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Americans OK With Leaving Syria and Afghanistan

A new poll finds widespread war-weariness.

|||Jason Schulz/Dreamstime.comJason Schulz/Dreamstime.comThe long life of the Afghan war makes it hard to remember how popular it was when it began. As the fighting began, 80 percent of America supported it. Nobody in Congress except Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.) was prescient enough to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force and its open-ended-enough-to-attack-a-dozen-more-countries wording. Not until 2014 did a majority of Americans begin to regret that the war ever started.

Now some polls suggest it's nearly as unpopular as the wildly unpopular ill-fated war in Iraq.

This week YouGov and the Charles Koch Institute (full disclosure: I was a journalism fellow at the institute last year) released a poll that suggests widespread support for President Donald Trump's stated goal of drawing down the troops in Afghanistan and withdrawing entirely from Syria. According to the survey, 51 percent of Americans generally approve of removing all troops from Afghanistan "within a year." A majority 46 percent don't think the U.S. knows what its goal is in Afghanistan, and 40 percent don't think the war there has a purpose vital to national security. Somewhat dismayingly, at least for those few of us who care about Congress' constitutional role in making war, respondents were more likely to back an Afghanistan withdrawal if the question was phrased as a presidential decision, with "strong" or "somewhat" support for an exit leaping to 51 percent.

And what about Syria? Here public opinion seems to waver with what goal the question highlights. "When asked if they agreed with the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the Syrian civil war, 41 percent of respondents supported withdrawal and 32 percent opposed it," the pollsters report. "When asked if they agreed with the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the fight with ISIS, 38 percent of respondents still supported withdrawal." Americans are, reasonably, more frightened of ISIS than of Bashar al-Assad. Still, the general feeling over the conflict is tepid confusion.

That's not surprising, given just how confused U.S. policy in Syria is in itself. In December, recall, Trump declared that the troops in Syria would be coming home ASAP. After poking around in Turkey, National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested that at least some troops would stay in Syria after all, though it wasn't clear how many. Meanwhile, the Pentagon appears at least to be pulling out some excess military junk of an unspecified nature. Overall, no one seems to know what the hell is going on.

In that spirit, the most darkly perfect data point in the poll may be that 27 percent of people believe America's 17 years of war in Afghanistan have been "neither successful or unsuccessful."

Photo Credit: Jason Schulz/Dreamstime.com

Lucy Steigerwald is a journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as Playboy, The American Conservative, Vice, The Daily Beast, and The Washington Post. Previously, she worked as an associate editor for Reason and as a freelance editor for the New York Observer. She is currently a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

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  • Ragnarredbeard||

    Hell yes, get out. We have no overriding national security concerns in Iraq, Syria, or Afcrapistan.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Six figure government jobs managing those countries count for nothing?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Six figure government jobs doing anything count for significantly less than nothing.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Yes, think about how many American jobs this is destroying!

  • Aloysious||

    We have no overriding national security concerns in Iraq, Syria, or Afcrapistan.

    We need a place to send overpriced military junk?

  • A Lady of Reason||

    Right now we need to focus on our present, more pressing issue at our border...

  • Peter Duncan||

    If you have something to say, please say it here. Making a rather nebulous statement with a hyperlink - every time you post - leads me to believe the only reason you comment is to get clicks to your blog and not to add to the "discussion."

    I will never, ever click on that link for that reason alone.

    For all I know it could be a link to a Jehovah's Witness or a child porn or, worse yet, some MAGA propaganda site. No way I'm going there.

    Are you a Ruskie-bot Wrangler, by chance?

  • Robert||

    I have a Web site too, linked to my byline, but I'm not promoting it all the time. Then again, I don't update it often. Come to think of it, only the .doc version of my resume's even up to date. When I get a round tuit, you know. Probably another entry linked to my "Get" Lost page 1st.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm not okay with it. I think we should split the entire American population into two groups: one that will be sent to Afghanistan and one for Syria, to not only supplement the existing forces there but to make our troops engaged in those wars feel more at home.

    That's 370 million people, you say? Will there be room in Syria and Afghanistan for all of them? Yes. Simply displace the existing Afghan and Syrian populations and relocate them to the continental United States and move the Americans into the vacated properties. Then everyone's problems will be solved and everyone will be happy.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Who's going to pay for our schools if the Afghan and Syrian populations aren't there when we arrive?

  • SQRLSY One||

    No sweat... More deficit spending!!!

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    The main problem with us still being there is that the whole point of it, from a public relations perspective--finding and getting Bin Laden--was accomplished nearly 8 years ago. It was never promoted as a long-term fight, but the Pentagon and the State Department have this hard-on for "finishing the job," which they perceived to be as putting in a democratic regime. But the only time that country has ever been "democratic" is when the British were running it, and it was a relatively cosmopolitan nation.

    The country's fallen so far that it can't even do colonialism right, because those aforementioned officials don't want to call it what it really is.

  • ||

    Pretty much the only running that the British did in Afghanistan was running like hell to get away.

  • Mithrandir||

    The American public completely disagrees with the political class and the media. I'm shocked I tell you.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    And only a few years ago, 134% of voters supported Obama, as shown in a CNN survey. Things change fast.

  • Aloysious||

    Overall, no one seems to know what the hell is going on.

    There's a surprise.

  • Rob Misek||

    That's how Americans think despite decades of pro-war propaganda.

    It's exactly like the movie Red Dawn except the west are the aggressor, invader and occupier.

    Palestine was stolen by the west and handed over to create a terrorist apartheid state called Israel.

    The west leaving with our tail between our legs is a victory for the people's we oppressed.

    Despite the propaganda.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    "We oppressed?"

    Were you there personally, doing some oppressing?

  • Echospinner||

    Hehe

    "Help Help I'm being oppressed!!
    "Come see the violence inherent in the system!!"

  • Sevo||

    "Palestine was stolen by the west and handed over to create a terrorist apartheid state called Israel."

    Anti-Semitic assholes everywhere you look.
    Fuck off, bigot.

  • Rob Misek||

    There wasn't much brain to wash in your case.

    More like a cat licking its ass.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Ummm ... and this is why the left hates Israel. Their hatred is a way to store up victim-hood points that they can cash in when debating other foreign policy questions. Your views on American corporations setting up businesses in countries south of the equator are easy to guess.

  • Rob Misek||

    You should move to Israel, as a Palestinian.

    Here's an outspoken Israeli, the son of a General, who has the guts to tell it like it is. Anti Semitic how?

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TOaxAckFCuQ

  • Sevo||

    Rob Misek|1.11.19 @ 5:30PM|#
    "You should move to Israel, as a Palestinian."

    Goody. Look! Scumbag lefty bigot finds useful idiot to offer propaganda!
    Fuck off, scumbag.

  • MJBinAL||

    You would move to the Palestinian areas as an Israeli. Or Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, or Iran, or.....

  • MJBinAL||

    should, not would

  • Rob Misek||

    No thanks, I don't identify with stolen terrorist apartheid states.

    I expect to be treated commensurately with my actions.

  • Sevo||

    Rob Misek|1.11.19 @ 4:06PM|#
    In your case all it took was sucking some random bums ass.
    Fuck off, scumbag bigot.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    These numbers are alarming. The media needs to do a better job explaining to voters that our President is an intelligence asset of a hostile foreign power and conducts foreign policy for Russia's benefit, not America's. If more people understood the extent to which Putin is pulling the strings in Washington, more would oppose Drumpf's irresponsible withdrawal plans.

    #StillWithHer
    #LibertariansForStayingInSyria

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    So I'm sending this back to you with just a few notes here:

    o More Jews/Israel.
    o No mention of Gay frogs

  • Social Justice is neither||

    Calling Barbara Lee prescient on this is a bit of a stretch.

    Did she do anything to get us out during the Obama years or was it just a nakedly partisan vote to say "NO!" to Bush one more time? The fact that it now enjoys support after the mission has dragged and morphed and morphed again doesn't mean there was any thought or principle to her vote.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I guess the situation in both countries has reached a steady state. I'm worried about the Kurds, but it might be time to pull our military out and give them asylum. From what I've read, I suppose China will fill the power vacuum. China has ambitious plans:

    Xi too has earned a reputation as a reformer, with his own signature take on "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The leader, whose term limit has been removed by the ruling Communist Party, has set out to restructure and modernize the military, while routing corruption and pursuing new trade endeavors across the globe.

    "The world has seen China's accelerating reform and opening up, and its determination to carry it forward," Xi said Monday. "China's reforms will never stop, and its doors will only open ever wider."

    A number of his policies have been met with controversy, however. Under Xi, China has been accused of placing members of its Muslim Uighur community in mass internment camps and of using its massive state surveillance network to suppress political dissent. Though Beijing has not engaged in any active conflicts for quite some time, the United States has also perceived the rise of China as a threat to Washington's own agenda.
  • Echospinner||

    I am all for it.

    In Syria this will leave the Russians as the dominant power. Assad has nothing without them.

    The question is what will happen with the Iran-Hezbollah presence there. Thus far the Russians have been tolerant of that and the Israeli strikes against the Iranians. The other factor is the gulf Arabs have no desire to see Iranian bases in Syria.

    Best case scenario is things go back to what they were before the war. There was some stability with a unified Syria. The US does not need troops there and should work things out on a diplomatic level.

  • RomioVIP||

    amazing

  • Jeff Greene||

    FYI, 46% is not a majority, but it certainly can be a plurality. #MathIsHard #StatisticsIsHarder

  • Dan S.||

    Donald Trump's stated goal of drawing down the troops in Afghanistan and withdrawing entirely from Syria and Afghanistan

    I think one of those "Afghanistan"s is supposed to say "Iraq".

  • buybuydandavis||

    This Libertarian Moment brought to you by the God Emperor and those who supported him over the pants shitting objections of Reason.
    You're welcome.

  • MJBinAL||

    what is, "essentially started"? Do you work there or not? Do you get paid or essentially paid? And what does essentially paid mean? Hmmm, Pakastani Money maybe?

  • tlapp||

    It was popular when people wanted to get Bin Laden after 9/11. After that there was nothing to win there but we stay and no one can answer why.

  • melda||

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