The majority of American veterans and members of the general public agreed in two new surveys that the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the U.S. military campaign in Syria were all “not worth fighting.”
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The Pew Research Center, for the pair of polls published Wednesday, asked all respondents to consider the costs versus the benefits to the United States in their analysis of whether each conflict was worthwhile.
Roughly two-thirds of both veterans and members of the public told Pew that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq wasn’t worth it, and nearly 60 percent said they felt the same way about the ongoing 18-year war in Afghanistan—the longest in U.S. history. The numbers were slightly lower for opposing the American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War, which is also ongoing.
Pew found that “veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are no more supportive of those engagements than those who did not serve in these wars. And views do not differ based on rank or combat experience.”
However, Pew pointed out that responses from the general public and veterans differed “significantly” depending on their reported political parties—Republicans from both groups were far more likely than Democrats to say the wars were “worth it.”
Dan Spinelli wrote for Mother Jones Wednesday that while support for the Iraq War dropped during the George W. Bush administration, “the Afghanistan conflict enjoyed broader support at the start of President Barack Obama’s presidency, but that approval eroded during his second term, even though Republicans continue to view both wars more favorably than Democrats. Once Donald Trump entered the White House, more than half of Americans believed the U.S. had failed in its mission in Afghanistan.”
Will Goodwin, director of government relations at the progressive advocacy group VoteVets, told Spinelli that “people came to realize over time that there was no real strategy for our engagement [in Afghanistan]… It wasn’t clear what the national security interest was.”
Trump has, at times, signaled that he agrees with the views of Afghanistan and Syria shared by most veterans and the public. Last December, the president pushed for a full withdrawal of the U.S. military from Syria and to reduce by half the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan. In February, Trump reversed his order to bring all U.S. troops home from Syria.
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