- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2009

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

Nobody teaches harder lessons than Experience, the lady who grades on the steepest curve. But sometimes even her most difficult student looks like he’s beginning to get it.

Barack Obama flew yesterday into Scandinavia, the redoubt of Volvo-and-bean-sprout state liberalism, to tell his Nobel Peace Prize patrons that he had no apology to make for a just war and that he’ll use the prestige of the honor to “reach for the world that ought to be.”

But the president of the United States must “face the world as it is,” and he is obliged first to protect and defend the nation that elected him: “A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history.”

Wow! I couldn’t have said that any better myself. He’ll catch old Billy Ned from his bean sprout base for saying true things like that, and one good speech, dramatic and defiant of putty-minded dreamers, won’t convince his critics and detractors that he was not just being polite to his hosts. Fatti maschii, parole femine. “Deeds are masculine, words are feminine.” (Don’t blame me; it’s from the Italians of yore and besides, it’s on the Official Seal of the State of Maryland.)

He threw in some of the parole femine, more of the obvious: “No matter how justified, war promises human tragedy.” And this: “The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it.” But the man who earlier this week said he would dispatch 30,000 more American troops to deal with Islamic jihad surprised us all by using the occasion not to make further apologies for America, but for a tutorial on the causes of war and elusiveness of peace for those who need it most (and are least likely to learn anything from it).

A man shouldn’t expect praise for being good to his mother, of course, nor should a president expect applause for stating the underappreciated obvious. Mr. Obama needs applause from wherever he can find it. His approval ratings continue to tank, and new findings by Public Opinion Polling suggest that just half of American voters say they like him better than George W. Bush. Forty-four percent would prefer his predecessor. Earlier in the week Gallup, measuring approval sentiment, found that the president barely shades Sarah Palin.

His remarkable speech in Oslo is no sign of anything approaching a deathbed conversion. He’s still the man of radical Chicago politics, the man of trillion-dollar takeovers of a lot of things that government has no business trifling with, the man tutored by the likes of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and others who would recast America in the mold of the misery that afflicts any culture silly enough to embrace socialist bromides. But he gives impressive new evidence that he’s beginning to understand jihad and its threat to the West.

He’ll find his late education a hard sell to the young voters who were so crucial to his victory last November. Many of them, perhaps most of them, have no kidney for war in distant places with unpronounceable names against brutal ninth-century primitives armed with the stolen weapons of the sophisticated armies of the West. “Nonetheless,” says historian Victor Davis Hanson, “many of the old rules still apply amid the modern fog of war. Human nature, after all, does not change. And since the beginning of civilization the point of war has always been for one side through the use of force to make the other accept its political will. We should remember that and get back to basics in Afghanistan. Our leaders must remind us that war always offers only two choices, bad and worse.”

All true, and nobody understands this better than the young men and women the nation sends to fight the necessary war. Nobody hates war more than the man sent to die in it, as Douglas MacArthur reminded us. Such men have to believe in something, men who count life a light thing to lay down in defense of their country. They are driven by a faith in God and country that many of the men and women in Mr. Obama’s base know nothing of, and ridicule those driven by it. The men of war must believe that their commander in chief shares their faith, or will not cheerfully follow him.

President Obama gave his troops a gift in Oslo. Now if he would only pay attention when Experience tells the class to turn to the chapter on economics.

*Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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