We've learned something about Barrack Obama: He is a gambler.

A gambler of his reputation, the military's, the CIA's, and his nation's. A gambler of lives.

And on this historic occasion, a winner as Commander-in-Chief. It has not always been so. He has had too many failures on the wartime front to qualify for that rank on a more than temporary basis. But this time, he scored magnificently with the help of an incredibly dedicated -- and quiet-- mission team.

A devotee of presidential history, he seems to have learned a vital lesson from Jimmy Carter.

In 1980, Carter backed a military rescue effort for nearly 40 U.S. Foreign Service personnel who were being held captive by Iran. Eight helicopters were booked for the attempt. One by one, they had to be scratched. Finally, the total number of rescue craft stood at one. The mission leader thought they could make the rescue work with that one helicopter.

They could not.

Instead of granting him a huge A for effort, the rightwingers, the bitchers, the easy-chair warts all jumped on Carter, ridiculing him for failure.

Obama gave his rescue team two copters. A smart move, for one of those crafts expired on arrival in enemy territory. The Navy Seals did their job with professional aplomb, sending bin Laden to martyrdom. No magic bullets needed, just sure aim and a dedication to the job.

The president gambled again, okaying the recommendation of political, religious and military advisers and permitting bin Laden's blood-covered body to be washed throughly, dressed in a white sheet in keeping with Islamic tradition, and sent to a oceanic grave.

That, in criminal cases, would be equated with destruction of evidence. Here the rationale was to prevent bin Laden's grave from becoming a martyr's site, drawing constant traffic from bin Laden admirers.

Obama is gambling again that Seal photos of the body with its wounds will, with DNA proof, suffice to prove bin Laden is truly dead. The sceptics are swarming over the absent body like vultures, insisting it has all been a sham. One even piped up with a "Remember, they faked the landing on the moon!"

The president has gambled, too, that retaliation efforts, expected around the world, will be fewer than bin Ladin followers promise. He is manifestly sure, of course, that he himself and members of his family may be targets for terrorists seeking not just revenge for bin Laden's death but for any of a hundred other causes clocked by psychiatrists and profilers.

Good luck, Mr. President. Hooyah.