WASHINGTON -- When I was a young Marine, we were encouraged to read Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" as a primer on conflict. Our mentors were officers and senior noncommissioned officers who had served in World War II, Korea and the early days of the conflict in Indochina. These were serious men for whom the profession of arms was no trivial matter. They taught us that Sun Tzu's tome, from the sixth century B.C., was relevant to the fight we were headed for in Vietnam and would serve us well in the future. According to Sun Tzu, "The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Therefore, it is a subject that must be seriously studied." The most recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize appears to have ignored this sage advice.
Prior to President Barack Obama's departing for Oslo this week, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked whether Mr. Obama would be "accepting the Nobel Peace Prize as a war president."
Gibbs' stunning response, uttered with a straight face: "Exactly."
Unfortunately, we are at war. But there is scant evidence in Mr. Obama's words, actions and schedule that he is a "war president."
On Dec. 10, our "war president" flew to Norway to accept a surreal Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and his "work" to build a "world free of nuclear weapons." In accepting the award, Mr. Obama eloquently apologized for America's past failures -- going back to Woodrow Wilson -- and credited himself with "banning torture" and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. In a brief "presser" afterward, he once again took pains to emphasize his arbitrary and unprecedented July 2011 withdrawal schedule for the troops he just ordered to combat.
If the war is important to Mr. Obama, why did it take 10 months to decide that there is a need for 30,000 additional troops to fight in Afghanistan? If those who fight the war are important, why was there no rebuke for Chris Matthews, the left-wing commentator who described Eisenhower Hall at West Point as "the enemy camp"? And if building public and political support for the fight against radical Islam in Afghanistan and Pakistan is crucial, why not deliver the address before a joint session of Congress?
Would a "war president" devote 92 percent of his public commentary, speeches, lectures, media appearances over 10 months to everything but the war? His "economic stimulus plan," TARP, the government takeover of the auto industry, the plan for government-run health insurance, global climate change and "carbon limits" each has generated more presidential words than "the war."
Next week, our "war president" is scheduled to fly to Copenhagen to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where 79 other heads of state have gathered to fashion a Utopian global agreement limiting so-called "greenhouse gases." While there, he can proudly point to a new -- and likely unconstitutional -- decision by his Environmental Protection Agency declaring carbon dioxide to be a "threat."
Mr. Obama promised to "focus like a laser" on the war in Afghanistan. But White House records show that's not where "our most traveled president" has spent his time:
March 31 to April 7: Mr. Obama and an entourage of more than 500 traveled to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Iraq.
April 16-19: Our "war president" traveled to Mexico and then to Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas, where absolutely nothing of any import was negotiated or agreed upon.
June 2-7: Mr. Obama visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany and France. He bowed to Saudi Arabia's king, delivered a speech about a "new relationship with the Muslim world," and was cheered by Europeans.
July 6-11: The commander in chief traveled to Russia, Italy and Ghana and discussed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, abandoned a U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and talked about economics and climate change.
Oct. 2: Mr. Obama joined his wife and Oprah Winfrey in Copenhagen to champion Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics.
Nov. 12-19: Mr. Obama, accompanied by nearly 300 others, visited Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. During this trip, our "war president" bowed to Japan's emperor.
If indeed Sun Tzu was correct about war's being of "vital importance," a matter of "life and death," and a subject to "be seriously studied," it's time for Mr. Obama to get serious.