Reuters today reports Somali pirates just released a captured tanker after getting a record-breaking ransom. Pirates may seem so “last year,” but they are as menacing as ever. More troubling, they have links to an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, which also has links to the terrorist group in Yemen that organized the Christmas Day bombing against a Detroit bound flight — part of a new “axis of evil” we need to worry about. Last year we wrote a comprehensive assessment of how to deal with the pirates. We concluded there were no quick and easy answers, but the practical things that could be done required concerted leadership.

Somali piracy is typical of the challenges the United States faces today. They are complicated, defy easy answers, and like Haiti, can leap to the headlines in a NY minute, but then required sustained leadership and commitment after the press has moved on.

It is hard to be a first rate national security president and not keep the issue on the front burner 24-7-365. Likewise, it’s difficult to keep to a realistic domestic agenda, one that supports – not supplants – the president’s responsibilities in “providing for the common defense.”

As the White House heads into the second year of the Obama era, they have to ask themselves if they have the balance right.