The Nose-Holders On Iraq: We Don't Like It, But We Gotta Stay

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Feb 21, 2007 2:29 PM

Rick Moran notices the underreported opinions of the American people:

Two recent polls however, indicate one of two things; either theAmerican people, when faced with the reality of a Democratic majority,are having second thoughts about leaving Iraq before some semblance oforder is achieved or, more likely, a couple of pollsters have finallyasked the “right” questions about Iraq to reveal what the Americanpeople have believed all along.

In fact, this poll revealswhat has been one of the best kept secrets of American opinion over thepast three years. A fairly consistent majority of between 55% and 65%oppose pulling our troops out immediately (59%). And another consistentsign of support is that a majority (57%) support “finishing the job inIraq” – keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can handlesecurity on its own. (HT: James Joyner)

Thesimple minded sloganeering from the left about polls on Iraq and howthe American people support their anti-war agenda down the line failsto take into a account that citizens have a fairly sophisticated,nuanced outlook on the war. They think Bush is doing a poor job (60%“strongly” or “somewhat strongly” agree” ), that 52% believe Congressisn’t doing much better, that only 17% want our troops to leaveimmediately, that a bare majority (50%) believe we should stay untilthe job is done, that a surprising 56% agree with the idea ofsupporting the President even if they disagree with him (another 17%“somewhat agree”), and in another surprise, 53% believe that victory isstill possible.

Also, a whopping 66% believe that losing thewar would cause America to lose its super power status. And 53% believestrongly that the Democrats have gone too far, too fast, in pressingthe President to remove troops from Iraq.

I think this is what Smash was referring to yesterday when he mentioned a momentum shift.

Yes, it's an unpopular war, but it's still a war, and losing wars has consequences the American people are well aware of.

James Joyner:

As a general rule, the public wants politicians to get along and getsomething done, they hate seeing our troops in harm’s way, they’reskeptical of foreign interventions, and they want America to finishwhat it starts. The survey reinforces the fact, too, thatpresidents–even unpopular, inarticulate ones–shape the public policydebate.

So, do Democrats read Americans too simply by assuming they're against the war so they must be for pulling out? I'm not sure. I think the numbers probably reflect a gut ambivalence about the war more than a well thought-out policy decision citizens have made. It's true that Americans have been able to go on with their daily lives largely unaware of the fact that we're at war if they wish. It is true that the conditions on the ground and the many cultural and religious divisions that make those conditions what they are are complex. It's true that many folks have neither the time nor the inclination to keep up with it all. That being said, they do know our country is at war, and are uncomfortable with the idea of losing.

They know there are stakes even if Democrats want them to think there aren't. They know leaving Iraq at least stable is important to our security at home and to the morale of troops abroad.   

Things like Murtha's slow-bleed and Obama's pull-out calendar don't contribute to success, and people know it.

Murtha's plan is couched by Dem operatives and some of the media in very kind terms about keeping the troops rested and making sure they have all they need, but Murtha himself admits that's not what it's about:

Unwilling to stand up and move outright to cut off funding for a warthey now oppose, Murtha and other House Democrats — joined by a handfulof opportunistic GOPers — instead passed a meaningless nonbindingresolution of disapproval. They didn’t bother to offer an alternativeto President Bush’s troop surge to secure Baghdad and thenprogressively turning security over to the Iraqi military and police.Now Murtha and company scurry about throwing tiny legislative ropeshere and there hoping to tie Bush down. This is political farce, notthe actions of a serious legislative body.

But Murtha, chairmanof the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, knows that, sooner orlater, even a giant like the U.S. military will be crippled if enoughof those little ropes are approved. He frankly admits that hisintention is to cripple Bush’s ability to conduct the war by making itimpossible for the military to surge troop levels in Iraq. Employingsuch a tactic while our nation is engaged in armed hostilities abroadis nothing less than an attempted congressional usurpation of clearpresidential authority. Besides harming America’s ability to fight andwin the war against terrorism, serious damage will be done to theConstitution’s long-standing balance of powers among the legislativeand executive branches if Murtha and company succeed.

When even the Washington Post editorial writers are calling it "crudely hamstringing" the troops, you know you're not gonna get that by normal Americans. 

Murtha claims last week's debate on Iraq was a dog-and-pony show, a distraction from the real deal, which is all about cutting off funds and support by any number of sneaky little legislative maneuvers. Luckily, many Americans are smart enough not to be distracted by the spectacle that is Murtha.

Also, it just occurs to me that the same sentiment reflected in the above poll numbers showed up right before the election as well. Folks were unhappy about the war, wanted a change, but not necessarily to pull out. I remember thinking at the time that voters might vote Democrat in hopes of bringing about change, but they would likely not get the kind of change they wanted, despite Dem promises to be responsible.  

Update: "What we are saying will be very hard to find fault with." The bold Murtha strategy...