Should President Obama be taking credit for the removal of Usama bin Laden from this mortal realm?

The short answer is “yes.” This is based on the logic that if the mission that got UBL had failed, especially if we had lost forces as we did in the infamous Desert One mission, Obama would have had to take the blame. Harry Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here” saw still holds true for Presidents. President Obama made the right call, and he can rightly claim the credit. That said, it is a distorted view to think that nothing was done until before the present Administration arrived, and no one should be credited except President Obama.

First of all, the United States has been trying to kill or capture UBL since the Clinton Administration. One of the first classified programs I was read into on my arrival in the Pentagon in July of 2001 was the plan to fire a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone at UBL if we could definitively find him. I was told that President Bush had reaffirmed the Presidential finding issued by President Clinton. Unfortunately, we never got a good shot prior to 9/11.

After 9/11, the full weight of the U.S. intelligence Community in all its diversity was turned to the task. No one had to order anyone to focus on finding UBL. Everyone, from Generals, Admirals, and high political appointees to clerks, analysts, and privates, and everyone in between “got it.” No effort was spared, no expense was avoided; everyone wanted UBL’s head.

The problem is that it is pretty easy to hide one man if he really doesn’t want to be found, and he has a cooperative population in which to hide. Mao’s analogy of fish swimming in the sea is applicable here. Terrorists (vice Mao’s guerillas) are the fish, and the people are the sea. The “sea” provided by Tora Bora at first, then rural Pakistan later, made it very difficult to find the “tall bearded guy.”

What many adversaries do not know is that the real strength of the American Intelligence Community is not merely our technological might. It is not the size and diversity of our intelligence capabilities. The real strength is in the fact that they NEVER stop until the job is done; ever.

The superb SEALs who finally took down UBL were riding on the backs of a multitude of men and women over that 10-year period. While they were doing their jobs, they were neither Republicans nor Democrats. They were not serving President Bush or President Obama. They were serving the People of the United States.

So it is fine for President Obama to tout that UBL was killed under his watch, but he should give credit to the effort that began long before he took office, and never ended until the body was dumped into the sea.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More