Sunday, December 06, 2009

Meet the Press 12/06/09

I watched Meet the Press today online. The entire hour was devoted to the Afghanistan War. The online presentation is sponsoring by Boeing.

There was a great diversity of opinion among David Gregory's guests. There was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, both obviously defending the Obama administration's escalation policy.

There was that bold Republican prowar Maverick McCain defending the Obama administration's escalation policy but grumping about the vague implication that there might be a withdrawal date someday.

Then there was a pundit segment featuring Tom "Suck.On.This." Friedman and one-time investigative journalist and now notorious hack stenographer Bob Woodward. Both defending the Obama administration's escalation policy.

In a special online segment, the diversity of opinion was expanded with two pundits from The Economist, Robert Guest and Zanny Minton Beddoes, both defending the Obama administration's escalation policy but grumping about the vague implication that there might be a withdrawal date someday.

Pew Poll, Sept 2009: Public Support for Afghanistan War Wanes: Majority of Democrats Favor Removing Troops 09/22/09:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 10-15 among 1,006 adults finds that most Democrats (56%) favor removing troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Just 37% of Democrats say U.S. and NATO troops should remain in the country, down somewhat from the 45% who said this in June. By contrast, Republicans by a wide margin (71% to 25%) continue to favor maintaining U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Opinion among independents mirrors that of the population as a whole; currently, 51% favor keeping U.S. and NATO troops in the country while 43% are opposed.
Pew Poll, Nov 2009: Polling Wars: Hawks vs. Doves by Jodie Allen 11/23/09:

Though most Americans are not ready to cut and run [sic], an increasing number are having second thoughts about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Pew Research Center's November poll finds the number saying the initial decision to use force in that country was the right one has fallen to 56%, 8 percentage points below the level recorded in January. ...

... only among Republicans is there substantial support for keeping troops in Afghanistan (71% favor staying until the situation there stabilizes)...
That article provides some useful historical analysis showing how near-impossible it will be to increase public support for the Afghanistan War on a sustained basis.

Pew Poll, U.S. Seen as Less Important, China as More Powerful: Isolationist Sentiment Surges to Four-Decade High 12/03/09. This was a poll sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The report uses the word "isolationist" carelessly; among the political class and punditocracy, "isolationist" is a dirty word referring to any serious challenge to the state of permanent war once known as the Cold War, now morphed into the Long War. But the findings are important:

In polling conducted before President Obama's decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, both groups expressed pessimism about prospects for long-term stability in Afghanistan. Fewer than half of the public (46%) and CFR members (41%) say it is very or somewhat likely that Afghanistan will be able to withstand the threat posed by the Taliban. While half of the CFR members (50%) favor increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan, just 32% of the public agrees.

In the midst of two wars abroad and a sour economy at home, there has been a sharp rise in isolationist sentiment among the public. For the first time in more than 40 years of polling, a plurality (49%) says the United States should "mind its own business internationally" and let other countries get along the best they can on their own. ...

Only about half of CFR members (49%) say the Taliban's growing strength in Afghanistan represents a major threat to the United States; 70% of the public sees this as a major threat. Yet CFR members are much more supportive than the public of the initial decision to use force in Afghanistan -- fully 87% say this was the right decision compared with 56% of the public. CFR members also are more supportive than the public of increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan.
You wouldn't have guessed from watching Meet the Press today that the Afghanistan War was so unpopular.

It's a reflection of what a serious gap there is between the assumptions and policy preferences of the political class and the pooh-bahs of the Establishment press, on the one hand, and the American people, on the other. That gap is particularly striking within the Democratic Party and especially on the issue of the Afghanistan War.


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