2005 November 20 Sunday
Public Support For Iraq War Declining Faster Than Vietnam

The remaining support for the Iraq war is partly based on the lie about the connection to terrorism.

In June 2004, for the first time, more than half the public (54 percent) thought the US had made a mistake, a figure that holds today.

With Vietnam, that 50-percent threshold was not crossed until August 1968, several years in; with Korea, it was March 1952, about a year and a half into US involvement.

Why did Americans go sour on the Iraq war so quickly, and what can Bush do about it?

John Mueller, an expert on war and public opinion at Ohio State University, links today's lower tolerance of casualties to a weaker public commitment to the cause than was felt during the two previous, cold war-era conflicts. The discounting of the main justifications for the Iraq war - alleged weapons of mass destruction and support for international terrorism - has left many Americans skeptical of the entire enterprise.

In fact, "I'm impressed by how high support still is," Professor Mueller says. He notes that some Americans' continuing connection of the Iraq war to the war on terror is fueling that support.

Some of Bush's remaining support comes from Republicans who are for whatever the Democrats are against. But some of the war's opposition comes from Democrats who against whatever the Republicans are for.

One reason the American public loses support for wars more quickly is that family sizes have dropped. During WWII my mother's mother had 3 sons in the war and 1 son at home. Plus she had 4 daughters. She could have lost a son and still had plenty of kids. She got lucky and none died. Even my B-17 squandron commander uncle was lucky to complete all his missions. But today far more common single child families who lose a son in Iraq have no kids left.

Also, as death from accidents and diseases has become more rare death seems more of an anomaly. People rarely lose children or young adult kids for any reason. Each death becomes more shocking due to its rarety.

Plus, it is hard to see how the Iraq war improves US security. It doesn't pass a basic plausbility test. If the threat of foreign terrorists to the US mainland was so great as to justify a war that costs the loss of thousands of US lives, the maiming and permanent damage of tens of thousands of more US soldiers, the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, and the negative reaction that this war has elicited abroad then wouldn't a threat that large also justify, say, large efforts to keep out and hunt down and deport illegal aliens from the Middle East? Wouldn't a threat that large also justify a huge curtailment of granting of visas to people from the countries where Al Qaeda recruits terrorists? The very asymmetry of the response between what the US will do to a country in the Middle East and what the US government won't do to protect us at home makes me think the Bush Administration is just plain lying about their shifting justifications for the Iraq war.

We also do not trust public institutions as much as previous generations did. The Bush Administration's numerous mistakes in the conduct of the Iraq war combine with the optional nature of the war to make people a lot more critical. 9/11 did not have to lead to the Iraq invasion the way the Pearl Harbor attack led to the total mobilization of the US economy in World War II. The very limited effects of 9/11 on US security and the small scale of the required response are demonstrated by the fact that the US did not fully mobilize the economy or institute a draft in response to 9/11. Support for the Iraq war required a dishonest conflation of the battle against Al Qaeda with Saddam's Iraq and a dishonest conflation of all types of "weapons of mass destruction" as somehow equivalent threats even though anthrax and chemical artillery shells pose little threat to the United States as compared to what a single nuclear warhead could do.

Parenthetically speaking, every time Bush tries to link the war in Iraq to Al Qaeda any impulse I have to forgive Dubya for his massive Iraq mistake gets thoroughly smashed. I despise anyone who insults my intelligence by telling me that sort of lie in an attempt to deceive me for his own benefit.

Update Bryanna Bevens points out that a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll puts Bush's disapproval rating on federal spending and immigration as even lower than on Iraq.

According to poll results, this is how 1066 people rated the President on policy matters:

(Disapproval ratings )

Terrorism 49%
Overall job approval 60%
The economy 61%
The situation in Iraq 63%
Controlling federal spending 71%
Immigration 65%

The two issues with the highest disapproval rates were federal spending and immigration.

Hmm…Bush II has the lowest approval ratings of his career…65% of the people say they disapprove of his performance on immigration issues. It would seem to me that Americans are fed up with politicians who ignore the problems of illegal immigration and if Bush II was facing re-election, he would surely lose.

The public disapproves of Bush for a wide range of reasons. It is gratifying to see that immigration is one of them. Immigration has ceased to be a fringe issue.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 November 20 03:00 PM  Mideast Iraq

Marvin said at November 20, 2005 4:00 PM:

The ordinary soldier supports the Iraq engagement. The soldier has to be steady, not flaky like the public typically is. Here is a remarkable story that you might not have read.

A lot of day traders concentrate on the minute to minute or day to day fluctuations. They are not typically the smartest of investors. Investors with a longer term perspective tend to do better.

gcochran said at November 20, 2005 5:00 PM:

The ordinary soldier is

Speaking of traders - the two smartest long-term investors I know of (market-beaters as tested by performance) are Bill Gross of Pimco (the Bond King) and Warren Buffet. Both think our Iraq adventure is fucking nonsense.

gcochran said at November 20, 2005 5:06 PM:

Some of my post was lost. I said " The ordinary soldier is less than 25 years old, a high-school graduate, and doesn't know jack about the strategic interests of the United States, anymore than the average voter does, any more than the frontman for a baseball team does. "

John S Bolton said at November 20, 2005 7:17 PM:

If Iraq is not about vengenace upon the moslem, nor about putting forces into place for an attack on a more worthwhile target, then its costs are wildly out of line with border defense and removal of mideastern illegals and such. There are over 100,000 mideastern illegals running loose in the country, by official estimates. To throw those criminals into the wretchedness they were spawned out of, would be glorious and raise the hugest outpouring of celebratory mirth this country has seen in generations, and it would not cost billions but millions. The viciously traitorous ruling circles do not dare to do that though, because they bow down before the moslem in abjectly weak modalities of appeasement. Now look at the tranzi weakness which bears the Bush name; how will that flimsiness care about anything more than whether their relatives are blackballed at some tranzi conference in Europe?

John S Bolton said at November 20, 2005 7:41 PM:

Suppose that the Iraq war is for real, in the sense of being more than a way of saying that we don't need to defend America against hostile immigrants such as those who pulled off 9 11. How, then, if this war is for real in that sense, can they still be using affirmative action for promotions in the military, on a racial quota basis, as if the military were a welfare project, of unspeakable liberal squalor, and there were no threats at all out there?

Patrick said at November 20, 2005 7:51 PM:

Surely the secret is to make the muslim countries have smaller family sizes. Then they won't like wars either and the whole problem goes away.

I suggest genetically engineering common cold viruses so that they have the same antigens as hormones critical to conception. Contraceptive Vaccines are in existence, so the biochemistry is known. Or just spike the contraceptives into the Qat, heroin and other drug supplies, that way you select against undesirables.

Invisible Scientist said at November 20, 2005 9:19 PM:

I wonder what the coming government will do after the Republicans lose the elections after 2 more years.

Any comments?

Randall Parker said at November 20, 2005 9:34 PM:


Whoever gets elected in 2008 will have to deal with the financial crisis stemming from the retirement of the baby boomers. The fight will be between budget cuts and tax increases. Both will happen. The question will be who they will fall on and by how much.

Jorge D.C. said at November 21, 2005 2:35 AM:

Decapitating the Baathist regime was doable. But we blew it by allowing them to "melt" back into Iraqi society. Sort of like how we blew it by allowing Osama and friends to jump back over the border into Pak.

Why did Americans go sour on the Iraq war so quickly, and what can Bush do about it?

American's have "soured" because they are pragmatic and down-to-earth when it comes to their soldiers dying by the thousands. It was the nation building phase in Iraq that was the downfall. Americans understand that that project is a complete waste of time. And their criticisms of the project are not the same as the mainstream media. Theirs are politically incorrect criticisms.

How arrogant/ignorant of GW and his inner circle to believe nation building in a Muslim clan-ruled cousin-marrying society was possible. Score another one for PC liberalism run amok.

Bush can set a date for a US pullout and thereby motivate the Iraqis to take the reigns. That's it.

Silchiuk said at November 21, 2005 4:42 AM:

Every war is being failure in the middle. Trying to write obituary in the middle of the life. This not being a sign of good thinking. What is the larger issues? Trying to be thinking in matters of decades and civilization. Is being too much short term thinking happening. Why is the arabs always being losing their wars? Why is the muslim countries all being so backward? Why is muslims riots in europe?

Ivan Kirigin said at November 21, 2005 11:18 AM:

"One reason the American public loses support for wars more quickly is that family sizes have dropped."

That's ridiculous. Around half a million Americans died in WWII. There are only ~120K troops in Iraq. ~2K have died. The chance that someone knows somebody killed in the war was far higher for Vietnam and WWII.

Americans are losing hope in the war because their primary news outlets decided the storyline before the war even started. Tell a lie often enough, and people start to believe it. This, combined with next November's elections, will make the cynicism and spin reach new heights.

God forbid you actually listen to American troops that have been there, consistently telling an entirely different story (at the very least, an untold story).

…Ohh, I forgot, you think they're brainwashed.

gcochran said at November 21, 2005 2:45 PM:

Only an ignorant or crazy person could ever have thought that invading Iraq would further the interests of the United States. Now it turns out that most people are one or the other, or both, but it doesn't change the fact.

The lie that people believed - for a while - was that Iraq was a threat. That was nonsense. The story was false in every detail: obviously false. I can imagine why a lot of people might think that they could leave decisions on that sort of things to the Powers that Be, but the Powers that Be are shitheads, and have been for decades.

As such, they seem to have a natural constituency.

Randall Parker said at November 21, 2005 6:05 PM:


The vast bulk of the public is appallingly ignorant. Partly this is due to stupidity. Partly this is a consequence of the lack of economic return from being well informed. I could make more money by spending less time on reading and more on programmming. But also people are ignorant in part because lots of what they listen to is misinformation.

If you want to strike a pose of moral superiority because you want to glorify the wisdom of soldiers or of the public or whoever I will see it as just a pose, nothing more. The facts so obviously contradict the pose you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Invisible Scientist said at November 21, 2005 9:19 PM:

But my question about what will happen to the world geopolitical balance after the United States leaves Iraq around 2007, is still not answered. It really seems that extremists will monopolize all the oil in Saudi Arabia as soon as the United States leaves Iraq. If this happens, the result will be a terrible spike in the price of oil, or even new shortages gasoline due to a general oil embargo against the West.

Any comments?

silchiuk said at November 22, 2005 7:38 AM:

Randal is saying that Ivan should be being ashamed of himself. This is insteresting way for blogger to treat guest. With mush respect, yes? Much insulting happens and little thinking. Not good.

Pico said at November 22, 2005 10:46 AM:

Bush is the best advertisement for limited government. Ever since FDR, megalomaniacs with delusions of immortality have been drawn to the presidency. The list of power crazy lunatics in the white house has grown long - FDR, Johnson, Nixon, GWB.

Randall Parker said at November 22, 2005 5:21 PM:


People insult me quite frequently in all sorts of ways. But I'm not the one advocating a totally pointless war that is harming US interests.


In WWII the objective was obvious and very conventional. Conquer our enemies and expend all our resources to do so. The public was totally committed and saw the absolute necessity of the goal.

By contrast, the war's own advocates are not totally committed to the objective of victory. They aren't calling for a draft of a few million soldiers. They aren't calling daily for the rushing into production of vehicles to replace the Hummers that are susceptible to IEDs. They aren't calling for training a few hundred thousand Americans in Arabic to do intelligence work. They aren't themselves volunteering to enlist.

The chief architects of this war (Bush and Cheney) avoided the Vietnam War. Bush joined the National Guard and Cheney entirely avoided military service.

Oh, and we have unclear objectives that have morphed several times. The original WMD justification is now known to be false. We seem to be aiming at hanging around long enough until the Shias find the fire in their bellies to fight the Sunnis so that Iraq can be a Shia democratic theocracy after we leave.

Invisible Scientist said at November 22, 2005 8:22 PM:

But you still have not answered my question about who will get the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Omani oil fields after the United States leaves Iraq in 2007.

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