Thursday, March 13, 2008

Public Support for Iraq at Highest Since 2006

As regular readers know, I've pumped up the volume on my writing output this year, with the presidential primaries and everything.

One topic on which I've posted quite a bit is on public opinion trends on the campaign trail, especially on Iraq.

Thus it's fairly satisfying that some of my commentary and reporting turns out to be ahead of the media curve, as evidenced by this morning's story at Politico, "
Support for War Effort Highest Since 2006." According to the article:

American public support for the military effort in Iraq has reached a high point unseen since the summer of 2006, a development that promises to reshape the political landscape.

According to late February polling conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 53 percent of Americans — a slim majority — now believe “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” in Iraq. That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007.

The percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq is going “very well” or “fairly well” is also up, from 30 percent in February 2007 to 48 percent today.

The situation in Iraq remains fluid, of course. A surge in violence or in troop deaths could lead to rapid fluctuations in public opinion. But as the war nears its fifth year, the steady upturn in the public mood stands to alter the dynamics of races up and down the ballot.
I agree.

Indeed, I reported on
the Pew survey February 28, in my entry, "U.S. Will Succeed in Iraq, Poll Finds."

It's also true that the situation on the ground is fluid, subject to changing operational fortunes. But as even
the major liberal newspaper editorial pages have acknowledged, security gains have contributed to political gains, so much so that victory appears increasingly likely.

The recent spate of bombings in Iraq goes to show that challenges remain, but they are not signs that the surge has failed, despite the claims of antiwar commentators implacable hostile to the mission (for example,
here and here).

There's also the problem of media bias. It's just recently that the big national papers have offered regularly upbeat reporting on Iraq (see, the New York Times, "
Ending Impasse, Iraq Parliament Backs Measures").

But as Jules Crittenden notes in discussing David Kuhn,
from the Politico, the media's afflicted with a "yeah, but" complex in its war coverage:

Kuhn notes that a surge in violence could reverse perceptions and reactions in the notoriously fickle and easily swayed electorate. What Kuhn doesn’t note is that over the past week, with several violent incidents, the “Yeah, But” narrative is being fired up again. Yeah, violence is still way down. But despite the military’s insistence of dramatic progress, some bombs just went off. High successful military campaigns and the turning of the Sunni tribes against al-Qaeda took months to gain any recognition. Al-Qaeda, by all accounts still very much on the ropes, gets off a handful of attacks, and the terrorism amplifier kicks in:

Iraqis Fear Return to Violent Days....

Iraq Violence Sees Spike....

3 US soldiers die.....


The bizarre dynamic of American reporting in this war is that terrorists, no matter how hamstrung they may be, will always applauded for their resilience. The United States military and its allies, no matter how much progress they make in hamstringing terrorists, will always be fighting a rearguard action. The dramatic developments of the past year are typically dispensed with in boilerplate, often presented in a manner to indicate the U.S. military’s role was incidental. Sunni tribes turned, Shiite militias stood down. The U.S. military’s role in encouraging them to do that is rarely noted. The most critical measure of success or failure that the military is constantly required to address remains the strategically least relevant: the tragic tally of isolated incidents and death.

Least relevant, except that in the hands of al-Qaeda’s amplification service, when that is the narrative and measure that is presented to the American public and American politicians, it can and will influence the political debate. The sense of unease AP describes in Baghdad is precisely what al-Qaeda wants to create … in the American electorate.
Crittenden's a journalist, so his inside perspective is particulary important.

But as I concluded
in my earlier post, "This meme on the "demand" for withdrawal will continue, and I'll continue to debunk it."

The "meme," of course, is the endless denial on the left that the U.S. is making progress in the war, and as Crittenden points out, it's not just radical left bloggers who perpetuate it.