that every American president save Jimmy Carter and perhaps
Bill Clinton would have followed.
The praise should be given to the on scene commander, Commander Frank
Castellano, skipper of the USS Bainbridge, who determined that the hostage's
life was in "imminent" danger a determination which coincided with the
first time the Navy SEAL snipers on the fantail had clear shots at all three
pirates and authorized the use of deadly force. Praise, too, of course,
to the SEALs who made those remarkable shots.
Though President Obama was the beneficiary, not the instigator, of Cmdr
Castellano's decisiveness, many conservatives are unwilling to give him any
credit at all. This is unfair and untrue. Mr. Obama did not stand in the
way of the use of deadly force, as Jimmy Carter might have. And Mr. Obama'
s behavior throughout was presidential. He was right not to make public
statements about the crisis while negotiations were ongoing. And the
statement he issued after the successful rescue gave proper credit to the Navy
personnel who were responsible.
In the aftermath of the rescue, the president may be enjoying a reputation
for toughness and decisiveness he doesn't deserve. But it is in America'
s interest that he do so. Tyrants emboldened by Mr. Obama's apparent
weakness during his Spring Apology Tour may now have second thoughts about his
willingness to use deadly force.
How long those second thoughts last, and whether they modify behavior in
North Korea or Iran or Syria, depends on what the president does next. If
he moves swiftly against the pirate base at Eyl, the image of weakness he
presented earlier will be dispelled. But if there is no change in U.S. policy
toward the pirates, the image of weakness will creep back.
Cmdr Castellano and the SEAL snipers have presented Mr. Obama with an
invaluable gift. God willing, he will use it wisely.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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