American Public Skeptical About The Way Forward In Iraq
Half of the American public doesn’t think that the U.S. has a responsibility to act in the deteriorating situation in Iraq, a new poll says.
According to a CBS News/New York Times poll released Monday, a plurality of Americans also believe that President Barack Obama has responded appropriately to the violence in Iraq. Forty-one percent of Americans said the president’s response to the crisis has been about right, compared with 29 percent who said he should do more and 22 percent who said he should do less.
Forty-two percent said that the U.S. has an obligation to do something about the situation in Iraq, where militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have claimed significant territory in the northern and central part of the country. Fifty percent of Americans, by contrast, said the U.S. doesn’t have an obligation to act.
The percentage of those who said the U.S. has an obligation to act is still higher than in recent previous international incidents in Syria and Ukraine.
These numbers are actually higher in support of the possibility that the U.S. does need to act than I had thought we would see given both previous polling on crises in Ukraine and Syria and the general public antipathy toward the Iraq War itself. The party breakdown it quite interesting. Among self-identified Republicans, a full 42% believe that Iraq is no longer America’s responsibility, for example, while a full 60% of them see increased terrorism as being a likely outcome of current events in Iraq.
Andrew Sullivan makes these observations about the poll, and what it means for the Republicans specifically:
What you see should dampen hopes that Republicans have shifted from a Cheneyesque posture to a Paulite one. But they’re divided. And with any luck, the latest Sunni insurgency could help advance a debate in their ranks that they’ve been loath to have for many years. And that’s no small thing. The GOP’s major policy initiative in the past decade was the Iraq War. It was the signal concern of the Bush-Cheney administration and they asked the country to judge them on it. The country did – which is why Barack Obama is president. But the party then went into a strange cone of silence on the question. The neocons kept peddling the idea that the surge “worked” – which, according to its architects, meant a reconciled multi-sectarian government able to govern democratically. No one really pushed back on that transparently false narrative. And then it was on to criticizing Obama! Only now that the issue has come back into the American consciousness – and in the context of a primary process in the near-future – does the GOP have a chance to figure this all out.
My own view is that the continuing conflagration can only help Paul – because it is highly unlikely to result in anything but more grief, more violence and more terror, but with Americans more deeply involved. That’s likely, in my view, to tilt the debate away from interventionism.
I think Sullivan is largely correct, but as I’ve observed elsewhere, the foreign policy debate inside the GOP that has been reinvigorated by events in Iraq is likely to play a large role in the race for the party’s 2016 nomination. Given the party’s history, I’d still place my bets on the forces favoring intervention, because that’s the faction of the GOP that has essentially controlled the debate inside the party since the end of World War II.