One mark of how far we have fallen into the politics of division is the blowback the White House has experienced after the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Now let’s first stipulate that no one on this side of civilized society would seriously argue the world was a better place with al-Baghdadi in it. He was, after all, the leader of the Islamic State group that unleashed forces of tyranny, violence and destruction through parts of Syria and Iraq. His men also sacked cities, exploited all who fell under their control and created one of the largest refugee crises in modern history, as anyone with the ability fled to far-flung corners of the region and world.
Al-Baghdadi was a man who gave us live beheadings and torture, and who also personally took pleasure in human misery. Kayla Mueller, an American abducted in Aleppo, Syria, was one of his victims. Kidnapped in 2013, she died in 2015 after, reportedly, al-Baghdadi had raped her multiple times.
So when American special forces caught up to al-Baghdadi over the weekend in a daring raid, it was a good example of one of our enemies being brought to justice, or, more accurately, justice being brought to an enemy of civilized society.
Let’s also stipulate that how President Donald Trump talked about this raid, especially on the heels of his withdrawal of support for the Kurds in parts of Syria, all but invited some criticism. The raid, after all, appears to have been made possible in part by intelligence gathered through the Kurds, and it was the kind of military mission that will be harder to perform with a smaller American footprint on the ground. Other critical voices also piped up to say that this raid was just another swing of the hammer in a never ending game of whack-a-mole. Another terrorist leader will surely take al-Baghdadi’s place.
We agree that the administration should not have pulled back support for the Kurds, and instead it should be offering a clear vision with moral purpose for the war against extremists that would perpetrate violence against us and undermine democratic governments in the Middle East.
But don’t count us among the voices who have a critical word to say about the al-Baghdadi raid. It was a brave move, and a decision Trump deserves credit for and rightly should characterize as a victory. Our special forces who conducted the raid once again demonstrated the power of a professional military dedicated to the preservation of a free society.
And as for the whack-a-mole aspect to this war, we will say only that in combat, tempo matters. This raid delivered a blow to a dangerous terrorist organization, and now every ounce of energy it spends reconstituting itself is that much less energy available to perpetrating attacks against us and our allies.