I think there is something telling, however, in two contrasting poll results released by CNN on the heels of this good news. On the one hand, when respondents were asked "How satisfied are you with the way things are going for the U.S. in the war on terrorism?" the number of people who were either Very Satisfied or Somewhat Satisfied increased to 44% from 39% in the beginning of August this year. Conversely, the number of people who were "Not too satisfied" or "Not at all satisfied" dropped from 61% to 56%.
So if the level of satisfaction with progress is truly on the rise, even by a fairly slim amount outside the margin of error, then you would think that support for the Iraq war would be rising, yes? Well, you would be mistaken. For the same period of time, when asked the simple, unadorned question, "Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq?" the number of people who answered "Opposed" rose from 64% to 68% in the same period. Those in favor fell from 33% to 31%.
How to explain this? Kevin Drum thought he had the answer.
Still, the fact that opposition is increasing even though more people think the war is going well is striking, and strongly suggests that opposition to the war is past the point of no return. Apparently the American public is smart enough to realize that military progress isn't really that meaningful without political progress, and we haven't seen a dime's worth of that.
This goes part of the way to answer the question "why?" for us, but I don't think it really gets to the heart of it. I think that the media talking heads have done a sufficient job of pointing out that a military victory which doesn't produce a unified, stable, democratic Iraqi government is not a permanent victory at all. But Americans are, by and large, not stupid creatures. They've now had more than four years to absorb all of the available information about the situation in Iraq, including what our initial stated reasons were for the war, what the government claims they want to accomplish and what value we are getting for our expenditures there.
And I think an increasing number of them are reaching one conclusion: winning a war that we shouldn't have fought in the first place, defeating terror tourists in Iraq who would have been equally willing to show up and shoot Americans in Afghanistan or any other place we decided to show up, and delivering the Iraqi people from the brutal repression of Saddam only to set them at the mercy of the competing militias is simply not something we should have signed on for to begin with. Will we "win" in Iraq eventually if we keep at it? Maybe. My magic eight ball is on the fritz again, so I won't prognosticate. But if the voters come to the conclusion that we're fighting a war we never had any business getting involved in, no amount of success metrics on the streets of Baghdad are going to translate into the majority telling the authors of this adventure that they did a "heckuvajob" for us.