Minutes after unconfirmed reports of Qaddafi's death broke, pundits started arguing over whether or not Obama deserves credit. If indeed the Libyan dictator is done for--and it certainly looks like is--he would be yet another on a growing list of major terrorist targets brought down this year under the president's watch. However, Qaddafi wasn't the sort of direct hit that Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Atiyah Abd al-Rahman (Al Qaeda's former number two) were, so the debate over Obama's role in the former dictator's death is necessarily convoluted. But the entire Libyan conflict has been that way from the start. When he sent troops to help the rebels less than six months ago, the president caused an uproar on all sides, catching flak from some for not being more aggressive and others for entangling the United States needlessly in another war. As The Atlantic Wire's Elspeth Reeve wrote at the time, conservatives and liberals simply "agreed to disagree with Obama." Now that Qaddafi is reportedly gone for good, folks seem eager to take sides, and this time, the split is more predictable.
Those Giving Obama Credit
Nick Kristoff at The New York Times tweeted soon after the news broke, "If Qaddafi is dead, this is (tentative) vindication of a brave Obama decision to back rebels trying to overthrow him." On MSNBC later on Thursday morning, Kristoff said, "It was an unusual decision by President Obama to engage in libya and it was very controversial … At least for now, tentatively, this strikes me as somehwat of a vindication for that decision."