“When a great democracy such as the United States holds elections at a time of war, voters are torn between two instincts. One is to show grit and solidarity by rallying around the flag and the president. The other is to treat the election as a referendum on the war”. This is the choice pondered by The Economist in the lead up to the US Congressional elections.

George Bush, of course, has been playing the first approach for all its worth, as has our Prime Minister.

In the US and the UK, the voters seem to be moving in the opposite direction: “According to a Gallup poll this week, only 19% of Americans still think that America is winning. In Britain, America’s chief ally in Iraq, the disenchantment is deeper. An ICM poll this week found that 45% of Britons wanted their troops to leave at once, and a further 16% wanted them out by the end of the year”.

In Australia the mood is much the same. A Morgan Poll earlier this year found that, in answer to the question “Do you think we should continue to fight in Iraq or bring our forces back to Australia?”, 63% of Australians want troops brought back home compared to 32% who said that the troops should continue to fight in Iraq.

“This loss of faith among the people of Britain and America [and it seems Australia] is easy to understand. They have already shown a lot of patience. More than three years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has become progressively more violent… Some 2,200 American soldiers and 120 British ones have been killed, and the death toll among Iraqis may stretch into the hundreds of thousands”.

But The Economist says that for the US the debate about options is more theoretical than real: “For none of the alternative ideas mooted so far, such as partition, installing a strongman or withdrawing American forces ‘over the horizon’, looks more promising than the existing three-part strategy.”

Kim Beazley says that the Australian troops are not playing a very important part and could leave, he believes, with honour. Henry cannot agree with this. We need to support our far stronger allies to the bitter end, and in the process help (even if mainly psychologically) to achieve the least bad outcome for the people of Iraq.

As the sage once said: “You break it, you fix it”.

Read more at Henry Thornton.