How has Iraq changed American perceptions of war?

Founding Director, Pew Research Center
A pragmatic nation reconsiders how it uses force.
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TRANSCRIPT

 

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Question: How has the war in Iraq changed American perceptions of war?

Andrew Kohut: In the short-run, the public is of the view that (a) we should get out of Iraq, and (b) we should be very careful about the use of force. Our resources are stressed . . . stretched. We just have had a very bad experience, and that always tends to sour people on the use of force. But if you look at the way Americans feel about the legitimacy of using military force as a way of dealing with international problems, it’s much stronger than it is in many parts of Europe. It’s . . . There’s still more support in the United States for preemptive war, even given disillusionment with Iraq than there is among our European allies. So in short, Americans are sort of down on war right now; but the public has a very Jacksonian view of . . . of . . . of . . . of use of military force. Generally they’re loathe to do things; but hurt us or threaten us and we’ll go at you. But the public’s also very pragmatic. When things aren’t working they want out, and they don’t wanna see American lives wasted.

Question: Will public opinion determine the outcome of the war in Iraq?

Andrew Kohut: Well not strictly, but certainly the influence of public opinion . . .  You can’t conduct a war without public support in the long run.  That’s what . . .  That was the message of Vietnam.  And the pressure to get troops out of . . . to get some sense that we’re on our way out is very great.  And I don’t think it’ll be the only factor, but it’s one factor in the way Iraq will play out.

 

Recorded on: 9/14/07