Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- As the Afghanistan War intensifies -- Marja, soon Kandahar, and the steady arrival of 30,000 new American troops -- it has come to be seen as Obama's war.

Not so. It's become America's war. When the former opposition party -- habitually anti-war for the last four decades -- adopts, reaffirms and escalates a war begun by the habitually hawkish other party, partisanship falls away, and the war becomes nationalized.

And legitimized. Do you think if John McCain, let alone George W. Bush, were president, we would not see growing demonstrations protesting our continued presence in Iraq and the escalation of Afghanistan? That we wouldn't see a serious push in Congress to cut off funds?

Why not? Because Barack Obama is now commander in chief. The lack of opposition is not a matter of hypocrisy. It is a natural result of the rotation of power. When a party is in opposition, it opposes. That's its job. But when it comes to power, it must govern. Easy rhetoric is over, the press of reality becomes irresistible. By necessity, it adopts some of the policies it had once denounced. And a new national consensus is born.

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In this case, the anti-war party has followed the Bush endgame to a T in Iraq and has doubled down in Afghanistan. And there is no general restiveness (at least over this).

The rotation of power is the finest political instrument ever invented for the consolidation of what were once radical and deeply divisive policies. The classic example is the New Deal. Republicans railed against it for 20 years. Then Dwight Eisenhower came to power, wisely left it intact, and no serious leader since has called for its repeal.

Similarly, Bill Clinton consolidated Reaganism, just as Tony Blair consolidated Thatcherism. In both cases, center-left moderates brought their party to accept the major premises of the highly successful conservative reforms that preceded them.

A similar consolidation has happened with many of the Bush anti-terror policies. In opposition, the Democrats decried warrantless wiretaps, rendition, and detention without trial. But now that they are charged with protecting us from the bad guys, they've come to view these as indispensable national security measures.


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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