- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2009

There’s no fury like the fury of a disappointed wife who discovers that the man of her dreams isn’t the man she wakes up with. This sometimes goes for presidents and their followers, too. The angry Democrats on the left are about to go after Barack Obama with a (figurative) 5-iron.

All the man did is what any president would have done. Presidents, unlike presidential candidates, live in the real world, where be monsters. The moment arrives when Mr. Dithers is put out on the street. This president arrives in the real world late, still dragging his feet and yearning for the comforts of liberal fantasy. But he’s getting there.

His decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan is a gamble; not sending them would be a bigger gamble. Dealing with the radical Islamic terrorists is Job 1, for this president and the president before him, and likely the president who follows. Like the president before him, President Obama can expect no applause from the spoiled children on the left. His friends on the right are with him on the principle that a president has to do what a president has to do to protect the nation’s security, but they’re not exactly cheering. Nobody is entitled to praise for being nice to his mother.

Karl Rove, the campaign guru for George W., says the Obama call to arms “deserves to be cheered, but ….” Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House, praises the president’s courage, also with a pointed “but.” He observes that the president paints himself in a corner with the promise of withdrawing the troops in 2011.

The president himself, remembering the wild and unrealistic adulation of the European crowds on his pre-election victory lap in the summer of ‘08, no doubt expected to hear more of those cheers from our European friends. But our European friends feel jilted. They rooted for change and all they got was a change of presidential underwear. “Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America’s new strategy for Afghanistan,” writes an analyst in Spiegel Online, the German newsweekly. “It seemed like a campaign speech combined with Bush rhetoric - and left both dreamers and realists feeling distraught.”

“Distraught” is a strong word, but it hardly overstates the depth of disappointment in the shallows of Obamaland. Several Democrats in the Senate, including Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, threaten to withhold money, if they can, to pay for the Afghan surge. Others prefer bashing Pakistan, which certainly deserves bashing, observing that if the Pakistanis would only do their duty to clean out al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs, the Americans wouldn’t have to be in Afghanistan in the first place.

Mr. Obama is no reluctant warrior; in fact he is no warrior at all. He’s an activist, after all, and his party no longer tolerates warriors. He yearns only to return to the task of re-creating America in the mold of the European welfare states. He threw a few good lines to the conservatives (“I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal, to disrupt and defeat al Qaeda”), but the ultimate promise of his speech was not of winning, but of withdrawal. He warmed to the occasion only when needling George W. Bush, whose surge strategy, successful in Iraq, he now adopts for Afghanistan. He hopes nobody notices. He still seems unsure of who, exactly, the real enemy might be, warning that the enemy kills in the name of Islam, “one of the world’s great religions.”

The surge in Iraq worked because George W. believed it would and was determined to see that it worked. The enemy in Iraq understood that George W. really meant it. President Obama sounds determined only to make sure the Americans leave in 2011.

Psychology in suppressing terrorist violence is ultimately more crucial than the drones and war-by-wire that timid Democrats are willing to send into Taliban and al Qaeda hide-outs. Nobody will read the psychology better or more accurately than the Pakistani generals eager to cover their bets against the day the Americans leave, which the president has foolishly set. The deadline will slip, of course; deadlines always do. But the terrorists are not dopes. They can see where a halfhearted commitment leads. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama made it his war to win or lose, and that takes courage. In the end, Mr. Obama may be surprised to see who his only lasting friends are.

c Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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