The gap between practitioners and the public on the subject of United Nations peacekeeping follows the same basic pattern outlined in the two prior chapters. The dominant view among the practitioners we interviewed was that most Americans have a negative view of UN peacekeeping in general, oppose contributing U.S. troops to UN peacekeeping operations, and are intensely opposed to the idea of putting U.S. troops under a foreign UN commander. In the event of U.S. troop fatalities in the course of a UN peacekeeping operation, most practitioners thought that a majority of Americans would want to immediately withdraw and that this was the majority reaction to the fatalities in Somalia in October 1993.
Polls, however, show that the majority of Americans supports the idea of UN peacekeeping, though support has softened with the perceived passivity of UN peacekeeping operations. Support for contributing U.S. troops is fairly high in principle, though a variety of factors can diminish support, especially the perception that an operation will not succeed. Opposition to putting U.S. troops under a foreign UN commander is much milder than practitioners assume, and the idea that most Americans would respond, and in Somalia did respond, to American troop fatalities by wanting to withdraw immediately appears to be a myth.