Remember December 1998, when, on the very day that the House of Reps voted the articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton, he bombed Iraq? Everybody guffawed, your correspondent included. But the evidence that has emerged since makes it crystal clear that Clinton was acting strictly on intelligence. Yes, this is true, no matter who chooses not to believe it. Still, it did look funny.
Well, today, we have the opposite situation. Obama nails al-Libi on a day when the only thing in the world liberals care about is Wisconsin. The White House literally could not have designed a high-profile strike for lower domestic impact. Plus you have liberals' general ambivalence about the drone war anyway. The main thing one is likely to hear from liberals is complaining about the other 15 killed today. Throw in the fact that conservatives aren't about to give Obama credit for anything (is that one crazy person still trying to prove that Obama wasn't in that Situation Room bin Laden photo?), and you have a huge news event, and a big success for the United States, likely to be ho-hummed to the back pages.
But this is important. It proves--it must be said--that drone strikes work. Pakistan may not like it, but I doubt we can sit around waiting for Pakistan to hand over people like al-Libi to us. Al Qaeda, as in the Al Qaeda we came to know after 9-11, is now pretty thoroughly decimated, and the Obama administration has done considerably more of the decimating than the Bush administration did.
That said, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (in Yemen) is the bigger threat now. Watch this fine Frontline documentary that aired just last week, featuring the intrepid work of an Iraqi journalist working for The Guardian. Getting at AQAP is harder. But it all just proves that the "war on terror" is just this--careful intelligence work and surgical strikes. It doesn't need a war. The wars just let right-wingers get their yaya's out. Oh, and damaged American credibility for about a decade.