Even those who disagree with British Prime Minister Tony Blair's stance on the Iraq crisis rarely fail to praise his courage. US President George W. Bush never faces hostile crowds in the way that Blair must. When Blair enters Parliament for the weekly ritual of Prime Minister's Questions, members of his own Labor Party heckle him and ask hostile questions. Outside Parliament, even on television, Blair confronts groups that emphatically demand peace.
Throughout it all, Blair has shown the courage of his convictions. These are, quite simply, that Saddam Hussein is an evil ruler who potentially threatens his neighbors and the wider world, and that he has to go.
Mr. Blair's posture is all the more remarkable at a time when political leaders depend on opinion polls and the views expressed by so-called "focus groups" to tell them what to think. Many politicians try to stay as close to prevailing majority views as possible. They regard this as "democratic" and hope that such fidelity to the popular will guarantees them re-election.
Fortunately, such populism--for it is just that--is not ubiquitous. Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of Spain is not far behind Blair in showing the courage of his convictions. President Jacques Chirac of France has the support of his people, but he also has an agenda that appears to be concerned as much with French grandeur as with mere popular acclaim.