In Iraq, a collapse of the government and army in the face of an American pullout, followed by a civil-sectarian war, the break-up of the country and a strategic debacle for the United States -- emboldening our enemies and imperiling our remaining friends in the Arab world -- is a real possibility.
Yet what Edmund Burke said remains true: "(N)o war can be long carried on against the will of the people." And the American people are losing, if they have not lost, the will to continue this war. They are weary of the daily killing and dying, and of the endless talk of "progress" when all they see is death. They believe the war was a mistake, and they want to come home.
Our hawkish elites bemoan the fact that Americans seem ready to give up on Iraq when U.S. casualties are not 10 percent of those we took in the Korean War. That is because they do not understand the nation.
Americans are not driven by some ideological vocation to reform mankind. We do not have the patience or perseverance of great imperial peoples. If an issue is not seen as vital to our own liberty and security, we will not fight long for some abstraction like democracy, self-determination or human rights.
It is a myth that we went to war to save the world from fascism. We went to war in 1941 because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. That Hitler had overrun France, booted the British off the continent and invaded Stalin's empire was not a reason to send American boys across the ocean to die.
In 1990, Americans were not persuaded to throw Iraq out of Kuwait until Bush 1 got to talking about Saddam's nuclear weapons. Even after 9-11, Americans were skeptical of marching to Baghdad until we were told Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction and probably intended to use them on us. Americans have often had to be lied into war.
Democrats are probably reading the country right. Americans will not send added troops to Iraq, as McCain urges. They want out of this war and are willing to take the consequences.
But those consequences are going to be ugly and enduring. That is what happens to nations that commit historic blunders.