USA More Pessimistic On Iraq War

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
USA Today
December 12, 2006
Pg. 1

1 in 5 say Bush will take right course; fewer think Dems will
By Susan Page, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — As President Bush weighs changing course in Iraq, Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the war and want most U.S. troops withdrawn within a year, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday says. Three of four support the major recommendations unveiled by the Iraq Study Group last week.
Most predict the administration won't implement the bipartisan commission's proposals, however. And fewer than 1 in 5 have "a great deal" of trust in Bush to "recommend the right thing" for the United States to do in Iraq.
Confidence in Democratic congressional leaders to chart the proper course is even lower, at 14%.
"October and November were very bad months for casualties in Iraq, and people are asking, after so much sacrifice, why hasn't there been any progress?" says Richard Eichenberg, a political scientist at Tufts who studies public opinion toward war. He calls Americans' conclusion that Iraq is enmeshed in a civil war "a threshold event" that erodes backing for the mission.
"To the extent that the American people think they are defending themselves and their security, they're fairly supportive of using military force," Eichenberg says. In a civil war, though, the conflict is seen as an intractable one that demands a political solution, not a military one.
By 76%-22%, those surveyed say Iraq is in a civil war. The White House disputes that characterization, calling the conflict part of a global battle against terrorism.
The public's impatience with developments in Iraq and its enthusiasm for the Iraq Study Group's plan doesn't ensure that Bush will take their advice, cautions Edward Walker, a former assistant secretary of State and U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt.
"There is very little leverage anyone has over presidents in a war-time situation," says Walker, who teaches global politics at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. He sees some similarities to the Vietnam War, when Lyndon Johnson long resisted antiwar pressures and protests that eventually undermined his presidency.
Bush is making a round of consultations with Pentagon generals, State Department strategists and historians to chart a new direction in Iraq. He plans to deliver an address to the American people before Christmas about his plan.
While 55% of Americans want most U.S. troops withdrawn within a year, only 18% think that will happen. More than 4 in 10 predict American troops will be deployed in Iraq for more than two years, though just 14% endorse that idea.
The president's job-approval rating is 38%, up 5 percentage points from the survey taken immediately after congressional elections last month. Opposition to the war and Bush's leadership of it contributed to a Democratic takeover of the House and Senate.
The poll's margin of error is +/-3 percentage points for full sample.
Among the findings:
•In a question asked of a half-sample, a record high 62% of Americans say the war in Iraq isn't "worth it," and a record low 16% say the United States is winning. That's less than half the 40% who held that view a year ago. Now, 64% say neither side is winning.
Looking ahead, 35% predict the United States eventually will win the war, also a new low.
•About three of four support each of three major recommendations by the Iraq Study Group: Negotiating directly with Iran and Syria, jumpstarting peace talks aimed at resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and withdrawing most U.S. combat troops by March 2008.
•On the long-term consequences of the war in Iraq: 38%, of those surveyed predict people in Iraq will be better off because of the war; 35% say they will be worse off.
However, 36% say Americans will be worse off vs. 28% who say they will be better off. Middle East stability would lessen because of the war, 42% predicted; 19% said it would improve. And 60% say the image of the United States around the world will be damaged.
USA Today/Gallup Poll
How much more time the United States should keep a significant number of troops in Iraq:
Fewer than six months: 32%, Six months to a year: 25%, One to two years: 25%, Longer than two years: 14%, No opinion: 3%
Source: USA Today/Gallup Poll of 1,009 adults nationwide Friday-Sunday. Margin of error: +/-3 percentage points.