It's time to codify the drone war

President George W. Bush was excoriated for waterboarding exactly three terrorists, all of whom are now enjoying an extensive retirement on a sunny Caribbean island (although strolls beyond Gitmo’s gates are prohibited). Whereas President Barack Obama, with thousands of kills to his name, evokes little protest from yesterday’s touch-not-a-hair-on-their-head zealots. Of whom, of course, Senator Obama was a leading propagandist.

Such hypocrisy is the homage Democrats pay to Republicans when the former take office, confront national-security reality, feel the weight of their duty to protect the nation — and end up doing almost everything they had denounced their predecessors for doing. The beauty of such hypocrisy is that the rotation of power creates a natural bipartisan consensus on the proper conduct of this war.

Which creates a unique opportunity to finally codify the rules. The war’s constitutional charter, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), has proved quite serviceable. But the commander-in-chief’s authority is so broad — it leaves the limits of his power to be determined, often in secret memos, by the administration’s own in-house lawyers — that it has spawned suspicion, fear, and now filibuster.

It is time to rethink.