Recent polls reveal a curious contrast between the public’s current feelings about America’s ongoing war in Afghanistan and the possibility of the nation adding another front to its list of military engagements, this one in Iran.
Though most Americans aren’t ready to cut and run, an increasing number are having second thoughts about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. A Pew Research Center November poll finds 56 percent endorsing the initial decision to use force, down 8 percentage points since January. Similarly, a late September Pew poll found support among Americans for keeping troops in Afghanistan until the country is stable stood at 50 percent—a hefty seven-point drop since June. This despite the fact that fully three-in-four Americans see a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan as a major threat to U.S. well-being.
Yet even as enthusiasm for involvement in Afghanistan faded, an October Pew Research survey, found that by a substantial 61 percent to 24 percent margin, Americans said that it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons than to avoid a military conflict with that country. True, the survey also found hefty support for direct negotiations—but most Americans just don’t think they’ll work. And when faced with the choice between a nuclear-armed Iran and military action, most Americans choose conflict. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — In one of the well-known Sufi stories about Mullah Nasruddin, the mullah has just returned from the market with a basket of red hot chili peppers. He is sitting in a room eating one after another and his mouth swells and his lips bleed and a student finds him and asks in bewilderment why the mullah is punishing himself. Nasruddin replies: “I keep on thinking that the next pepper will be sweet.”
Such is America’s triumph of hope over experience when it comes to contemplating the next war — the war which will vindicate this nation for all its earlier misadventures. This is the pathological shadow of the American can-do, optimistic spirit: faith in a future uncolored by the past.