Have we lost the war? Dems say yes, most say no

Here’s a crucial split in the electorate: Zogby says that while most Americans say the war in Iraq is not a lost cause, two out of three Democrats take the Harry Reid view:

A majority of Americans – 54% – believe the United States has not
lost the war in Iraq, but there is dramatic disagreement on the question between
Democrats and Republicans, a new UPI/Zogby Interactive poll shows. While two in
three Democrats (66%) said the war effort has already failed, just 9% of
Republicans say the same.

There’s a certain absurdity in focusing on whether Americans think the war is lost, as opposed to whether it is, which is a different thing entirely.

Unfortunately for the soldiers with their lives on the line, whether their struggles are for naught or not depends upon the political environment back home. So, as wrong as it may seem, a professional soldier can be kicking insurgent butt while winning hearts and minds among those Iraqis who want a decent country to live in, but if enough Americans back home are convinced it’s useless, the battle is lost. Why? Because the despair-mongers back home will say — regardless of reality on the ground — come home.

Weird, ain’t it? But so is life in our increasingly democratic republic.

28 thoughts on “Have we lost the war? Dems say yes, most say no

  1. bud

    Pro-occupation folks want to frame the debate within this winning/losing dichotomy. That is the incorrect way to view this issue. What we should be concentrating on is what makes America more secure. Clearly staying in Iraq indefinitally makes us less secure by (1) putting thousands of American soldiers lives at risk, (2) creating an international environment that promotes terrorism and (3) diverts valuable resources away from the urgent needs of the United States (FEMA, Mine Safety, Bridges, Crime, Traffic etc. etc. etc.).

  2. bud

    Brad, I didn’t think you cared much for polls. From Rasmussen here’s a poll that is more meaningful than the useless winning/losing question:
    A proposal has been made to remove almost all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by early 2008. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?

  3. Brad Warthen

    When did I say I don’t care for polls? I don’t believe in GOVERNING by polls. For instance, we shouldn’t decide to stay in Iraq because a majority thinks we can still win. Elected leaders should decide on the basis of the facts on the ground, and exercise their best judgment.
    Basically, I would think my dismay over making real-world decisions on the basis of polls ran all the way through the post above, right down to the last line, when I referred to the fact that our republic is increasingly becoming more like a pure democracy — which, in case I haven’t made clear my views on this in the past, is a BAD thing.
    But polls per se? I find them interesting. In this case, I found it interesting that there was such a difference on the basis of partisan identification. If you’d asked me, I would have told you that despair had been so effectively mongered, if you will, that it blanketed the political spectrum. That it has NOT reached that point is an interesting fact, but not a basis for policy. I’m with Madison, Hamilton and Jay on that point.

  4. weldon VII

    Run to safety, America. Quit to succeed. Earn respect by showing the world you have no stomach to finish what you started. Defend yourself by pumping money into a washed-out, government-dependent city built below sea level.
    Yes, America, run. The world needs not your moral compass nor your strength. It has Barabbas. Who could offer more?

  5. Brad Warthen

    Oh, and “pro-occupation folks?” First, I didn’t know Sen. Reid — the person who has most memorably and dramatically framed the debate in winning/losing terms — was “pro-occupation.”
    Second, I didn’t know anybody was. bud, there IS no occupation. Personally, I think it would be great if we HAD occupied Iraq (so maybe I’m “pro-occupation” in that sense), at least right after toppling Saddam, because we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems we have now. But we never put in more than a fraction of the troops that would be necessary for an actual occupation.
    An “occupation” strongly implies that you’ve secured the country or region in question. We didn’t do that initially, and I continue to worry that the “surge” isn’t big enough to make up for that failing. But the results seem encouraging so far.
    Sometimes we can accomplish our goals with fewer forces than Colin Powell or I might think are necessary. For instance, I was convinced that we were doomed to failure in Kosovo when the president publicly took ground troops off the table (I didn’t think we had to send them in necessarily; I just thought it weakened our hand to tell Milosevic he didn’t have to worry about it). But we achieved our goals with air power alone. Now we can debate the MORALITY of achieving our goals that way — it means higher civilian casualties to rely purely on air power — but President Clinton’s judgment was exonerated on a tactical, and even strategic, level in that case.

  6. Ready to Hurl

    An “occupation” strongly implies that you’ve secured the country or region in question.

    No, it doesn’t. Now, if you said a “competent occupation” or “successful occupation,” THAT would imply that you controlled (not “secured”) the country.
    For instance, France occupied Algeria but never really controlled it.
    Brad, YOU’RE pro-occupation by definition since you think that American troops should die in Iraq for as long as whatever-you-define-as-“victory” takes.
    BTW, I fail to see why my last post on this thread wasn’t OK.

  7. Ready to Hurl

    our republic is increasingly becoming more like a pure democracy — which, in case I haven’t made clear my views on this in the past, is a BAD thing.

    What country are you writing about? The majority of Americans have been ready to leave Iraq since they recognized the con game that the neo-cons ran in preparation for the invasion.
    Yet, the legislative branch most probably will never follow the will of the people until a new president leads the way.
    Your “pure democracy” agrument is a strawman.

  8. Ready to Hurl

    Hey, weldon, apparently the world isn’t impressed with a country that allows residents of one of its most famous and oldest cities to drown in a flood while spending billions in the occupation of a foreign country who didn’t represent a threat to the U.S.
    Other countries, like Holland, have saved cities that are below sea-level and were subject to floods. But, maybe their politicians could get beyond partisan political calculus to act for the welfare of a city– and a cornerstone of our national heritage.

  9. Brad Warthen

    RTH, the question to ask yourself is, what’s different between all these comments and whichever one wasn’t approved.
    Remember, the positive action that has to be taken by me is to APPROVE a comment, not to disapprove it. And when I go into a comment from an anonymous person, or one with a pseudonym, I think to myself, “why should I approve this?”
    If it doesn’t seem to add anything — just more same-old hollering back and forth — I don’t change its status. Approving a comment means waiting for it to cycle through and refresh before I can go on, so it costs me something. I’ve recently raised my own assessment of what my time is worth.

  10. weldon VII

    Maybe we should have occupied New Orleans.
    I visited the place twice, before Katrina, but even then, all I found was a wasteland.
    I saw nothing that resembled a cornerstone of my national heritage, and nothing from the governor of Louisiana nor the mayor of New Orleans has done anything to improve my image of the place since.
    The Katrina disaster might well have been handled better, but the blame for the ensuing mess doesn’t belong to the federal government alone, nor any one political party.
    And New Orleans has no more to do with Iraq, than, well, Holland.

  11. Phillip

    Bud is right; discussing whether we are winning or losing the war is a typically American sports-page mentality which stunts serious discussion of complex foreign policy issues. In this instance, even though I tend to agree with what’s considered the generally Democratic party view, i.e., a redeployment and fairly immediately, any talk by Harry Reid or any Democrat about the war being “lost” is equally as silly as the concept we could actually “win” the war in a decisive military fashion.

  12. Gordon

    Well since were sold this debacle, and as I recall the price was much more attractive, who was originally going to sign the instrument of surender?
    “Every time history repeats itself the price goes up”

  13. Ready to Hurl

    I guess that your definition of “wasteland” includes the origin of much native American music and cuisine.
    OTOH, Columbia isn’t a “wasteland,” huh?
    The scope of the Katrina tragedy required national leadership. Since the Republican Party controlled all three branches of national government, I’d say that they bear the brunt of the blame.
    I’m continually amazed that this President assumes monarchial powers when it comes to violating constitutional rights and governance but suddenly becomes a stickler for states rights when it comes to saving lives in the face of a natural disaster.
    Mississippi, with a Republican/lobbyist governor, got twice the aid per capita aid than LA with Democratic officials. It’s no surprise that political hatchetman Karl Rove was initially in charge of the recovery efforts.
    The reference to Holland just shows that countries with less resources than the U.S. can save cities in similar situations. And, you might want to reconsider whether Iraq had any pertinence to the Katrina efforts since many National Guard units (and their equipment) were either in Iraq or unavailable for service due to maintenance issues.

  14. Karen McLeod

    We ‘won’ the war when we toppled Hussein. Our problem is that we did not give it back to the people, so that they could form their own government. The folks there are now resisting, and will continue to resist until permitted to do as they wish. It may be that they wish another dictator, or a radically Islamic govenment. But the only way we’re going to get to impose what we want over there is to go in with massive force, and such brutality that we force submission. I think that would be very wrong on our part, and I don’t think it would do much to promote ‘democracy.’

  15. bud

    DISCLAIMER: Whatever the GAO report, Petreaus Report, White House report or any other report says, good bad or indifferent, the proper course of action is the same: the administration should set a timetable for withdrawal, preferably sooner rather than later, and end our occupation. If they don’t congress should immediately cut off funding.
    Just remember, the only sovereign nation in the world that you can spell using only the letters from the word quagmire is Iraq. (Guam doesn’t count, it’s not a sovereign nation).
    The Associated Press has learned that the GAO report will conclude that at least 13 of the 18 benchmarks set to judge the Iraqi government’s performance in the political and security arenas haven’t been met.
    -USA Today

  16. Randy E

    War? Who are we fighting? How is this a war?
    What enemy are we combating?
    Isn’t the objective of a war to defeat an enemy? I assume Al-kyda is THE enemy. Given this, wouldn’t we stay in Iraq until Al-kyda is eradicated in Iraq or atleast until they surrender? Then our objective is not related to Iraq being a self-sustaining country.
    On the other hand, I keep hearing how we’ll leave once Iraq is self-sustaining. This is nation building and not a war.
    Or is it both? We will stay in Iraq until Al-kyda leaves Iraq and Iraq fends for themselves.
    We knew when we won WWII – Germany and Japan surrendered. We knew when we lost Vietnam – we left. How do we know when we’ve won or lost the Iraq “war”?

  17. Sand Hill

    I hate our system of government. Because of the way in which we entered this war and the political points that the President scored in 2002 and 2004 against Democrats (shamefully in some cases, vis-a-vis Max Cleland), the current leadership of this Congress will eventually extricate the militray from Iraq before Iraq is able to govern itself.
    I believe this will lead to further implosion of the Iraqi government and eventually to anarchy that will cry out to be ordered by someone. Saudi Arabia and Iran will vie to control Iraq. Whichever side wins, God help us all. My guess is that we will see a division of Iraq; as a result of a grand bargain between Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
    Both political parties will bear the blame, and America will suffer.
    If only someone responsible ran our nation…

  18. Ready to Hurl

    How much the surge has “disrupted” the escalating civil war is very much debated– no matter what Gerson alleges and what Pentagon dog/pony shows lead drop-by pols to believe.
    The examples of supposed success stories of Anbar and Diyala are really just defeats spun into “victory.” Sure the Sunni sheiks have grown tired of AQ blowing up/murdering civilians. That hardly means that they are anything but the weakest of fair-weather “allies” for the U.S. or the Baghadad government.
    The Sunni sheiks, whom the brass seem so enthusiastic about, haven’t evinced the slightest interest in becoming the junior (read “powerless”) partner of a Shia government in Baghdad.
    So where does that leave the U.S.? Well, the Shia government is looking more and more to Iran for backing. Al Maliki has bluntly said that the Americans aren’t the only foreign power that can be called on to support his government. Who can blame him after his supposed allies, the Americans, have armed the Sunni “former-insurgents” who still oppose the Baghdad government?
    This is “progress” for Brad and the war-lovers.

  19. Ready to Hurl

    And, then reality rears its ugly head…
    He [author refers to GW Bush is willfully ignoring two facts. First, almost nobody in a position of power or much influence is advocating a complete withdrawal from Iraq. Second, a partial withdrawal is certain to take place in the next nine months, and this has nothing to do with Congress.
    This has been noted time and time again, but apparently it bears repeating: The U.S. Army and Marines are simply running out of combat troops.
    Adm. Michael Mullen, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at his confirmation hearings last month that the “surge” in Iraq could not be sustained at present levels past April 2008.
    There are a few ways to remedy this shortfall, all of them impractical or infeasible. First, soldiers’ tours of duty in Iraq, which were recently extended from 12 months to 15 months, could be stretched further to 18 months. However, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told me, during a recent interview for a separate story, that this idea is “off the table.” As it should be: The relentless rotation cycles have already compelled many soldiers and junior officers to quit the Army; pushing duty and tolerance much further might not just exhaust the troops beyond limits but spark an exodus from the armed forces.
    Gen. Cody said his personal preference is the “full mobilization” of the Reserves. A president does have the statutory authority to call up to a million reservists, including retirees, into active service for the duration of a war or an emergency. But this step hasn’t been taken since World War II, and for good reason: It would be a huge social disruption; and, unless a president persuades the population that it’s necessary—unless the war is almost universally seen as vital to the nation’s security—the call up would have politically explosive consequences as well.

  20. Brad Warthen

    Oops! There goes the danged "responsible media" again. And in The New York Times, no less. And what on Earth has gotten into the Brookings Institution?

  21. Ready to Hurl

    And, then there’s the leaked un-whitewashed GAO report.
    Here’s a little taste from the Horse’s Mouth blog:
    State Department Disagrees With Michael O’Hanlon, White House, Pentagon About GAO Iraq Report
    Right now pro and anti-war forces are battling over the new nonpartisan Government Accountability Office report that leaked yesterday which says that the Iraqi government is falling short of virtually all the benchmarks that have been set for it. Because this new GAO report will be an effective weapon to use against the positive assessment that General Petraeus is likely to deliver next month to Congress, the pro-war forces are eager to discredit it.
    The White House is claiming that the report is overly negative. The Pentagon wants the GAO to revise it to reflect a more positive assessment. And pro-war Brookings Institution figure Michael O’Hanlon sharply criticized the report today, saying that he hopes it will be “improved” to provide a rosier view of the war.
    It turns out, however, that a rather significant player disagrees with O’Hanlon, the White House, and the Pentagon about the GAO report: The State Department.
    Check out this little nugget buried in an article in today’s Washington Post on the GAO report:
    The draft has circulated within the State and Defense departments for comment before its publication.
    Although the State Department proposed some changes, it did not dispute the basic conclusions, said an administration official involved in Iraq policy. The Pentagon, however, “made some factual corrections” and “offered some suggestions on a few of the actual grades,” Morrell said.
    So officials at the State Department read a draft of the report and didn’t dispute its “basic conclusions” — unlike the White House and O’Hanlon.
    Brad, last Spring Bush thought that setting benchmarks for the Iraqi government was a great idea. Unfortunately, we’ve found that not holding people accountable (except Democrats, of course) is one of the Bush Administration’s many failings.
    WashPo: …the GAO concluded that Iraq had met only three of 18 benchmarks lawmakers set for progress toward political reconciliation and security. The draft has circulated within the State and Defense departments for comment before its publication.
    So crucial political progress is nil but military “progress” is ostensibly positive. Even the best interpretation is that you’re asking us to bet on a war horse that only has half its legs functioning.

  22. bud

    Even the best interpretation is that you’re asking us to bet on a war horse that only has half its legs functioning.
    Good job Hurl in showing how the best evidence available shows we are failing to accomplish anything of substance. Sadly, I don’t think your “best interpretation” has a leg to stand on. All of the war horses legs are non-functional. The idea that we are in any way, shape or form accomplishing anything is a cruel joke. Our occupation is causing untold misery and suffering for the Iraqi people and resulting in the wholesale slaughter of our troops.
    Americans killed in Iraq through August each year:
    2007 – 736
    2006 – 462
    2005 – 549
    2004 – 496
    And Iraqi civilians killed:
    2007 – 16303
    2006 – 9961
    How is this progress in reducing violence? By what math do these numbers show we are helping this miserable situation? It may have shifted around to different regions of the country.
    It is just time to rally the majority of Americans who now recognize this catastrophe for what it is. Supporters of the occupation never have any evidence that actually defends this mess. Only anecdotal columns by like-minded right-wing shills. There is no real progress in Iraq. It’s another Bush administration lie. But even if there was some progress we need to plan for some kind of withdrawal, at least the combat forces. To continue with this open-ended, blank-check occupation is the height of insanity.

  23. bud

    Today is Labor Day. This is a day to celebrate the accomplishments of American working men and women. Labor is the single most important ingredient in forging the successful nation that we enjoy today.
    Yet it is a poignant day as well. American labor is employed in a monstrous occupation of a sovereign nation for no good purpose. This occupation is supported by a minority of the American public based only on the carefully crafted fear-baiting of an administration that continues to mislead the American public. Most Americans now recognize the reasons given for invading Iraq were deceptions designed to fool the people into supporting a war of choice for reasons that were known to be false. The real reason for the invasion and ongoing failed occupation is for the most part nothing more than revenge of the president’s father. As a secondary reason we it was about securing oil wealth for a handful of fabulously wealthy companies. We know this from the famous Downing Street memo, the smoking gun proving the deception.
    This Labor Day we should honor our fallen soldiers by recognizing the truth. The truth will set you free, but only if you act. I challenge every freedom loving American to break free of the shackles of fear that burdens you from doing the right thing. Open your eyes to the truth about the middle-east. Simply put, our presence in the region makes us less safe. It makes us less prosperous. It emboldens the terrorists. America can only be a great nation if it’s people honor the dignity and diversity of other people. In that regard we have failed the people of Iraq. By failing our fellow humans we fail the spirit of the founding fathers. Let us not be afraid of consequences that are only illusions propagated by the most flawed president in American history. In the end we will come home. Let us do it now ( or at least set a resonable timetable to do so). That will give the Iraqi people the best chance for redeeming their nation and also provide us the best hope for a prosperous and safe America.

Comments are closed.