Posts Tagged ‘The Finish’

Begging the question: Obama and Libya

December 6, 2012

Last night I finished reading “Obama’s Way,” a lengthy feature on Barack Obama, the Libyan military intervention and the president’s decision-making process. Michael Lewis’ article has a publication date of Oct. 5 of this year, so I am definitely behind the curve on this; Vanity Fair’s nearly 14,000-word opus was meant to make a big pre-election splash.

I don’t think Lewis breaks any major news in his story. Rather, he fills in some details. Based on news accounts as well as Mark Bowden’s book The Finish (which ironically was published after Lewis’ piece), I’ve always considered Obama to be a very deliberate, cool and calculating decision-maker, despite the many forces that frequently put competing claims on the president.

That’s just what Lewis portrays. And he adds numerous colorful details, some pulled from one or more flights aboard Air Force One, others from at least one visit to Obama’s favored work and living spaces at the White House, and still more from one of the president’s nigh-legendary hard-fought, sharp-elbowed recreational basketball games.

One of the most fascinating things in the article comes around the two-thirds point, as Lewis gives a comprehensive (and incredibly divergent) account of two March 15, 2011, meetings between Obama and his security team. Both gatherings concerned the Libyan civil war and how, if at all, the United States should respond to it.

Early on, the first meeting went off track. The two options on the table were establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and doing nothing. Read the rest of this entry »

Means vs. ends: Account of bin Laden’s assassination raises uncomfortable questions

November 14, 2012

Author’s note: I have written two posts inspired by Mark Bowden’s nonfiction book The FinishTuesday’s post reviewed the book. Today’s post considers some of the philosophical and moral issues raised by the book.

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As Mark Bowden makes clear in The Finish, his new book on the killing of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, several different tales have been told about the notorious terrorist’s final moments.

Obama administration officials initially indicated that bin Laden sought to use his youngest wife, Amal, as a human shield, and that he was killed in a firefight. Bowden and Nicholas Schmidle, in The New Yorker, write that the wife moved between bin Laden and the Navy SEALs who were moving into the compound. I gather that No Easy Day, a memoir by the pseudonymous Mark Owen, a SEAL who participated in the raid, makes no mention of Amal but says bin Laden’s bullet-ridden body was in a much gorier condition than the two journalists have written.

A serious question — prompted in part because of the differing accounts of those final moments — emerged nearly as soon as the world learned that bin Laden had been shot and killed. The question: Why hadn’t the United States captured the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks so he could be put on trial in a court of law?

Read the rest of this entry »

Bowden chronicles a top terrorist’s take-down in ‘The Finish’

November 13, 2012

Author’s note: I have written two posts inspired by Mark Bowden’s nonfiction book The Finish. Today’s post is a review of the book. Wednesday’s post considers some of the philosophical and moral issues raised by the book.

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Mark Bowden is a respected investigative journalist with nine books to his credit, among them Black Hawk Down, the gripping true story of a military operation gone awry in the Sudan.

Given his background, it’s little surprise that the dramatic killing of Osama bin Laden — which is now perhaps the most famous special operations mission in history — drew Bowden’s interest. Nor is it a surprise that the author has produced a fascinating account of the mission that arguably made President Barack Obama able to win a second term in office.

By now the broad outlines of the raid on a large but obscure private residence in Abbottabad, one mile away from Pakistan’s military academy, are well known. As typically told, the story begins when Obama ordered American intelligence agencies to prioritize locating bin Laden, the notorious terrorist and al Qaeda founder who helped launch the deadly Sept. 11, 2001, assaults on New York and Washington, D.C.

When spies tracked down a courier linked to bin Laden, they discovered a familiar-looking thin, tall man pacing in the compound where the courier lived. Obama and top officials began sorting through probabilities and options. Once drone and missile strikes were dismissed as being too crude and leaving too much uncertainty, a special operations team began planning and practicing for a raid near the capital of what is ostensibly an allied nation.

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