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Support for the Afghanistan War Drops « The Washington Independent

Via Max Boot, check out this USA Today poll on Afghanistan.

In the poll taken Saturday and Sunday, 42% of respondents said the United States made “a mistake” in sending military forces to Afghanistan, up from 30% in February. That’s the highest mark since the poll first asked the question in November 2001 when the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban government that sheltered al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks.

A 12-point increase in “mistake” sentiment from a month ago is pretty dramatic. A few caveats, though: first, the poll doesn’t ask whether U.S. troops should withdraw, which is the more salient question when it comes to public support. You can simultaneously believe a war is a mistake and that you have no choice but to keep fighting it.

Second, no one paid attention to Afghanistan for years. The rise in media attention to Afghanistan is bound to lead to a rise in discomfort with the war — to any war, in fact. To take it a step further, what might be more striking is that the war has gone on for seven and a half years, while deteriorating, and 52 percent of the public doesn’t think it was a mistake. Afghanistan has gone on for a very long time with a very unclear set of objectives, after all.

None of this isn’t to say a drop in public support for Afghanistan isn’t a real problem for the Obama administration. What’s important for Obama now isn’t “rally[ing] the public behind his increasing commitment in Afghanistan,” as Boot puts it. It’s for Obama to craft a strategy that responds to the reasons why the public is souring on the war — unclear objectives at great cost with uncertain chances of success for an unlimited duration. For Obama to become a cheerleader for a status-quo strategy, supported by more troops, is a recipe for diminished public support — not a durable consensus.

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