Saturday, September 26, 2009

Success Matters: Public Opinion and the War in Afghanistan

From Gallup's new poll on public support for the Afghan deployment, "Americans Tilt Against Sending More Troops to Afghanistan":

Americans are more likely to say they would oppose (50%) rather than favor (41%) a possible decision by President Barack Obama to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

The possibility that Obama will need to make a decision on U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan has increased in recent weeks, amid reports that the senior American military commander in Afghanistan -- Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal -- is preparing to deliver a formal request for additional troops in Afghanistan, perhaps by the end of this week.
As noted by Gallup, the military wants more troops, and there's been speculation that the Obama administration is facing a crisis of civil-military relations over appropriate troop levels in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has asked from more troops and has stated that the U.S. will lose the war without them (and there's speculation that McChrystal will resign if the administration refuses to provide the necessary resources). This morning's papers report on the meeting Friday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. See, the Wall Street Journal, "Afghan Troop Request Simmers," and the Washington Post, "U.S. Military Leaders Discuss Troop Needs for Afghanistan" (via Memeorandum).

The conflict has been heating up and U.S. forces have taken heavy casualties of late. And, increasing battle deaths are being used by our enemies to help drain public support for the deployment. As the
Journal's article notes:

Five U.S. troops were killed in volatile southern Afghanistan Thursday, part of a surge of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troop fatalities that is sapping public support for the war in the U.S. and Europe.

Thursday's casualties pushed the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan to 218 this year, including 36 this month, a sharp increase over last year's record toll of 155. Britain, which maintains the second-largest troop contingent, has lost 80 soldiers this year ....

Osama bin Laden, the fugitive head of al Qaeda, apparently sought to seize on the war's unpopularity in Europe by releasing a recording Friday demanding that European nations withdraw troops and threatening attacks against European targets. U.S. officials said they believed the recording to be authentic.
Of course, American leftists are in alliance with our enemies in pushing for a precipitous redeployment from Afghanistan. According to Bob Herbert, citing the latest New York Times survey:

Americans are tired of the war. Some of the young people currently being outfitted for combat were just 10 or 11 years old when Al Qaeda struck the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. They are heading off to a conflict that most Americans are no longer interested in. The difference between the public’s take on this war and that of the nation’s top civilian and military leadership is both stunning and ominous.

A clash is coming. President Obama may be reconsidering his idea of substantially increasing the number of American troops, but no one at the higher echelons of government is suggesting that anything other than a long, hard, tragic and expensive campaign lies ahead — with no promise of ultimate victory, or even a serious definition of what would constitute victory.

And citing Herbert, Steve Hynd of Newshoggers, a blog that cheered the use of female Downs syndrome suicide bombers in Iraq, claims:

The nation has already come to the conclusion that continued escalation of the occupation of Afghanistan is not in its interest and the President seems to be teetering on the brink of admitting the same thing, if only to himself.

Plus, Spencer Ackerman, the hardline leftist blogger who called for President Bush's excecution in 2008, during the height of the Petraeus surge in Iraq, published a report last week attacking Kimberly and Frederick Kagan's call for a troop increase, "You’re Never Going to Believe This, But the Kagans Want to Add At Least 40,000 Troops to Afghanistan."

What's missing here are real facts and context. Public opinion has not turned irrevocably against the war, despite leftist claims to the contrary. There's no big push for an immediate of U.S. forces for the mission, and the fate of the deployment is largely in the hands of President Obama, who must exercise leadership. As
Kenneth Davenport has noted:

No war effort can be successful without the president -- the Commander in Chief -- reminding the American people daily about the importance of doing the HARD thing. You can't spend 99% of your time selling an unnecessary government takeover of health care and then 1% talking about Afghanistan and expect the people to see it as vitally important.
Exactly. And a strong presidential public relations campaign combined with a renewed military effort will likely guarantee victory in Afghanistan. For example, academic political science research shows, success matters. As Duke University political scientist Christopher Gelpi has noted at Foreign Affairs:

Public support for U.S. military operations ... does not inexorably decrease like sand flowing through an hourglass. Instead, the American public regularly makes judgments about the potential costs and benefits of a military operation. As the likelihood of obtaining any benefits diminishes, the human cost of war becomes less tolerable, and casualties reduce support for the operation. On the other hand, if and when the public is optimistic about a successful outcome, it is far more willing to bear the human cost of war.
And here's Gelpi from a more detailed research report:

Consistent with much of the recent work on public opinion in wartime, we find that members of the public appear to be engaging in simple but clear calculations about the expected value of continuing to engage in armed conflict. That is, individuals make judgments about the potential benefits of the conflict and weigh those potential gains by the probability that their government will be able to achieve them.

More specifically, our findings suggest that believing the war was the “right thing to do” combines with expectations of success to determine an individual’s tolerance for the human costs of war. Once one takes account of the interaction of these two attitudes, other prominent variables in the literature have only a modest direct impact on casualty tolerance. This interaction effect even outweighs the independent impact of partisanship. Rather than implying that those other factors are not important, however, it seems likely that many of the variables identified in the literature – such as the partisan cues, primary policy objective, elite consensus, and multilateral support – may be most important through their impact on respondent’s views about the “rightness” of the war and the prospects for success.
Significantly, events on the ground in Iraq - on the heels of the Bush/Petraeus surge in 2007-2008 - provide moderate support for the Gelpi hypothesis. See Newsbusters, "Poll: 41% Say Iraq War Succeeding, 48% Say Will Get Even Better." Also, Ed Morrissey, " “The Surge Has Worked”."

There's no reason to believe that a renewed political and military focus by the Obama administration would fail to bring about success in Afghanistan. Contrary to radical naysayers, we do have a definition of victory in Afghanistan, as well as a strategy to bring it about. On war aims and military strategy, see my report, "
Reconciliation and Resolve in Afghanistan. And on the doctrinal case for increased ground forces, see Kimberly Kagan and Frederick Kagan, "A Comprehensive Strategy for Afghanistan: Afghanistan Force Requirements."

**********

UPDATE! Wow, there's a really fascinating uproar over a Hullabaloo's post frank admission that leftist support for the Afghan war was cynical political posturing. See AOSHQ, "Liberal Blogger Admits: We Claimed to Support 'The Good War' in Afghanistan as Political Strategy to Prove Our "Macho" Credentials; We Never Meant It." Also, Jim Geraghty, "Democrats Never Meant What They Said About Afghanistan." Follow the links at Geraghty's post to Digby's - it's a laugher!

23 comments:

Old Rebel said...

Kimberly Kagan and Frederick Kagan want more troops?

That's as newsworthy as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson wanting more affirmative action.

Donald Douglas said...

Old Rebel: Your leftist creds are showing!

Rich Casebolt said...

The question for us should not be WHEN to end it ... but HOW.

The choice of WHEN is the prerogative of the LOSER.

The choice of HOW is the prerogative of the VICTOR.

We stopped the creation of Afghanistan 2.0, thanks to the resolve of Mr. Bush and our forces in Iraq.

Now, we're willing to see Version 1.0 be "reinstalled" because it's taking too long?

How soon we forget ...

(And Tuggle, call me when the Kagans advocate invasion of something other than a totalitarian dictatorship/oligarchy ... regardless of whether or not they go through the motions of an election. Then, you might have a point. OTOH, some of us think that it is imprudent to wait until clearly-evident enemies strike our own soil, as you paleos think, before acting to interdict them.)

Old Rebel said...

DD,

Leftist? Yep, that's me. I want amnesty for illegal aliens, I agitate for progressive change, and I quote the Southern Poverty Law Center to accuse those who disagree with me of being racists.

It's uncanny -- as if you could read my mind --

Old Rebel said...

Casebolt said, "some of us think that it is imprudent to wait until clearly-evident enemies strike our own soil"

Right -- like when Cheney just knew Saddam was about to enslave us all with his mythical WMD?

If we launched aggressive wars against every country some madman believed constituted a 1% chance of attacking us, we'd be at war constantly! The Federal government would usurp more power over us, the defense contractors would make even more money, and -- oh, I get it --

Sarge Charlie said...

You damn right, Americans are growing weary of the war, why. I take you back to the 1960’-70’ when their was no plan to win the war, only pacify the left in this country, I have had a heavy heart every since 1975 when the murder, internment, of torture of over a 3 million people between Vietnam and Cambodia happened because we did not have the will to win.

Barack Obama and the left in this country do not have the will to win today. To use the words of Benjamin Netanyahu, "To those who gave this Holocaust denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people. ... Have you no shame? Have you no decency?"

The military can win in Afghanistan, as we could in Vietnam, give them the tools and they will win the war, the only acceptable outcome.

Donald Douglas said...

Old Rebel ... going back quite a while there to dig the dirt, eh? Burkean Reflections, even? Boy, you used to sure get mad back when I advocated Burke. Of course, I don't now, but if you think the shoe fits, you'll go for it. You've got nothing else to defend yourself from your group's ties to radical antiwar activists.

You're awfully confused, but I'm done feeding the trolls for the day. Be gone, freak.

Tom the Redhunter said...

"No war effort can be successful without the president -- the Commander in Chief -- reminding the American people daily about the importance of doing the HARD thing."

Exactly right. Johnson stopped doing it with Vietnam and it cost him. Bush stopped doing it with Iraq in 2005 and it cost him. Obama isn't doing it, and it will cost him if he doesn't start soon.

Old Rebel - typical leftist, he just wants to see the United States defeated and humiliated. That's his objective, so don't let the rest of his B.S. fool you

Old Rebel said...

Donald Douglas,

So -- you're now taking the paleoconservative position on amnesty for illegal alien invaders?

BTW, you never advocated Burke -- you used his name to further the Neocon's big government agenda. You just found a better pony to ride.

Old Rebel said...

Tom the Redhunter said, "Old Rebel - typical leftist"

My earlier response to DDD was tongue in cheek. Check out my website and see if you think I'm a leftist.

Donald Douglas said...

Old Rebel: You make alliances with leftists, something I have never done with regards to foreign policy.

Also, you're not really welcomed here, because your rants are a rehash of the same old, same old, and it's tiring.

Go someplace else. Call me a leftists all you want. Paleos are awful people, and you really don't like that I'm able point that out so easily.

Old Rebel said...

DDD said, "Go someplace else. Call me a leftists all you want. Paleos are awful people, and you really don't like that I'm able point that out so easily."

Was that Americaneocon, or was that Otis Campbell? Or Borat?

Either way, you're not making sense. You advertise you're a world-class debater, yet only deliver low-class comebacks. Very disappointing.

So why are real conservatives "awful people"? Because we called you a "leftists"? Because you don't "able point that out so easily"? (Hint: you needed a "to" to make that infinitive work for you.) Because we keep embarrassing you on your own site?

C'mon, give up. You've done enough damage to this country.

Rich Casebolt said...

Tuggle, you'd still be whining had we invaded Afghanistan in, say, February 2000 ...

... the only difference is, had we done so, it is quite possible that you would have 2,996 more people around to listen to your rants.

You are on the wrong side of this argument, as always ... technology and freedom-of-movement have made it possible for small groups to wreak havoc on our society, without the formation of "storm clouds" dark enough to make you take notice.

But the enemies can be readily identified ... in fact, our founding citizens published the key over two centuries ago, in one phrase ...

"... That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends ..."

Keep in mind, that the context of that statement was the discussion of "self-evident" truths ... truths that were UNIVERSAL, not just limited to American soil.

When a government makes the denial of the People's unalienable rights their policy, they are an enemy of the life and liberty that makes our civilization work ... they have lost the legitimacy necessary to be considered the rightful government of a sovereign nation ... and other, free nations should not wait to let their dysfunction spill beyond that nation's borders and spread into theirs.

Your myopia would facilitate another 9/11 -- or worse. You would open the door for death and destruction, just as the myopia of the Left did for 9/11 ...

... but as for me ...

... I won't get fooled again ...

Donald Douglas said...

Old Rebel: Actually, I've never lost a debate at this blog ... well, there's one guy who I know would whip me, but he quit blogging, so I'm still king of the hill.

Face it Tuggie-boy, you're in bed with the neo-Stalinists with your anti-American radicalism. Besides, you've been whipped here so many times I've lost count. I bailed on Burkeanism when I realized folks like your League of the South, which is said to spout white supremacy, are big on the old Edmund. Besides, I'm not one for cut and run, so better to be honest on foreign policy than a totally incoherent piece of dirt, like those confused scoundrels at CHT.

So, claim victory all you want. Frankly, you're stinking up my comment threads. Have a great time while you're at it. Now leave.

Old Rebel said...

Rich Casebolt,

The Founders never proclaimed universal rights. Like the Neocons, you're confusing George Washington with Robespierre. The Founders fought for their traditional rights as British citizens. Read Burke for further clarification.

Also, the Founders never intended for the US to become the world's enforcer of democracy. In fact, they wanted to steer clear of foreign wars. George Washington, for example, saw the new Union as a means of avoiding wars rather than igniting them all over the globe, or as he put it, that the people of the States would

… find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves…

And your assertion that the US roams the globe like Superman righting wrongs is pure fantasy. For example, in 1975, Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger gave the green light (and US arms!) to Suharto to repress East Timor, which was resisting Suharto's tyranny. The result? 200,000 Christian Timorese were killed.

The US props up dictatorships all over the world, from Egypt, to Pakistan, to Communist China.

Finally, a lot of Americans now agree Afghanistan is an unwinnable war. Why squander more billions and more troops?

Old Rebel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Old Rebel said...

Douglas,

Name-calling is not debate.

The US Communist Party agrees with you on amnesty for illegal aliens. That is, unless you've changed your mind on that issue.

Why won't you answer the question?

Donald Douglas said...

Old Rebel: Playing gotcha is not debate. You're dying to prove you're the most conservative of the bunch. Hey, knock yourself out. You're in bed with the neo-Stalinists, and thus your positions align with our enemies.

But you refuse to debate that ...

Old Rebel said...

Donald Douglas,

Backing up assertions with evidence is "gotcha"?

I'd say the real enemies of America are those who pushed us into a treasury-busting war that's wrecked our military.

And I'm still waiting to hear if you've rejected the Neocon/globalist party line on giving amnesty to illegal aliens.

Rich Casebolt said...

The Founders never proclaimed universal rights.

What part of this don't you understand, Tuggle?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

(emphasis added)

No mention of American -- or British -- or Western -- citizenship being a prerequisite for the above

Also, the Founders never intended for the US to become the world's enforcer of democracy. In fact, they wanted to steer clear of foreign wars.

That was a good policy in their time ... back when distance and the state-of-the-art gave one plenty of time to see when a threat is heading their way, and prepare for it themselves.

That is not the world we live in today, except perhaps in your paleocon mind.

I don't want America to be the world's enforcer of democracy ... frankly, I'd love other rights-respecting nations to join us to enforce it. ... but it MUST be enforced, if we are going to maintain OUR peace.

That's not ideology ... that is the lesson of history since around 1932 or so.

And your assertion that the US roams the globe like Superman righting wrongs is pure fantasy ...
The US props up dictatorships all over the world, from Egypt, to Pakistan, to Communist China.


I thought I 'splained this to you before, Lucy ...

... one of the biggest reasons we prop up proxies and dictators is because paleocons, "realists", and especially the Left, refuse to permit the direct, timely, resolute, and decisive engagement of American military power to interdict and defeat threats to life and liberty as they became evident (as opposed to when they hit our own soil) ... instead implementing a moral equivalence that treats expansionist dictators and rights-respecting democrats with the same deference.

That course only defers the establishment of sustainable peace ... it doesn't establish it at all.

Finally, a lot of Americans now agree Afghanistan is an unwinnable war. Why squander more billions and more troops?

If we walk away from this, Tuggle, you may finally be compelled to rise up and defend this land instead of whining about those who do ... because the threat will AGAIN be on our own soil.

Unnecessarily so.

And I think you're wrong, Tuggle ... just as we replaced the the Divine Right of Kings with rights-respecting governance, the Afghani people can do the same, by us standing with them so they can embrace and secure those rights ... rights they were misled to believe weren't theirs.

We can't afford them not to. THAT was taught to us on 11 September 2001.

Old Rebel said...

Rich Casebolt,

Wow. You just parroted the leftist spin on the Declaration. Good to see your true colors coming out.

Jefferson's true meaning, in a one-sentence summary of the Declaration, would be more like, "Every people has the right to self-determination, and we just exercised that right." That's why this document was named the "Declaration of Independence" and not the "Universal Declaration of Human Equality." None of the Founders believed in literal equality, especially Jefferson.

And yes, the secession from Britain was based on the colonists' determination to exercise their traditional rights.
The government set up by the Founders was to secure "the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity," not for the entire world. By "ourselves," the Founders clearly meant what John Jay described as "one united people - a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs." Our principles of government, like the other components of our way of life, were never intended for export -- and certainly not for forcible export.

But your last point is just a hoot -- so you're saying that those eeeevil conservatives are holding the military back from launching attacks on the People's Republic, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia?

Amazing!

Rich Casebolt said...

Sorry, Tuggle, but you can't deny the truth of what was said in the Declaration of Independence.

However, your spin on Jefferson's quote, "Every people has the right to self-determination, and we just exercised that right.", IS the Leftist spin ... that the Vote alone is enough to assure the protection of life and liberty, so we should just shut up when a Chavez or Ahmedinijad pervert the Vote to institute their totalitarian rule.

Pot, Kettle, Black.

The other words of Mr. Jefferson indicate to me that he would not agree with you.

You turn the words of Mr. Jefferson inside out to promote your OBSOLETE, myopic isolationism ... and your myopia, combined with that of your mirror-images on the progressive Left, has been the biggest impediment to the establishment and maintenance of sustainable peace, outside of the Iron Curtain, in all my years.

Old Rebel said...

Rich Casebolt,

Well, I really don't know how to respond, because I have no idea what you're trying to say.