What if the bin Laden mission had failed?

You hear this on occasion from conservative critics of President Obama.

The president “had nothing to do” with the killing of 9/11 terror attack mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly repeated┬áthe preposterous notion┬áthis week on an edition of his “O’Reilly Factor” talk show.


I’ve heard it from others on the right, many of them right here in the Texas Panhandle, where the president is about as popular as … oh, let’s see, bin Laden.

O’Reilly said the Navy SEALs had everything to do with killing bin Laden in May 2011. Well, yes they did. The brave men risked everything by flying into Pakistan on a moonless night, landing their helicopters in bin Laden’s compound, looking for bin Laden, finding him, killing him and then hauling his corpse out of there.

However, to say that a commander in chief who issues the order “had nothing to do” with its success ignores the truth of what would have happened had the mission failed.

Did President Carter have “nothing to do” with the mission to rescue the Iran hostages in April 1980, the one that failed, costing eight American lives in the middle of the desert? He wasn’t at the controls of any of the helicopters that crashed. But he certainly got the blame — chiefly from those on the right — for the mission’s failure.

Did President Truman have “nothing to do” with ending World War II when he issued the order to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What if the Enola Gay B-29 bomber had crashed on its flight over Japan? Give ‘Em Hell Harry would have caught plenty of hell himself.

This ridiculous notion that presidents don’t risk enormous political capital when they make these difficult decisions is the stuff of nonsense.

Barack Obama had to weigh the risks of sending in the commandoes when he ordered the hit on bin Laden. He could have ordered air strikes that could have killed innocent civilians. He didn’t. He could have passed, deciding the risk was too great. He didn’t do that, either.

The president did what presidents get paid to do. He made the difficult call.

Thus, he, too, had everything to do with the success of the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.