COMMENTARY | With the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks approaching, President Barack Obama delivered the news to the world on Sunday night that Osama bin Laden, the underwriter of the most devastating attacks ever on U.S. soil, had been killed by U.S. operatives in Pakistan.
As thousands gleefully gathered outside the White House, waving American flags and singing the national anthem, Obama detailed that upon taking office, he made the capture of bin Laden a top priority. Obama continued by sharing that last August the United States received intelligence that ultimately lead to an operation that resulted in the killing of the terror leader.
In moments that impact national security to this degree, politics are, however briefly, set aside as Americans tend to rally around the flag and the president. Obama called on all Americans to remember the unity that Sept. 11 brought about, and made a point to cite President George W. Bush’s view from 2001 that the United States was not at war with Islam.
But make no mistake: This is a major political victory for Obama as he prepares to launch his re-election campaign for 2012. The fact that it took nearly 10 years for the United States to locate bin Laden has been a point of contention with many; there is no denying that American credibility and prestige had suffered as the most visible face of terror had not been brought to justice.
While the killing of bin Laden may ultimately prove to be largely symbolic (the terror threat, of course, does not die with him), the history books will show that Barack Obama, as commander in chief, brought about the killing of bin Laden.
While finding and killing bin Laden is attributable to a confluence of factors (teamwork, time, and luck being among the essential factors), on Sunday night it was easy to sense that Obama has now had his moment. Politically, he still faces formidable challenges as unemployment remains high, the housing market continues to degrade, and ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, Obama will almost certainly realize a much needed boost in the polls in the upcoming days and weeks. And while the polls will continue to fluctuate from day to day, and event to event, it will certainly stay in the back of many swing voters’ minds that Obama is now the president who has struck the most decisive blow against terror.
It is interesting to note too that the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had, at least directly, nothing to do with the capture of bin Laden. Bin Laden needn’t have been “smoked out of a cave,” as Bush said he would be if necessary. Instead, bin Laden was in a mansion in an urban area of Pakistan, an ally, when a small team of U.S. operatives moved in. Obama, from a political standpoint, will surely want people to see that perhaps his way of fighting terror, through the use of intelligence and surgical strikes, can be highly effective.
For Obama, this mission is accomplished.
Ron Hart is covering the 2012 presidential election for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.