The Greeks have an interesting proverb: "If you want to see wolves, act like a sheep."
President Obama's Afghanistan speech at West Point on Dec. 1, 2009, was an unfortunate day for freedom. The next few days were even worse. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress and the American people the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 he punctuated that address with a line so strong you don't have to Google it to repeat it correctly. FDR told us, "We shall gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God!" Terms like "victory" and "triumph" have now joined the slur-words for blacks, Jews and Italians as unutterable. Such triumphalist pomp has no place in the thinking or vocabulary of the young president who invited the leaders of Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela to "unclench your fists" so we can shake their hands.
One reason sports will always be more popular than politics is there's a scoreboard. And not just a "spin board" upon which you're free to post any result you please as long as the major media are willing to ignore it, pretend they didn't notice, or give you mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and open-heart massage. The results of Obama's sheepish appeal to the worst regimes on earth, if reduced to a football score, would be something like a loss of 50 to nothing.
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The West Point moment was far worse. The free world looked for a thunderclap of resolve. What it got was a butterfly's belch of weakness. The free world, beginning with those Americans who understand what weakness can do to a civilization, is recoiling from the cosmic absurdity of President Obama's proclamation. Those voters who want American toughness were supposed to be glad that Gen. Stanley McChrystal is getting 30,000 of the 40,000 troops he requested. And those voters who've always wanted to see the Pentagon turned into a day-care center are supposed to be glad that America's troops are scheduled to head homeward in 2011.
Can you imagine FDR intoning something like, "We shall carry this war to the enemy with every weapon and resource at our command – until about the middle of 1944!" President Obama clearly showed a lack of concern about terrorism, the Taliban, al-Qaida, the stadium-stoning to death of women for the crime of adultery, the beheading of men who'd sided with the now-withdrawn Americans, or the possibility of eventual democracy in that most difficult of locales – none of that penetrated the president's perimeter of interest. Instead, it was flat-out, stomp-down re-election politics, 2012. Why send troops when their return trip is so close to their time of arrival? The president could have saved precious time and let the cadets go to their rooms and resume their studies earlier if he'd merely started at the end and said, "Dear Taliban: All you need do is lay low until we get out, do push-ups, stay in shape, maybe do some recruiting; and when we leave, it'll be all yours!"
What made the days after the West Point speech so dreadful? There was a stunning silence from heartland America. The reaction-ready switchboard personnel at the White House and elsewhere in America's reactive nervous system got an unexpected vacation. Do you think the terrorists don't know that? Do you think Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela and relevant etceteras don't know that? Do you think they fail to understand what this means for their new opportunities? So few days after Thanksgiving, the fork was inserted into the American turkey – and America proved itself preoccupied with jobs and Tiger Woods' night driving. The "Eagle" may have landed on the moon in 1969, but in 2009 the bird was done.
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How would you like to be an American ally after such a no-calorie call to action? Soviet Communism collapses in 1991, and America becomes the world's only superpower. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and others cozied up under NATO, confident of their bet on the then-victorious America. And now this simpering excuse for a "new strategy" in Afghanistan! Did the ardent Nazis envy those Germans who died in early October of 1942, when it looked like Germany would rule the world, before the Nazi disasters at Stalingrad and El Alamein in Egypt? Do any Americans today envy those Americans who died after Desert Storm, or after the difficult-but-definite victory in Iraq?
You can't steal second without taking your foot off of first. Obama's West Point speech reminds us of that Southern preacher whose sermons against sin were so blistering the congregation got all sweaty and uncomfortable. The church elders came to him and said, "Reverend, don't get us wrong. We all hate sin, too. But some members of the congregation are getting edgy and taking it personally and, well, could you maybe find a way just to tone it down a tiny bit so they won't be so uncomfortable?"
The next Sunday the preacher took to his pulpit and said, "Ye who have sinned – after a fashion – must repent – as it were – or be damned – to an extent!"