Obama’s re­mark­able tu­to­rial in Oslo

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - Opin­ion by Wes­ley Pru­den

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 into Scan­di­navia Dec. 10, the re­doubt of Volvoand-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 re­cently 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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