Dan Balz writes in today’s Washington Post that President Bush plans to prop up support for his war in Iraq by … making speeches.
Bush plans to use the time before the December elections in Iraq to talk about the U.S. stake and make the case that he has a strategy that is working, beginning on Wednesday with a speech in Annapolis that will focus on what the administration says is clear progress in training the Iraqi security forces. Other speeches will follow as White House officials attempt to use the final weeks of this year and early next year to shape public opinion.
This compelling strategy may be flawed:
Bush’s historical burden is that there is no recent precedent for a leader using persuasion to reverse a steady downward slide for a military venture of the sort he is facing. Only clear evidence of success in Iraq is likely to alleviate widespread unease about the central project of this presidency, public opinion experts and political strategists say.
That leads to the White House’s most daunting political problem. Even if Iraq is someday viewed as a success — and Bush’s decision to try to make that country a democratic beacon in the Middle East seen as visionary — it is an open question whether this proof can arrive during his presidency. Most military appraisals of Iraq foresee a long road of violence and instability ahead, as well as a substantial U.S. troop presence for the indefinite future.
“People are willing to pay a certain price . . . but for many people, it’s too rich for their blood,” said John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University and an authority on wars and public opinion. “So even if it turns out well, they’re still going to see it as a mistake.”
That last sentence is a point righties seem unable to grasp. For example, yesterday the Washington Times did its part for the war P.R. effort with an article by Jennifer Harper, “Public ignores Iraq war naysayers,” which argued that people really are for the war in spite of what the news media says.
Negative press coverage of the war in Iraq in recent weeks has emphasized rising pessimism among the American public about the conflict. But a new survey found that 56 percent of the public thinks that efforts to establish a stable democracy in the country will succeed.
The survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press — which also plumbed opinions of journalists, university presidents and others in academe, diplomats, government officials, religious leaders, members of the military, scientists and international security specialists — revealed a marked disconnect between the perceptions of the general public and many of the so-called opinion leaders.
Significantly, only 33 and 27 percent of liberal elitist America-hating snobs in the news media and academia, respectively, had faith in a good Iraq outcome.
“The media and academia have always been more to the left, so how they report these things is not necessarily the way the country sees things,” said Charles Gravely, 56, a real estate executive from the District.
And the glass is half full —
Meanwhile, close to half of the American public — 48 percent — think the decision to take military action in Iraq was the right one.
You can see the results of the Pew poll here. Remarkably, the group with the biggest negative numbers about Iraq were not journalists or academics, but scientists and engineers, a fact the Washington Times didn’t mention.
The most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll (see Polling Report) said 54 percent of adults nationwide thought going to war in Iraq was a mistake; 45 percent did not. The glass is not half full. Note that the most recent Harris poll (same link) shows that when given a choice between bringing the troops home by next year or keeping them in Iraq until there’s a stable government, people go with “bring ’em home” by 63 to 35 percent.
According to some group called the National Priorities Project, the cost of the Iraq War will reach $251 billion in March 2006. The Pentagon is spending $5.8 billion a month in Iraq. I believe that figure is just for military operations and does not include reconstruction and other non-military costs.
If, without referencing Iraq, you could ask Americans if they’d like to see a ruthless, corrupt, psychopathic dictator removed from power in some hypothetical foreign country, they’d say sure, why not? Then, ask if they ‘d like to see this country run by democratically elected officials instead of a dictator, and I’m sure an overwhelming majority would approve. But if asked if they’d be willing to spend $251 billion in American taxpayer dollars and give the lives of (as of today) 2,105 American soldiers to achieve this result, what would they say? Hell no, is what they’d say. And when you added that deposing the dictator would have no tangible benefit for the United States, they’d say bleeping hell no.
This is called “setting priorities.” And it’s why belief in an eventual good outcome in Iraq is not the same thing as support for Bush’s policies in Iraq.
BTW, Ann Coulter posted this on Townhall yesterday.
In the Iraq war so far, the U.S. military has deposed a dictator who had already used weapons of mass destruction and would have used them again. As we now know, Saddam Hussein was working with al-Qaida and was trying to acquire long-range missiles from North Korea and enriched uranium from Niger.
Kinda makes you wonder what planet ol’ Ann is living on. But this may explain the 35 percent who want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq; they don’t keep up.