According to a poll of Military Times readers, support for President Bush’s leadership as commander-in-chief and support for the war in Iraq is dropping among the U.S. military. Over the course of the last year support for the Iraq War dropped 9 percent, and barely a majority, 54 percent, view the commander-in-chief’s performance as positive.
Losing the support of active duty military could be the final straw for President Bush in Iraq. Already, the foreign policy establishment — former military, former intelligence officials and former foreign service officers — have publicly expressed their opposition to the war. In addition, Gold Star families who have lost loved ones, military families with members currently serving, and Iraq War veterans are speaking out against the war. And, there have been increasing cases of soldiers refusing to return to Iraq. In addition, the military has been unable to meet its recruitment goals.
At a recent international peace conference, Chris Nineham of the Stop the War Coalition described how British and U.S. troops are losing faith, how they have low morale and their primary goal is to get out of Iraq alive and in one piece. He discussed the history of the Vietnam War and how when soldiers in Vietnam turned against their officers the war was impossible to continue. He pointed to several U.S. and British military reports that indicated that this is beginning to occur in Iraq. Thus, this survey presents serious problems for the Bush and his military leadership.
According to the Military Times poll, in 2003 64 percent believed that the U.S. should have gone to Iraq, in 2005 that dropped to 56 percent. In 2004, 38 percent believed the U.S. was very likely to succeed in Iraq, in 2005 that was down to 31 percent. And, a rapid exit from Iraq is not predicted as 80 percent believe the U.S. will be in Iraq for more than three years of those 45 percent believe the U.S. will be in Iraq for more than five years. Two thirds of the respondents believe the military is stretched too thin to be effective.
There is also not a lot of confidence in the civilian leadership. Congress is held in particularly low esteem with only 2% strongly agreeing that Congress has the best interests of the military at heart and 57% not agreeing that Congress has the best interests of the military at heart. Sixteen percent strongly believe the civilian leadership of the DoD has the best interests of the military at heart, and 19 percent strongly believe President Bush has the best interests of the military at heart.
Respondents also were less likely than in the past to believe other segments of the country viewed the military favorably. In 2004, 37 percent said civilians viewed the military very favorably; that fell to 24 percent this year. Last year, 77 percent said politicians saw the military very or somewhat favorably; 63 percent said so this year.
In reality support for the war and support for the President is probably even lower as this poll probably skews the results in favor of the President for several reasons. First the surveys respondents are on average older, more experienced, more likely to be officers and more career-oriented than the military population. Second, respondents were reluctant to express even anonymous opinions about the commander-in-chief or his policies. About one in five refused to say whether they approved of the president’s performance on Iraq or overall. "That’s my boss," Army Lt. Col. Earnestine Beatty said in a follow-up interview to Military Times.
The views expressed in the military come at a time when questions are being raised in Cognress. Rep. John Murtha — a very strong supporter of the military in Congress and a highly decorated Marine Corps veteran of 37 years has not only called for withdrawal from Iraq but told Nightline, in a show aired on January 2, that he would not join the military today and agreed that the average guy would be justified in not wanting to serve.
All this shows serious problems for the U.S. military — problems that will worsen every day the United States stays in Iraq.