The Best Defense

Obama on Libya: Watch out, Saudi Arabia

That's what I thought as I watched President Obama's speech on Libya. It reminded me that about three years ago, when I read a transcript of an interview Fareed Zakaria did about foreign affairs with Barack Obama, then running for the Democratic presidential nomination. The message I took away from that exchange was that if this guy is elected, he will have little time for dictators, despots and the like.

What we saw in the NDU speech was a logical defense of what the president has ordered the military to do and an exposition of what the limits of the action will be. The cost of inaction threatened to be greater than the cost of action, but now we have done our part. Next role for the U.S. military is best supporting actor, providing electronic jammers, combat search and rescue, logistics and intelligence. That was all necessary, and  pretty much as expected.

But I was most struck by the last few minutes of the speech, when Obama sought to put the Libyan intervention in the context of the regional Arab uprising. He firmly embraced the forces of change, saying that history is on their side, not on the side of the oppressors. In doing so he deftly evoked two  moments in our own history-first, explicitly, the American Revolution, and second, more slyly, abolitionism, with a reference to "the North Star," which happened to be the name of Frederick Douglass's newspaper. If you think that was unintentional, read this.       

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The Best Defense

Is Osama bin Laden getting busy?

As if there were not enough going on: Proven provider John McCreary sends up a rocket over an Asia Times report that bin Laden has been hotfooting it all over the Durand Line. Not clear whether the terrorist is policing up internal problems of his infernal organization, or winding up to try to reclaim the global spotlight. Let's hope it is the former.

Asia Times Online on 24 March published an article by Syed Saleem Shahzad, who is an insightful commentator on South Asian affairs, as well as the publication's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He has studied al Qaida a long time.  He wrote that US intelligence has actionable information that Osama bin Laden has been "criss-crossing" the Pakistan -- Afghanistan border region in northwestern Pakistan during the past few weeks.

Shahzad wrote that US officials are "stunned" by bin Laden's visibility and the frequency of his movements. Bin Laden's purposes are not known. Terrorist analysts reportedly think the new level of activity means bin Laden is planning another large attack, though the 9/11 planning was actually not done by bin Laden. The South Asia analysts think he is meeting with friendly Afghan warlords to bring the Afghan War to a favorable conclusion for the Taliban.

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