Mueller on Iraq
By Bryan Caplan
The public gave substantial support to the military ventures in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq as the troops were sent in. In all cases, support decreased as casualties — whether of draftees, volunteers, or reservists — mounted. In each case, the increase in the number of people who considered the venture to be a mistake was steep during the war’s early stages, as reluctant supporters were rather quickly alienated; the erosion slowed as approval was reduced to the harder core. (The dramatic early drop in support for the war in Korea reflected the large number of casualties suffered in the opening phase of that war.)
The most striking thing about the comparison among the three wars is how much more quickly support has eroded in the case of Iraq. By early 2005, when combat deaths were around 1,500, the percentage of respondents who considered the Iraq war a mistake — over half — was about the same as the percentage who considered the war in Vietnam a mistake at the time of the 1968 Tet offensive, when nearly 20,000 soldiers had already died.
Hawks don’t want America to look weak. The problem is, America looks a lot weaker when it fights and quits, than if it hadn’t fought at all. Before calling for war, the honest hawk has to ask himself: “Keeping in mind how gutless my fellow Americans are, what are the odds that we’ll actually stay the course?”
P.S. Also check out Mueller’s “A False Sense of Insecurity.”