I was reading Lawrence Kaplan's latest article
in The New Republic
on Friday and something stood out to me. Kaplan's basic point is that American soldiers just love
the war in Iraq and only Americans who haven't been there think it's wrong. Get this:
For the sake of American soldiers...who speak with a sense of ownership about their war and see themselves as a progressive force on the Iraqi landscape--and who, according to surveys by the Military Times and the Pew Research Center, hold opinions on the war that run almost exactly counter to those registered at home--be grateful that the machinery of war overwhelms the din from Washington.
Now, I'm a dirty hippie/veteran/blogger, so I know that I'm supposed to just go off half-cocked and write about how Kaplan's full of crap, etc., but I thought that, since Kaplan and his fellow New Republicans won't do it, I'd actually try to verify his statements. It took a little time, but--guess what?--Kaplan's full of crap.
First off, the Military Times group hasn't conducted a survey in a year and, while the results its poll did show a 10-point higher approval of the war among the military than among the entire American population at the time (60 percent approval as opposed to 50 percent on average), that number was a quite a sharp drop from previous polls. Not only that, but the poll, according to the Military Times website
should not be read as representative of the military as a whole; the survey’s respondents are on average older, more experienced, more likely to be officers and more career-oriented than the military population. But the numbers are among the best measures of opinion in a difficult-to-survey population. The professional military seems to be lessening in its certainty about the wisdom of the Iraq intervention and the way it has been handled,” said Richard Kohn, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina who studies civil-military relations. “This seems to be more and more in keeping with changes in public views, and that’s not surprising.”
This poll, it should be mentioned, also only includes the opinions of active duty soldiers, which means the opinion of nearly half the people who served in Iraq was simply discounted. So the Military Times is, at best, a wash.
As for the Pew Center, I e-mailed them, since I couldn't find the survey Kaplan was talking about. A nice young man from the Pew Center got back to me today and said, in no uncertain terms, that Kaplan was mistaken.
The only survey we have done that includes a sample of military participants is from our 2005 America’s Place in the World survey. This is not a survey of soldiers, but a survey of military leaders drawn from a Lexis-Nexis search of retired generals and admirals quoted in American news sources in the past year. Also included was a sample of outstanding officers selected to participate in the Council on Foreign Relations' Military Fellowship program since 2000. The full report is available here.
I actually wrote about this poll before
and noted that the methodology was screwy enough, but even then only about half of the generals and admirals thought the war was a good idea and was making us safer.
The only organizations which have attempted to gather a truly representative sample of military opinions are Zogby and LeMoyne College. The most recent (by a few months) and accurate (MOE +/- 3.3 points) of the polls, the Zogby/LeMoyne poll found that nearly three-quarters of the troops in Iraq during the survey felt that the U.S. should leave the country within a year--at the latest
The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”
The troops were actually ahead of the American public on this issue
If there is
a disconnect between the troops and the American public at large, it's due to the fact military members put more faith in their leaders than Americans at large. They seem to be less cynical than other Americans because, well, they are putting their lives in the hands of those leaders. So it's sad to read, in the Zogby poll, that of the soldiers interviewed last January and February,
85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”
No polls have attempted to gather the views of the troops since the Zogby poll was released in February, but it took until September of this year for the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee to admit
the truth the 9-11 Commission reported two years earlier
: There was no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda.
And what did Saddam have to do with the 9-11 attacks? Even Bush has finally had to admit he had "nothing" to do with them
Kaplan can squawk all he wants about how his dinner guest--who, he gushes, "presided over entire cities, commanded thousands of soldiers"--thinks that the Iraq War is going swimmingly, but the troops who don't
command thousands and control entire cities, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are dragging their asses up and down the roads of that country are simply not buying it anymore. That Kaplan believes that the best way to shore up support for the war his magazine foolishly supported is to suggest a false separation between the beliefs of America and its troops is disgusting. That he makes up facts to support this falsehood is just stupid.P.S.
I'd like to add a note to Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Jenean Mcbrearty, author of the my new favorite crazy right winger writing, "Hippies still trying to ruin the country," which begins with the line: America won't win another war until the 1960s flower children are pushing up petunias.
While I refer to myself as a "hippie," hon, I'm only 35. Duncan Black of Eschaton
and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of DailyKos
are roughly the same age.
We just keep comin', Jenean. We just keep comin'.