That's what a new CNN poll suggests: Americans narrowly support sending 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan--a figure that's shy of Gen. Stanly McChrystal's request for 40,000--by a margin of 50 percent to 49 percent, but they oppose the war 52 percent to 45.
Americans had shown interest in sending more troops as of about a month ago, but that has tapered off of late--so CNN's poll, if anything, shows a rebound of support for more troops.
(In late October, Americans told NBC/Wall Street Journal pollsters that they supported a troop increase, by a margin of 47-43; at the beginning of November, they told CNN they didn't want more troops, by a margin of 56-42; an AP/GfK poll showed Americans opposed to more troops 57-39 in early November; and a CBS poll in mid November showed that 39 percent of Americans want fewer troops, 32 percent want more, and 20 percent want the number to stay the same.)
Today's CNN numbers are surprising not because they show Americans essentially split on sending more troops, but because they're split on such a large number: the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll was the only major survey to put a specific number on the troop increase, and it showed Americans supporting of a surge of 10,000 but opposed 49-43 to McChrystal's requested 40,000.
The seeming contradiction isn't that surprising, either. Polls have, at multiple times, shown that Americans don't want Obama to send more troops, but they do want him to follow the advice of his generals--which, so far, has been to send more troops.
So, unless something major changes between now and next Tuesday, Obama will announce his Afghanistan decision to a public that has complex and mixed feelings about the war.
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