My grandfather always said to give credit where credit is due, regardless of what political party someone might be a member of. So, in keeping with Pa Pa's sage wisdom, I believe kudos are in order for our esteemed President on two fronts as of late. First, there is the President's response to the kidnapping of the Captain of the MV Maersk Alabama. After a botched attempt to seize the vessel by Somali pirates, Captain Richard Phillips found himself their hostage as they attempted to flee the scene in one of the Alabama's lifeboats. Responding to the hostage situation, the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge intercepted the lifeboat on the second day of Phillips' ordeal. Remaining on-scene, the Bainbridge served as both escort and eventually tug for the craft when rough waters later set in. Though the President's cool response to press inquiries about the situation bordered on giving the impression of disinterest, behind the scenes the White House was closely monitoring the situation along with the Pentagon. After an attempted escape by Phillips, with the teenage pirates growing increasingly tense and aggravated, the President approved a plan for Navy Seals to execute a rescue operation, should the opportunity present itself. On Sunday, with split second percision, three Seal snipers simultaneously killed three of the pirates holding Phillips, with a fourth on the Bainbridge for negotiations and medical treatment being taken into custody without incident. The President earns kudos on this front for two reasons. - First, he has demonstrated a willingness to listen to and accept the recommendations of his military advisers, including his in-the-field or on-the-scene commanders. In light of the President's lack of military and national security experience, this is a promising sign. As the drawn-down in Iraq progresses over the coming 32 months, conditions in-country may change, perhaps dramatically so. Should security deteriorate and the Iraqi government find itself destabilized and unable to effectively respond, changes in the drawn-down schedule may need to be implemented. In such a circumstance, the President will be faced with decisions that may be politically unpopular with voters weary of the ongoing occupation and seemingly never-ending troop rotations. In particular, he will be under tremendous pressure from the Left Wing of his own party. That will be met by countervailing pressure on the Right, as Republicans seek to portray the Democrats and Obama as weak-willed and untrustworthy in matters of national security. Multiplying the magnitude of these political pressures will be the countdown clock winding down to the 2012 campaign and Obama's all-but-certain re-election bid. Should that happen, the President must trust his military and national security advisers to provide him analysis and options that are firmly rooted in the strategic interest of the nation and free of domestic political influence. Hopefully the President will do what President Bush so often said, but equally as often failed to follow through on - listen to his commanders in-the-field and placing their recommendations ahead of domestic political considerations. - In addition to listening to the military, it is promising to see the President is willing to utilize it when appropriate and necessary. While it remains to be seen the extent to which that continues and what situations or circumstances are considered out of bounds, it is nonetheless gratifying to see the President will act decisively when he and his advisers deem it exigent. Pray God they are granted the wisdom to continue to clearly differentiate between those occasions when military force is or is not critical to the national interest. Can I get an "Amen" from the faithful? Moving on to the sun-kissed shores of the Caribbean, the President has taken the first steps down the long and winding road towards normalization of relations between the US and our Communist friends across the Straits of Florida in Havana. This is long overdue; twenty years so, in fact. In the wake of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the moment was ripe for the US to pursue detente with Cuba. For whatever reason, George H. Bush chose not to capitalize on the historic opportunity, though. One can only imagine what the state of American-Cuban relations might be today had Bush 41 had the intestinal fortitude to boldly move to dispense with what was clearly an archaic relic of the recently-passed Cold War at the time. Regardless of what may have been, relations remained stagnant to icy over the next two decades between the two antagonists facing each other across the Floridian Straits. That is till a series of overtures from Washington that began with the announcement earlier this week that the President was easing restrictions on family remittances, communication, limited trade and travel to the island of rum, revolutionaries and cigars. The President's overtures sparked an increasingly warm exchange that played out of the course of the week and culminated in Cuban President Raul Castro's statement that Havana was willing to discuss "everything". Following this, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas, Obama said, "The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba." While no direct dialogue has occurred as yet, the potential long term geopolitical significance of this first round of warm wishes should not be underestimated. That being said, observers should likewise be keen not to naively assumed progress will be quick or easy. There are significant, deep-seeded differences and issues between the two decades-long antagonists. Property rights, political dissent, brand trademarks and human rights are all potentially thorny points encompassed in "everything" Castro indicated his was willing to discuss. Many of these will take considerable amounts of effort, patience and time to resolve. Along the way, it should be expected that progress may often be fitful and accompanied by the occasional setback. Accordingly, all, including the President, would be well-advised to remain realistic, however earnest and hopeful they might otherwise be. Nonetheless, join me, if you will and raise your Cuba Libre as we give the President warm Caribbean kudos for taking the first tentative steps towards normalized relations between ourselves and our comrades in Cuba. Viva Obama, faithful readers! Smoke 'em, if ya got 'em. If not, you may well have in the not-so-distant future. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and we see if something more substantive than warm greetings crosses the Strait of Florida anytime in the near future.