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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Deciphering the New Iraq War Poll

If I know the right blogosphere then this story will be the most often quoted one of the day in the sphere... (today that is)

American public support for the military effort in Iraq has reached a high point unseen since the summer of 2006, a development that promises to reshape the political landscape.

According to late February polling conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 53 percent of Americans — a slim majority — now believe “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” in Iraq. That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007.

The percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq is going “very well” or “fairly well” is also up, from 30 percent in February 2007 to 48 percent today.

Now, I have little use for polls. The wording can create whatever result one wants. Even this one only measures people's thoughts on the success of the strategy, not whether or not they feel it will be worth it if we are successful.

That said, not only do these results not surprise me but I have been seeing something like this coming since September. The greatest ally of proponents of the war is time. We are still about eight months from election day. The situation on the ground first showed tangible improvement a bit before September and it has only improved since. That was the first time that polls also showed improvement. Since then, people have slowly begun to notice, and the situation has eight more months of inspection.

What is important about this poll and any poll about Iraq is not the raw number but rather the trajectory. What we see from this poll and most polls is an improvement, substantial improvement at that, in public perception toward the conflict. The situation on the ground continues to improve and with every passing day there are fewer reasons for war critics to claim it is still not a success. The war has evolved from a strategic change that lead to an uprising against the terrorists, but that uprising didn't quell violence. Then, violence diminished and continues to diminish everyday. Then violence was diminishing but there was no political reconciliation. Then we saw political reconciliation but none of it was related to the benchmarks. Now, we are even seeing movement toward achieving the benchmarks. At this point, critics have to struggle for criticism like the achievements haven't been fast enough.

Once again, the best ally of war proponents is time. In April, General Petraeus will go before Congress for another brief. Not only will he report on mountains of success but he is the credible architect of the surge. His testimony will likely give the war effort another boost in popularity.

Between now and November, it is likely that Iraqis will have a full plate of local and regional elections. This is one of the vital benchmarks that was created prior to the surge. Of course, we all know what happens to support for the war everytime the Iraqis vote, so that will only help support which is already trending up. If our current success continues, then violence will continue to trend down or at least remain at this relatively low level. We will see more and more Iraqis trained to fight themselves.

All of this will quite likely create a situation that will turn Iraq into an albatross around those that want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (the Democrats). By the time November rolls around, I see the Iraq War being favored by a healthy majority of Americans and I see them rejecting the path to defeat that the Democratic Party has hitched its wagons to.

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