More evidence pours in of the public’s frustration with U.S. foreign policy.
The primary irritant is the Iraq war, which, according to a poll taken last week by the New York Times and CBS News, a majority of Americans (51 to 44 percent) now see as separate from the war on terrorism. And the war is a distraction from the U.S. efforts against terrorists who want to attack targets within the U.S., according to 52 percent of Americans in a new CNN poll.
Not surprisingly, 53 percent in the NYT/CBS poll believe that it was mistake to go to war in the first place, up from 48 percent in July. Other polls place the “not worth it” figure closer to 60 percent.
And there is growing support for an end to the U.S. military mission in Iraq. In a CNN poll conducted in the first week of August, 61 percent of respondents believed that some or all U.S. troops should be withdrawn before the end of this year. A narrow majority (52 percent) in a Gallup/USA Today poll taken in late July believed that all U.S. troops should be out of Iraq by August 2007. (See PollingReport.com for a good compilation of recent polls on Iraq.)
And yet the president seems impervious to public opinion (even if, increasingly, other Republicans are not). He told reporters on Tuesday that there will no change in his overarching policy toward Iraq. He’s largely abandoned the good news spin, and now warns that things could be worse. There will be no timeline for troop withdrawal. U.S. military personnel will remain in Iraq until the conditions improve. And, as we have been waiting for conditions to improve for over three years now, it is not unreasonable to assume that there will be U.S. troops in Iraq for many years to come.
How well is our system of government prepared to deal with this state of affairs, in which the public opposes a major foreign policy initiative, but has little if any recourse for changing direction? Not well, it would seem, given that the prospects for fashioning a bipartisan foreign policy are often impeded by those on either side of the aisle who are focused first and foremost on scoring cheap political points for the next election. And there is always a next election.
If you’re one of the frustrated many, you might be interested in a roundtable discussion that I am chairing at the annual American Political Science Association (APSA) meeting being held next week in Philadelphia. The panel is titled “Beyond Liberal and Conservative: Forging a Bipartisan Foreign Policy Consensus” and will include Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation (and author of the popular weblog The Washington Note), Peter Feaver of Duke University, Michael Desch from the George H.W. Bush School of Government at Texas A&M, and Seyom Brown of Brandeis University.
Here is the panel description from the APSA program:
Traditional ideological labels no longer capture essential truths about the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Some liberals supported the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, while some conservatives were staunchly opposed. Likewise, some conservatives supported the Clinton administration’s interventions in the Balkans in the mid- to late 1990s, while some liberals voiced doubts. Are ideological labels still relevant to the conduct of foreign policy? Is it possible for liberals and conservatives to get beyond their differences in the domestic realm, and work together towards creating a durable foreign policy framework? What approaches might bridge the ideological divide, and enable policymakers to construct a truly bipartisan foreign policy agenda?
If you do stop by, be sure to say hello. The panel will be held in the Loews Hotel, Commonwealth B, at 8 am on Saturday, Sept. 2nd (a bit early, I’ll admit — but I didn’t pick the time). And for those of you unable to join us in person, I’ll take good notes and report back on our findings in a few weeks.