UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 27, 2009

PUBLIC DIVIDED ON AFGHANISTAN

Open Left - A new poll on Afghanistan is out, the first one to ever ask a direct, three-way question on American troop levels in the country:

"Thinking now about Afghanistan, do you think the number of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan should be increased, decreased, or kept about the same?" Increased: 34% Decreased: 29% About the same: 32% Unsure: 5%. It seems to show that public opinion on the matter is pretty soft and generally undecided. Really, the country is almost evenly divided three ways.

This is pretty remarkable, given that both President Obama and Senator John McCain supported Afghanistan escalation during the 2008 Presidential campaign. For that matter, there is no prominent public campaign in favor of Afghanistan withdrawal. As was the case for withdrawal from Iraq in 2003, 2004 and most of 2005, neither the Democratic and Republican leadership supported the idea. And yet, despite no one making the case for withdrawal, the American public already favored it by huge margins in the summer of 2005.

In this environment, it doesn't take Nostradamus to realize that it is only a matter of time before public opinion turns against a large American military presence in Afghanistan. If 34% support for troop escalation in Afghanistan is all that can be mustered despite everyone pushing for it, what starts happening once people actually make the case for withdrawal? For that matter, what starts happening to public opinion on Afghanistan once we begin withdrawing from Iraq? . . .

Public opinion will turn against a large American military presence in Afghanistan. This is not a question of "if," but of "when." It is essential that President Obama stays ahead of this trend.

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