Obama's Speeches and that SEAL Team: Bad News for Bad Guys

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Steve Clemons discusses with Lawrence O'Donnell Obama's big gamble deploying Navy SEAL Team 6 on another high-risk mission

I shared some thoughts with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC's The Last Word on the yet again amazing performance of the Navy SEALs, Team 6, in rescuing American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Thisted.

A couple of quick items that I mention in the video clip above.

First, Obama does really keep his cool when major, high risk actions are underway and he's off giving big speeches like he did Tuesday evening at the State of the Union address or when he was speaking at last year's White House Correspondents' Dinner and the bin Laden action was being readied for the following morning.

If this incursion into Somalia had failed, had members of the SEAL team been captured and/or killed as happened during the Clinton administration -- that loss would likely tip the electoral contest towards the Republican candidate, whether Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich.

Obama didn't play it safe, and he and his team deserve credit for that.

Second, I ran into a senior legal adviser in the administration who made the good point that this is "not Rambo, not John Wayne, not bravado and swagger." The person said that there is multilateral coordination and legal authority that has been carefully constructed to both legitimate and support these police actions. This is effective, multilateral, legally-valid action, not unilateral swagger that says damn the international rules.

Killing Somali pirates who have kidnapped Americans and Europeans may appeal to the action-lust many have when watching action movies or reading a Tom Clancy novel, but the real achievement of the Obama White House is not just knowing how to deploy this great Navy SEAL team but also how to operate in the international system in a rules based way (and yes, I include the killing of bin Laden in this calculation).

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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