Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

December 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ENDING THE WAR....Matt Yglesias links to the latest NYT/CBS poll about Iraq, and the results are clear: more than 70% of the country thinks we should leave within two years or less:

As you can see, virtually nobody in the United States wants to see American troops remain in Iraq for longer than five years. If you put squarely to people a political and strategic choice between a long-term military commitment to Iraq and trying to wrap our involvement up as quickly as is feasible, it wouldn't even be a close call.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's that easy. Here's the thing: in every poll taken for the past three years, we've seen basically the same results: (a) a majority wants to leave Iraq within one or two years, and (b) almost nobody wants to leave right now. So where will all those people who want to leave within a year or two be when pollsters ask this question again in 2008? Most likely answer: they'll still want to leave within a year or two and they still won't want to leave right now.

It's easy to say that the public is overwhelmingly in favor of withdrawing from Iraq and congressional Democrats are cowards for not fighting harder to end the war. But that's poll literalism at work. In reality, as near as I can tell, the public is unhappy, but at the same time unwilling to endorse serious action to stop the flow of Friedmans and set a firm deadline for leaving. Maybe congressional Democrats need more backbone when it comes to Iraq, but as always, it's public opinion that's key. And public opinion just isn't as overwhelmingly on our side as we often like to think. Fix that, and we'll all be amazed at how fast Dems can grow a spine.

Kevin Drum 3:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

I think many people believe that a wind-down period is necessary, and so when they say that they want out in less than two years (as opposed to *now*), they are expressing their wish that they want the wind-down to start *now*. Two yrs hence, when they are again polled on the subject, and no wind-down has begun, it is not at odds with their previous answer to once again say that they want the troops out in less than two yrs.

Posted by: Disputo on December 17, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the question actually asked...

The most recent CBS/NYT poll asked people "From what you know about the U.S. involvement in Iraq, how much longer would you be willing to have large numbers of U.S. troops remain in Iraq — less than a year, one to two years, two to five years or longer than five years?"

If this question had been asked prior to the recent reductions in violence, the numbers would like have been different. If things trend further upwards, ditto. In short, these opinions are probably highly elastic.

Posted by: SJRSM on December 17, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree, Kevin. I think people have been convinced that we can't leave *immediately* -- e.g., tomorrow -- but would support a plan for staged withdrawal that starts now.

The congressional Dems are too afraid of Rush L and the corporate media to stand up.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 17, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

almost nobody wants to leave right now

There is too great a tolerance for the military and what it can achieve by the American people. That is how we came to be in Iraq and that is why we remain in Iraq.

As long as a substantial fraction of Americans supports or tolerates military adventurism, cloaked as national security, we'll never stop or seriously reduce our presence in Iraq or anywhere else.

Posted by: Brojo on December 17, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

This is maybe the limpest post you've filed in a long time. Gee, that 70% support is kinda soft, but when it increases then we might do something, we really will, you betcha.....How about some fucking leadership, fer crissakes? Aside from the proposition that the sky is blue (something the wingnuts might question), you're never going to get universal support for anything. But I think it's a safe bet the general public is kinda sick of us being in Iraq. Maybe we could, you know, try to lead the charge on that and build up even more support by a full-throated assertion of our views. I'd prefer that to waiting for 80-90% support and letting the body and dollar count go up still further.

Posted by: scott on December 17, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

They should ask whether people want to *start* leaving now. The way it is asked is ambiguous.

Posted by: Emma Anne on December 17, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Look no further than the defense budget.

Look at the stocks of security/private mercenary force-related companies.

This war is too good a cash cow to give up.

Heil death. Heil torture. Screw the weak.

The demoncrats can't do anything while the repugnacans do all they can to block bills.

Polls, schmolls, war is America's god-given right!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 17, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Gore/Edwards 08 wrote: "The congressional Dems are too afraid of Rush L and the corporate media to stand up."

The "congressional Dems" are of course not a monolith. Some of them, e.g. Dennis Kucinich, are "standing up" and have been "standing up" against Bush's war of unprovoked aggression against Iraq since the fall of 2002 -- before the invasion, when it mattered the most.

At the other extreme, some "congressional Dems" are not "afraid of Rush L and the corporate media" -- because they answer to the same owners as Limbaugh and the corporate media, America's Ultra-Rich Corporate Ruling Class, Inc.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 17, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Disputo and G/E. A plan to start withdrawing now, with troops completely out over the course of 12-24 months, would draw a lot of support.

A 51-49 majority in the Senate can't implement this. A Democratic president with a larger majority in the Senate and House can pull it off easily. Let Limbaugh lead the charge to have our kids, not his kids or his own fat butt, stuck over there forever.

Posted by: tomeck on December 17, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers Union had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee stating that the people had forfeited the confidence of the government and could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?

scott, meet Bertold Brecht

Posted by: mr insensitive on December 17, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

And how much more amazing is it that Democrats sit around waiting for public opinion to change magically? That's where the spinelessness is. It's the passivity.

Can someone please frame it that, "...after almost five years of what the republicans told us would be a cakewalk, it is long past time to summon up the guts to bite the bullet on this"? Can anyone have the spine to point out that it's Bush and Cheney who are afraid -- afraid of people seeing what damage they have done to America?

Posted by: urban legend on December 17, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The public is overwhelmingly in favor of withdrawing from Iraq and congressional Democrats are cowards for not fighting harder to end the war.

You're right; that was easy.

And if the congressional Democrats have an explanation for why they're not fighting harder to end the war (and also for a lot of other issues in addition to the war) that doesn't involve apparent cowardice, they're not explaining themselves very well to the people that elected them.

Posted by: AJ on December 17, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Or to put it another way, the public is as vulnerable to the fallacy of sunk costs as the leadership is. Having already put up the house and the kids' college funds in this game of 3-card monte, it would be crazy not to try just one more round. And another. And another. And another.

Posted by: DrBB on December 17, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

2057: Americans were asked if they wanted to stay in Iraq for two more years.

5% want to stay forever.
10% thought that we had already left Iraq.
85% of the respondents have never heard of the country.

Posted by: Speed on December 17, 2007 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

A candidate--I prefer John Edwards--should make a stand and discuss these polling results loud and long and unambiguously and point out the inconsistency among voters and commit to withdrawal within two years. It may be too late for Edwards now and it might not work for any candidate. But it is the best way to help the country focus on the problem.

Posted by: Ross Best on December 17, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

...they are expressing their wish that they want the wind-down to start *now* - Disputo

Exactly. If you simply asked the question: "Should we start withdrawing troops NOW"? You would probably get better than 70%.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 17, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Those waiting for Democrats to grow a spine might want to examine theirs. Continuing to vote Democratic and not achieving the goals that voting Democratic is supposed to lead to, may mean spinelessness is endemic in progressive/liberal America. The moneycons and warcons are counting on continued progressive and liberal support of the Democratic invertebrates, which is essential to the cons food chain.

Posted by: Brojo on December 17, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

If the economy continues on its present course and China dumps its dollars perhaps that will force the politicians hands.

Posted by: Ya Know... on December 17, 2007 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

And then we have a true war stopper like Ron Paul that will put an end to the war in Iraq, and who just make 6 million - with a bunch of fed up conservatives.

So now we have Kevin who is saying the election isn't really about the war, well then I guess Dems will lose this election to Huckabee - it must be about spending, and because you know Krugman's right, Obama isn't a reformer, Obama isn't about change - he a corportist, anything corporations want, they get, Obama is just another Bush, pretending he is not a Bush in drag. The DLC progressives show the ugly Bush twin head.

Posted by: me-again on December 17, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Paul-tard Alert! Paul-tard Alert! Blimp sighting!

Posted by: Pat on December 17, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

I want to make the case to the American public that we are staying in Iraq because there are companies, like Halliburton and Blackwater, making money while we stay and the Bush administration and the rest of the political and media elites are procrastinating admitting they were wrong to support invading Iraq in the first place.

When do I get my slot on the Sunday morning TV programs?

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on December 17, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

At what point will Dem behavior be cowardly enough that mainstream liberals like Kevin Drum will consider it legitimate to support Cynthia McKinney for POTUS.

I'm sorry, but I'm beginning to doubt the value in contributing my efforts to Team Democrat.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on December 17, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

This is a pretty simplistic dismissal of a poll. It's not the first time you've dismissed the significance of heavy majority polls that are being ignored by the "pols." Sure they are being F.U.'d to death. That's the problem in America, not one of how pointed a poll question is. Consider if the poll question included the cost to every man, woman and child in America that the Iraq war represents, including current and future costs like caring for and compensating both American and Iraqi killed and wounded (there will likely be some final compensation for Iraq if and when we leave on some terms other than full retreat from a lost war). What if every tax return included a credit card like "Iraq War" balance with minimum payment due? How many would then tolerate another F.U.? I think the poll would be near unanimous against continuing the war for another instant. It would be too bluntly clear who is profiting and who is paying, in blood and coin, for the Iraq war.

Posted by: Amos Anan on December 17, 2007 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

The reason, or at least one big reason, that the general public has not latched onto the policy of leaving Iraq by a date certain is that no one is articulating that as an option.

I know there are people advocating for that policy, but they don't explain how it will be done or what it will all mean.

The pro-occupation forces, in contrast, have defined leaving as losing, wanting to leave as supporting the terrorists and harming Our Beloved Troops.

Posted by: James E. Powell on December 17, 2007 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

If god told GWB to attack Iraq, how are us mere humans going to convince George to leave?

Don't we have to wait for another divine revelation in our commander/decider-in-chief's ear?

The agony of the Iraq debate reveals how thoroughly our world has become infested by the merchants of death.

Take the B-1 bomber. If you look hard you'll realize that all 50 US states contribute to this weapons program.

Guns-R-US

Operation Iraqi Liberation.... jettisoned because of the all too obvious acronym.

We are in Iraq. We will not leave. I know because god told George that it must be.

Any further questions?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 17, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

A candidate--I prefer John Edwards--should make a stand and discuss these polling results loud and long and unambiguously and point out the inconsistency among voters and commit to withdrawal within two years.

Any candidate--and I also prefer John Edwards--who takes a stand like that will be immediately attacked by everyone, and most certainly by the other Democratic candidates, for being naive and weak.

What every Democratic contender fears most is that the corporate ruling class might do to them what they did to Howard Dean.

Posted by: James E. Powell on December 17, 2007 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Carl Nyberg

There is nothing to apologize for. The responsibility for the occupation rests just as much with the Democrats, if not more, as it does with Bush. Also, tomek at 4:21 pm believes that a withdrawal should begin now but that all the troops should be taken out within a 12 to 24 month period. By advocating this position, tomek is ignoring the fact that if this were to happen, there is a good chance that a thousand more Americans would wind up very dead, all for absolutely no justifiable reason whatsoever.

Kucinich's position seems to me to be a wise one; begin withdrawing the troops now and have all of them out within a three month period. What liberals and Democrats along with everyone else seem to ignore is that the U.S. had no business invading Iraq and certainly has no right to currently occupy and brutalize and terrorize the Iraqi people. Bring them home-now- before more bloodshed occurs for a decidedly less than noble cause.

Posted by: Erroll on December 17, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the general public is necessarily wedded to a two-year timetable for removing our forces from Iraq. Rather, they want to see some concrete evidence that there is planning in place for our gradual but still definitive military withdrawal.

To paraphrase a shopworn cliche from the Vietnam War, people just want to see the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel," without getting a queasy feeling in the pit of their stomachs that they're staring at an oncoming train.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 17, 2007 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

That's Funny, Ron Paul doesn't have a problem saying "Just Come Home." Why do the Democrats?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on December 17, 2007 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Now you know why the Friedman(r) exists - its is the basic building block of successful polling. As for running a war that way.....

Posted by: orion on December 17, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

(there will likely be some final compensation for Iraq if and when we leave on some terms other than full retreat from a lost war)
Posted by: Amos Anan on December 17, 2007 at 6:00 PM

Somehow, I wonder if this is what either party fears most. Demands for reparations by the Iraqis for our "mistake". The Rs would fear the result of turning it down, the Ds would fear how the public would react if they accepted it.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 17, 2007 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Uh . . . Kevin, the update is in the wrong threade

Posted by: bob in fla on December 17, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Bullshit Kevin.

Utter bullshit.

They want it over. They have wnated it over for a while.

You simply do not want to accept the poll result.

And you have not for a while.

And I imagine in 6 months you'll come back not wanting to believe them then.

Posted by: Armando on December 17, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Tom asked: "Don't we have to wait for another divine revelation in our commander/decider-in-chief's ear?"

Why does God always appear only to individuals. Is He not capable of broadcasting in some way?

Posted by: Rula Lenska on December 17, 2007 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it's true (the new dopey and pernicious media "narrative" ;-( ) that Democrats now look bad (like war-eeyores) because "the surge is working." After all, (to the consternation of the very liberal wing) the official Dems kept funding the war on into early '08 or so, and can now say: "We kept it going just long enough that now we can pull out without leaving the mess that the war supporters always complain about, right?" Really, war supporters can't have it both ways and must decide: if the surge "really worked" then by definition we can hand over things to "the" Iraqis, or otherwise it didn't really work after all.

(Of course, the war-manglers never got the long term political reconciliation straight anyway ...)

tyrannogenius

Posted by: Neil B. on December 17, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Don't we have to wait for another divine revelation in our commander/decider-in-chief's ear?

Hmmm... perhaps someone should aim one of these at our illustrious CnC?

Posted by: Disputo on December 17, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

As Disputo said up top:
I think many people believe that a wind-down period is necessary, and so when they say that they want out in less than two years (as opposed to *now*), they are expressing their wish that they want the wind-down to start *now*. Two yrs hence, when they are again polled on the subject, and no wind-down has begun, it is not at odds with their previous answer to once again say that they want the troops out in less than two yrs.

And I'd call your attention, Kevin, to this question in the CNN poll taken essentially the same time as the CBS/NYT poll:

"Which comes closest to your view about what the U.S. should now do about the number of U.S. troops in Iraq? The U.S. should send more troops to Iraq. The U.S. should keep the number of troops as it is now. The U.S. should withdraw some troops from Iraq. OR, The U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Iraq."

39% for withdrawing all now;
30% for withdrawing some now;
19% for keeping the same number;
10% for sending more.

IOW, there's a huge majority for starting to withdraw NOW. And for being done with that withdrawal in a year or two.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 17, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Any candidate--and I also prefer John Edwards--who takes a stand like that will be immediately attacked by everyone, and most certainly by the other Democratic candidates, for being naive and weak."

Maybe that is the best thing that could happen for John Edwards and the country right now.

Posted by: Ross Best on December 17, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think the best, most precise sort of question about the war is this one, from Gallup/USA Today (same link as previous post):

"If you had to choose, which do you think is better for the U.S.: to keep a significant number of troops in Iraq until the situation there gets better, even if that takes many years, or to set a timetable for removing troops from Iraq and to stick to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq at the time?"

That's the true choice in Iraq: leave when the job's done, but not until; or just leave, whether we've accomplished anything or not.

Both at the beginning of December and in mid-September, 38% wanted us to stay the course, and 59% wanted us to stick to a withdrawal timetable regardless.

Pew has asked a similar question (with a 41-54 split in favor of withdrawal regardless), as have other pollsters.

In the blue cities and inner 'burbs, people have been against this war all along. And out there in red, rural America, people are getting tired of seeing their best young men come home in caskets, or missing parts of their bodies or minds.

There's really no hidden pro-war majority. It's not there.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 17, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Generally, the docility of the American public leads it to give the President the benefit of the doubt. So its quite astounding that such a large percentage of us is against the fiasco in middle east. If the Democrats cannot affect a change in the national policy despite so much support, they are useless. They are never going to get a better issue.

Obviously, either the Dem leaders are in cahoots with the Republicans, or they have an intense desire to commit political suicide.

Posted by: gregor on December 17, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Why does God always appear only to individuals. Is He not capable of broadcasting in some way?
Posted by: Rula Lenska on December 17, 2007 at 7:59 PM


I don't know. It seems that He must communicate through a human. Humans are undoubtedly good at broadcasting the messages that they receive however. People should watch the movie Simon:

"This is a wonderful, imaginative satire on American society and its counterculture, brilliantly written and directed by Marshall Brickman and acted by Alan Arkin. It is not very well known, which is unfortunate, because it should be. Its style is somewhat like Monty Python meets Woody Allen and Dr. Strangelove. The story of a self-styled genius who is convinced by a think tank that he is the offspring of a space ship and then tries to reform American culture via illicit TV broadcasts is hilarious and incisive. Madeline Kahn is also fabulous."

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 17, 2007 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's a framing issue, nothing more.

And Kevin, c'mon. Sometimes public opinion has to be led, shaped, informed, etc. This was a pretty weak post.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 17, 2007 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Cowards. Backbone. Spine.

As Democrats vote overwhelmingly to end the Iraq Occupation and restrict Presidential power, as Republicans vote overwhelmingly the other way, the Democrats have to put up with words like that.

Careless, lazy people talk in tough, no-nonsense language about Democrats who "control congress" and do nothing. But they don't even know how many Democrats there are in each House. They don't know what's was in the Supplemental Appropriation bills that Democrats passed. They don't know what a Blue Dog is or how many there are. They don't have any meaningful knowledge regarding filibusters and procedures.

But they do know how to spell spine and backbone and coward. And they do know how to buy into the Republican propaganda that Democrats are as responsible, or nearly as responsible, for the Iraq disaster as George W. Bush.

Amazing.

Democrat = Republican, right?

[Sorry Kevin, I know you didn't mean it that way. But those words, as most people use them, rub me the wrong way.]

Posted by: little ole jim on December 17, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

Just a reminder: Saddam Hussein was never a threat to the national security of the United States.

For those who missed it earlier: Saddam Hussein was never a threat to the national security of the United States.

Now, there are some bloodthirsty and rather sick goons who will tell you otherwise. They will tell you of the horrors of being "painted" with radar while engaged in acts of war against Iraq (this, it is important to note, is after Iraq's surrender). They will tell you of desperate bombing runs to take out those sites that might have provided the Iraqis with a semblance of self-defense and how that proves what a monster Saddam Hussein was (I'm sure some thickwitted moron will take this as support for Hussein - but then I assume such moron is the same ideological brother to bin Laden that supports terrorizing civilians and thinks killing children is okay if you might get a bad guy along the way).

Such moronic jingos are of course engaged in rationalization. Even given the pre-Gulf War state of Iraq they simply had no ICBM technology. Iraq could not have brought any kind of weapon to the shores of the United States. Once that war was over, Iraq was a crippled nation. The sanctions ensured they would stay that way.

Which means that the unprovoked assault against that nation was a war crime. The time to leave was before terrorizing the population of Baghdad with hundreds of bombs. The second best time to leave is now. The pieces should be picked up by those who actually give a rat's ass about what happens to the Iraqi people. Not people who are trying to justify their part in the mass murder of Iraqis.

What the American people think doesn't really matter. Right and wrong aren't decided in a plebiscite. The invasion was wrong, the occupation is wrong, and the way out does not involve continuing our imperialist behavior.

Posted by: heavy on December 17, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Yglesias is so partisan that he cannot be taken very seriously. Kevin, while partisan, is also honest and often fair.

The problem here is why should our national security issues be heavily influenced by such general polling information? Polls in general are a poor way to goven, but they are especially bad on national security.

Posted by: brian on December 18, 2007 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Irony alert: brian, everyone's favorite faux-reasonable concern troll, writes: Yglesias is so partisan that he cannot be taken very seriously.

Not to worry, though, brian; no one would ever mistake you for being honest.

Posted by: Gregory on December 18, 2007 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Here's the thing: in every poll taken for the past three years, we've seen basically the same results: (a) a majority wants to leave Iraq within one or two years, and (b) almost nobody wants to leave right now. So where will all those people who want to leave within a year or two be when pollsters ask this question again in 2008? Most likely answer: they'll still want to leave within a year or two and they still won't want to leave right now.

Kevin is completely misreading these poll results. Americans want an orderly withdrawal from Iraq. That requires planning and action. It doesn't mean that they want us to withdraw from Iraq abruptly 365 days from now. When the question is asked again in 2008 the answer will be the same if no action has been taken yet.

But it doesn't mean people will be upset if we've actually done the work - or if the Democrats made the attempt to get it accomplished.

Failure to try might be punished, though.

Posted by: Jinchi on December 18, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

If I'm a candidate, here's what I say, right now and on up to the election: ``If I'm elected president I will work to get our troops out of Iraq within two years.'' (Cue thunderous applause)
Why would I care what people will say two years from now when I know that 70% back me today? 70-30 -- those numbers aren't even close, as they were in 2004, when Kerry had to tiptoe through the 50-50 minefield of public opinion on Iraq. Getting out of Iraq, besides being the rational and morally correct path, is a clearcut, winning political position, and if we go nuancing and hedging and worrying about mythical pro-war majorities, Iraq -- absolutely the worst burden the GOP has to bear -- becomes either a non-issue or Democrats get hit -- rightly -- with the can't-make-up-their-minds tag. Again.
Let the GOP run on Iraq. MAKE the GOP run on Iraq.

Posted by: secularhuman on December 18, 2007 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK
Post a comment









Remember personal info?










 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly