The successful rescue of Captain Richard Philips sent a powerful signal to those around the world who might have been considering challenging the new president. Obama has passed his first foreign crisis with flying colors, and sent a message that he is not afraid to act.
In a statement, the President expressed satisfaction with the successful rescue of Phillips, “I am very pleased that Captain Phillips has been rescued and is safely on board the USS Boxer. His safety has been our principal concern, and I know this is a welcome relief to his family and his crew. I am also very proud of the efforts of the U.S. military and many other departments and agencies who worked tirelessly to secure Captain Phillips’s safe recovery.”
He also stated that the U.S. will continue to fight piracy in the region, “We remain resolved to halt the rise of piracy in this region. To achieve that goal, we must continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks, be prepared to interdict acts of piracy and ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes. I share the country’s admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew. His courage is a model for all Americans.”
Politically speaking, the big news here is that unlike former President Clinton, Barack Obama did not hesitate over the decision to use force. CNN is reporting that Obama twice granted authority to the Defense Department to use appropriate force to secure the release of Captain Phillips.
Interestingly, Obama first granted approval to use force on Friday, then again on Saturday. If this was the first foreign test for the new president, he passed it with flying colors. One only has to remember then President Clinton’s Somalia disaster to comprehend the potential political minefield that this situation could have become.
The Somali pirates wanted money, but three of them ended up dead, and one other is in custody. I think Obama sent a clear message that the pirates better stay away from U.S. ships or face the consequences. He didn’t let the situation drag and linger. There appears to have been no indecision here. Incidents like the one Captain Phillips found himself the victim, can make or break presidents. The presidency of George W. Bush was defined by his misguided decision to go to Iraq after 9/11.
Jimmy Carter’s presidency was doomed by the Iran hostage crisis, and at the time the Reagan administration was praised for their ability to free hostages, before the world knew about arms for hostages deals. Who would have thought that Obama’s first foreign crisis would have involved Somali pirates?
I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised about the successful resolution of this situation. Obama always seems to rise to the occasion, and make the correct choice. There is something reassuring about having a president that can be trusted to make sound decisions. Obama is showing the potential to be a very special president.