Today on a press call with Mitt Romney’s campaign foreign policy advisers, former Navy Secretary during the Reagan administration and now Romney adviser John Lehman claimed that American allied military leaders around the world are telling him that under President Obama, the United States is no longer leading in world affairs. As one piece of evidence, Lehman cited the Obama administration’s policies in combating piracy:
LEHMAN: I think the biggest concern when I talk to my former counterparts and current military leaders in — among our allies in Europe and the Pacific is, the theme that they — I keep hearing from them is, Why is the United States under Obama abdicating leadership or keeping stability in the world? … And they see our abdication of leadership in for instance dealing with the pirates. We were not in a leadership position and that’s opened up a very attractive opportunity for the Russians and even the Chinese have two ships out there.
Listen to the clip:
Absent in Lehman’s argument of course is the fact that, according to data released just this week, sea piracy worldwide has declined 28 percent in the first quarter of the year and, as the AP reported, “attacks fell sharply in Somalia’s waters thanks to international naval patrols.” And which country has a “large” naval presence there? The United States.
“When the Obama administration came to office the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia was snowballing out of control,” Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said recently at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress, “through the collective effort of the United States, the international community, and the private sector, we are now seeing signs of clear progress.” Shapiro continued:
The numbers clearly demonstrate this. In 2011, the number of successful pirate attacks fell by nearly half. As a result, there has been a significant drop in the numbers of ships and crew held hostage. In January 2011, pirates held 31 ships and 710 hostages. In early March of 2012 pirates held eight ships and 213 hostages — a roughly 70 percent decline. This is still way too many, but it is clear advances are being made.
“The Obama administration has pursued a strategy that seeks to leverage all elements of U.S. power” to combat piracy, Shapiro added, which comprises an integrated multi-dimensional approach that includes diplomatic engagement, expanding security at sea, preventing attacks and debilitating piracy networks.
Also absent from Lehman’s argument? Obama’s order in 2009 for a successful Navy SEALS operation to take out pirates holding an American ship captain hostage, nor his most recent order for U.S. special ops forces to rescue an American and a Danish hostages from pirate-affiliate kidnappers.