Global Security Headlines

Thursday, April 9, 2009

US President Obama's Flunking First Test

credit: BBC

The principle of freedom of the seas has traditionally been a cornerstone of US international policy beginning with the War of 1812 with Great Britain.

As US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pronounced in May 1941 before later entering World War II:

"All freedom—meaning freedom to live and not freedom to conquer and subjugate other peoples—depends on the freedom of the seas—for our own shipping, for the commerce of our sister Republics, for the right of all nations to use the highways of world trade, and for our own safety…. As President of a united, determined people, I say solemnly: we reassert the ancient American doctrine of the freedom of the seas." (American Foreign Policy Encyclopedia )

The freedom of the seas is paramount to ensuring global security.

Thus, President Obama's silence on the latest pirate attack off the coast of lawless Somalia is curious and appears to be an abandonment of the principle of freedom of seas upheld by his predecessors.

This latest incident comes on the heels of Chinese harassment of a US civilian crewed naval survey vessel last month 70 miles south of Hainan Island.

Statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton qualifying the seizure of the American captain of the Maersk Alabama by Somali "outlaws of the ocean" as a "criminal act" is also erroneous. Piracy is more than a crime; it is terrorism on the high seas.

The purposeful misnaming of the attack by the puckish pirates only adds to the mysterious behavior by the Obama Administration facing its first international policy test. The new administration appears to be downplaying the incident despite the increase of US naval forces in the vicinity of the dinghy where the pirates hold the US captain.

The deadening silence from the White House on freedom of the seas raises concerns about the ability of the new US administration to deftly manage international relations given the high principle and US citizen involved. The US military possesses a strategy and is prepared to defend the freedom of the seas.

For the moment, US President Obama is flunking his first international test and more worthy opponents are surely taking note.

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