2006 January 05 Thursday
Bush Losing Popularity In US Military

The Military Times polled active duty readers of their newspapers (not the military as a whole) and found Bush is down to a 54 percent approval rating among the military personnel polled.

Support for President Bush and for the war in Iraq has slipped significantly in the last year among members of the military’s professional core, according to the 2005 Military Times Poll.

Approval of the president’s Iraq policy fell 9 percentage points from 2004; a bare majority, 54 percent, now say they view his performance on Iraq as favorable. Support for his overall performance fell 11 points, to 60 percent, among active-duty readers of the Military Times newspapers. Though support both for President Bush and for the war in Iraq remains significantly higher than in the public as a whole, the drop is likely to add further fuel to the heated debate over Iraq policy. In 2003 and 2004, supporters of the war in Iraq pointed to high approval ratings in the Military Times Poll as a signal that military members were behind President Bush’s the president’s policy.

73% expect the US to succeed in Iraq. I wonder what they define as success. I'm expecting corruption and a democratic Shia theocracy which has warmer relations with Iran than with the United States and which will be just as hostile toward Israel as Saddam Hussein was.

The military trusts its own officers more than the President and the President more than Congress.

• 58 percent agreed that President Bush had their best interests at heart, down 11 percentage points from a year ago.

• 64 percent agreed that senior uniformed leaders had their best interests at heart, down six points.

• Congress saw the most dramatic drop: Just 31 percent agreed Congress looked out for their best interests, less than half the number a year ago.

The military holds the press in even lower regard.

I wonder what the longer term trend will be in terms of the military's trust in civilian institutions.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 January 05 10:33 PM  Mideast Iraq

Invisible Scientist said at January 5, 2006 11:27 PM:

Suppose that all the oil fields fall into the hands of extremists after the US vanishes in the Middle East in a few years. Then the resulting economic and political chaos may be of extreme proportions, with shortages far worse than ever before. And if there is political chaos in the US, it is possible that the US military will intervene and bring order to the chaos, thanks to the fact that many of the top generals have high integrity and they definitely want to bring an end to the madness. For one thing, I do expect the US military to seize the remaining oil reserves in the United States, because this would be absolutely essential to prosecute future military operations. I am not saying that there will be a military coup, but I am sure that the military will gain some more influence in politics. But one consequence of all of this would be a new isolationist American doctrine, which would mean that there will be a power vacuum in the world, which might lead to a lot of unexpected conflicts.

Ivan Kirigin said at January 6, 2006 3:23 PM:

I thought military opinions don't matter, cuz they're all brainwashed?

Ohh, I get it. A report backs up your opinion, so you comment on it.

Funny, I was just reading about this.

"As the psychologist Tom Gilovich has suggested, someone who wants to believe a proposition tends to ask, “Can I believe it?” In contrast, someone who wants to deny its truth tends to ask “Must I believe it?""

Ivan Kirigin said at January 6, 2006 3:24 PM:

sorry ... here's the permalink

daveg said at January 6, 2006 3:30 PM:

I would have to say that the normal condition is support by/from the military for the commander.

It really only is news really is when that support waivers.

Randall Parker said at January 6, 2006 8:37 PM:


Aside: years ago I read Thomas Gilovich's book How We Know What Isn't So. It is quite good. I got Bob Badour to read it too. I recommend it.

"Must I believe it"? The lunatic proposition is that the US involvement in Iraq makes sense. Must I believe it? Why?

Look at the militay with regard to Iraq. They put all their effort into the invasion and little into the post-war occupation. That was a huge mistake. It was mammoth. Since then they haven't figured out how to lower their casualty rate. They've tried. They've failed.

The average US Army or Marine officer is not that smart. At their service academies from 1975 to 1985 they had SAT scores that were about 1000 on average. Er, that's extremely underwhelming. You are trusting their intellectual abilities to divine the truth about Iraq?

Of course, a lot of top former officers (who are well above the average) think the Iraq invasion is madness. Tony Zinni, William Odom, and a number of others come to mind.

Invisible Scientist said at January 6, 2006 10:13 PM:

The SAT scores of the average US Army officers may be average, but West Point is the most competitive college with very stringent admission requirements as far as academic ability is concerned. I also met several highly accomplished people who were former Marines, who left for the private sector (they studied in top schools, like Caltech, Harvard, etc.) The ones who make a career as low level Marine officers may not be very bright, but the ones who are the top officers are very capable people. It is not necessary for the average Marines to be geniuses, but the ones who plan everything need to be smart, which they are. In the future, the armies will be assisted by thousands of robots. Whenever the US Army takes military action against a guerilla army in a foreign land, there will be thousands (if not millions) of combat robots who will not only provide information, but who will actually fight at front lines with real weapons. The regular Army officers will just do the oil change for these terminator robots, and also conduct public relations with the invaded places. Future wars will be more technological.

Bob Badour said at January 7, 2006 6:40 AM:
Aside: years ago I read Thomas Gilovich's book How We Know What Isn't So. It is quite good. I got Bob Badour to read it too. I recommend it.

Hear! Hear! Excellent book. A "must read" for anyone who thinks they are smart enough to comment on other people's blogs. It should be taught to all non-remedial highschool students.

gcochran said at January 7, 2006 11:22 AM:

Average test scores at West Point at about the same as a good state school. It's not super-competitive. You could look it up.

Ivan Kirigin said at January 7, 2006 6:47 PM:

"You are trusting their intellectual abilities to divine the truth about Iraq?"

I guess I just don't understand the point of the post.

If the grunt is to be trusted, why didn't you trust him before? If not, why do these stats matter now?

I personally think that proximity to information is more important than intelligence in this case. Normal Iraqis (whom many readers here would proabably beleive, along with the author of this blog, are less intelligent than the average american) are CONSTANTLY polled about their opinions. The reason isn't intelligence, it is, again, proximity to information.

People on the ground generally see progress. Perhaps it is very far from the goal. That probably can't be seen as easily from the ground, and I doubt very easily from pretty much any vantage point.

The top officers might be more intelligent, but they view the situation through filters.

While I doubt things are peachy in Iraq, I also doubt most opinions which claim to be authoritative.

Ivan Kirigin said at January 7, 2006 6:52 PM:

"A "must read" for anyone who thinks they are smart enough to comment on other people's blogs"

I should make sure to take another IQ test, as the meme of "need not apply with IQ < X" seems to be big on this blog.

I can't stress enough that there is a big, fat difference between intelligence and knowledge. Generally, the truth flows from knowledge, not an isolated intellgence.

This is why democracy works. The average, though around mean intelligence, still know something.
This is also why commerce works. People with a competitive advantage win because of knowledge and intelligence.

Hugh Angell said at January 7, 2006 6:59 PM:

RP says..."The average US Army or Marine officer is not that smart. At their service academies from 1975 to 1985 they had SAT scores that were about 1000 on average. Er, that's extremely underwhelming. You are trusting their intellectual abilities to divine the truth about Iraq?"

But then the intellectual giant uses this same 'inferior cohort' based on his obsolete
statistical data, to bolster his own opposition to a war. Sorry RP, your grabbing at straws
is rather 'retarded'.

54% of ALL military personel, should this poll not be another media snowjob, would be based
on the opinions of an even lower cohort of intellectual ability than that what you hold the
United States Military Officer Corps based on statistics you provide of average SAT scores
of a generation ago. Ergo, you would have me accept the judgement of negro, hispanic, poor
rural whites and female enlisted personel as being even more conclusive proof of the
legitimacy of your opinion? Do you think us Fu*King fools?

Sheesh, I thought you were clever. Believed in the power of superior intellect, not the
bitchin and moaning of enlisted personel sent away on extended deployments or the rank
and file observations of 1000 SAT scoring service academy graduates, which I do not believe
is an accurate reflection of any graduating class from West Point, Annapolis or the USAF

Let's not examine the war in Iraq on the basis of 'polls', let us not denigrate service
academy graduates. Let's argue on the merits, not on extraneous and irrelevant issues such
as the SAT scores of retired military officers from the 1970's or is that too much to ask
from you.

Randall Parker said at January 7, 2006 7:08 PM:


Polls are done all the time because they reveal the states of mind of the people polled.

As for Bush's falling popularity with the military: Does not make Bush wrong or right. It does provide a useful insight though.

As for the insights of people close to events: Sometimes people close to events are clueless. Also, there's a huge gulf in views and beliefs bteween US military personnel who do not speak Arabic and the bulk of the Iraqis around them.

As for democracy working: Not always. Did American democracy work in 1860? Lots of countries have had elections and then the results started a civil war or coup or other rather violent response. Look at Sri Lanka right now. That attack on the Sri Lankan Navy probably wouldn't have happened without the recent election's outcome there. Or how about the Algerian election that led to a military coup and decades of civil war? I can go on and cite many examples.

Or how about some of our lousier Presidents? They were elected. Ditto lots of other bad public officials. In fact, Congress and the President are currently running a huge budget deficit. Is democracy working? Depends on your measure of "working".

Lots of new truths flow from single minds who first discover them. Greg Cochran was probably the first guy in the world to think that selective pressures created Jewish genetic diseases as a side effect of boosting their intelligence. When the NY TImes reported on his research paper only then did lots of people hear about it.

Competitive advantage is best maintained by knowing things that few others know. That's a whole lot different than a democracy where we need to get the majority to understand something.

One big problem with democracy is that a lot of truths are beyond the intellectual capacity of most people to understand.

Ivan Kirigin said at January 7, 2006 7:30 PM:

"That's a whole lot different than a democracy where we need to get the majority to understand something."

The whole point of the "wisdom of crowds" is that you don't need to control the ideas or thought process. Different people, with different views and ideas, aggregate into an intellgent system.

"As for democracy working: Not always."

I probably should have said "works relative to the alternatives", and quoted Chruchill or something. Which is worse:
-A few bad presidents & the US civil war
-170 million killed in the 20th century from non-democratic governments.

The comparison might be thin, but I think it appropriate.

"As for Bush's falling popularity with the military: Does not make Bush wrong or right. It does provide a useful insight though."

What is the insight? That we're losing? Does that mean we were winning before? It probably means people are upset about being away for so long. At least they aren't upset about being killed, which is a rare event relative to other wars of this magnitude.

Bob Badour said at January 7, 2006 8:55 PM:
"A "must read" for anyone who thinks they are smart enough to comment on other people's blogs"
I can't stress enough that there is a big, fat difference between intelligence and knowledge. Generally, the truth flows from knowledge, not an isolated intellgence.

Ironic that you should contrast intelligence with what people know. If you haven't done so already, I strongly suggest you read How We Know What Isn't So.

gcochran said at January 7, 2006 9:16 PM:

I doubt if I was the first to think of that connection: might have been the first to notice some of the supporting details, such as the buildup product in Tay-Sachs encouraging dendrite growth. I was the first to dig hard into the subject: really look at the literature, make quantitative models, etc.

When people take a quantitative look at most kind of work productivity, smarts matters more than experience.

How bright are our officers? Well, looking at West Point, I'd say comparable with graduates of a decent state college: not so comparable with Harvard graduates, not comparable with Cal Tech alumni. But of course the majority of Army officers did not attend West Point - maybe a quarter.

Tommy Franks was a dropout from University of Texas: rose through the ranks. I don't think he's very smart. He did fine in the invasion phase, but then again, anyone would have, maybe even George McClellan. He, like the top people in the Administration (as Bremer just admitted), had no idea we'd face a a guerrilla war. Now I thought we probably would: frankly, it was pretty obvious, and I think he's not all that sharp.

Ricardo Sanchez graduated from Texas A&M. I need say no more.

Would it help if our armed forces were smarter? Sure, some. The planners could have done a better job, and if we had a _lot_ of smart officers, we could implement useful policies that this army can't. I have occasionally talked about our _other_ Army, the one that dreams in Arabic and can give the SAS knight odds: _that_ army would have the Iraqis fighting each other for the privilege of serving us. Too bad it doesn't exist.

It'd help more if the civilians making policy were smarter. It'd help if they knew more. But we'd no longer elect such people President.

Our guys on the ground ground have a very limited understanding of Iraq because they don't speak the language. They sure don't know the country, people, history well enough to judge likely political outcomes: someone like Glubb Pasha probably did, but you guys wouldn't like what he had to say. And of course, they don't know jack about grand strategy, about the long-term economic effects - going on is pointless. There is no reason to think a bunch of high-school graduates are up to that - and, unfortunately, there is no reason to think that the ex-front man for the Texas Rangers is either.

Randall Parker said at January 7, 2006 10:14 PM:


I continually learn that I have to hit my readers over the head with the obvious. Most get the obvious most of the time. But not when they have motives that cause them to miss the obvious.

The obvious in this case: That even the super conservative military can muster only a 54% approval for Bush.

Randall Parker said at January 7, 2006 10:33 PM:


Yes, the 1000 SAT average is representative of what the Army and Marine service academies have coming thru their gates. Though the USAF is about 50 points higher and the Navy about 100 points higher. Maybe they've improved a bit since then. Maybe not. But I seriously doubt they've improved a lot. They still have students who on average are way below the average at any Ivy, MIT, CalTech, Stanford, U Chicago, Berkeley, UCLA (heck, any UC campus), Duke, Davidson, and dozens (if not hundreds) of other universities and colleges.

My take on these guys is that they are going to catch onto the truth slowly. They lack both the knowledge and the intellects to understand the Middle East. They have a lot invested in rosier interpretations because they've lost fellow soldiers to the war. They do not want to believe it is pointless and a waste. Also, the ones who figure out the sheer dumbness of the war are more likely to leave the service. Therefore active duty personnel are going to tend to have a more optimistic view about Iraq than the ones who leave.

The intellectual quality of service academy graduates matter in the discussion because I keep hearing from the war camp how the military has it all figured out and that the negative attitudes in the US populace are based on a relative ignorance and that the press area bunch of leftist defeatists, etc. So in response I have every right to point out the intellectual limitations of the on-the-record military officers whose opinions count for so much in the pro-war camp. Your position is that their positions count for more. My position is that many of them are not bright enough to understand what they are seeing up close.

gcochran said at January 7, 2006 11:14 PM:

We're recruiting more and more dummies: It's hard for a smart person to feel enthusiastic about fighting a war that actually _hurts_ US interests. Jack Murtha know this - said he wouldn't join today - and remember that he served in Kora and then re-enlisted for Nam.

Maybe he's wrong. Look, the country is ignorant (like every other country) and crazy (there we're leaders): the way things are, anyone in the ground forces can look forward to a career in which _most_ of the wars he fights in are pointless. That's the sort of government we elect. On the other hand, the country is worth defending, and who knows, someday it may need professional defense: it's happened before. Joining in the full knowledge that your life and honor will be the plaything of irresponsible fools, having to spend most of your service beating the shit out of random third-worlders who happen to live in the wrong place - all so you're ready to save the country if and when it really needs it - that'd be a hard, hard life.

crush41 said at January 8, 2006 2:37 PM:

"In the future, the armies will be assisted by thousands of robots."

[The Commandant addresses the graduating class]:

The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea.
They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall
mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by
small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is
clear: To build and maintain those robots.

So all that time I spent watching the Simpsons in my high school days was educational!

crush41 said at January 8, 2006 3:34 PM:

As a freshman I was on a 4-year Army ROTC federal scholarship but subsequently dropped out at the end of the first year after finding a company that would reimburse me. That year (2002) the average ACT score for the 4-year Army scholarship was 29 (1300 old SAT) at the University of Kansas (Air Force was 31 [1380] and though it sounds depressingly low, Navy was 21 [1000] and Marines only 19 [920]). Granted KU is the brightest public university in Kansas, but that's not saying much.

I've only found data from 1999, when the average (for Army) was 28 ACT, 1242 SAT. I'm not sure why this contrasts so much with Sailer's table other than that things have changed in the military over three decades, or people in the middle of the country just aren't that interested in water sports.

What percentage of military officers are brought in via the scholarship? I realize that roughly translates only to an IQ in the lower 130s--relatively civilized morons by the standards of many commentators here--but these folks are not inbred troglodytes from the hinterland.

I'm guessing the trend for officers has been upwards since the 1000 SAT Randall linked to--bumped up by such scholarships, which are quite lucrative: payment of classes and books, plus tax-free monthly stipends that start at $250 and progress to $400. Four years active duty is the stipulation unless you bail by the end of the first year, in which there is no obligation.

Perhaps the IEDs in Iraq will lead to a precipitous drop in officer competence just as they have for enlistees?

Hugh Angell said at January 8, 2006 3:41 PM:

I am curious as to that 1000 average SAT score for US military officers. I went to the USMA
West Point website to inquire about admission requirements. As I suspected baseline SAT or
ACT scores were not given though 'doing well' on these tests was a requirement. Obviously
with "15-20% of class admissions being for affirmative action candidates a 'minimum score'
could not be required.

However the USMA at West Point did require the following:
To prepare yourself for the academic curriculum at West Point, you should complete four years of English with a strong emphasis on composition, grammar, literature and speech; four years of college preparatory mathematics, to include algebra, geometry, intermediate algebra, and trigonometry as a minimum.

Along with the requirement to have an above average high school record ( presumably B or
better) I don't see how the average cadet would not have an higher SAT score than 1000.

Maybe I'm out of date on college admission requirements but when I went to school Cal
Berkeley's requirements were about the same with the baseline SAT score being 1200. Of
course that was the minimum. Stanford, as I recall 30 years ago had an average admission
SAT score of around 1350.

I'd readily admit that the average SAT score of West Point or Annapolis applicants would
not equal that of Stanford applicants but I don't believe it would be anything like 350
points below. Afterall service academies are free and Stanford costs $40,000/year. A lot
of bright high school students have to factor in cost when they choose which college to

Stephen said at January 8, 2006 3:48 PM:

I don't think its desirable for an army to have a high average IQ. For such organisations too much thinking = too much imagination = paralysis. Reserve the smarties for Staff, everyone else serves on the line.

How about the bigger picture - what would a society look like if it was made entirely of 130+ IQs?

JD said at January 9, 2006 7:17 AM:

According to the table from Kaplan's 1993 college book available at http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1089227, the US Air Force, Naval, and Military Academies all have a median SAT of over 1250. UC Berkeley and UCLA are listed as having a median SAT in the 1150-1250 range.

Muldoon said at January 10, 2006 1:51 PM:

When you've made up your mind already, you use anything to prop up your position.

Jorge D.C. said at January 11, 2006 3:09 AM:

Hello??? Somebody want to impugn the Kaplan score data? If that data stands up it means a lot of the posts here are completely hot air. Big surprise that!

How about it, loudmouths?

Regardless, only PhD'd morons would desire an officer corp with stratospheric test scores. Stay in the lab and leave the real world alone, you miserable misfits. We all know that if only you PhD's could vote, you would've ushered in a Stalinist dictatorship a long time ago. Morons.

Anyway, Webmaster, we need some qualifications to go along with the stat that '75-'85 avg scores were 1000. We know that 1) a score of 1000 was harder to attain then as the test has been dumbed down in the modern era and 2) the US military overall was not of the same caliber thirty years ago and did not need to be so...it was pre high-tech.

Randall Parker said at January 11, 2006 10:25 PM:

Jorge D.C.,

As Greg points out, most Army officers did not attend West Point. The non-West Pointers probably have lower average SAT scores.

Yes, you have to adjust SAT scores in different time periods. Someone could go digging for how to do that.

The '75-'85 period encompasses both the post-Vietnam era when everyone was down on the military and also the early Reagan years when the military's reputation was on the rise. I'm guessing that in the late 70s the people going to the service academies weren't as smart on average as they were in the early 80s.

Yes, it does look like more recently the quality of recruits has improved. See here for example. The US Naval Academy is claiming 1300 SAT average scores. But that's got to be based on the later tests. So how much to lower that by?

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