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Leon T. Hadar Headshot

Obama's Measured Response to Terrorism: A Political Winner

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It was not surprising that many Republican lawmakers, joined by several conservative pundits -- not to mention the Dick from the former Buscheney Administration -- have knee-jerked with all their all-too-familiar and phony "be afraid, be very afraid" hysteria to the Obama administration's measured response -- for the Republican definition of "deliberate" and "thoughtful," check your Thesaurus for "weak" -- to the would-be Christmas bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Let's face it: There was no way that George W. Bush would have been elected to a second term and that the Republicans would have succeeded in maintaining control of Congress until 2006, without the ultra-nationalist and fear-mongering strategy that W and the GOP had adopted and implemented since 9/11. Promoting the idea that the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington were the first salvo in the World War IV between the U.S.-led West and Al Qaeda-controlled Caliphate was aimed at providing both domestic support and international legitimacy for the neoconservative-driven unilateralist and messianic foreign policy approach, starting with the ousting of Saddam Hussein and followed by the push of a wacky Wilsonian Freedom Agenda in the Broader Middle East.

Indeed, the Bush Administration and its spin meisters in Congress, the media and the think tanks were investing much of their time and energy on perpetuating the fantasy that Americans were facing an existential threat in the form of "Islamofascism" which was supposedly akin to that of Nazism and Communism; in reality, it was nothing more than a catchword to describe a mishmash of secular and religious as well as Sunni and Shiite, governments and movements that included some of America's former (Saddam) and current (Saudi Arabia) allies.

The creation of the many new national security and intelligence agencies and the ensuing and never-ending security alerts combined with the insistence that we are at war - The Long War; the War on Terrorism; the War on Terrorism; the Global War On Terror (GWOT); and the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE) -- have served as justifications for a perpetual war and for the crowning of George W as the indispensable War President and for increasing the power of the already powerful Imperial Presidency and the national security state.

Barack Obama had won the 2008 the presidential race not by running as a pacifist anti-war candidate but as the opponent of the Bush/neoconservative WWIV paradigm, and in that context, the unjustified and costly Iraq War. What he was basically arguing was that if he were the U.S. President in 9/11, he would have deployed U.S. troops to capture and kill those who were responsible for that massacre - Osama bin Ladin and the members of his gang; but that he would not have taken opportunity of the attacks on New York and Washington to mobilize domestic and international support for an all-encompassing global "war."

From that perspective, the response to each potential and actual act of terror at home and abroad should not be hasty and frantic -- but calculated and precise. While it is conceivable that in the near future most of these violent acts would be driven by some form of radical Islamic ideology, each case - ranging from the work of a deranged individual to an act perpetrated by a group or government, and the response to it - ranging from a police action to a commando raid -- should be considered on its merit and not be seen as part of a GWOT or a GSAVE that require scare-mongering the American people and creating an atmosphere of a perpetual war.

If anything, since the goal of groups like Al Qaeda is to produce hysteria -- which terrorism is all about -- and to create an environment that would be conducive to igniting a Clash of Civilizations between the West and the Muslim World, it is in the interest of the U.S. President to be calm(ing) and to ensure that the culprits would not be seen as agents of some monolithic Islamofascist entity (unless that president is planning to invade some country in the Middle East) which only helps to ignite more anti-Americanism among Muslims. But will such a response prove to be a political disadvantage for such a realist and cool American president?

Well, now we seemed to have gone through a political science experiment of the sort that examined that issue. I must admit that I have been worried that Obama's intelligent and responsible response to the Fort Hood shooting and to the attempted Christmas Day bombing would, indeed, play into the hands of the fake warriors on the political right. But I was delighted to discover that based on the results of most recent public opinion polls, Obama's strategy has been demonstrated to be a political winner.

Hence, according to a CBS News poll 57 percent of respondents approved of the way Obama had managed the Christmas attack while 52 percent backed his policy of handling terrorism. Similarly, A CNN poll released this month shows that 65 percent of the respondents said they had either a "great deal of" or "moderate" confidence in Obama administration to keep them safe from future terrorist attacks, a number that was six points higher than a similar CNN poll in August 2006 when Bush was in the White House. Moreover, the same poll also suggested that only nine percent of the respondents said that they were "very worried" that they or one of their family members would become a "victim of terrorism", with another 25 percent saying they were "somewhat worried". Again, according to CNN, that figure was four percent lower than a previous poll in June 2008, six months before President Obama came into office. Yep. The Cool President seems to be more reassuring than the War President.

Which leaves me with this thought: Obama could have also turned out to be a political winner if, like in the case of terrorism, he had followed his own instincts on Afghanistan and resisted the pressure from the political right (and the military) to deploy more U.S. troops to that country. Good policies make for successful presidents.