Polling the Troops

I think it's a telling example of the level of desire to believe that the troops agree with liberals about the war in Iraq that DanTheMan cited this 2006 Military Times poll as contradicting my claim that the troops don't want to end the war. The poll does say that "barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war" and that "in this year’s poll only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place." It doesn't, however, say the troops want to stop the war:

Whatever war plan the presi dent comes up with later this month, it likely will have the re placement of American troops with Iraqis as its ultimate goal. The military is not optimistic that will happen soon. Only about one in five service members said that large numbers of American troops can be replaced within the next two years. More than one-third think it will take more than five years. And more than half think the U.S. will have to stay in Iraq more than five years to achieve its goals.

Almost half of those responding think we need more troops in Iraq than we have there now. A surprising 13 percent said we should have no troops there. [...]

The poll asked, “How do you think each of these groups view the military?” Respondents over whelmingly said civilians have a favorable impression of the mili tary (86 percent). They even thought politicians look favorably on the military (57 percent). But they are convinced the media hate them — only 39 percent of military respondents said they think the media have a favorable view of the troops.

As I say, it's totally understandable that anti-war groups like to highlight the views of anti-war veterans for political purposes. And, of course, insofar as the anti-war movement continues to do this, the troops themselves may see it as persuasive. At the same time, it's best to be clear-eyed about this sort of thing -- the active duty military is considerably more pro-war than is the civilian population. I'd also really urge people to look at Spencer's article and get a sense of the psychology of the situation beyond the bare polling data. The people charged with implementing the policy don't want to feel as if they are failing, so they focus on the tactical successes they're experiencing and tune out the strategic failure that constitutes the broader context.