It is now clear that the war in Iraq is unpopular. Just last month, 53 percent of Americans felt that sending troops to Iraq was not a mistake. This week, 54 percent of Americans believed that it was, according to USA Today. Two months ago, only 39 percent of Americans believed that war in Iraq had made us less safe from terrorism. This week, 57 percent stated that war had made us less safe.
President Bush has garnered the lion's share of criticism for the situation in Iraq. A full 61 percent of those polled by Newsweek think Bush is handling the war in Iraq badly; 50 percent state that America is losing ground in its efforts to establish democracy in Iraq. Another poll by AP-Ipsos demonstrates marked doubts about President Bush's honesty, with 48 percent of Americans agreeing that President Bush is honest, and 50 percent disagreeing. Charges of high-handedness are also sticking: 56 percent of those polled say that President Bush is "arrogant."
What has happened in recent weeks to persuade the American public that the Iraq war is a disaster and President Bush is President Nixon? Certainly the media's increased coverage of Iraq has something to do with rising concerns about Iraq. Rumors of the mainstream media's death have been greatly exaggerated.
But something deeper is at work here. Americans are impatient isolationists at heart. We don't want to be the world's policemen. Gaining Iraqis their freedom, as good as it sounds, isn't enough of a justification for war. China is a dictatorship. North Korea is a dictatorship. Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Egypt are all dictatorships. We can't overthrow all of those regimes simply to free their citizens. We have to focus on those regimes that endanger American security. World War II wasn't about liberating Europe, but about protecting America. Vietnam, meanwhile, is a controversial war precisely because the direct threat to America posed by the Viet Cong is questionable.
And so we begin to wonder: Was it worth it in Iraq? Without proof of weapons of mass destruction, can we be sure that Saddam Hussein endangered our security? After all, Iraq didn't attack us -- Al Qaeda did.