Americans Don't Really Care About Foreign Policy

Fact of the day: We're at war, but Americans aren't voting on foreign policy.

Midterm election exit polls found only 8 percent of voters saying that a foreign policy issue was a voting consideration for them, and more generally, national polls show just 11 percent citing a foreign policy issue as the most important problem facing the nation. This is the lowest registration of international concerns since immediately before the 9/11 attacks.

Related: A plurality of Americans think the main reason there hasn't been a successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 is dumb luck:

A 43 percent-plurality says that the reason there has not been another terrorist attack in America since 2001 is mostly the result of luck. More than a third (37 percent) credit the government doing a good job, while 13 percent say America is a difficult target for terrorists. The public has been divided on this question since it was first asked in 2005.

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  • ListenEllipse||

    The resounding success of the welfare state: spend nearly a trillions dollars a year and kill tens of thousands of people a year, yet no one even cares.

  • ListenEllipse||

    That should be warfare state... although it really can be applied to both.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Tens of thousands? Who? Where? No, Alex Jones and Lew Rockwell are not credible resources.

  • Brian in Montana||

    And what would you consider credible? Fox News? Rush Limbaugh? Hannity, Beck?

    I don't listen to Jones but LRC is far more credible than anything listed above from the right wing.

  • ||

    You don't have to be an interventionist to acknowledge that many thousands of lives were saved by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Opposition to the war must be based on the principle of pacifism, or on the practical problems associated with nation building, or on the cynical position that Iraqi lives are not worth American lives, even if every American dead saves a thousand Iraqis. I'm sure there are many other reasons people opposed Iraq.

    To pretend that the US invasion did not, on the whole, lead to fewer Iraqi deaths is to indulge oneself in a fantasy world. Iraq was a nasty place pre-2003. It is a much less nasty place now. The US did not invade a kite-flying utopia, nor did they slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians. The war is bad enough without inventing atrocities.

  • The Heresiarch||

    Questions:

    1) How many people were killed by Saddam Hussein's government each year prior to the U.S. invasion?

    2) How many of those deaths can we ascribe to extra-judicial "disappearing" and not capital crimes (e.g., conviction for murder)?

    3) Who provided the answer for questions #1 and #2, and how were the data collected and verified?

    Just curious.

  • The Heresiarch||

    Questions:

    1) How many people were killed by Saddam Hussein's government each year prior to the U.S. invasion?

    2) How many of those deaths can we ascribe to extra-judicial "disappearing" and not capital crimes (e.g., conviction for murder)?

    3) Who provided the answer for questions #1 and #2, and how were the data collected and verified?

    Just curious.

  • Eisenhower||

    How about opposing it because America or precisely the American Government is not God? At some point we need to realize that we are not an omnipotent nation with unlimited resources that can solve all worlds’ problems. Social Engineering whether it is at home or abroad is always nice and noble until the bill comes home, and the money is not there. It is not cynicism its reality, saving lives is great and noble and important task, but it is not a task for one nation, or one people alone. For the world is filled atrocities and human rights violations, we have dictators who are our allies, and dictators who are our enemies. Saving the world for democracy seems like hypocrisy coming from us. Especially considering that for all of those years Saddam was committing atrocities he was our ally and we honestly didn't care. It was only when he threatened American interests in Kuwait that he became our enemy.

    Should we have gone into Iraq? Should we now go into North Korea? Burma (Myanmar)? Darfur? Iran? Human Rights Rhetoric aside when and if we ever go into any of these places it will be because America’s interests are threatened, after all that was the reason we went into Iraq both times (Kuwait, WMDs). We didn’t go in because of “Human Rights” if that was the case, if we ever did give a damn about Saddam’s atrocities, than we would’ve gone all the way to Baghdad back in the first war.

    Did Dubya give a shit? Perhaps, I honestly hope he did give a shit. Because if this was just a new political move taken, after we didn't find the WMDs, than this whole argument about human rights and Saddam’s egregious actions really is just Bullshit.

  • MNG||

    In order for people to base their vote on foriegn policy in a two party system there would have to be a f*cking difference between the two parties in that area, so it doesn't suprise me that lately people are not basing their vote on that.

  • ||

    Granted.

    However, since foreign policy means so little, any discussion of it usually does not get beyond the "America - We're Number 1!" stage. (This applies to liberals as well, although they usually frame it in terms of 'Why can't the Greatest Power on Earth' do something about X?')

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    A plurality of Americans think the main reason there hasn't been a successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 is dumb luck:

    And my faith in the good sense of the American-on-the-street is restored. A little.

  • Almanian||

    I wonder a bit about the 13% who indicated that the US is a tough target for the terrrrrrists.

    Really?

  • ||

    We're elusive, like a cat.

  • Almanian||

    For some reason, that made me laugh hard enough to blow pop out my nose. So thanks for that.

  • Wind Rider||

    And here I thought it was our new cloaking device!

  • ||

    That would be awesome. People would try to find our country but would fail. Kind of like that place where Wonder Woman came from, if I remember my Lynda Carter correctly.

  • Binky||

    Galt's Gulch!

  • Brian in Montana||

    Republicans would love that. Then they could keep all the filthy Messicans out.

  • Robert||

    It's not dumb luck, it's the math. There's hardly any money in terrorism, so few people can afford to do it as a job, and of those many would have ethical objections. Very few people want to do it as a hobby either, because most people are not that grumpy. Of those who are, at any given time many of them have higher priorities in their lives -- job, family, other hobbies, and they've got to sleep and vacation some time too.

    OK, so now you're down to the active terrorists. It's an awfully big world, so only a minority are going to pick targets in the USA. Mostly they'll hit close to home, and the USA has only so many people.

    So now we're down to active American terrorists. Some of them are going to be freelance, others organized. The organized ones have got their internal politics to deal with; coming to any decision takes time. The freelancers will include some too incompetent to be allowed into the terror clubs. So that's cutting down the effective numbers right there.

    OK, so expect a certain rate of terror attacks out of those remaining. Problem: How do you know a given attack is a terror attack? Depends how the media and others report it. Do you believe the nut who claims that the fire at the dry cleaner's was for terror rather than insurance purposes? Or that a given hate crime was a terror-hate crime? If it's not perceived as terror, it's not terror.

    So what are we down to now? Not much, I'd say.

  • ||

    Would a major attack on US soil during, say, the middle of 2012 hurt or help Obama's re-election chances?

    Would he get the blame for it, or would we pull together, blah blah?

  • nekoxgirl||

    I think it would hurt Obama. He already seems ineffectual. A terrorist attack would only amplify that characterization.

    Also, Fox News would immediately go on the attack. 9/11 was so shocking that no one in the MSM really wanted to attack the people in our government, at least for a year or so. We are in a different place now.

    Of course, if a Republican gets elected in 2012, MSNBC would immediately go after him/her in the event of a terrorist attack, so the sword definately cuts both ways.

  • ||

    It's hard to tell. The Clinton blame over 9/11 took a while to shake out--I think both sides of the aisle were terrified of the public's mood. Would we turn on anyone taking political advantage of the attack? Later on, no, but for the first year, I think so.

    Bush got a pass for quite some time, now that I think about it.

  • MNG||

    Remember, for some incredible reason we learned from 9/11 that GOP President/terrorist attack on your watch is good for your politically, Dem President/terrorist attack on your watch is bad for you politically.

  • ||

    Well, I'm not sure I completely buy that, as 9/11 was a unique event, but I do think there's this general idea that the GOP is better at war and killin' people. It's really unfair, because the Democrats like war and killin' people, too.

  • ||

    The knock on Bush was that he was dumb, not wimpy, so 9/11 happening on his watch didn't enhance any narratives. (The myriad fuckups in the Iraq and Afg occupations did, however, while they slide off Obama's back like water off a duck)

  • ||

    And it happened so danged early in his term, too. While there were all sorts of opinions about Bush already flying around by then, his true nature was still pretty unclear.

  • ||

    Uh, the fact that people in 2010, with economic conditions that threaten most of us directly, didn't base their votes on foreign policy does not mean that Americans "don't care."

    Hell, 11% thought foreign policy was their top concern, and 8% voted based on that. These are much higher numbers than I'd expect at the moment. There are large cities where more than half of homeowners are underwater in their mortgages, and we have a 17% U6 rate with no realistic hope for relief in the near term.

    Couple that with the fact that neither party was offering some great foreign policy vision that differed from the general status quo, why would anyone vote based on this? There was nothing to vote for, or against.

  • T||

    Ding! We have a winner.

  • ||

    That's a good point. People are going to worry about more immediate concerns over less immediate ones.

  • ||

    Couple that with the fact that foreign policy doesn't really mean anything.

    What do people think of when they hear "foreign policy"?

    Trade agreements with Macau? Disaster aid to [3rd world hellhole du jour]? Mexican drug violence and our response? Chinese currency manipulation? Relations with Israel? Iranian and Nork nuclear programs? The Olympics?

  • ||

    Gaddafi's voluptuous blonde Ukrainian.

  • Wind Rider||

    You know you'd have one too, if you had a spare 10 Grand to pay for one.

  • BakedPenguin||

    *checks wallet*

    Shit.

  • cynical||

    My wife wouldn't let me.

  • Robert||

    You mean Norton Nork? Heaven help us if he got the bomb! That's my boy Norton Nork, you've done it again.

  • AlmightyJB||

    US debt did seem to be a top concern in the elections, and our foreign policy is one of the main reason we have the debt levels we do. People need to learn how much money we spend each year, not just on the wars, but to keep troops stationed and aircraft carriers positioned all over the world. It seems like now would be a good idea to tell people, hey, you know how many of your tax dollars are being spent each year to protect England, how many to protect France, how many to protect Saudi Arabia, etc etc etc. Why aren't they paying for it themselves or at the very least paying us? It's seems like now would be a good time to get some momentum on this. Yeah, but Ron Paul's crazy, we all know.

  • ||

    JB, you're right.

    However, no candidate in my neck of the woods was running on the "fuck NATO" platform, so I'm not sure how someone's vote could have been based on either support for or opposition to ending these policies.

  • Steve||

    The main reason there hasn't been a successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 seems to be dumb terrorists.

  • juris imprudent||

    This is what worries me, we keep getting assaulted by the F-team. We get conditioned to that and then a smart one pops up and really nails us.

  • ||

    I think it's dumb luck in a couple of respects. Just general dumb luck, and I think that we used the sledgehammer of the Twin Invasions to swat a fly (the fly being al Qaeda in general, not the losses we suffered in 9/11, which were a big deal). That sledgehammer's effectiveness, as much as we dislike its use, has to be noted for the record. How many governments want to be toppled due to some radicals running amok? And, of course, killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan was more convenient for terrorists than in trying to do something over here.

    All that said, while the terrorist focus on U.S. soil may have been diminished by our wars, I think there were better options available, especially ones that didn't involve prolonged occupations.

  • juris imprudent||

    I'd be much more inclined to believe that the message was received if I saw a difference in Saudi behavior. As it stands, not so much.

  • ||

    Just recently, another six Americans lost their lives in Afghanistan, killed by a treacherous policeman.

    In order to train them, we have to get close and mingle. The Taliban have figured out that individual attacks by "Trojan Horse" terrorists are more effective than slugging it out on the battlefield with a superior armed force.

    I have yet to see any credible evidence that such sacrifices of our young men are preventing terrorist attacks here in the U.S.

  • ||

    True. It could be that terrorist-repelling rock that I bought in Malaysia. The lack of a successful attack alone proves very little.

    Prior to 9/11, I often wondered why we didn't see many terrorist attacks in the U.S., and I always attributed it to terror groups being unwilling to get the U.S. even more involved in Middle Eastern affairs. I think that was true of groups associated more closely with governments over there. Not so much with al Qaeda. In many ways, 9/11 was neither shrewd nor useful to the larger cause.

  • ||

    Dumb luck is not a satisfactory explanation for having 1 major successful terrorist attack on our soil during 30+ years of irritating segments of the world population that produce disproportionate numbers of terrorists.

    Given the choices, I'd probably be with the 13% saying the US is a hard target. It appears to be seriously hard to recruit American terrorists, much more so than in the rest of the world.

    Though the dumb terrorists explanation also seems plausible. Terrorists seem to prefer glitzy targets, but glitzy targets are also the best-defended ones. Few of them seem to have realized that it would be far more effective at producing terror to target relatively open targets like shopping malls and schools. I guess they all want to send their videos home saying they blew up a plane or a skyscraper rather than the Cedar Crest Plaza.

  • ||

    I just can't buy the hard target argument, not in the sense that we are difficult to hit. We're still a pretty open society, and for much of that time period, we had a basically unmonitored border with Canada, and a not-all-that-monitored border with Mexico. On top of the relative ease of traveling here, buying virtually anything, and all those coasts you can boat to.

    I think it was fear of a freaked-out, psycho American response that did most of the job. After all, we've always had some sympathy here for the oppressed, so playing up to that was always a smarter strategy than blowing shit over here up.

  • ||

    The freaked-out psycho American response has done wonders for al-Qaeda and their recruitment and training opportunities.

  • Sudden||

    I hear that all the time, but I haven't seen sufficient evidence that its helped them recruit smartly. Sure, they might be able to get more leverage with Average Ahmed in Tikrit, Damascus, or Riyadh, but what calibur of recruit are they really getting? They might have picked up a few nuts here, but to be effective at pulling off Al-Queda desired attacks (grandiose and fear inspiring) you need a relatively smart, educated, sophisticated, domestic American muslim.

  • Cytotoxic||

    you need a relatively smart, educated, sophisticated, domestic American muslim.

    Those are the kind America's psycho killer response have been neutralizing. Terrorism has been declining but to finish it we must end states that sponsor anti-American terrorism.

  • ||

    If you are talking about the deprivation of liberty for U.S. citizens at home, then you have a point. That's a sign of weakness and a plausible recruiting tool.

    However, if you mean the undeniable defeat of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, relentless drone attacks in Yemen, pressure on the Saudis to crackdown on the nutheads in their midst, etc., then you are misinformed. Read someone who has actually studied the Arab and Islamist psyche - Bernard Lewis, for example - on the importance of "face" and actual military success in drawing followers in that culture.

    I credit both the current and past administrations for pursuing these policies to a muddling extent; that, along with the basic dysfunction of the enemy organizations, is what has kept us relatively safe.

    The home-grown Islamist terrorist, however, is a different matter altogether. Hasan, Mohamud and the like are not responding to the Middle Eastern cultural imperative, but instead are inspired (indirectly or not) by the post-modern nihlism of the America professoriate. It will take a lot more to get rid of these vermin, but, fortunately, their capabilities tend to be much less advanced than their international counterparts.

  • ||

    Clearly, the "Gun Free School Zones Act" is working very well. Terrorists can't bring weapons within 1000 feet of a school, so schoolchildren are safe.

    And they say gun control doesn't work!

  • ||

    Foreign policy, especially in the world's hot spots, have always been a keen interest of mine and I vote accordingly.

    I was visiting a conservative friend who shares the same interests in military history. He openly wondered why foreign policy wasn't covered more extensively by the popular media. It simply doesn't market well, is my guess...

  • ||

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  • Robert||

    You're not fooling me. Your English is as good as any of ours, you're just putting it on so we'll click to find more Engrish to laugh at.

  • ||

    US debt did seem to be a top concern in the elections, and our foreign policy is one of the main reason we have the debt levels we do.

    Those vast and ever-expanding entitlement programs and massive wealth transfers (which include TARP and the stimulus) are just incidental, I suppose.

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