It’s been clear for a while that the Bush-era wars in the Middle East do not enjoy broad public support, but the Pew Research Center shed new light on the issue with a survey for U.S. military veterans.
Nearly 18 years since the start of the war in Afghanistan and 16 years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, majorities of U.S. military veterans say those wars were not worth fighting, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of veterans. A parallel survey of American adults finds that the public shares those sentiments.
Among veterans, 64% say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting considering the costs versus the benefits to the United States, while 33% say it was. The general public’s views are nearly identical: 62% of Americans overall say the Iraq War wasn’t worth it and 32% say it was. Similarly, majorities of both veterans (58%) and the public (59%) say the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting. About four-in-ten or fewer say it was worth fighting.
It’s against this backdrop that Donald Trump sat down with Fox News (again), for an interview that aired last week, and was asked about whether he intends to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve wanted to pull them out,” the president replied. “And you know, I have pulled a lot out. We were at 16,000. We’re down to about 9,000, which a lot of people don’t know.”
Of course, a lot of people don’t know that because it’s not altogether true.
Trump added, “We shouldn’t be there. We shouldn’t be there. We’re the policeman for the whole world.” Tucker Carlson asked, “Could you see getting out entirely?” The president’s answered meandered a bit before eventually concluding:
“I’ll give you a tough one. If you were in my position and a great-looking, central-casting – and we have great generals – a great central-casting general walks up to your office, I say, ‘We’re getting out.’ ‘Yes, sir. We’ll get out. Yes, sir.’
I’ll say, ‘What do you think of that?’ ‘Sir, I’d rather attack them over there than attack them in our land.’ In other words, them coming here. That’s always a very tough decision, you know, with what happened with the World Trade Center, et cetera et cetera.
“When they say that, you know, no matter how you feel, and you and I feel pretty much very similar. But when you’re standing there, and you have some really talented military people saying, ‘I’d rather attack them over there than have them hit us over here and fight them on our land.’ It’s something you always have to think about.”
So, if Trump spoke to military leaders who weren’t “great-looking, central-casting” generals, maybe he wouldn’t think this is “a tough one”?
His answer made it seem as if he has an instinct about the proper policy, but the Commander in Chief is reluctant to disappoint the military officials who carry out his orders.