Conservatives have a point when they criticize President Obama and his fellow Democrats for not calling the mission in Iraq a “success” or a “victory.” But if they are right about that — and they are — they cannot now withhold praise from President Obama for the flawless rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from the hands of terrorists masquerading as pirates. (More about the misuse of nomenclature in a moment.)
One can be sure that had things gone badly and Captain Phillips had been killed, or if the president had gone to the United Nations for a resolution condemning the kidnapping, or if the ransom was paid and the terrorists escaped, conservatives would have been all over the president, claiming they were right when they said during the campaign (as did Hillary Clinton) that Obama is too inexperienced to be in charge of America's national security.
Will conservatives now hide behind the excuse that it was the Navy Seals, the FBI and the bravery of Captain Phillips that were solely responsible for the success of the mission and that the president played only a supporting role, at best? One could make the same argument about Iraq; that the troops and not President Bush should receive sole credit for toppling Saddam Hussein and planting the first seeds of democracy there.
We have become so polarized in America that one side cannot bring itself to praise any job done well by the other. In fact, the idea of "sides" further divides us in ways that are not beneficial to the country. Polls will now be taken that will probably show a rise in public confidence about Obama's ability to handle our national defense. Would someone argue if he had failed and his numbers declined that somehow an improvement in Republican poll numbers would make us safer? The last I checked, terrorists were equal opportunity killers.
The hijacking of the merchant ship and the kidnapping of Captain Phillips are two more pieces in the much larger combat operation against terrorists (or as the administration has suggested calling it, "overseas contingency operation"). What comes next is equally important.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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