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September 22, 2005

Iraq: Hemmorhage on the Homefront
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

On the eve of a big anti-war rally slated for this weekend in Washington, CNN/Gallup have come out with a new poll suggesting that support for President Bush's Iraq policy is bleeding heavily.  (the full poll results can be found on which allows a free 30-day trial).  These numbers are enough to wake up a sleeping President:

- 34% of people polled, a plurality, believe the war in Iraq is unwinnable

- An additional 20% believe the US can win, but won't

- Just 43% believe the US will definitely or probably win

- Just 33% of those polled have a clear idea of what the war is about; 67% do not

- 59% believe we made a mistake sending troops to Iraq

- 63% support a full or partial withdrawal

- Just 32% support the President's handling of the war

- 54% want to cut spending on Iraq in order to fund reconstruction post-Katrina

Most of these numbers look a lot worse for the Administration's policy than they did in early August when Heather wrote this recap.  I wrote a few weeks later about the devastating consequences that would result if Iraq were to become a failed state.  Bush has tried hard in recent months to shore up public support for the war effort, but the absence of any concrete strategy to win, deteriorating conditions on the ground and competing priorities like Katrina seem to doom those efforts to failure. 

While Kevin Drum sees Bush's glass half full and points out that 63% of those polled still see some chance of winning (and that those people will never support progressive calls for a pullout), my question is whether the creeping public pessimism might not be enough to snuff out the possibility of victory, even assuming the President were to suddenly pull a strategy out of a hat.

If Bush cannot turn these trends around, its hard to see how he turns around anything about the Iraq war effort.

Lorelei's critical questions on what all this means for the progressive stance require more thinking to answer.   But in the meantime we should not berate ourselves for not having a tidy answer to the disastrous conundrums this Administration's policies have wrought.


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Democracyarsenal seems to have a them- that there is no strategy in Iraq. One can disagree with the strategy and can question what if any chance there is for it work but the strategy in Iraq has been the same for quite a while- train up the Iraqi's to the point they can police, protect, and defend their own nation. It's pretty simple.

In fact long term it's the only thing that makes any sense. Enough with trying to get France or whoever to help out- it's hard enough getting all of NATO to help out more in Afganistan for pete sake.

It's perfectly fine to say the war was a mistake, screwed up fourteen ways from the start, unwinnable, or not worth trying to win but can we please note there is a strategy in place. There are Iraqi forces in control of many parts of Iraq. If most sunni's vote next month, even against the new constitution, they will have at least gone against the sunni insurgency by joining the political process and they have every right to vote no.

Finally on the polls. They are indeed bad for the President. Things do not look good in Iraq. Were this to change obviously the polls would to and it's hard to blame most Americans for turning sour on the war at this point. In ten years if Iraq is a functioning democracy do today's polls matter in any way?

At some point it would sure be nice if the anti-war folks would acknowledge that while they disagree totally with the war there was something to the long term thought that we are never going to be safe in a middle east of failed states. One can disagree with the long term strategy of addressing this by attempting to create a democracy in the heart of the middle east but can we at least see the effort? After that how about the progressive long term strategy for the war against islamic facism and/or how to bring democracy to the mid-east?

Lane Brody


With regards to Afghanistan, part of the problem is that the European militaries, since WW2 anyway, have never been trained, equipped, or funded in ways sufficient for much more than symbolic operations abroad.

Unless and until that changes, America should expect to carry the load, no questions asked.

Of course, much like Atlas, it's not like we can put the load down, either.

John while I agree with you the Berlin Wall fell 15 years ago. Europe has had almost a generation to step back from both Cold War defense spending levels and a Cold War era defense posture.

The fact that all of NATO has found it difficult to deploy 10,000 non US troops either shows a lack of will or state of military preparedness that is criminally irresponsible.

During the Cold War we had hundreds of thousands of troops defending Europe. During the Kosovo Air War the US flew had to fly over 90% of all offensive air sorties since almost no NATO Air Forces were equipped for modern combat. Europe is simply unwilling to spend enough money to deal with problems in it's own backyard much less problems around the world. It's disgusting. Pacifism can be honest and heartfelt but ultimately it's being willing to live as a slave.

There is no acceptable reason or excuse why years after saying they'd take over Afganistan NATO still doesn't have enough troops there- especially for a role even the European left says it is strongly in favor of- UN approved peace-keeping operations. The US liberates Europe, leads it's defense for 55 years, leads and almost entirely fights the first post Cold War NATO operation, and then Europe will not help out enough in Afganistan? It's simply disgusting and should give very strong pause to those who choose to view the world through the UN and other multilateral organizations that in practice normally add up to almost nothing.

Lane Brody

"But in the meantime we should not berate ourselves for not having a tidy answer to the disastrous conundrums this Administration's policies have wrought."

You're right about that, but there are answers to some of the most glaring problems.

*Juan Cole hits perhaps the most glaring problems here “I have long wondered where the new Iraqi tank corps is. Without effective armor, how can they win on their own?” (May 26, 2005)

and again in his "Ten Things Congress Could Demand from Bush on Iraq" with "The new Iraqi military's lack of tanks is almost certainly because the US is afraid they might be turned on US troops in a crisis. Once US ground troops are out, there is no reason not to let the Iraqi military just import a lot of tanks and train the new Iraqi army in using them." (August 22, 2005)

Waiting for a complete withdrawal of US troops before creating an Iraqi tank corps would be too little too late. Instead, perhaps Iraqi tank units should work exclusively with the more experienced Iraqi soldiers, eliminating the threat of turning on US forces in crises and creating an incentive for Iraqi soldiers.

*Everyone recognizes the need for new ideas in Iraq. Sec. Rumsfeld is not delivering them. He has also run intelligence gathering so miserably that we still know little about the insurgency despite the rampant and widely broadcast abuse of Arab civilians. Under-equipping our troops and then pretending he couldn't help it is unforgivable. Fight to have him replaced with someone more competent.

*Progressive should be asking for greater military spending on items and initiatives that will genuinely increase the safety of our troops (such as body armor and "up-armored" vehicles for them and tanks and any armor for the Iraqis). Stop pretending to be such fiscal conservatives when it comes to our soldiers lives, just ask to have it paid for by repealing the tax cuts on the wealthiest 1 or 2% and the estate tax above 3 or 4 million.

How do you insert a hyperlink here?

Those Juan Cole quotes were supposed to link to:

- public service post:

Jaun Cole Assassinations

10 Things...

Thanks Doc,

But how does one do that?

Lane: I agree with the administration's strategy that you mention, to train and equip the Iraqis to police and protect their country, but I question their committment to that strategy.

Washington ideology still bars former low-level Baath party members from enlisting in the military. This alienates all Sunnis from the new military and government.

Unqualified and corrupt contractors have been hired to the severe detriment of reconstruction efforts, yet little has been done to improve the situation long after the problem became apparent.

And spending on actually equipping the Iraqi army is an afterthought if it is thought about at all. Yet still, a billion dollars just disappeared from their defense ministry.

It's starting to look more likely that Bush will declare victory and leave. Ironically, it may be the liberals who end up with the blame for any chaos that would follow.

Clarification: when I wrote "I question their committment to that strategy", I meant that I question the administration's committment to its own stated strategy.

- Owen

...follow these instructions...EXCEPT, leave out the quotes: this site auto-adds them...

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