Monday, April 6, 2009

Polls: American's Ambiguous Approaches to Foreign Policy

In response to the provocation of North Korea's launching of a missile to further their nuclear possibilities, a majority of Americans favor direct military intervention. According to a Rasmussen poll released yesterday - but, notably, polled two days before the actual missile launch - 57% of Americans favor military action to destroy North Korea's missile capabilities. 15% oppose military intervention, and 28% are not sure. Interestingly, Matthew Yglesias, displeased with this Politico story on the poll, would like American's to think in terms of the consequences of such military action:
... [I]nsofar as people do favor such a step, it’s almost certainly because they don’t understand what it might entail. But a war could easily involve the deaths of millions of people and the destruction of one of the world’s largest cities. South Korea, with American assistance, would undoubtedly prevail in such a conflict but the price paid in blood would be extremely high and the impact on the global economy could be extremely grave. Meanwhile, the world would be left with the very thorny question of what to do with the post-war DPRK. In some very narrow sense of what a “politico” might care about, these issues don’t matter. But even in pretty crass political terms, public opinion would clearly be much more impacted by reaction to the actual consequences of military action than to whatever kind of weird push polling Rasmussen wants to do.
Yet, on the day when Pres. Obama said that the United States is not at war with Islam, the Washington Post-ABC News Poll shows that a majority of Americans think we should seek to improve relationships with Islamic nations. When asked if they thought it was important that Pres. Obama to try to improve relationships with Muslim nations, 81% of Americans thought it was important, compared to 18% who did not - this sentiment despite overwhelming self-professed ignorance to the Islamic religion; 55% do not have a basic understanding of Islam, and 49% have a negative view of Islam.

Despite two wars on Islamic soil, Americans seemingly desire more peaceable interaction with Muslim nations, assuming, obviously, that the improvement of relationships happens without military might. And, yet, in spite of these two wars, Americans seemingly are willing to further over-spread our military in order to intervene in North Korea. Is this just a recency effect, where the situational import of the most current potentially serious threat to America has overshadowed our current perceptions of our military operations in other parts of the world? Or, do we truly desire strong, peaceable diplomatic relationships with Muslim nations at the same time we are having a knee-jerk reaction to North Korea? Have we thought through the consequences of military intervention in the Middle East, and therefore desire peaceful relationships, while at the same time, a la Yglesias, have we not thought through the consequences of military intervention in North Korea? Any thoughts on what, if anything, is going on here?


Anonymous Veteran said...

If our country had stopped and thought it out before going into Iraq we would have thousands of additional service persons alive. If we had seen that war, like most Vietnam vets saw it - another quicksand conflict we would have to walk away from without resolution - we would have the troops and equipment to take on the real threats we face now. Our military has to go where the Commander and Chief sends them. It is a blessed relief that we have a President that thinks before engaging and engages without hesitation when a real threat shows up. Americans will support a well thought out strategy if we know that it is for our protect we are sent in harm's way and for our liberty we are engaged.

matt said...

i think the answer lies in the poll questions themselves (which is why they are rarely "accurate").

who doesn't want peace? especially after 6 years of fighting? at the same time, Americans are still not willing to let a mad man dictate his will over the rest of the world's - so when asked, they of course say they'd be for "military intervention". no telling what the person answering the poll interprets that to mean, but most likely, it doesn't go anything farther than bombing the launching pad where the missiles are located. of course, we know that wouldn't be the end...

and i'd be remiss if i didn't address anon vet's comment that we are blessed by "thinking president". news flash: the man hadn't had one hour of executive or military experience when elected - he hasn't thought, engaged, or engaged quickly regarding any military threat, so not sure on what that opinion is based. but if and when the time comes, he's gonna rely on the intelligence agencies and top ranking military officials analysis....just like every single president in American history did, experienced or not. to say the previous administration didn't 'think' is a preposterous opinion.

Anonymous Veteran said...

Perhaps it is a matter of perspective. President Bush appeared to consider nothing before sending our men and women in uniform into harm's way. He did not consider the intelligence on Iraq, which told him that the country was of no threat to either the United States or Israel. He put our country in the quick sand warfare to divert attention from the stale economy he was leading us into. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and that was apparent even then. His lack of thinking through the situation, put us into war that we will have to leave unfinished.

I agree that polls seldom reflect informed decisions, but these are interpreted by the representatives as a reflection of the mood of the voters, right, wrong or indifferent. And decisions are made based on these polls. That is the horror of our situation.

Our new President is one of several that did not serve in the military to any degree or to any great degree. He has already shown his path of leadership in seeking diplomatic solutions while standing ready to engage. This is something the former President never seemed to master, and we lost both honor and our youth because of it.

Being a veteran does not give me a greater perspective on foreign policy. It does give me the right to state my opinion. Sending our military to war without proper consideration, training and equipment will never be the hallmark of good leadership.

Preposterous though it may seem, when one has been there and had to fight a war just because the President wanted to gain in the polls, one's opinion is swayed by the preposterous belief that life and national security are too important to be trifled with.