March 18th, 2013

The MSM won the Iraq War

The propaganda war, that is.

I’m actually somewhat stunned by the results of this recent Gallup poll about the war (taken in honor of the tenth anniversary of its start), but not necessarily in the way you might think. After nearly a decade of relentless and mostly negative media/liberal/leftist spin to a war that was complex and mixed in its origins, execution, and results, but hardly uncalled-for; and which deposed a long-term tyrant (and his heirs-apparent) and replaced him with a flawed but much-improved functioning democracy; the war’s disapproval/approval rate is only 53/42.

I would have expected the ratio of disapproval to approval to be higher. What’s more, it used to be higher. Here’s the chart:

Iraqwar.jgp

The disapproval rate was as high as the low 60s in 2007-2008, and 55 in 2010. I suppose the fact that for the most part Iraq isn’t being closely covered and reported on anymore by the MSM plus the withdrawal could account for the recent drop in disapproval.

And this is a puzzlement of sorts: although the opinion results differ by age, it’s the reverse of what I would have thought. Among respondents over 65 years of age disapproval/approval is 59/36, and among those 19-29 it’s 50/48 (for ages 30-49 it’s 50/43, and for 50-64 it’s 57/39). What’s more, the same trends hold true for the Afghan War (which in general has more approval). Even the Vietnam War follows the same trend, with young people 19-29 the only age group that approves (51/43) and all other groups disapproving, with people over 65 disapproving most, to the tune of 70%.

It’s really rather startling. Take a look:

warsapproval

The fact that disapproval of the Vietnam War is high in the older age groups is no surprise at all. After all, they not only were the ones who lived through it (and the draft), but they were highly subject to the MSM’s extremely successful propaganda war against it. What’s puzzling to me is the fact that young people are for it, as well as the Afghan War, and their disapproval of the Iraq War is relatively low, too. These same young people are highly liberal, the cohort that voted for Obama in droves in 2012. And their elders—the 65 and over crowd—voted against him in huge numbers.

The American people are nothing if not inconsistent. But this seems particularly odd to me. The reason can’t be that younger people remember the wars from the action-hero-figure glow of their childhood, because the Vietnam War ended long before they were born. Is it that younger people are more bloodthirsty? More inured to violence? More admiring of their peers who serve in the military? They’re certainly not more conservative, if their voting habits are any indication.

[ADDENDUM: More here and here.]

34 Responses to “The MSM won the Iraq War”

  1. George Pal Says:

    The greater population is now personally, culturally, politically, and profoundly dissociated from the war. There aren’t endless reports of enemy body counts, visuals of body bags and coffin arrivals as there was during VN and there are more channels to distract them. A significant half of the country still, after a decade, believe – not think but believe, something worthwhile is taking place there. Anyone should be hard pressed to give a reason for it or the good of it.

    A decade in Iraq has made Iraq safe for sectarian civil war. A decade in Afghanistan has made it safe for the Taliban. What have we learned? That the government is extravagant with American lives because they hold them cheap. What have those serving and sacrificing in the stan learned? The proper care and handling of the Qur’an and the correct direction in which to belch, fart, and piss.

  2. DJMoore Says:

    I’m not sure how much this would change the statistics, but I’m aware of some virulently conservative commentators who are against this war or that for any of several reasons.

    Some of which include:

    Fighting wars for other than defensive purposes.

    Failure to obtain a true declaration of war, rather than mere Congressional approval.

    Failure to declare and hold to clear-cut victory conditions. (In other words, fighting as long as the Administration wants to.)

    Failure to make decisive strikes to achieve victory as quickly as possible, and with the fewest overall casualties on both sides.

    Fighting wars against enemies we ourselves have provoked by well-meant but incompetent meddling. (This is not “America’s bad, m’kay?” relativism, but is based on the failure of overly liberal administrations to adhere to the founding principles.)

    Again, the number of people polled who gritted their teeth and answered “yes” to the question as phrased, bu for different reasons than pollster may have had in mind, may not be enough to alter the results, but can’t be discounted out of hand.

  3. Richard Aubrey Says:

    DJMoore,
    Agreed. When polls asked if Bush was fighting the WOT, or in Iraq, right, some of the people who answered “no” wanted it to be more forthright. But the MSM and the dems–excuse the redundancy–pretended the disagreement was entirely because the disagree-ers were anti-war.

  4. southpaw Says:

    If I understand this poll, the 18-29 year old samples for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts would have a large number of people who were 6-12 years at the time the wars started. So some of their impressions/memories during those periods would be from their parents in the 30-49 age group.
    Generally it looks like the farther the war is in the rearview mirror, the less the war seems to be a good idea.
    Maybe another thing to think about is the age at which people form a strong opinions, and their relation to each event.
    I don’t know what age that typically is, or if there is such a time for all people; I only know that in my case I didn’t develop strong opinions (ones that i’m not going to change very easily) until I was in my early 30s. At the time the first Iraq war broke out, I was on the fence and didn’t see Kuwait as a critical interest of the US and wasn’t really sure what to think. But it was around that time I started to pay attention to things and spend time actually thinking about them; once I actually invested time reading and thinking about them, I developed opinions that mattered to me. Perhaps a person’s political maturity during the incident and when the poll is taken affect the results a lot too. I mean besides the media’s incessant propaganda.

  5. Eric Says:

    Interesting. Those numbers surprise me, too, and I don’t have a plausible explanation.

    I wonder how much of it has to do with people noticing that the loudest, most strident critics of Bush’s foreign policy shut up once they got their man into the White House? Perhaps there’s a growing sense that the anti-Iraq movement was a trick.

    Also, in my conversations on Iraq, I’ve discovered that most people are ignorant about the context of the Iraq mission, despite that the why of the Iraq mission is clearly explained in open-source public record. While 9/11 did fundamentally change the calculus of our Middle East orientation, Bush’s Iraq decisions actually follow the policy and precedent set by Clinton on Iraq.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    southpaw: I just don’t think that explains much, especially the disconnect between that cohort’s extremely liberal politics and their approval of all three wars (including the Vietnam War; their approval of that one is the most mysterious to me).

  7. Richard Aubrey Says:

    neo.
    Lack of imagination, maybe?
    As Colin Powell said, the fun of war disappears when you see your first sucking chest wound.
    Youtube has “the warrior song”, which is pretty hard-ass. But it doesn’t show blood dripping from Dustoff choppers or the look on an officer’s face when he’s told it’s his turn to notify the next of kin.
    Or the looks on the next of kin when a guy in uniform shows up on their porch.
    You have to be pretty solidly set in your opinion to suggest a venture is worth that.
    “warrior song” would make my father, three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, either puke or become enraged.
    But sometimes–see the French resistance to the occupation of the Rhineland–it’s necessary.

  8. Richard Aubrey Says:

    What? Wait. Um.

  9. carl in atlanta Says:

    Could the explanation be as simple as Vietnam no longer being in the news and these young’uns seeing something that we geezers just can’t see?

    Like maybe that all things considered, it really wasn’t a mistake?

    To me (at the time) it sure seemed like a mistake, but then again, I had to stand for the draft. And I was definitely bombarded by the Cronkite propaganda machine.

  10. Surellin Says:

    I have several baby-boomer friends who are anti-war just because they are, and so there. That’s how they grew up – “Hey Hey LBJ!”. Recent polls show younger Catholics are more conservative on church matters than their elders of the Vatican II generation, too. Could it just be that Boomers are nuts on some subjects? I myself am just young enough to regard myself as a “broomer” – the cohort that came along after the boomers’ parade and tried to clean up the mess. :-)

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    People’s hearts and minds are weak. They are easily controlled. Humanity has always required leaders. No society could function without one, for everyone, from the top to the bottom, knew that someone had to take the flack for making the Final Decisions because only a few were willing to get their hands dirty fixing the real problems.

    Some came up with their Final Solutions as a result of that. The reason why government is evil yet necessary is because good judgment only comes from the individual most impacted by the problem. Yet government by definition must make judgments that impact the life and death of people they don’t even know exist. The possibility of injustice arising is 100%, thus evil is already born from those that create government to enforce laws, no matter how much justice it brings to the common man and woman. Sooner or later, evil will become existant and in power. Good dictators and wise benevolent tyrants will always die and be replaced by weak dictators and power mad fools like Nero and Caligula or some other spoiled brat of the royal family lineage. Democracies and republics are no different. The decay is merely a little bit slower.

    So long as humanity requires a single person to take the blame/power for making a decision that impacts all, honor and personal responsibility, do not exist as concrete realities, but merely as emotional abstract goals. For we have no better choice, as a decision made by covering their arse committees aren’t any better, just merely bad all the time.

    Propaganda, wars, politics, guns, knives, swords, bombs, power… all produce good or evil based upon the virtues and vices of the users. That will not change for humanity any time soon. The more people give up their power in exchange for the guarantees of a leader, the less the people deserve justice and salvation. The more the people wish someone to protect them and save them at somebody else’s sacrifice and cost, the less the people deserve to be saved.

    Loyalty and obedience have been the common coin used by communities throughout history in return for security and prosperity. Yet there is no such virtue as loyalty amongst a population that believes itself entitled to live like kings and gods.

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    Newer generations are more willing to take risks than the old generation. Which is often why the old generation refuses to release the reins of power for the young are too reckless or foolish.

    But that just means people who did not live through the mistakes of the past, are willing to risk making the same mistakes in one cause or another.

    Whether that’s ignorance, foolishness, stupidity, or recklessness remains to be seen.

    I presume that a same poll (creator of public opinion, not a mirror of it) back during 1970 would have had it in reverse. The older generation would have approved, the younger would have not. For the younger college age generation, fear and propaganda easily controlled their views.

  13. Ann Says:

    Eric said…
    “I wonder how much of it has to do with people noticing that the loudest, most strident critics of Bush’s foreign policy shut up once they got their man into the White House?”

    I think that’s definitely got something to do with it.

    Also, maybe young people see war in general now as something Obama is responsible for. And that makes it a good thing.

  14. Colin Says:

    Maybe it’s because, despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, we (the right, defense hawks, etc) really did make our case with the youth cohort in the aftermath of 9/11. It might not matter much in the long-run, but maybe, at least on this one issue, at least half of the youth in this country really did listen to what we had to say when we talked about ‘the lessons of September 11.’

  15. holmes Says:

    I think somewhere GWB is muttering to himself like Jack Nicholson at the end of “The Pledge.” (Anyone?)I think our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan gave us a lot more time to ramp up other operations to take out terrorist organizations. In the meantime, those two theaters were like flypaper to terrorists. 100k Iraqis killed? Maybe. I bet a lot were foreign nationals imported for the fight.

    But was it a mistake? I think it wasn’t that ill-conceived at the time and Saddam needed to go. The great irony is that Iraq was not the greater threat- Iran was and is. But Iraq had the best casus belli, a track record of violations and documented offenses. Iran was far more shadowy in their actions, though we knew they were responsible for most of the world’s terrorist acts. Still are.

    America wants to be left alone, but we know that we won’t be, yet we’re reluctant to commit ground troops going forward. That leaves two options: a special ops war with drones, but when that fails, we go nuclear. That is why the rest of the world really needs/wants to get a nuke. It’s their only insurance against what is becoming our only option.

  16. expat Says:

    I’m sorry I can’t rember the source, but I read hat Bill Maher is even moderating his views on Iraq.

  17. Eric Says:

    holmes: “The great irony is that Iraq was not the greater threat- Iran was and is. But Iraq had the best casus belli, a track record of violations and documented offenses.”

    It was more than that. Our position with Iraq was far worse than our position with Iran. Remember, we were conducting an indefinite mission in Iraq regarding which Clinton’s Secretary of State said 500K dead Iraqi kids was worth the price.

    On 9/11, Iraq in the heart of the Middle East and the Muslim world was a festering and public problem in which we and the UN were entangled. We already had a military mission in Iraq based out of Saudia Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq was supposed to be disarmed of its WMD within weeks in 1991, not contained indefinitely with no end in sight. Saddam had simply shifted the cost of our containment to the Iraqi people while strengthening his position within Iraq (not to be confused with strengthening the Iraq nation’s position). Iraq in the heart of the Middle East and Muslim world was suffering and we were blamed for it. With proof, al Qaeda broadcast our 1991-2003 Iraq mission as their cause for war with us.

    In other words, on 9/11, Iraq was our biggest problem in the region. In the wake of 9/11 as we surveyed our position viz the Middle East and Islam, any constructive repair we were to attempt required that we fix our (US and UN) status quo relationship with Iraq.

    Recall that after 9/11, Bush didn’t just focus on Iraq. We ramped up intel and law enforcement globally, sent SF forces to Afghanistan and elsewhere, such as the Phillipines, flipped Pakistan, attempted to invigorate the peace process with Israel, instated the Freedom Agenda for regional reform, and the ‘axis of evil’ that increased pressure on the highest profile rogue states, including Iran. Bush attempted a comprehensive, full-spectrum fix in the War on Terror.

    But any post-9/11 fix attempt would have made no sense if it set aside Iraq as our biggest, most obvious problem in which we were already entangled.

    A key difference between Iran and Iraq is that we view Iran as ultimately a rational albeit belligerent actor. We viewed Saddam – separate from Iraq the nation – as an unrepentant recidivist who actively threatened his neighbors and destabilized the region.

    President Clinton has established that the greater issue in Iraq was Saddam’s regime rather than Iraqi possession of WMD:
    http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2012/05/problem-of-definition-in-iraq.html

    In the wake of 9/11, we determined our status quo with Iraq, that included our basing in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, was no longer tenable.

    The only alternatives to the status quo were to >AB< we give Saddam one final chance to fulfill the obligations he could and should have fulfilled in 1991.

    The IR realists who say that Saddam should have been kept in power in order to check Iran seem to be stuck in 1980, thinking our ally the Shah was just toppled, and Iraq was the lesser of 2 evils. The conservative IR realist invective against Bush and liberal/neocons regarding Iraq distracts from the weakness of the IR realist position on Iraq. They're effectively proposing Hitler should have been kept in power after WW2 in order to be our regional agent against the Soviet Union.

    Liberal/neocons understand that by the time of Bush administration (either one works), the Iran-Iraq conflict was a cause of the region's problems, not a stabilizer. More importantly, given our thoroughly toxic status quo relationship with Iraq by the 2nd Bush administration, our complete distrust of Saddam, and his track record, I'd like to hear the IR realists explain in detail just how they would have negotiated a settlement with Saddam without worsening the regional situation.

    Whenever I debate the Iraq mission with anyone, I make them defend their preferred alternative to what we did in the wake of 9/11, give Saddam one final chance to comply with his obligations: either indefinite continuation of the toxic status quo or free Saddam.

    A lot of them will simply refuse to pick an alternative and double-down on criticizing Bush. For those who have the integrity to try to defend an alternative, it quickly becomes obvious that the choice that Bush made with Iraq was a justified decision.

    After everything, then to free Saddam and empower and trust him to deal with Iran for us? IR realist madness. Hitler + Stalin = WW2, not peace in our time.

  18. Eric Says:

    Oops, shouldn’t have used the >AB< we give Saddam one final chance to fulfill the obligations he could and should have fulfilled in 1991." should say …

    The only alternatives to the status quo, particularly if we view Saddam as a useful check on Iran, were to *A* negotiate a settlement with Iraq that frees and empowers Saddam, or *B* we give Saddam one final chance to fulfill the obligations he could and should have fulfilled in 1991.

  19. JJ formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Once again Gallup confirms that I am in the minority. I approved of, and still approve of, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. What I don’t approve of in all cases is the lack of a plan for unconditional victory. War is too awful. If it must be war, then it must be to win and win as quickly as possible.

    George Pal is right: “A decade in Iraq has made Iraq safe for sectarian civil war. A decade in Afghanistan has made it safe for the Taliban. What have we learned? That the government is extravagant with American lives because they hold them cheap. What have those serving and sacrificing in the stan learned? The proper care and handling of the Qur’an and the correct direction in which to belch, fart, and piss.”

    And to what can we attribute it to? The fifth column within that works constantly to undermine our moral and will. That is, of course, the MSM and the “Code Pink loving dems.” (Of which there are far, far too many.)

  20. JJ formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    “And to what can we attribute it?” My mistake.

  21. Eric Says:

    JJ: “What I don’t approve of in all cases is the lack of a plan for unconditional victory. War is too awful. If it must be war, then it must be to win and win as quickly as possible.”

    While it’s a technocratic distinction, we did win the war when we drove Saddam out of power. There was nothing conditional about Saddam’s defeat.

    Since when has America won a war and then thrown it away by abandoning the post-war?

    WW1, when we weren’t the leader of our side, and we learned a lesson from how our allies screwed up that post-war. When we were boss of the post-war in WW2, we did it differently. We still have a large military presence in Germany, Japan, and Korea.

    The post-war in Iraq just happened to have been bloodier than the war.

    War is creative destruction that’s a means to ends. The historical gains we associate with war are really made in the post-war, where we perform all the construction to realize our war goals. Fighting a war, declaring victory, and avoidng the post-war is not constructive. That notion is a corruption of the Vietnam War generation.

  22. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and Feminist Channeler of Ill Repute Says:

    }}} I suppose the fact that for the most part Iraq isn’t being closely covered and reported on anymore by the MSM plus the withdrawal could account for the recent drop in disapproval.

    Not at all. It’s a simple fact that the media have told us, essentially, that, since Teh One took office, literally NO ONE has died in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

    I mean, otherwise, they’d have reported on the body count DAILY, as they were when Bush was in office. That they no longer do so makes it remarkably clear that there’s no body count any more.

    :-S

  23. Eric Says:

    IGotBupkis,

    During the Bush administration, the media reported OIF and OEF casualties differently. Each death in Iraq was a crime to be laid at Bush’s feet, while each death in the ‘good war’ in Afghanistan was a casualty of war.

  24. JJ formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Eric said, “Fighting a war, declaring victory, and avoiding the post-war is not constructive. That notion is a corruption of the Vietnam War generation.”

    Amen to that.

  25. expat Says:

    Eric,
    That was a great summary about Iraq. I would only add from the eastern side of the big pond, that America was constantly being blamed for the suffering of the Iraqi people because of the embargo. Yet when the oil for food scandal was revealed it got almost no coverage. The do-gooders and feel-gooders of the world would have kicked us out of Iraq completely and given Saddam a free hand to do as he wanted WRT killing his own people, resuming WMD production, and posing as the strong man in the radical Islamic world. Had we left with our tail between our legs, Saddam would have made OBL look like a wimp to the jihadis.

  26. Eric Says:

    expat,

    Thanks. Like others here, I’m sure, I have had some experience defending the Iraq mission. I suggest reading the post I linked in the comment. I think you’ll like the last 2 sections especially.

    It’s hardly mentioned in the debates that the UNSC resolutions were not limited to weapons. They also included humanitarian resolutions, and there’s no controversy about the humanitarian situation in Iraq. In fact, the no-fly zones that led to continuing exchanges of anti-aircraft fire and counter-fire were in place for humanitarian reasons, not weapons enforcement.

    OIF was a humanitarian intervention, too. That’s significant because Clinton had intervened in the Balkans, without additional authorization, on humanitarian grounds. Obama intervened without authorization in Libya on humanitarian grounds.

    Historically, Operation Iraqi Freedom actually is one of our best-grounded interventions in terms of law, policy, and precedent.

  27. expat Says:

    I read the excellent post at your link. I had almost forgotten (or rather, put it out of my mind deliberately) the horrible Hans Blix. He was all over the TV here in Germany, appealling to the morally superior peace advocates and confusing the people as to the real issues. I read so much from so many sources after 9/11 trying to understand the mindset in the Middle East, but I was definitely in the minority. And now we have to put up with celebrities and their intellectual cohorts to pass the story on to the young.

  28. Eric Says:

    expat,

    Blix is a piece of work, but I’m more upset at the Democrats, specifically Clinton administration officials and Clinton himself. The Clinton administration was frustrated dealing with Saddam for 8 years and, in response, built the case for war and regime change in Iraq that Bush inherited from them. Yet the Clinton officials joined in the false narrative of the anti-Iraq chorus, despite that they knew better because they were part of the real history.

    The flip was most egregious in President Clinton, who was consulted by Bush. Clinton initially supported the Iraq mission by citing not Bush’s public case, but rather Clinton’s own public case against Iraq. Clinton later claimed he was against the Iraq mission from the start despite a clear public record to the contrary.

    Given the stakes of our Iraq mission and their intimate roles forming the path to war with Iraq, that the Democrats and Clinton officials would favor their parochial interest over the national interest in the Iraq mission was a gross betrayal of their duty. They legitimized the false narrative at home and around the world and undermined the Iraq mission, just to gain the upper-hand in domestic elections.

    Demonizing Bush for following in the path they set worked for them: President Obama is now in his 2nd term. But at what cost?

  29. Eric Says:

    ADD:
    expat: “And now we have to put up with celebrities and their intellectual cohorts to pass the story on to the young.”

    There’s that. More personally upsetting is the young, or no longer young, soldiers who bore the traumatic weight of the Iraq mission and were made to believe they and their comrades were sacrificed for the sake of a lie.

  30. Richard Saunders Says:

    As a footnote, Eric, you might point out that Blix, too (along with the Germans, French, Russians, British, and Israelis) believed Saddam had WMD. Remember when he said, “Give us six more months and we will find them!”?

  31. Eric Says:

    Richard,

    That’s true, but I lump personal belief about Iraqi WMD with the intel as speculation. (Intel, by its nature, is speculative.) They’re part of the background history, but neither is especially compelling because Iraq was established to and – more relevant to the ceasefire and UNSC resolutions – presumed to possess WMD.

    The burden was entirely Iraq’s to prove it was rehabilitated of WMD (and a host of other violations). The burden was not on the US nor UN to show Iraq possessed WMD. As such, the intel and the personal beliefs of Blair, Blix, Bush, or anyone else, were irrelevant as far as triggering the military enforcement.

    OIF was triggered by Iraq’s failure to meet its burden of proof. The situation can be paraphrased as Iraq was on a strict probation status where it was presumed guilty until proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. And the bar for ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ was set very high due to Saddam’s guilty record.

    The point you make, however, is effective when probing the alternatives to OIF. Anti-Iraq critics from the Right and Left have been shielded from the need to defend their favored alternative to OIF. OIF may have been a war of choice, but the alternate choices weren’t better.

  32. Eric Says:

    ADD: For the best explication of the American legal (or legalistic, since we’re talking about fuzzy international law) case against Saddam, the go-to source is President Clinton, not President Bush.

    Where Bush’s public argument deviated from the controlling policy, Clinton’s public argument hewed closely to the policy.

    About that:
    http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2012/05/regime-change-in-iraq-from-clinton-to.html

    In other words, Harvard MBA argued to get the job done, while Yale Law argued to the statutory elements of the charges. A President needs to do both, and it’d be nice to have a President with both MBA and JD training. (*cough* Romney *cough*)

  33. blert Says:

    It’s the mission creep that keeps creeping me out.

    BTW, more and more are realizing that the elimination of Saddam triggered the new era: the end of Arab pan-despotism.

    At the end, I think the borders will be redrafted.

  34. Ymarsakar Says:

    “And to what can we attribute it to? The fifth column within that works constantly to undermine our moral and will. That is, of course, the MSM and the “Code Pink loving dems.” (Of which there are far, far too many.)”

    That brings up the real question at hand. Who were our real enemies? Civilians and insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq? Or the aristos in Detroit and Chicago which we probably should have invaded first?

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