Gallup’s latest polling reveals considerable public skepticism about the idea of sending 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan:
It’s worth noting that the question, as worded, specifically mentions that a 40,000 troop increase is what “the U.S. commanding general there has recommended” and that increasing troop levels still doesn’t secure majority support. Especially complicating the situation is the fact that the median position—keep things the way they are—actually has very little support. An overwhelming majority either want fewer troops or many more troops.
Meanwhile, support for escalating is heavily concentrated among self-IDed Republicans who are unlikely to back Obama’s re-election no matter what happens:
This strikes me as a notably high level of ideological polarization for a foreign policy issue that hasn’t emerged as a high-profile partisan fight.
When gaming this out politically, however, as is often the case I think it’s worth being somewhat skeptical about the significance of these kind of questions. If the military is really solidly behind the idea of sending more troops, the real political issue is how damaging would a prolonged fight with the military be? Or how likely would such a fight be to emerged? One assumes that doing something that prompts General McChrystal to resign would be a big political problem. At the same time, that would be an extreme step for McChrystal to take.