Days before President Obama plans to present his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Osama Bin Laden sent his own message to the American people. According to CNN “A new audio tape allegedly from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden claims responsibility for an attempt to blow up a plane en route to Michigan on Christmas Day and warns the United States of more attacks.” The report added, “The tape, which aired on Al Jazeera on Sunday, says ‘the United States will not dream of enjoying safety until we live it in reality in Palestine.”
When Bin Laden speaks the President should listen—particularly as he drafts his remarks to the American people. Here is why. Since taking the White House the president has relegated the war on terrorism to one speech at the National Archives and a litany of pronouncements to distance his administration from Bush—closing Gitmo; curtailing CIA-led interrogations; and terrorists from Military Commissions to high-profile trials in the United States.
What the president has not done is demonstrated he takes Bin Laden’s words seriously. That is a mistake the United States has made in the past—and one Obama repeated.
There is much that the President could do in his speech to recommit his administration to winning the Long War.
He could clearly state that winning in Afghanistan and protecting America’s vital interests are more important than arbitrary withdrawal deadlines. He could pledge to use all the tools in the terrorist fighting toolkit including Gitmo, commissions, and the Patriot Act. He could pledge to rebuild the American military rather than gutting the defense budget for modernizing our forces. He could pledge to be a real war president 24-7-365.
Or he could leave Bin Laden’s rambles go unchallenged.