Removing the eye patch

Our President has been hailed successful in his “first test” as commander in chief, but we shouldn’t be so quick to commend him for the military action.

The Associated Press reported President Barack ObamaâÄôs âÄúno drama handling of the Indian OceanâÄôs hostage crisis,âÄù like a ball game. The headline proclaimed Obama had âÄúscored a winâÄù on the pirate crisis after making âÄútwo quiet, backstage decisions to authorize proper force if Capt. Richard PhillipsâÄô life was in imminent danger.âÄù MSNBC claimed it was a âÄúremarkableâÄù success. Of course, as the story goes, PhillipsâÄô three Somali captors were taken out in tune with the âÄúone shot, one killâÄù motto of U.S. Navy SEAL snipers. While it is true that the military earns praise in saving the life of a well-loved individual, we should not be so quick to claim our president scored all the points. Certainly, âÄúscoring a winâÄù in an international basketball game is one thing, but shooting a band of teenage pirates is entirely another. Nevertheless, the American media praised the shootings. The AP claimed ObamaâÄôs benefits were instantly clear: An American life was saved. He notched a victory in the increasingly dangerous Horn of Africa. Our president passed his âÄúfirst testâÄù as commander in chief, all in the first 100 days of his presidency. He had remained âÄúmuted but determinedâÄù in handling the incident. All in a dayâÄôs work, right? But the question is: Where was he working during the ordeal? Indeed, Obama made no public statement until after the fact and even skirted a question about the matter in a press briefing on Friday when he quelled reporters retorting, âÄúGuys âĦ weâÄôre talking about housing right now.âÄù White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel maintained that ObamaâÄôs silence did not mean he wasnâÄôt deeply involved, and that his public posture was calculated so as not to raise the temperature or give the hostage-takers anything to exploit. âÄúLetâÄôs not confuse a public role with being on top of the situation,âÄù Emanuel said. âÄúIf youâÄôd interjected yourself, you would make the discussions that were happening more difficult.âÄù But IâÄôm not so sure that appearing to ignore a crisis is helpful to the spirits of our country, as many were glued to the news during Easter weekend. It is possible to make a statement of acknowledgement without compromising an emotive or tactical ground in the discussion. After its conclusion, Defense Secretary Robert Gates praised the story as a âÄútextbookâÄù success. In other words, it couldnâÄôt have ended any more smoothly than it did; all worked out in the way SEALs are trained to react. Certainly, a miscalculation during the incident would have fallen on ObamaâÄôs shoulders, and the ordeal could have gone seriously awry. IâÄôm curious to know how much presidential approval of military action actually affected the success of the rescue. Gates described the pirates as âÄúuntrained teenagers with heavy weapons.âÄù Toting AK-47s âÄîassault rifles that can easily be used by untrained individuals âÄî the pirates were all between the ages of 17 and 19. I would hope our military is capable of handling such a situation. Finally speaking of the matter in a press video, Obama vowed to âÄúhalt the rise of piracy in the areaâÄù and âÄúensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes.âÄù But piracy is already rampant, and Somali pirates have already pledged revenge for their comrades. According to the BBC, one third of all piracy occurs in the Horn of Africa, and the Kenyan foreign minister estimates that pirates have received $150 million in the past year in ransom payments. An estimated $60 to $70 million was lost to pirates in 2008. Bringing their demise will be easier said than done. As the pirates earn more money, their technologies have and will continue to become more sophisticated. Their use of GPS systems and speedboats makes locating the vessels extremely difficult. Though in December 2008, the U.N. Security Council approved the pursuit of these pirates on land at their hubs, infiltrating that land would mean great losses of civilians who are uninvolved in the attacks. âÄúThere is no purely military solution to it,âÄù noted Gates. âÄúAnd as long as youâÄôve got this incredible number of poor people, and the risks are relatively small, thereâÄôs really no way, in my view, to control it unless you get something on land that begins to change the equation for these kids.âÄù So sure, the American people have become aware of the dangers in the Indian Ocean, and our president has vowed to put an end to piracy. But for now, letâÄôs remember that weâÄôve only had a small victory, and it is not the president who is the hero. Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]