2006 February 28 Tuesday
US Troops Want Out Of Iraq Within Year

John Zogby has found some very interesting views among US soldiers in Iraq.

An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”

Different branches had quite different sentiments on the question, the poll shows. While 89% of reserves and 82% of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year, 58% of Marines think so. Seven in ten of those in the regular Army thought the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next year. Moreover, about three-quarters of those in National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within six months, just 15% of Marines felt that way. About half of those in the regular Army favored withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months.

I think the US troops should be replaced by neocons and Panglossian bloggers.

Of course, I can imagine why some neocons might argue these soldiers are too ignorant to be listened to about the war. After all, US soldiers in Iraq think the US invasion of Iraq was in retaliation for Saddam's imagined role in the 9/11 attack.

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

Some people have argued to me that I should show more respect for the first hand knowledge of the soldiers who are in Iraq. Well, these soldiers think Saddam was behind 9/11.

While the Bush Administration has claimed that democratic transformation of the Arab countries is the best way to reduce the risk of terrorism the US soldiers in Iraq do not see establishment of democracy as an important goal.

“Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there,” said Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. “Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.” Just 24% said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the heads up. Greg thinks the soldiers hold these curious views about the purpose for the Iraq invasion because otherwise the soldiers would have to conclude their national leadership is insane and the costs they are paying in deaths and maiming are an utter waste. In response to this part of it:

"While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

Greg says:

Interesting. A good fraction, although less than a majority, in the US think both those things, even though neither seems to have ever happened, even though as far as I can tell, the Administration doesn't even claim any more that Saddam had anything to do with 9-11. I think this is pretty easy to understand: the alternative for the average Joe is to conclude that we did it for no reason that he can understand at all: i.e. that the government is insane. So, many people make up a reason. because the alternative is too disturbing - more so if they think of the government as being run by _their side_. I had figured that the fraction of our armed forces in Iraq that believed that we were retaliating (for things that Iraq never did) would be higher than at home, because a volunteer army would self-select for such beliefs, and because the idea that friends would have been crippled or killed for no reason that anyone could understand would be hateful. I had guessed about two-thirds of the Army would believe this shit, but it's higher than that.

Human minds try to find cause and effect and meaning in the events around them. Sometimes their explanations are comical, sometimes foolish, other times tragic. These soldiers with their limited knowledge are trying to find purpose in what they are doing. They have my sympathy. Their loyalty to their country should not be so abused by what passes for leaders in the United States of America. Some day we may need these soldiers for a war where US national interests are really at stake. Giving these brave soldiers a sour experience with loyalty to country is not in the long term best interests of the American people.

Update: Some in the Pentagon dismiss this poll as reflecting the negative views one would expect to find among soldiers in combat.

The survey was conducted without the Pentagon's permission, and some military officials privately questioned its validity, since troops in a combat zone are likely to express negative views of their situation.

"The poll's findings certainly aren't reflective of the attitudes we see displayed by the majority of troops, who are performing in a remarkable manner in a combat situation far from home," said Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman.

American soldiers in Iraq, in interviews with Knight Ridder, frequently have expressed discontent with the situation there. They've cited too few soldiers to control the insurgency, a lack of equipment and pessimism about the success of the mission.

The US has too few soldiers to control the insurgency because the Bush Administration doesn't want to spend the amount that would cost and because a draft would be needed to build up the US Army large enough to exercise greater control. So the Bush Administration pretends the US has enough troops in Iraq.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 February 28 09:39 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs

Invisible Scientist said at February 28, 2006 10:14 PM:

The soldiers should be careful with what they wish for, because they might get it: just because they are getting out of Iraq doesn't automatically mean that they are going home... On the contrary, if there is a war with Iran, then those soldiers who imagined they were lucky to get out Iraq, might find out that they have jumped from the frying pan into the fire...

John S Bolton said at March 1, 2006 1:02 AM:

The soldiers will not think that the government is run by the insane, as much as they will think that the top officials are dishonest about their aims. Conscription would push Bush's approval rates down to single digits, and give the left millions of overnight activists to start riots with. Bush is relentlessly beating down his base of support with betrayal; by being all for the foreigner, while sacrificing the loyal Americans. The administration could go up dozens of points in support overnight, just by moving towards strict enforcement of immigration laws, and by dropping the requirement that special approval be obtained for promotion of 'all white men without disabilities' in the military.
Reward the loyal, and they will reciprocate. Punish those who don't reciprocate for the special privileges they're given , such as minorities and their advocates.

Stephen said at March 1, 2006 3:12 AM:

John, what's your recipe for changing the type of person who ends up in the political system? How do we get better people, and for that matter what would constitute a better person?

Honestly interested in hearing a theory.

Stephen said at March 1, 2006 3:23 AM:

Baghdad Burning blogger blogs about some of her experiences, fears and hopes as a resident in Baghdad. She's wondering if this will be the month the history books will record that the Iraqi civil war started, but she seems to have some lingering hope nevertheless.

Sometimes its good to realise that there are human beings living in Iraq. People with hopes and dreams. And plenty of fears.

John S Bolton said at March 2, 2006 1:36 AM:

Responding to Stephen: The only way to get better people in power, is to take away the power. It 'tends to corrupt'. If what you mean is; given that we have some level of corrupting power which not much can be done about, how do you improve quality of officials then, I don't know what theory would tell us. Honest officials with a lot of power can easily be worse than the dishonest ones. Continuing on the theme of loyalty; the people could be more discerning on the question of which candidates reciprocate their loyalty and support.

X said at March 2, 2006 6:50 PM:

Invalid methodology.

Jorge D.C. said at March 3, 2006 4:48 PM:

US Troops Want Out Of Iraq Within Year

This is completely rational. Three to four years or 36-48 months is a pretty good window for forcing capitulation in modern warfare. Much longer and it means the conflict has become a war of attrition between two states or a state vs guerilla stalemate. All troops want out of such wars.

US military psychology/planning is based on the Big Push and achieving a decisive result. We are not guerillas. When we were guerillas - back in the 1770-80s - the very long Revolutionary War resulted. I believe that one lasted about eight years.

The headline reflects the evolving cost/benefit analysis going on within the ranks. Leaders of democracies must heed the military timetable and the political timetable. Bush's window is closing.

tim said at March 22, 2006 7:55 PM:

interesting study....
in an aside

Smoking May Hinder Alcoholism Recovery

annie said at April 4, 2006 6:13 PM:

The killing puight to stop

Nine U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq; Three Missing

vera said at April 27, 2006 1:29 PM:

Theys still wanna have it out with us

Zarqawi: 'What Is Coming Is Even Worse'

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