Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has reportedly been killed by the American military, and although we never exult in the death of another human we must admit the world is better off without him. Baghdadi was the leader of the Islamic State, the radical Islamist State terror gang that bloodily reigned over a large swath of the Middle East until recently, and anything that hastens its demise is for the best.
President Donald Trump characteristically took most of the credit for how Baghdadi had “died like a dog,” although he also acknowledged the efforts of the troops who had actually carried out the dangerous mission, and we must begrudgingly admit he has done something right. We were always harsh critics of President Barack Obama, but begrudgingly gave him some of the credit for the necessary killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, so we’re obliged do the same for Trump.
We only gave Obama so much credit for the bin Laden hit, though, and would always roll our eyes when our Democratic friends boasted of how Obama had succeeded where President George W. Bush had failed, which seemed to us like bragging about how Nixon landed a man on the moon after Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had failed in the effort. These things take time, usually more time than any president has, and in the end presidents just give the go-ahead and take the credit for what was long planned before they took office.
Obama would have never been able to order the mission that killed bin-Laden if Bush hadn’t driven al-Qaeda from its base in Afghanistan, and redirected America’s intelligence and military and diplomatic power to the fight against radical Islamism, and whatever you think about how that’s worked out it did wind up with Obama taking credit for taking out bin-Laden and al-Qaeda not being in the news these days. The Islamic State wound up bloodily ruling a large swath of the Middle East in large part because of Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq, where they had mostly won a very unpopular Bush started, but by the end of second term Obama was gored to send a small number of troops to Syria to train and support and give air cover to some fierce and relatively democratic Kurdish fighters who were opposed to both the Islamic State and the Syrian dictatorship.
The strategy came to fruition during the Trump administration, with the Islamic State driven from its self-proclaimed Caliphate, albeit still intact as a terror organization with operatives all over Europe, and at that point Trump claimed all credit for the victory and decided to abandon our Kurdish allies to an invasion by the Kurd-hating turks, and let Turkey and the Syrian dictatorship and its Iranian and Russian allies work things out. Even a majority of the Republicans in Congress thought this a premature withdrawal and abandonment of America honor, with some comparing it to Obama’s blunder in Iraq, but Trump has at least gone back for long enough to take out Baghdadi.
He’ll surely be bragging about it until election day, if he gets there, just like Obama did with bin Laden, only far more so. Back then Trump “tweeted” a lot about how Obama was getting too much credit, and how any old president would have done the same thing. In one “tweet” he gave the credit to Admiral William McRaven, who meticulously verified bin Laden’s location and planned the mission, but these days McRaven is an outspoken critic of Tump’s foreign policy, so now we’re not sure who the hero might be.
With all due respect to both presidents for giving the order any old president would give, the deaths both of bin Laden and Baghdadi are only so big a deal. The murderous medieval ideology they championed remains a threat to peace and freedom on earth, and will require America’s careful thought and constant vigilance and occasionally violent engagements. Neither party seems up to that on a regular basis, but we figure they both have their moments.
— Bud Norman