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Tilting at Windmills

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September 10, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

PUBLIC OPINION IN IRAQ....So what do Iraqis think of the surge? Marc Lynch summarizes a recent poll of 2,000 residents:

The BBC/ABC/ NHK survey, conducted in all 19 provinces during August, finds that 70% of Iraqis believe that security has deteriorated in the areas covered by the US "surge", and 11% say it has had no effect. Only 11% say that security in the country as a whole has improved in the last six months. And 70% say that the conditions for political dialogue have gotten worse in the last six months. Bottom line: Iraqis overall, and especially Sunnis, are more opposed to the American presence than ever, do not think the surge has accomplished either its military or its political goals, and have dwindling confidence in the US forces.

Now, polls should always be taken with a grain of salt, but even so, Marc notes the astonishing fact that only 1% of Sunnis support the American presence in Iraq and only 1% of Sunnis say that security has improved in Iraq as a whole in the last 6 months. And that's after the Anbar Awakening.

Elsewhere in the poll, 47% of Iraqis say they want us to leave immediately, up from 35% before the surge. And what happens if we do? Only 35% think that an American withdrawal will make civil war more likely, while 46% say civil war would be less likely.

Technical issues aside, the surge can't work if this is how the Iraqi public views the U.S. presence. It's time to face facts.

Kevin Drum 12:51 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

It's time to face facts.

Ach! For the conservative mind, this is pure, blinding pain!! What are you, a torture-advocate?!?

Less talk, more action!

Posted by: Swan on September 10, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Where is brian to tell us that no poll of Iraqis could possibly be accurate, and that they should listen to us when we explain to them how much they like having us there?

Posted by: shortstop on September 10, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

why do they hate America?
oh, wait...

Posted by: thersites on September 10, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

This is the time to take 10 minutes out of our routine on-line discussions and send off a short email to your local paper to let them know that you're one more person who isn't buying the deal.

Make it short, neat, and use the frame, "running out clock". Here's and example I just sent off to the SF Chronicle, which very often prints me:


From: Slideguy
Subject: The Petraeus Report
Date: September 10, 2007 9:06:49 AM PDT
To: letters@sfchronicle.com

Editor,

When you cut through all lies, excuses, and excess verbiage, one thing becomes obvious. The Bush Administration has no idea how to clean up the mess they've made. So they're going to run out the clock and see that the blame and political cost of their failure gets attached to whomever has the misfortune of winning the next election. And they're perfectly willing to let our kids die in order to do it.

Now is the time. Take five minutes and let them know what you think. Now is the pivot point.

Posted by: Slideguy on September 10, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Those Iraqis sure sound ungrateful for all we've been trying to do for them. Maybe we should just take all our stuff and go home.

Posted by: Nemo on September 10, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq is passe.

Who cares what we're doing over there?

The thing that matters most is whether Craig withdraws his guilty plea.

Call it "surge" protection. Um I mean urge protection. Ooops.

My apologies to the Iraqis for the mess my military has made in Iraq!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on September 10, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

What a jokw. HOw can you expect to get statistically valid results from a poll in the midst of the chaos and aftermath of a war? What's the error rate on this thing? Plus or minus 80? It doesn't even square with events on the ground: even liberals like Hillery concede that ANbar is working. So how can Sunnis think not progress has been made?

Why don't we all wait patiently for the Petraues report next week and see what that says. All this paralysis of analysis prior to Petraues giving his report is not only jumping the gun, it's almost an attempt to drown out his progress report with all this white noise.

Posted by: egbert on September 10, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Egbert - that was parody, right? - Right??

Posted by: Dave L on September 10, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Only 35% think that an American withdrawal will make civil war more likely, while 46% say civil war would be less likely.

Maybe I'm being pedantic, but speaking of "facing the facts", it's time to stop referring to the Iraqi civil war as a hypothetical. They might as well say there's a 46% chance the sun came up today. You can talk about whether the civil war will be made worse or less bad by us leaving. But there already is a civil war.

Posted by: scarshapedstar on September 10, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

The obvious methodological concern about a poll like this is respondents' confidence that their responses will be kept confidential. If you think a favorable comment on the American presence in Iraq might get you killed, your incentive to make such a comment will be dramatically weaker.

But that's the problem with counterinsurgency, and specifically the problem in Iraq. The tactics available to militias and insurgent gangs are much more vicious and threatening than those available to legitimate authority; everyone in Iraq knows this by now, and knows also that this isn't about to change. If, over four years into the occupation, Iraqis are less willing than ever to express support for anything related to the American presence, it doesn't matter -- from the standpoint of our interest in maintaining our commitment there -- if the Iraqis are sincere in their views or simply terrified of the various armed groups running wild around the country. Either way, we haven't been able to do what we've attempted in Iraq.

Posted by: Zathras on September 10, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Zathras wrote: The obvious methodological concern about a poll like this is respondents' confidence that their responses will be kept confidential. If you think a favorable comment on the American presence in Iraq might get you killed, your incentive to make such a comment will be dramatically weaker.

Leaving aside Zathras' unsupported (if unspoken) presumption that Iraqis might in fact be inclined to comment favorably on the American conquest and occupation of Iraq, if they think a favorable comment on the American presence in Iraq might get them killed, that's a pretty piss-poor endorsement of the so-called "surge" bringing security to Iraq.

You resemble an honest commentor at Belgravia Dispatch, Zathras. What's the matter, Bush ruining your party's decades-long branding effort pisses you off, so you post intellectually dishonest drive-by comments here?

Jackass.

Posted by: Gregory on September 10, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of cooking the books...

Posted by: Mike K on September 10, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: Speaking of cooking the books...

"When confronted with evidence that contradicts the wingnut's own beliefs, such as a poll showing that public opinion is against him, and lacking any real argument or facts to refute the evidence, the wingnut will often resort to the only thing he knows; casting baseless aspersions, while hoping no one notices the utter lack of content or persuasive value."

-- excerpted from "A Compendium of Wingnuts: Their Taxononomy and Trolling Techniques" (New York: Harper, 2007. 306-7.)

Posted by: Narrator Guy on September 10, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

This is a time of very serious decisions. The Democrats have to be certain they are correct and "wingnut" jibes are not the answer. The Army did a bunch of things wrong in Iraq the first three years. They ignored the tribes, for example. See the front page story in the Wall Street Journal today about the anthropology that has helped figure out the dynamics of Iraqi society. They have not been interested in COIN warfare since Vietnam. The Marines, on the other hand, have been practicing for this sort of combat for a decade. Unfortunately, we did not have enough Marines in 2004. The LT Pantano book convinced me of that when it came out last year. Now Petraeus has the right strategy and the Sunnis have decided that they cannot win the insurgency. This is now winnable. The Democrats are beholden to the Moveon.org types who demand a defeat no matter what the facts on the ground. If they go one like this: "Majority Leader Harry Reid says Petraeus has “made a number of statements over the years that have not proven to be factual.” ; they may find the public has switched back to optimism and they will have ruined themselves.

Be careful to avoid the circular firing squad right now.

Posted by: Mike K on September 10, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The other methodological concern is that 2000 respondents taken from "more than 450 neighborhoods" is a total of about 4.5 people per neighborhood. Since phone polls (most commonly used for U.S. polling) are out of the question, how were respondents selected? Was any "self-selection" involved?

The actual poll is here. The BBC article has other useful links.

A few things in common with earlier polls:

-- The things people are concerned about cover a very wide range (Question 3)

-- A large majority of respondents have little personal experience with the violence (Question 25).

Would be interesting to know how the opinions of Iraqis are shaped. Television news? Newspapers? What they hear from neighbors?

Posted by: harry on September 10, 2007 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm ... where did this slide come from?

Because I had to look VERY CLOSELY at the legend to understand what it is saying.

The color scheme sends a VERY DIFFERENT message - "better" is normally associated with the color blue, "worse" with the color red (alarm).

The color scheme says "Things are getting MUCH better".

Posted by: sidewinder on September 10, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

The Army did a bunch of things wrong in Iraq the first three years.

It'd be interesting to review Mike K's opinions, expressed here, of how the Army was doing during the past three years.

As Kevin noted in his great "Chaos Hawks" posts, it's SOP for dishonest GOP apologists -- but I repeat myself -- like Mike K to acknowledge now that Bush screwed up royaller -- er, that things haven't been going so well in Iraq over the past several years. But what were they claiming during those past several years? Why, that things were going great, and we just needed some more time -- and someone else's lives and treasure -- to keep the Party going in Iraq.

It's easy to bet with someone else's money -- or life, Mike K, you jackass.

Posted by: Gregory on September 10, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K, oh Mike, Mike, Mike...

How can I put this politely?

You're crazy.

We've had a modest and unsustainable bump up in troop strength, and were handed the opportunity to make an alliance of convenience with Sunni tribes in Anbar. That's about it as far as the positives.

"Unfortunately, we did not have enough Marines in 2004...Now Petraeus has the right strategy and the Sunnis have decided that they cannot win the insurgency. This is now winnable."

- We didn't have enough Marines??!! Where were they, practicing amphibious landings in South Carolina?

- The Sunnis have decided they can't win? Not even the Bushies are claiming any more than that they hate the foreign jihadis even more than they hate us.

- "This is now winnable." WHAT is now winnable? A stable, unified, democratic Iraq allied with the West? No, I didn't think so. Please try to explain just what it is that we're fighting for at this point that is worth another six months, two years, a decade more of blood and treasure. Be specific.

Posted by: Dave L on September 10, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
The graph looks great without the gray background!
Steve

Posted by: Steve Sailer on September 10, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

It's time to face facts.

Hahahahaha!

See your previous post on the conservative "mind"

Posted by: craigie on September 10, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

This is a time of very serious decisions.

Appeals to emotionalism like this that come in the form of awkward, solemn pronouncements underscore the lack of any real argument.

The Democrats have to be certain they are correct and "wingnut" jibes are not the answer.

I am not a Democrat. Many people here are not Democrats. Many anti-war Americans are not Democrats. No Iraqis are Democrats.

And no Democrats were responsible for the management and prosecution of this war. None. Ever.

"Wingnut jibes" aren't the answer but they are as good a rejoinder as any to addle-headed loons who've been wrong about EVERYTHING regarding this war yet want to be taken seriously this time because it's all so "serious."

The Army did a bunch of things wrong in Iraq the first three years.

No, the Army did it's job very well. I think you mean to say that the decision-makers did a bunch of things wrong, e.g. Bush and Cheney and Rumsfled-the-scene. "The Army" didn't decide to invade with insufficient troops -- the White House did (see "Shinseki, Eric" and "Powell, Colin").

Be a man and place the blame squarely where it fucking belongs, you numbskull, and quit blaming the military.

Now Petraeus has the right strategy

On what possible metric can you be claiming that Petraeus has an effective strategy? Violence has continued to stay the same or get worse (yes, even sectarian violence -- you don't get to discount bombs and bullets that came in through the wrong side of the head), attacks on U.S. troops are at an all-time high, refugees stream from the country unabated, and none of what Petraeus has done has contributed one whit to political or reconstruction progress.

and the Sunnis have decided that they cannot win the insurgency. This is now winnable.

I don't know what you're smoking but save some for me. Got a cite for this claim? Pleasant anecdote? Precognitive dream?

An interesting byproduct of the Iraqi opinion poll that Kevin cites in another thread is that the makeup of the respondents from the last two polls suggest that Sunnis aren't the 20%-25% minority that has often been claimed but are closer to 35% of the population, while the Shia do not make up 60% as was commonly thought (based on nothing, I might add) but are probably only around 47% of the population.

Given the fractured, infighting nature of the Shia population I'd say the Sunnis odds of keeping up their insurgency are pretty good.

The Democrats are beholden to the Moveon.org types who demand a defeat no matter what the facts on the ground.

Now you've completely broken with reality. If Democrats were in fact behold to Moveon.org "types" then why haven't they moved more forcefully to stop the war. Aren't they afraid of their bead-wearing puppetmasters?

And any "defeat" lies squarely in the lap of George W. Bush who's had every tool at his command that he's asked for. Sadly for all involved, defeat was assured the moment we invaded. Not that there is any real victory of the U.S. in Iraq. Against whom? The Sunnis? We're arming them, though they've been responsible for the majority of attacks against us. Al Qaeda? It's about 850 guys, and the rest of Iraq can just dogpile them when they want to. The Shia we liberated and who are now attacking us but who also make up the majority of the government?

There is no victory possible when there are no good outcomes that don't come at the expense of a plurality of Iraqi citizens or basic human morality.


Posted by: trex on September 10, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

The Army did a bunch of things wrong in Iraq the first three years.

As always the right-wingers are big boosters of the military except when things go wrong and they suddenly need a scapegoat, and then it's all the Army's fault.

The Army didn't do anything in Iraq it wasn't ordered explicitly to do by the Bush-Cheney White House, so any blame has to be laid squarely at their feet and at the feet of their GOP supporters.

Posted by: Stefan on September 10, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Army did a bunch of things wrong in Iraq the first three years.

If only the Army had requested more troops for the initial invasion....

Posted by: Disputo on September 10, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

"It's easy to bet with someone else's money -- or life, Mike K, you jackass.

Posted by: Gregory "

You are either new or have not been paying attention. It's kind of a waste of time to try to debate people whose minds are closed but I will remind you that back in 2004, when Kevin was asserting as gospel truth that Bush would cut and run before the election, I suggested that he wouldn't and that you might go back and see who was right and who was wrong. Then he was sure the election wouldn't happen. Then so many other things were "sure to happen" that didn't. You've been wrong so many times I was only suggesting that Democrats (the others don't count for electoral purposes; vote for Ron Paul) may be crawling further out on a limb if the Iraq situation stabilizes.

You don't have to take my advice but it is there and will be in the archives when the end of the present story is known. Abuse and loud epithet tossing is not debate. It's just juvenile.

Posted by: Mike K on September 10, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: john john on September 10, 2007 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

LMAO @ Mike K. Oh yeah, the left has been predicting for years that GWB would withdraw the troops and you've been the only voice of reason telling us otherwise.

What a fucking tool.

Posted by: Disputo on September 10, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

I will remind you that back in 2004, when Kevin was asserting as gospel truth that Bush would cut and run before the election, I suggested that he wouldn't and that you might go back and see who was right and who was wrong.

Cite?

Then he was sure the election wouldn't happen. Then so many other things were "sure to happen" that didn't.

Uh uh. Nope. Cite?

I didn't think so.

ALSO: Kevin's alleged predictions about what Bush might or might not do in an election year, even if they were remotely as you're trying to represent them, are of a whole different order than people with a clue warning that 1) WMD's won't be found in Iraq, 2) the invasion will be a clusterfuck of massive proportions, 3) Bush is lying about the intelligence, and 4) there is no connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda -- while all the while wingnuts like you brayed that it's not true and we're all traitors and everything is candy and flowers and democracy.

You're being mocked because your uninformed views and revisionist history and unsubstantiated arguments are only worthy of derision, particularly when they indirectly have contributed to so much damage, suffering, and death. If nothing else maybe the mockery will force you to look a little more closely at what you've been avoiding all along -- like putting the blame on Bush for all his historically monumental screwups and admitting that you were right there screwing up along with him.

Until then, if I may echo the sentiment expressed by Disputo: what a fucking tool.

Posted by: trex on September 10, 2007 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

At TalkingPointsMemo Josh Marshall makes the point that the latest poll of Iraqis indicates that 97% of Sunnis want a central Iraqi government -- only 56% of Shia and 9% of the Kurds want this.

Problem is, as Josh Marshall points out, the Sunnis are very much excluded from the government as its currently constituted.

But that, I think, doesn't get at the real rub here.

Only a few years ago, the Sunnis essentially ran Iraq. Does anyone seriously expect that they will be seeking anything less when the Americans leave? Who is foolish enough to think that they will settle for anything short of that, if there's nothing to stand in their way but the Shiites -- a group they know they have successfully disempowered in the past?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 11, 2007 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K, your deranged and dishonest water carrying for this Administration, your parroting of tired, debunked GOP talking points, is not debate. Abuse and loud epithet tossing is all it deserves.

Posted by: Gregory on September 11, 2007 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

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