So the war in Afghanistan has become significantly less popular since last month, according to a new poll from Gallup/USA Today: 42% said it was a "mistake" to invade Afghanistan (up from 30% last month and 6% in 2002), while 38% said the war is going well (lowest since 2006, according to USA Today). Conversely, USA Today found some optimism about Iraq: 43% say the war there is going badly (down from 47% in September and 71% in January 2007), while a steady 51% still say it's going well.
It wasn't so long ago that Iraq was, by far, the more unpopular war: many saw the invasion of Iraq as a frivolous power grab by the Bush administration, and criticisms of it ranged from "unwise" to "criminal." Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama referred to Afghanistan as "the forgotten war"; a major foreign policy talking point that centered on the notion of Afghanistan, not Iraq, as the necessary, justified military campaign against a threat to the U.S., neglected by the Bush administration in its haste to topple Saddam Hussein.
Many, it seemed, agreed with him.
But now, Iraq is going better: headlines in U.S. papers often report the progress being made (as they did during the campaign), and U.S. troops will soon withdraw. Afghanistan, by contrast, is messy and without an easy solution: Obama recently said we're not winning; the terrain, complex societal dynamics, and ruthlessness of the Taliban seem unmasterable by anything less than a deluge of U.S. troops; and the idea of reaching out to moderate elements within the Taliban was the latest major idea floated.
Today's poll seems to express some of those problems--and, perhaps, a major trend away from the opinion that dominated in the heat of the 2008 campaign.
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