Well, regardless of how Iraq and Afghanistan turn out can we finally put to rest the notions that Americans won’t abide long wars and won’t tolerate casualties? Afghanistan is now the longest war in American history and Iraq ain’t too shabby in that department either. Casualties continue to mount and there’s really no prospect that troops will be out of either country in the foreseeable future. Draw downs may begin but we’re likely to have thousands of troops in both countries for a long, long time.
Now, if 10 years ago I asked you to guess how many Americans would support a war that had been going on for 9 years and more than half of all Americans didn’t have a clear idea of why the war was being fought, what would you say?
Now, check out this polling data about American opinions about the war in Afghanistan.
50% of all Americans support the war.
Almost 50% believe America will pull out some sort of victory.
And 50% think we get enough media coverage of the war.
I just don’t know what to make of figures like that. They don’t do any cross question analysis so there’s no way to tell if that’s the same 50% who has a relatively rosy outlook across the board but I’m amazed that half the population can not be clear about why we’re in a war and yet support for it remains relatively stable.
I think it’s been a reoccurring frustration (certainly with me) that it just hasn’t seemed like the American public has given much of a damn about the wars we’ve been fighting apart from the occasional flag waiving and magnetic yellow stickers.
Perhaps the lesson is that one shouldn’t try to generate support for a war but rather should try to give people something else to think about. If one can push a war into the background noise of economic issues, day to day politics and who’ll win the next American Idol maybe you can get the public to just not care enough to be a significant factor in the running of said war.
In that regard, maybe the Bush administration was crazy like a fox when their first reaction to 9/11 was ‘Hey America! Time to shop and visit Disney!’ I’m not a big fan of the ‘American people are sheeple’ meme since that suspiciously sounds like ‘The American people didn’t vote the way I wanted them to.’ But really, what is one to think about people who say they don’t know why we’re at war and support (or don’t support) it anyway?