More Republicans have defected to the withdraw-from-Iraq Democrats. They have read the polls that show falling support among the American people for the war in Iraq, and have concluded that continuing to support the war will cost them their Senate or House seat.
Is it possible that some of these Republicans have simply consulted their consciences and decided to abandon positions they have held since the beginning of the war? It is possible. But consider this: If the American people continued to support the war, does one reader of this column believe that one Republican defector would have in fact defected?
The sad truth is that moral courage is rare -- whether among private citizens or among political leaders. Even opponents of the war have to admit that, given the polls, it takes no courage for a politician to call for American withdrawal from Iraq. Whether or not you agree with those who want American forces to stay in Iraq, that is a far more courageous position in today's America -- just as, right or wrong, it admittedly took more courage for a politician to oppose the war when America deposed Saddam Hussein's regime.
So with the mainstream media and the Democrats -- often interchangeable entities -- relentlessly pushing for withdrawal from an increasingly unpopular war led by an unpopular president, it takes a lot of courage to argue against what would be the most costly defeat for America in its history. And how often in history did the right thing not take courage? And how often was the right position the most popular position?
Despite all this, however, in this matter victory will go to the courageous. If America stays in Iraq, America will win and then the courageous will surely be victorious. But the courageous will gain a victory even if they lose their fight for America staying in Iraq. For then the supporters of the American presence in Iraq will be quickly proven right as Iraq descends into ethnic cleansing, creates millions of refugees who destabilize nearby countries, emboldens Iran to directly enter Iraqi life, spawns a potential genocide, and produces the largest base for Islamic terror in the world. These are not the predictions of pro-war advocates. Every one of these consequences of an American withdrawal was acknowledged as likely in a recent New York Times editorial arguing for American withdrawal from Iraq.
What will Americans who called for American withdrawal -- especially among those who supported the war until now -- tell future historians? That 3,600 American lives in four-and-a-half years was too high a price to pay to fight the cruelest individuals and ideology on earth at that time? (By contrast, in World War II, America lost more than 300,000 lives in three and a half years, fighting the cruelest ideology of that era.) That they thought that an Islamist victory in Iraq would make America more secure? And what will Republican senators and representatives tell their descendants? That they read the polls and saw that most Americans supported withdrawal, so they changed their minds and abandoned the cause of freedom in Iraq and fled an unpopular Republican war president?
History may not harshly judge those who opposed entering Iraq at the outset. But that is not what matters now. All that matters now -- and what history will judge -- is an American's position on whether to stay and fight in Iraq or whether to leave Iraq.
Just about every generation has some horrific evil that it must fight. For the Democratic Party today that evil is carbon dioxide emissions. For the rest of us, it is an ideology that teaches that its deity is sanctified by the blood of innocents, just as the Aztec deities were.
History will see that clearly. And judge accordingly.