In this context, Obama vowed last Monday to "halt the rise of piracy" following the dramatic rescue of an American captain, foreshadowing a longer and potentially more treacherous struggle ahead.
In allowing the Navy Seals to shoot the three young pirates holding the captain of American container ship Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, Obama passed his first test of national security successfully. However, the killing of pirates was the easy part in dealing with the resurgent piracy, because the larger threat to important shipping lanes is still there. On top of this, criminal piracy joining forces with extremism is a probability that the US cannot ignore.
All in all, the rising piracy has made the administration very concerned and worried, to say the least. That is why US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told students and faculty members at the Marine Corps War College that they would be spending a lot of time in the Situation Room over the next few weeks trying to figure out what in the world to do about this problem.
Although Gates concedes that there is no pure military solution to piracy, the US is considering new military measures to fight it, including adding Navy gunships along the Somali coast and launching a campaign to disable "mother ships," which pirates use extensively to attack ships farther away from the coastline.
With these possible military measures in place, the US is also pressing for diplomatic measures to counter and end the piracy. In this regard, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a diplomatic initiative last Wednesday. This is how she announced the initiative: "The State Department is taking four immediate steps as we move forward with a broader counter-piracy strategy. But let me underscore this point: The United States does not make concessions or ransom payments to pirates. What we will do is first send an envoy to attend the international Somali peacekeeping and development meeting scheduled in Brussels. The solution to Somali piracy includes improved Somali capacity to police their own territory. Our envoy will work with other partners to help the Somalis assist us in cracking down on pirate bases and in decreasing incentives for young Somali men to engage in piracy.
"Second, I'm calling for immediate meetings with our partners in the International Contact Group on Piracy to develop an expanded multinational response. The response that came to our original request through the Contact Group for nations to contribute naval vessels has turned out to be very successful. But now we need better coordination. This is a huge expanse of ocean, four times the size of Texas, so we have to be able to work together to avoid the pirates. We also need to secure the release of ships currently being held and their crew, and explore tracking and freezing pirate assets.
"Third, I've tasked a diplomatic team to engage with Somali Government officials from the Transitional Federal Government as well as regional leaders in Putland. We will press these leaders to take action against pirates operating from bases within their territories.
"And fourth, because it is clear that defending against piracy must be the joint responsibility of governments and the shipping industry, I have directed our team to work with shippers and the insurance industry to address gaps in their self-defense measures. So we will be working on these actions as well as continuing to develop a long-term strategy to restore maritime security to the Horn of Africa."
At this stage we do not know whether Clinton's four-point initiative will work and to what extent and when. For this, we'll have to first wait until April 23 and then see what other nations and the Somali government will do in the future to fight the menacing piracy.