Our guest blogger is Peter Juul, a national security consultant at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Two new polls released in the last week show that neither the American public nor various Arab publics buy one of the central contentions for staying indefinitely in Iraq – that leaving will make things orders of magnitude worse than staying.
A poll of the Arab world conducted by Shibley Telhami and the University of Maryland shows that contrary to the pessimistic predictions of war supporters here in the United States, the people of the Middle East don’t think a U.S. withdrawal will have the dire consequences war supporters predict.
— 61 percent of all Arabs surveyed say that “Iraqis will find a way to bridge their differences” in the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal
— Only 15 percent who say that “civil war will expand rapidly” and 17 percent who say things will stay the same.
— 88 percent of Jordanians and 66 percent of Saudis believe Iraqis will find a way to settle their differences after a U.S. withdrawal, while only 42 percent in the UAE and 45 percent in Morocco feel similarly.
Moreover, Arabs’ greatest concern (59 percent) for fallout from the war is that “Iraq will remain stable and spread instability in the region.” Coupled with perceptions of the likelihood of reconciliation following a U.S. withdrawal, it appears that most Arabs view a continued U.S. presence in Iraq as a destabilizing factor. However, as Matt Yglesias notes, this rosy perception of U.S. withdrawal may be driven by deep distrust of American motives more than anything else.
Nevertheless, it is striking how Arab and American public opinion have converged. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released just today shows that Americans have by and large rejected the administration and its supporters’ rationales for open-ended military involvement in Iraq:
— Despite the recent security gains of the last half-year or so, 57 percent of Americans believe the United States “is not making significant progress toward restoring civil order in Iraq” – up from 51 percent at the beginning of March.
— 56 percent say the United States “should withdraw its military forces from Iraq to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if it means that civil order is not restored there.”
Finally, Americans don’t believe that Iraq is the “central front in the war on terror,” as President Bush and Sen. John McCain have repeatedly claimed. 61 percent of Americans say that “the war on terrorism can be a success without the United States winning the war in Iraq” – up seven points from the time of General Petraeus’ September 2007 testimony.
The results of these polls should give the lie to the claims of pundits and war supporters that the American public wants to stick it out in Iraq until we “win,” and that withdrawal necessarily leads to the worst-case scenario. Neither the American public nor Iraq’s neighbors see it that way.