Wednesday, September 3, 2003
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Correcting some public opinion misperceptions
Lawrence Kaplan has an excellent New Republic essay on public tolerance for casualties during war (subscription required). Elites generally assume that the public is unwilling to tolerate combat deaths -- here's an example from the Economist a few weeks ago:
Kaplan's essay is essentially a literature review demonstrating plainly that this assumption is a crock of bull@#$t. The key grafs:
Another excellent and recent source of data on this point is Steven Kull and I.M. Destler's Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism.
A perusal of these books also reveals another interesting fact -- the American public is far more enthusiastic about multilateralism than some experts
One thing that some of the pundits seem to lack is a good sense of history. Mead's article on the Jacksonian tradition in American foreign policy has a few paragraphs in the beginning which really highlight the extent to which Americans can be a bloody minded bunch, when their ire is raised.
To further amplify this, consider the fact that we fought a bitterly opposed war in a truly peripherial state with ill-guided military leadership bound in a diplomatic straight-jacket (how's that for crummy prose?).
We lost tens of thousands of soldiers. And we did it for a decade.
We're remarkably casualty intolerant when we don't have a clear goal. In Iraq, we've got a goal (regardless of whether or not its achievable or being pursued correctly) and that makes a lot of difference.posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation on 09.03.03 at 11:04 AM [permalink]
Regarding military intervention, much research has shown that a large majority of the U.S. public favors military intervention only if it meets all these criteria:
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