Paul Greenberg

Naturally, just as this president was coming to grips with reality and his responsibilities as commander-in-chief, enter Joe Biden. Much like the porter in "Macbeth," the vice president tends to appear in the middle of the action to provide the audience with a little comic relief. But there wasn't anything funny about his lines this time as he declared that the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan next summer would be anything but token -- and the United States would be out of that country completely by 2014 "come hell or high water."

Our enemies were doubtless delighted to hear it, since the likeliest result of setting such deadlines is Hell for the Afghans left behind. If the Americans are going to leave by a date certain, why should they stick their necks out? Better to make the best deal they can with the terrorists.

Our vice-president hasn't said anything so brilliant since he proposed splitting Iraq into three squirming parts, one for each major ethnic/religious group, and inviting the bloodiest vivisection of a country since India was partitioned in 1947. Happily, there was no need for all that once the Surge took hold, any more than American foreign policy needs Mr. Biden's helpful little comments now.

If this president wants to assure both Afghans and Americans that he means what he said earlier this month -- "We will never waver from our goal of disrupting, dismantling and ultimately defeating al-Qaida" -- here's one way he can boost the credibility of both American foreign policy and his own: Find another running mate come the next presidential election. One who won't embarrass him so regularly. The way Harry Truman dropped Henry Wallace from his Cabinet at the beginning of the Cold War after Mr. Wallace had made one unhelpful comment too many about the course of American foreign policy. It was a clear signal that the new American president was serious about defending freedom.

The country can never get enough such messages. And neither can the enemies of freedom.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.