In Case You Needed More Proof…

…that this is going to be a tight election: public support for continuing the Iraq War is pretty much evenly divided, though a narrow majority believes “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” (whatever those goals are). Obviously, though, these are extremely volatile numbers (and may have something to do with the fact that only 28% of Americans know how many total casualties we’ve suffered in this conflict, down from 54% who knew the right number last August). One bad round of car-bombings or (God forbid) more out-and-out fighting, and support will plummet again. If nothing else, this should be an alert to Obama and Clinton: you have to run on more than Iraq.

UPDATE: Apparently, when it comes to MSM coverage of the war, out of sight means out of mind.

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Published in: on March 13, 2008 at 12:34 pm  Comments (7)  

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  1. Easier for Obama to run against the war: he voted against it. You can’t say the same about Hillary running against a war that is hers, McCain’s, and Bush’s.

  2. Well, true. Her strategy on the war was classic Clintonian triangulation-vote against it, then criticize it. But my point was that mere opposition to the war, in and of itself, can’t be counted on to win the election all by itself. If public perception of the war is general positive at the end of summer, then whoever is the Democratic nominee will not be able to afford tons of soundbites calling it a failure and demanding immediate withdrawal.

  3. Did Obama really vote against the war? He wasn’t in the Senate yet and as far as I know only said he would have voted against it. Granted, though, his original opposition to the war is not in question.

    I think it’s going to be very hard for the Democrats to run on “complete withdrawal” or “opposition to the war” unless things really take a horrific turn for the worse this year. The 5000+ body count (when you add in the death toll of U.S. contractors) is horrible, but the public has become desensitized to the number. The sad reality is that even 5000 deaths aren’t enough to personally affect enough Americans to make a huge difference. For the vast majority of Americans it’s still other people’s kids who are dying, and even the families of the dead aren’t universally opposed to the war (I’ve been to a few funerals of KIAs already).

    Frankly speaking, as much as I opposed the war and the Rumsfeld doctrine of underwhelming force for prosecuting it, I don’t want to see us bail out any more than I want to see us stay there 100 years. There is a vast amount of reasonable middle ground where we can gradually turn control over to the Iraqis, whether they want us to or not. I just hope the next president is smart enough to reject either extreme.

  4. I have to disagree. I think the American public has turned against the war; that’s why the Democrats are in control of Congress. Even now, with a slim majority thinking we will ‘achieve our goals,” most STILL want the troops pulled out. And while there might be “reasonable middle ground” on THIS side, I don’t think there’s ANY middle ground on the other side. The only thing damping the violence down now is a blanket of troops in Baghdad. Pull them out, and it flares up again. One thing the anti-war folks have to be honest about is the virtual certainty that if we get the “troops out now,” Iraq is going to implode. At best, we could see Iran intervene to prop up the shaky Shia-dominated gov’t and the Turks invading in the north to push down the Kurds. I’m not saying this as an argument for keeping the troops in, but we can’t pretend that everything will be all sunshine and lolipops the minute the last US soldier leaves.

  5. There’s no doubt Iraq’s future is going to be clouded by violence for decades to come. The real question is whether it will be sustainable violence (i.e., their “democratic” government can continue to function in spite of the violence, as Colombia’s has for decades) or a real civil war in which an outside power backs one side until it topples the current government. Of the two scenarios, I think the first is more likely than the second, but that depends on how much help Iraq continues to receive from us or others.

    And while I admit the Democrats won Congress in large part because of the war, I think it was more a public reaction against the incompetent handling of the war and the administration’s stubborn refusal to admit anything was wrong than it was a vote for getting out of Iraq completely. If the latter was the case, there would already be a huge public outcry against the Dems for not working harder to end the war (within the extent of Congress’ limited ability). But as you’ve already pointed out, there is no clear majority in this country who want us to leave Iraq now.

  6. I think Congress’ abysmally low approval ratings is pretty strong evidence that the public is angry at their failure to end the war. And Columbia is a really bad analogy, given that it’s a country with a strong military, at least some degree of ethnic and racial homogeneity and 200 years of history, none of which Iraq has. Somalia, Sudan or Liberia (at least until recently) are unfortunately probably closer to the harsh reality.

  7. If Congress’ low ratings are a reflection of the public’s desire to end the war, then I’m surprised that public opinion polls of the war don’t bear that out. Why are the poll numbers always about evenly split on the war? Unless the media is deliberately misleading us for some unfathomable reason, it certainly doesn’t seem like a strong majority of Americans are furious at Congress for not doing more to get us out of the war. A strong majority of Democrats, granted, but not the public so far as I can tell. Maybe 55% at most. Even the anti-war demonstrations the media bothers to report always seems surprisingly small.

    And you’re right; Colombia is not a perfect analogy, but I think the last 5 years have shown that in spite of the horrific problems in Iraq, there does seem to be a fairly sizable majority of Iraqis who don’t want to see the country split up. Unfortunately, the sectarian violence committed by an angry minority colors our perception of the whole country. I actually think the Sunni-Shia split in Iraq poses less of a long-term threat to the integrity of the country than does Kurdish nationalism. I think the next president would do well to have a plan on the shelf for what to say and do when the Kurds eventually declare themselves a sovereign nation.


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