Waning faith in military actions

Five years after “9/11”, the US public is considerably less enthusiastic about projecting military power abroad, according to a major new survey, the first of a spate of polls that were released in the run-up to Monday’s fifth anniversary of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press here, found that Republicans remained substantially more supportive of military deployments overseas than both Democrats and independents who also believe — by a three to one margin — that the US has lost respect in the world over the last few years.

The survey of more than 1,500 randomly selected adults also found that nearly half (46 per cent) of the respondents consider US support for Israel a “major reason” for the rise in anti-US sentiment around the world, a significant increase since Pew last posed the question 10 months ago. Significantly, that view was held by similar percentages of self-described Republicans and Democrats who, on most other foreign policy questions, showed wide partisan differences.

Publication of the Pew survey coincided with the release of a second poll released on last Wednesday by CNN which found widespread scepticism over claims by the administration of President George W Bush that the US is making progress in the war on Iraq and that the war is related to the larger “global war on terrorism” launched after 9/11.

Only one in four respondents in that poll, which was conducted from August 30 to September 2, thought that Washington and its allies were winning the war, compared to 13 per cent who said the insurgents were winning and 62 per cent who said that the war was essentially stalemated. Despite repeated and increasingly frequent assertions by Bush that the war in Iraq has become the “central front” in the war on terrorism, a majority of 53 per cent said it was “an entirely separate military action.” A larger majority of 58 per cent said they opposed the war.

The most interesting finding of the latest Pew poll appeared to be the growing public disillusionment with US military intervention. By a 45 per cent to 32 per cent margin, respondents said they believed that the most effective way to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks on the US is to “decrease” rather than “increase” Washington’s military presence abroad. Similarly, according to the new survey, 43 per cent of respondents today say they believed that “military strikes” against nations that were trying to develop nuclear weapons was a very important way to reduce future terrorism.

The increase in what some would describe as “isolationist” sentiment echoed a similar finding in another poll conducted by Pew and the Council on Foreign Relations in November 2005. Forty-two per cent of respondents said they believed Washington should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own”, compared to only 30 per cent who took that position in December 2002.

On the question of why the US has lost support around the world, more than two-thirds of respondents identified a “major reason” as the Iraq war, 58 per cent cited “America’s wealth and power”; 49 per cent, “the US-led war on terror”; and 46 per cent, “US support for Israel”. — IPS