A Tale of Two Wars

On the decision of whether to prioritize Iraq or Afghanistan, conservatives’ views are completely opposite from the American public.

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Despite statements from the Iraqi government indicating that it supports a timetable for removing U.S. troops from Iraq, conservatives continue to assert that “winning” the war in Iraq is essential to the war against terrorist networks, and committing to a timetable is therefore inconceivable. Yet on Afghanistan, conservatives appear reluctant to step up to the plate and focus energy and resources on the deteriorating situation there—even though it’s where the 9/11 attacks originated and it potentially still houses Osama bin Laden. As far as the public is concerned, this approach is exactly backwards.

According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, only about one-third of Americans think the United States needs to win the Iraq war “in order for the broader war against terrorism to be a success,” compared to 60 percent who think the war against terrorism can succeed without victory in Iraq. In contrast, 51 percent think the United States needs to win the Afghanistan war to succeed in the broader war against terrorism, compared to 42 percent who think the war against terrorism can succeed without victory in Afghanistan.

Chart One

These views reflect the underlying opinions of the public on whether these respective wars were worth fighting in the first place. The same poll found that 36 percent think the war in Iraq was worth fighting, while 63 percent think it was not. But on Afghanistan, 51 percent think that war was worth fighting, compared to 42 percent who do not.

Chart Two

A modest suggestion: Let’s get our foreign policy in synch with the public’s views, instead of completely backwards, as conservatives are advocating.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow

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