You might remember the old story:
Democrats of eastern Pennsylvania opposed the Republican administration’s war.
They were suspicious of the shifting justifications for it. They weren’t interested in fighting to free anyone. They denounced the president’s restrictions on civil liberties. And they predicted the bloodshed would lead to bigger disasters.
This wasn’t the Iraq war. It was the Civil War.
During the Civil War, Democrats in the North did all they could to stop Abraham Lincoln’s fight with the break-away Southern Confederancy. They were willing to leave the slave states alone, even as a separate nation.
And when Gen. George B. McClellan received the Democratic nomination to run against President Lincoln in 1864, McClellan declared he was willing to let the South keep its slaves as long as it agreed to return to the Union.
With a little luck (General Sherman captured Atlanta on Sept. 2, 1864), Lincoln won the Nov. 8, 1864, election with 55 percent of the vote. That victory guaranteed a fight until the South's unconditional surrender. It also guaranteed the end of slavery in the United States.
Had the Democrats won in 1864, American slavery could have lasted another generation or longer.
Seven score years later, many Democrats did all they could to stop George W. Bush’s battle for freedom and democracy in Iraq. They were willing to withdraw American troops from Iraq, even before democracy had begun to take root there.
And when the Democrats nominated Sen. John F. Kerry to run against President Bush this year, Kerry declared he was willing to leave the Iraqis with something less than a full democracy, as long as Iraq had reached something akin to "stability."
With a little luck, Bush won the Nov. 2, 2004, election with 51 percent of the vote. The victory gives Iraq a better chance of establishing a democracy in a land that has known only tyranny.
Had the Democrats won, who knows? Kerry never defined "stability."
When Lincoln took the train to the Gettysburg battlefield cemetery dedication in 1863, nearly 100,000 Yankees had died in the Civil War. Now, more than 1,100 have died for Iraq’s freedom.
Lincoln said he was not interested in dedicating the cemetery. The brave men who had fought there already had done that:
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
The Civil War and Iraq War aside, Republicans have had no monopoly on the commitment to freeing the oppressed. Wilson, FDR and Kennedy were Democratic giants in liberty’s cause.
But the Democrats have let up on freedom. It’s about time they let the best part of their history repeat itself.
No, that doesn’t mean more wars. That means more resolve. With a little more resolve for a lot more freedom in this world, we won’t need more wars.