It is the measure of man to stand on principle in the face of troubling events as they unfold. To stand for principle in mere retrospection, as a kind of musing on history, tells us little about how one may face the next hardship. One must also act to prove one’s resolve rather than merely speculate after the fact.

It is one thing to learn from history and honorable even to carry what one has gleaned from the fiery torch of the past into the dark unknown of the future. But to blindly march with the winds of given conventional opinion, never standing for principles removed from the fray of the present day, is a tell-tale sign of cowardice.

As Tom Paine once famously said, “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

The point I take from Mr. Paine’s clarion call is not that one must always be looking to serve his country in war, but to serve his country in times of dire duress and threat. I take Mr. Paine to mean that one must possess the courage of one’s convictions no matter how tumultuous the given course of human events.

Thus, the man who stands in the summer sunshine calling for new wars from the comforts of an ivory tower is no better than he who runs from the battlefield in the harsh twilight of winter. Wars in defense of one’s country and one’s freedom are worthy of praise. To die in defense of liberty is a blessing though it may be disguised as suffering. But to suffer the horrors of war against those who have never threatened one’s liberty, to go abroad “in search of monsters to destroy” and in facing such monsters transform into a monster oneself is to “gaze long into an abyss” as “the abyss also gazes into you.” The abyss here being a lack of moral clarity.

Put simply, it is easy to stand against the foolish and bloody wars of the past; the true test is where one stands in the face of future wars.

This is the standard by which I judge the current crop of Presidential candidates. I am of the opinion that returning American troops back into the Middle East–whether in Iraq or Syria of Libya–would be a foolish policy befitting of an empire and not a libertarian republic. Yet, it is popular these days for even the most hawkish of Presidential candidates to stand against the mistakes of the Iraq war while calling for new imperial mistakes in the Middle East.

Take, for instance, the policies of Hillary Clinton who voted for the Iraq war only to stand against the Iraq war while then pushing for war in Libya and Syria. Or, more recently, take Dr. Ben Carson who once stood against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, calling bombs and missiles archaic, only now, as he is running for President, calling for the use of such archaic means to go back to Iraq.

Of course, as voters, it is difficult to know how any President will act once in power, but be wary of such sunshine doves and summertime liberty lovers who carry the banner of peace only into the past while trampling on the same banner as they march into the wars of the future.