Newspaper article

Americans' View of Recent U.S. Wars: A Good Idea at the Time -- but Now, Not So Much

Newspaper article

Americans' View of Recent U.S. Wars: A Good Idea at the Time -- but Now, Not So Much

Article excerpt

Maybe the question is this: How many wars in a row do we have to get into and then get out of with a feeling that it wasn't worth it before we figure out a way to get into fewer of them?

ABC News recently refreshed a 12-year-long poll inquiry into the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Like pretty much everyone who polls on that general idea, it found that Americans, who once thought by a humongous majority that the war was a good idea, have switched and now rate the war "a mistake."

ABC doesn't use the word "mistake" in its question. It asks whether the war was "worth fighting." But Gallup, which has asked the question 17 times since shortly after the U.S. invaded, does ask: "Do you think the United States made a mistake sending troops to fight in Afghanistan?"

Click here to see the trend line, which is really quite impressive. In 2002, the verdict was in favor of the war by 93-6 percent. That positive verdict dropped steadily through the years, and a year ago the "it-was-a-mistake" crowd finally surpassed the "no-it-wasn't-ers." So most of us who said at first that it was the right and smart thing to do and have decided since then that it was a mistake after all, blame themselves for mistakenly supporting going to war.

You can't cross-examine a poll question to delve more precisely into what was the mistake, who made it and how.

On the other hand, Gallup has been asking the "was it a mistake" question about every war since World War II. The last four major wars all started out with a majority believing that it was a good idea to send the troops in and ended up with a majority believing that it was mistake to have done so. The polling about these four wars was summarized by Gallup in the same link from above (here it is again), but to summarize:

* Korean War: In August of 1950, Gallup found that by 65-20, Americans thought it was worth it. By January of 1951, a plurality of 49-38 said it had been a mistake. The war lasted two and a half more years.

* Vietnam: In August of 1965, by 60-24, Americans thought it was not a mistake to get involved militarily in that country. By October of 1967 a plurality of 17-44 said it had been a mistake. …

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