A civil/military disconnect on Iraq?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations, has released its latest poll on America’s Place in the World: This quadrennial study examines the foreign policy attitudes of state and local government officials, security and foreign affairs experts, military officers, news media leaders, university and ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
590254_1549037739_Iraqpoll2.gif
590254_1549037739_Iraqpoll2.gif

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations, has released its latest poll on America's Place in the World:
This quadrennial study examines the foreign policy attitudes of state and local government officials, security and foreign affairs experts, military officers, news media leaders, university and think tank leaders, religious leaders, and scientists and engineers, along with the general public.
There are two stark findings. First, there's been a strong turn towards an isolationist foreign policy:
As the Iraq war has shaken the global outlook of American influentials, it has led to a revival of isolationist sentiment among the general public. Fully 42% of Americans say the United States should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." This is on par with the percentage expressing that view during the mid-1970s, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s after the Cold War ended.
Second, there is a growing gap between civilian and military elites about the likelihood of success in Iraq. Here's the relevant table:

Is the military out of touch on this one? In his Los Angeles Times column today, Max Boot argues that perhaps the military agrees more with Iraqis than Americans:
[I]n a survey last month from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 47% of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37% who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56% thought things would be better in six months. Only 16% thought they would be worse.... Now, it could be that the Iraqi public and the U.S. armed forces are delusional. Maybe things really are on an irreversible downward slope. But before reaching such an apocalyptic conclusion, stop to consider why so many with firsthand experience have more hope than those without any. For starters, one can point to two successful elections this year, on Jan. 30 and Oct. 15, in which the majority of Iraqis braved insurgent threats to vote. The constitutional referendum in October was particularly significant because it marked the first wholesale engagement of Sunnis in the political process. Since then, Sunni political parties have made clear their determination to also participate in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election. This is big news. The most disaffected group in Iraq is starting to realize that it must achieve its objectives through ballots, not bullets. There are also positive economic indicators that receive little or no coverage in the Western media. For all the insurgents' attempts to sabotage the Iraqi economy, the Brookings Institution reports that per capita income has doubled since 2003 and is now 30% higher than it was before the war. Thanks primarily to the increase in oil prices, the Iraqi economy is projected to grow at a whopping 16.8% next year. According to Brookings' Iraq index, there are five times more cars on the streets than in Saddam Hussein's day, five times more telephone subscribers and 32 times more Internet users. The growth of the independent media ? a prerequisite of liberal democracy ? is even more inspiring. Before 2003 there was not a single independent media outlet in Iraq. Today, Brookings reports, there are 44 commercial TV stations, 72 radio stations and more than 100 newspapers.... Since the Jan. 30 election, not a single Iraqi unit has crumbled in battle, according to Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who until September was in charge of their training. Iraqi soldiers are showing impressive determination in fighting the terrorists, notwithstanding the terrible casualties they have taken. Their increasing success is evident on "Route Irish," from Baghdad International Airport. Once the most dangerous road in Iraq, it is now one of the safest. The last coalition fatality there that was a result of enemy action occurred in March.
[But
James Fallows asserts in the
Atlantic that Iraq doesn't really have a viable security force--ed. Yes, but David Adesnik points out that the overwheling focus of the Fallows piece is on the period prior to June 2004.] Now if you want a different take on what's happening in Iraq right now, see Barack Obama's latest speech. My qusestion to readers -- who suffers from the greater delusions -- the military or civilian elites?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations, has released its latest poll on America’s Place in the World:

This quadrennial study examines the foreign policy attitudes of state and local government officials, security and foreign affairs experts, military officers, news media leaders, university and think tank leaders, religious leaders, and scientists and engineers, along with the general public.

There are two stark findings. First, there’s been a strong turn towards an isolationist foreign policy:

As the Iraq war has shaken the global outlook of American influentials, it has led to a revival of isolationist sentiment among the general public. Fully 42% of Americans say the United States should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” This is on par with the percentage expressing that view during the mid-1970s, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s after the Cold War ended.

Second, there is a growing gap between civilian and military elites about the likelihood of success in Iraq. Here’s the relevant table:

Iraqpoll.gif

Iraqpoll.gif

Is the military out of touch on this one? In his Los Angeles Times column today, Max Boot argues that perhaps the military agrees more with Iraqis than Americans:

[I]n a survey last month from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 47% of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37% who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56% thought things would be better in six months. Only 16% thought they would be worse…. Now, it could be that the Iraqi public and the U.S. armed forces are delusional. Maybe things really are on an irreversible downward slope. But before reaching such an apocalyptic conclusion, stop to consider why so many with firsthand experience have more hope than those without any. For starters, one can point to two successful elections this year, on Jan. 30 and Oct. 15, in which the majority of Iraqis braved insurgent threats to vote. The constitutional referendum in October was particularly significant because it marked the first wholesale engagement of Sunnis in the political process. Since then, Sunni political parties have made clear their determination to also participate in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election. This is big news. The most disaffected group in Iraq is starting to realize that it must achieve its objectives through ballots, not bullets. There are also positive economic indicators that receive little or no coverage in the Western media. For all the insurgents’ attempts to sabotage the Iraqi economy, the Brookings Institution reports that per capita income has doubled since 2003 and is now 30% higher than it was before the war. Thanks primarily to the increase in oil prices, the Iraqi economy is projected to grow at a whopping 16.8% next year. According to Brookings’ Iraq index, there are five times more cars on the streets than in Saddam Hussein’s day, five times more telephone subscribers and 32 times more Internet users. The growth of the independent media ? a prerequisite of liberal democracy ? is even more inspiring. Before 2003 there was not a single independent media outlet in Iraq. Today, Brookings reports, there are 44 commercial TV stations, 72 radio stations and more than 100 newspapers…. Since the Jan. 30 election, not a single Iraqi unit has crumbled in battle, according to Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who until September was in charge of their training. Iraqi soldiers are showing impressive determination in fighting the terrorists, notwithstanding the terrible casualties they have taken. Their increasing success is evident on “Route Irish,” from Baghdad International Airport. Once the most dangerous road in Iraq, it is now one of the safest. The last coalition fatality there that was a result of enemy action occurred in March.

[But
James Fallows asserts in the
Atlantic that Iraq doesn’t really have a viable security force–ed. Yes, but David Adesnik points out that the overwheling focus of the Fallows piece is on the period prior to June 2004.] Now if you want a different take on what’s happening in Iraq right now, see Barack Obama’s latest speech. My qusestion to readers — who suffers from the greater delusions — the military or civilian elites?

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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