Friday, June 11, 2004

Public Opinion

In How Terrorism Breeds, I talked about the fact that there is a sense of defeatism over Iraq in the general public and even in Washington itself. This was validated to an extent today by this article from the LATimes which states:
Most U.S. voters now say it was not worth going to war in Iraq, but an overwhelming majority reject the idea of setting a deadline to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country, according to a Times poll.


But voters were uncertain about the prospects of achieving broader goals in Iraq. Just 35% said the U.S. was "making good progress in Iraq," while 61% said they thought the U.S. was "getting bogged down." Three-fifths of independents and more than four-fifths of Democrats shared the sense that the effort was stalling.


In perhaps the most emphatic measure of anxiety about Iraq, 53% said they did not think the situation there merited the war; 43% said it did. When Times polls asked that question in November and March, the numbers were essentially reversed.
Now, these numbers are very concerning indeed. I don't really see how to positively spin this. The American public is growing tired of this. How do you curb this trend? First and foremost, President Bush needs to make another speech and be honest with us about the situation on the ground. He displayed some of this thee other day when he conceded something that comes as no surprise to anyone who follows this closely: that it's highly unlikely that NATO will contribute any more troops to Iraq. And as FH notes in the comments, if Bush pulls out he will fall. This was always that situation. Bush has staked his entire political career in Iraq, yet has so sloppily handled this occupation that his supporters are having to lower expectations. Yesterday, I caught myself thinking that we'd probably just be better off with a vaugely democratic country as long as the country is stablized. Wow, look at me, I'm sounding more and more like John Kerry everyday.

If Bush losses this election because Iraq is a mess, it will roll back all of the progress we've made in the War on Terror this far. But potentially more important, it will severely limit a future American president to pursue "convienent" military action, unless directly provoked. I can even see a certain degree of isolationism take over. An American withdrawl from Iraq would be magnatudes worse than the American withdrawl from Vietnam.