What Do Iraqis Think?

George Packer in an interesting reader dialogue about his article on Iraqi collaborators with the US and how the US government is screwing them over, writes:

You have expressed Iraqi opinions in your own words. The ones I talk to — and, for various reasons, it’s an extremely limited pool — want America to leave. They also want to live normal lives, and they don’t see that happening with an American departure. Everyone I met on my last trip feared a wider catastrophe without American troops. They aren’t particularly concerned with the terms of the debate in Washington — time lines, benchmarks, departure dates, troop numbers. They would like security and order, however possible. They have little faith that the U.S. can achieve it, but even less that their own government and security forces can.

I was pondering this on the arc trainer while wondering if society really needs ESPN News segments specifically about fantasy baseball (duller than the real thing!) and the thing is that the set of Iraqis Packer talks to is likely to be not just “an extremely limited pool” but a wildly unrepresentative one. I’m guessing that Iraqis inclined to talk to American reporters at this point are incredibly inclined to believe that their lives will improve in the short run if US troops are withdrawn. Iraqis who think that are probably wrong, but I could imagine people believing it (people believe lots of stuff). Indeed, the most recent comprehensive polling of Iraq that I’m aware of indicates just that.

Now I know that statistically valid surveys are no substitute for anectodal evidence but the clear and consistent evidence that Iraq’s citizens want us to leave and don’t share doomsday views about the consequences of an American departure plays shockingly little role in the public debate.