The Verdict on the Surge

Key senators joined with the majority of the public this week in calling for change in Iraq; a new CAP report calls for that and more.

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A number of key Republican Senators—Richard Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio, and John Warner of Virginia—notably expressed skepticism of their own administration’s plans in Iraq this week. Lugar said the military escalation, the so-called surge that began in the spring, has “very limited” prospects for success and called for troop reduction, a statement praised by Warner. And Voinovich called for “a comprehensive plan for our country’s gradual military disengagement” from Iraq.

(Note to Voinovich: he might want to check out CAP’s just-released “Strategic Reset: Reclaiming Control of U.S. Security in the Middle East,” which has all that and more.)

No doubt the senators have their own substantive reasons for these statements. But it’s surely easier for them to express these sentiments when the verdict on the surge has already been delivered in the court of public opinion. Does the public believe the situation in Iraq has been improving in the last several months?

As the chart below shows, the answer is clearly no. In the early June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, a mere 10 percent thought the situation in Iraq had improved in the last three months, compared to 54 percent who thought the situation had gotten worse and 33 percent who thought it had remained the same.

Furthermore, does the public think we are winning the war on terrorism? Again, the answer is no. According to a mid-June Gallup poll, only 29 percent believe that we are winning the war on terrorism—the lowest level since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, despite the increased troop presence in Iraq.

Finally, does the public want to stay the course in Iraq or start bringing troops home to end U.S. military involvement in the country? The answer is clearly the latter. Despite four months of a military surge in Iraq, 68 percent of the public either want to withdraw right away (25 percent) or begin bringing troops home within the next year (43 percent). Just 26 percent want to keep troops in Iraq “for as long as it takes to win the war.”

The public’s verdict on the surge is clear. We can only hope that this overwhelming opinion will embolden more and more members of Congress to call for (as Sen. Voinovich put it) “a comprehensive plan for our country’s gradual military disengagement” from Iraq.

Read more about the Center for American Progress’ just-released plan for the United States, Iraq, and the Middle East:

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow

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