Presidential Decision-making, Rhetoric, & the Killing of Osama bin Laden within a Counterinsurgency Paradigm

My choice to write about President Obama’s use of special forces to kill Osama bin Laden reflects the intersection of several different themes and topics that I have explored in my history and political science majors. Courses such as Problems in International History: Insurgency/Counterinsurgency and the Ethics of International Intervention have touched upon the United States’ campaign to wage wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that incorporate aspects of counterinsurgency. I was struck by how bin Laden’s death at the hands of a Navy SEAL team can be interpreted as an act of counterinsurgency, despite being dissimilar to counterinsurgency paradigms and the efforts waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. My paper will seek to examine the decision-making resulting in the operation Obama authorized and Obama’s rhetoric after the mission by comparing and contrasting the operation to other conceptions of counterinsurgency, and determining how past “lessons learned” from other special forces operations and counterinsurgency efforts may have factored into President Obama’s thoughts. Crucial to this effort are classes such as The American Presidency and American Political Decision-making, taught by my advisor Professor Richard Pious, that exposed me to the powers of the presidency that Obama wields and the dynamics of the presidential decision-making process.
Before I get carried away, I think I should emphasize that the scope, focus, and main questions that my paper will address are likely to change, although the topic will remain the same. I think the description I provided above may be rather ambitious. The events I am writing about transpired only several months ago, and much useful information will likely be classified for years to come. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that bin Laden’s death was a seismic event that may represent a symbolic end to the so-called “War on Terror”. The ability to analyze such a major recent event will be an exciting challenge, especially since it will allow me to compare and contrast a real world event to frameworks, cases, and concepts that I have devoted my time to studying in the classroom.


About cms2204

Senior at Columbia College double majoring in History and Political Science.
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