But after his inauguration, Obama apparently grasped two realities. The first: Antiwar rhetoric on the stump was easy, but the responsibility of keeping Americans safe from terrorism and Islamic radicalism was not. The second: He guessed that liberal furor over the war on terror and the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan had always been mostly about opposing George Bush -- not really principled opposition to actual wartime policies.
So after early 2009 there was no more talk of a lost war in Iraq, and no more deadlines to bring home our 130,000 troops that are still there. The Bush-Petraeus plan of staged withdrawal instead still operates. There has been a marked escalation in Afghanistan.
Guantanamo Bay is still open 15 months after the inauguration -- and three months after its promised closure date. There have been more Predator drone assassinations during the early months of the Obama administration than in eight years of the Bush tenure. Renditions, tribunals, intercepts and wiretaps go on as before, or have been expanded.
And as Obama must have anticipated, there are now no more antiwar rallies and Hollywood movies, or anguished op-eds about either an imperial warmongering America or a virtual police state at home. A raging Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan are distant memories. We once read that Bush as a wartime president frivolously played too much golf; we don't read that a Obama has played more golf in one year than Bush did in eight.
Progressives have concluded that to now oppose the Bush-Obama foreign policies would only hurt their own party's domestic agenda, and that a cool, sensitive President Obama does what he must reluctantly -- in contrast to a zealot warmonger like former President Bush.
Call all this hypocrisy, but it does create interesting political irony. Conservatives don't know whether to score points against Obama for his about-face and past politicizing of national security issues, or praise him for continuing what they feel were necessary Bush efforts that have kept us safe.
Liberals may be slightly embarrassed that their past furor over the various ongoing wars on terror more or less mysteriously ceased in January 2009. And they are certainly angry that conservatives are opposing Obama's domestic agenda in as coarse a fashion as they themselves once did Bush's foreign policy.
How does this affect America at large? Liberal Nobel laureates can fight wars abroad pretty much as they deem necessary -- without worrying that they are going to be vilified at home.
Texas cowboys cannot.