Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- With the defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut, anti-war forces are poised for a takeover of the Democratic Party. Tuesday's exhilarating victory, and the elan and electoral legitimacy gained, may carry the newly energized Democratic left to considerable success in November.

But for the Democratic Party it will be an expensive and short-lived indulgence. The Iraq War will end, as will the Bush presidency. But the larger conflict that defines our times -- war on Islamic radicalism, more politely known as the war on terror -- will continue. And the reflexive anti-war sentiments underlying Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut will prove disastrous for the Democrats in the long run -- the long run beginning as early as November '08.

Consider an analogy that the anti-war types hold dear: Iraq as Vietnam. I reject the premise, but let's assume it for the purpose of following the political consequences of anti-war movements.

The anti-Vietnam War movement had its political successes. They were, as in Connecticut last Tuesday, mostly internecine. One Democratic presidency was destroyed (Lyndon Johnson), as was the presidential candidacy of his would-be successor, Hubert Humphrey.

Like Iraq, Vietnam was but one theater in a larger global struggle -- that struggle against the Soviet Union and its communist clients around the world -- and by the early 1970s, the newly reshaped McGovernite party had to face the larger post-Vietnam challenges of the Cold War. The result? Political disaster.

The anti-Vietnam sentiment left a residual pacifism, an aversion to intervention and an instinct for accommodation that proved very costly to the Democrats for years to come. The most notorious example was the liberal flight to the ``nuclear freeze'' -- the most mindless strategic idea of our lifetime -- in opposition to Ronald Reagan facing down the Soviet deployment of missiles in Eastern Europe.

Apart from the Carter success of 1976 -- an idiosyncratic post-Watergate accident -- the ``blame America first'' Democrats were not even competitive on foreign policy for the rest of the Cold War. It was not until the very disappearance of the Soviet Union that the American citizenry would once again trust a Democrat with the White House.

It took the Democrats years to dig themselves out of that hole, helped largely by such pro-defense, pro-Gulf War senators as Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. It is all now being undone by Iraq. The party's latent anti-war fervor has resurfaced with a vengeance -- in Connecticut, quite literally so.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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