Ending the War

ENDING THE WAR….Matt Yglesias links to the latest NYT/CBS poll about Iraq, and the results are clear: more than 70% of the country thinks we should leave within two years or less:

As you can see, virtually nobody in the United States wants to see American troops remain in Iraq for longer than five years. If you put squarely to people a political and strategic choice between a long-term military commitment to Iraq and trying to wrap our involvement up as quickly as is feasible, it wouldn’t even be a close call.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s that easy. Here’s the thing: in every poll taken for the past three years, we’ve seen basically the same results: (a) a majority wants to leave Iraq within one or two years, and (b) almost nobody wants to leave right now. So where will all those people who want to leave within a year or two be when pollsters ask this question again in 2008? Most likely answer: they’ll still want to leave within a year or two and they still won’t want to leave right now.

It’s easy to say that the public is overwhelmingly in favor of withdrawing from Iraq and congressional Democrats are cowards for not fighting harder to end the war. But that’s poll literalism at work. In reality, as near as I can tell, the public is unhappy, but at the same time unwilling to endorse serious action to stop the flow of Friedmans and set a firm deadline for leaving. Maybe congressional Democrats need more backbone when it comes to Iraq, but as always, it’s public opinion that’s key. And public opinion just isn’t as overwhelmingly on our side as we often like to think. Fix that, and we’ll all be amazed at how fast Dems can grow a spine.