A daring rescue that resulted in the freeing of two Western hostages Tuesday is another example of how important surgical counterterrorist strikes have become in this new age of warfare.
Unknown to America at the State of the Union speech Tuesday night and only hinted at by President Obama when he complimented Defense Secretary Leon Panetta with a "good job tonight" aside comment, SEAL Team 6, the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden last year, had just rescued an American and a Dane who were being held hostage in Somalia.
According to reports, the team members parachuted from an Air Force aircraft and moved on foot to the hostage site, aided by the fact that the night was nearly moonless. On the ground, they moved undetected into an outdoor encampment where Jessica Buchanan, a 32-year-old American, and Poul Hagen Thisted, a 60-year-old Dane, were being held captive.
The entire extraction operation lasted 90 minutes, and the only kidnapper who fired back at the SEALs was quickly subdued. The rest of the kidnappers were either killed or ran off before Army Black Hawk helicopters flew in to pick up the team and the freed hostages.
While this surgical operation came off without a hitch, there was a great deal of danger that the SEALs faced. The pirates who had imprisoned the pair were heavily armed and had access to explosives.
Officials said the reason for the raid's approval was twofold: The military had acquired enough intelligence to give a reasonable shot at success, and Buchanan has an undisclosed medical condition that could have become life-threatening.
As you might expect with 2012 being an election year, the successful raid is working its way into the political realm, where defense spending and how America protects itself are big chips on the election table.
That's unfortunate. These SEALs face danger and death every time they embark on a mission. They should be praised for their skill and bravery, and not be reduced to political posturing.
Regardless of which party is in charge of the White House come January 2013, the thing that everyone should realize is that in this era of terrorist warfare, brave U.S. military personnel like those who comprise SEAL Team 6 will play an increasingly important role in keeping our nation safe.
And once again, they have proven to be more than able to meet the challenge.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board