Despite charges by media elites and liberal intellectuals that
the United States is unwilling to make sacrifices in the war against terror,
at least one recent poll offers a totally different story. The TechnoMetrica
Market Intelligence Poll, published by Investors Business Daily, shows that
the vast majority of Americans believe Saddam Hussein must be taken out in
the next six months, and that military action to achieve this goal will damage the already faltering economy. This says a lot about
Sixty-seven percent of our citizens believe that Saddam is an
immediate threat to the United States, and 77 percent says it is important
for the United States to take military action against Saddam in the next six
months, according to IBD/TIPP. Following President Bush's State of the Union
message and Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony to the U.N. Security
Council, 79 percent of Americans now believe that regime change in Iraq is
necessary. That number is up 12 percentage points from early January.
Now here's where it gets real interesting. The IBD/TIPP data
clearly show that people want to get rid of the Iraqi despot even if
military action has a negative effect on the economy.
Twenty-six percent of those polled believe a war with Iraq will
throw the American economy back into recession. Another 42 percent expects a
slowdown, but no recession. And only 25 percent believes war will help the
economy. So while 79 percent wants to get rid of Saddam, 68 percent
anticipates a high economic cost. In other words, the American people are
willing to sacrifice the economy -- and presumably even the stock market --
in the name of national security.
This undermines the liberal notion that folks are not as
patriotic as they used to be. It also underscores the view that right now in
American politics, war is much more important than the economy. Democrats
who think otherwise -- especially those running for president -- are
misreading the public and barking up the wrong tree.
To a large extent, economic fears revolve around oil -- at least
in the short run. Oil is the most direct link between the Iraqi battlefield
and the American gross domestic product. At $35 a barrel today, oil stands
at a two-year high -- up about 75 percent from a year ago. Regular gasoline
and diesel fuel prices also stand at two-year highs. An energy price-hike
like this, if sustained, could lop more than $100 billion, or 1 percent,
But the polling data show that people don't really care.
Knocking off Saddam Hussein, in what would be a major step forward in the
global war against terrorism, is simply more important. They want to breathe
easier in terms of homeland safety. A world without Saddam means they can do
In battlefield terms, the big economic-impact question is
whether the United States and allied forces can secure Iraqi oil fields in
both the northern and southern parts of the country before Saddam's forces
sabotage them. Clearly this will be a top priority for the terrorist
dictator. He did this in Kuwait 12 years ago, and it took Red Adair and his
associates eight months to put out the fires.
Military experts report a likely foot race between American
special-operations units and Saddam's troops. It is known that the 101st
Airborne will be involved in oil-field defense, and it has been made clear
to Iraqi officers that anyone who takes part in oil-field sabotage will be
subject to harsh prosecution by the new government in Iraq after Saddam is
ousted. But at present there are still many unanswered questions about the
special-forces strategy. Will they clandestinely move to protect the oil
fields before the formal beginning of war? No one knows, or they're not
What is known, however, is that Saddam's forces are headed
toward the oil fields. Satellite pictures reveal a number of Iraqi cargo
trucks filled with explosives moving on the fields. For shareholders, the
big question is whether the futures markets have already discounted
oil-field blowups. Nobody can confidently answer that question, but surely
one reason that U.S. and global stock markets have been falling of late is
the fear that oil prices could rise another $10, $20 or more. Yes, oil
prices might eventually fall back to $20 a barrel, but it's the next three
to six months that people are worried about.
So there you have it. There's a huge oil risk to our economy.
But the great fact is that over three quarters of Americans are willing to
risk it. Knocking out Saddam -- which will open the way to dealing with
Iran, North Korea and other terrorist countries -- is well worth the
economic hit to Americans.
If that isn't sacrifice, then I don't know what is