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An innocent goes abroad

I remember the first time my wife and I visited Europe and the Middle East. The trip resembled Sen. Obama's current version of speed travel, but without the entourage, security and network coverage.

Armed with Arthur Frommer's 'Europe on $5 a Day,' we crammed as much as we could into 18-hour days, hitting the museums, art galleries, cathedrals and restaurants. When the tour ended, we had impressions and a slightly better view of the world.

There is a difference, though, between a view of the world and a worldview.

A view of the world means you might like London and I might prefer Paris, but each preference can be equally valid because it is a matter of individual taste. A correct worldview is a way of not just looking at other countries and people, but having an intellectual and moral center that allows one to distinguish between good and evil; right and wrong; sound economic, social and political policies and bad ones.

There is a reason America is what it is. The economic power and military might are effects, not causes of America's greatness. It is because we offer the lives of our young and much of our fortune to defend liberty for ourselves and promote it for others that we are blessed with liberty. Too many other countries - especially European countries - receive liberty as America's gift, but contribute little to it.

This week, Europe will cheer Barack Obama as if he were Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the commander of Allied troops that liberated Europe from Hitler; or John F. Kennedy before the Brandenburg Gate near the beginning of the Berlin Wall; or Ronald Reagan in the same place near its collapse.

Obama is no Eisenhower, Kennedy or Reagan. He might be more like the Pied Piper, leading Europeans to their doom. Does Europe believe that if it follows Obama he will lead them away from world conflict? Blind faith in Obama won't save Europe from war. Like the wise monkeys of the old Japanese maxim, Europe neither sees nor hears evil. It sees no evil in Iraq or Afghanistan; it sees no evil in the tide of immigration from countries that believe freedom and pluralism are offensive. Twice Europe had to be rescued by the United States and protected from the Soviets because it failed to hear the thundering hoofs of approaching evil.

Will Europeans respond if Obama asks them to supply their fair share of troops for NATO or expand their participation from mostly noncombat roles? Do Obama supporters think he can sweep Europeans off their feet, as he has done to so many Americans? Maybe, but a difficult period will follow the one-night stand, one that requires commitment and a long-lasting relationship based on an equal partnership. Europe has demonstrated little taste for such commitment in the past.

Polls show a majority of American voters trust John McCain on national security; they also trust his ability to lead in a crisis more than they trust Obama. They are right to do so. Obama's record is like floor wax: all shine and no depth. Obama has spent more time thinking about and running for president than he has spent in the Senate. Obama chairs the Subcommittee on European Affairs, but he has presided over just one hearing.

Earlier this month, Obama said that commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government would determine the pace of the withdrawal from Iraq. But just before going to Afghanistan for his hit-and-run visit, Obama reiterated his pledge to stick to an arbitrary 16-month withdrawal timetable.

Most politicians shift positions. John McCain certainly has. But war and national security are fundamental and a politician who bases positions on polls and clamoring interest groups - rather than the national interest - is a person without a core. He is like the gambler who rolls dice in a Monte Carlo casino. Lose there and all you've lost is money, lose in war and on national security and the consequences are far more dangerous.

Obama has said that as president he would increase the number of troops and aid in Afghanistan, but when given the opportunity to vote in the Senate to do just that, he voted against the bill. He says it was because it didn't include a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Obama has 300 foreign policy advisers, many of them veterans of the Clinton administration. Why so many? Perhaps because he is an innocent abroad and, though he may have a rosy view of the world, his worldview needs improvement.

E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at calthomas@tribune.com.