Monday, September 10, 2007

Iraqi Attitudes

I referenced this Iraqi opinion poll in my earlier post today on Iraq in the news, but Marc Lynch dissects the truly depressing numbers:

Has Petraeus's counter-insurgency strategy and the surge won respect for the American presence? No. Only 15% express confidence in US/UK occupation forces, down from 18% in February, with 58% expressing "no confidence at all" - the highest in any of these surveys dating back to 2003. 80% say that the US has done a bad job in Iraq. 79% oppose the presence of Coalition forces in Iraq. 72% say that the presence of US forces is making security worse.

When should US forces leave? 47% say "leave immediately" - by far the highest support for immediate departure on record (it was 35% in February). 34% say stay until security is restored, 10% say stay until the Iraqi government is stronger. Only 2% say "remain longer but leave eventually".

What about the Sunnis, whose Great Awakenings and embrace of the United States has become the centerpiece of the Petraeus strategy and the great hope of KaganWorld? Only 1% of Sunnis say they have confidence in American forces. Only 1% of Sunnis support the American presence in Iraq. Only 1% of Sunnis say that security has improved in Iraq as a whole in the last 6 months. 72% of Sunnis say that the US forces should leave immediately. 95% of Sunnis say that the presence of US troops makes security worse. 93% still see attacks on coalition forces as acceptable.

Interestingly, about as many Iraqis as Americans support us staying in Iraq until the country is stable and secure.

Now I'm going to admit that when it comes to occupying other people's countries, you generally don't make decisions on whether to stay or go based on whether or not they actually want you there. It's not as if we asked the opinions of the Japanese or the Germans before we proceeded to rebuild their countries over a period of about ten years.

That being said, Iraq is not like either of those two situations. A fragile security situation has deteriorated over a period of four and a half years, and we have been almost entirely ineffective at stopping it outside of areas so heavily concentrated with soldiers that normal life cannot take place there. Providing security to the Iraqi people was about the only way we had to "buy" our legitimacy in their country, and we have mostly failed in that respect. This polling data is a reflection of this failure, and a reflection of the unwillingness of the Iraqis to wait for us to clean up the mess we made. This is important because at this point, we cannot hope to bring stability to Iraq without the cooperation/acquiescence of a majority of Iraqis. And that, as the poll makes clear, we simply do not have.

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