Random Mormon Poll #14: What to do in Afghanistan?

Photo Credit: Pete Souza / The White House

Photo Credit: Pete Souza / The White House

A recent ABC News-Washington Post Poll shows only 45 percent of respondents approve of  President Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Forty-five percent now approve of the president’s handling of the situation, down by 10 points in a month, 15 points since August and 18 points from its peak last spring. His approval rating on Afghanistan has fallen farther than on any other issue in ABC News/Washington Post polls this year.

Click here for PDF with charts and questionnaire.

[Source: ABC News]

What do you think President Obama should do in Afghanistan?

(Poll questions in random order)

35 thoughts on “Random Mormon Poll #14: What to do in Afghanistan?

  1. I voted “pull out immediately,” but the real answer is: announce immediately a new policy for afghanistan where aghanis are responsible for their own security. The new Obama doctrine is that we will leave the world alone if the world leaves the United States alone. The moment we are threatened or attacked, we will respond massively with deadly force, but if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. We will keep a “Delta Force” in the Persian Gulf to respond if necessary, but it will only be to respond to threats against the United States.

    Not likely to happen, but we can always hope…can’t we?

  2. I voted for a “gradual, orderly pull-out” simply because I don’t want to risk the lives of anymore US soldiers in Afghanistan and an immediate pull-out might do just that. If we were able to pull-out US troops within one year, I would be happy.

  3. @Geoff B.

    Btw, I like the Obama doctrine. We cannot continue to be the world’s police force. It’s time to disengage from global confrontation and engage in peaceful dialogue before we pull out the big guns.

  4. My problem with Afghanistan is the same problem I had with Iraq, our enemy isn’t there. The people that attacked us weren’t in Iraq and they aren’t residing in Afghanistan. Use dialogue instead of fighting and gradually pull out. I’d be happy if a large majority of the troops were out in two years as long as they started taking steps now to show we aren’t increasing troop levels and are starting to bring people home.

  5. So Geoff, do you actually agree with the talk-first Obama doctrine? What a pleasant surprise.

  6. I voted, “Do whatever Glenn Beck says we should do. ESPECIALLY since Obama’s public opinion is so low.” C’mon, Brian, since when do you guys care about opinion polls??

    (By the way, truly I voted, “Send the 40k troops requested by Gen. McChrystal.”)

  7. @Hunter

    I honestly could not tell you what Glenn Beck’s position on Afghanistan is, nor do I care what he thinks about what we should do in Afghanistan. I am willing to trust Obama and McChrystal to take care of that issue. I’ll let Beck worry about controlling the frog population. ;-)

    My sincere desire is for Obama to scale back and pull out, but I would understand if he decided to send in 40k troops. It never ceases to amaze me how multiple countries can invade the same country and think the results will be different from what happened previously.

    Btw, who are you referring to when you say “you guys”? And when did I say I didn’t care about polls? I ask leading poll questions almost every week on M*. ;-)

  8. “You guys” = all you Republican cheerleaders here at Millennial Star, of course! [wink]

    And (to continue with that unfair and exagerrated stereotype), I commented that “you guys” don’t care about opinion polls as in the type of comment I heard a lot just a matter of months ago, as in “I don’t care that President Bush’s opinion poll numbers are in the toilet. He’s doing the RIGHT THING, so it doesn’t matter what public opinion is. Besides, those pollsters are all just a bunch of lefties who ask leading questions to get the answer they want.”

    Yeah, in the end, I agree that we should get out of Afghanistan, of course, I am just not convinced we should do it right now. The surge in Iraq seemed to have some demonstrable benefits; so, too, an influx of troops and intelligence will, I think, help achieve our short term goals there. But the leash is short, and I think we should be looking in the long term at getting the heck out.

  9. @Hunter

    LOL! I’m not much of a cheerleader for either party, but I will stand up and applaud when any politician does the right thing, rare though that may be.

    Contrary to Limbaugh’s hopes of a failed Obama presidency, I want him to succeed, especially as it relates to Afghanistan. If a surge will work, fine, give McChrystal his troops. Of course, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to compare Afghanistan with Iraq. The battleground is so different and we are fighting a much different enemy in Afghanistan, on terrain that favors the enemy.

    I think Obama’s poll numbers will go up when he takes decisive action in Afghanistan. The low poll numbers, to me, anyhow, suggest an unease with inaction.

    Heck, once we are done with Iraq and Afghanistan, we might be able to actually afford universal health care!

  10. I don’t think he should worry about opinion polls. A lot depends upon what Pakistan does and how the Pakistanian offensive plays out.

    The big problem in Afghanistan is that the Pashtuns are divided into two rival groups with historical animosity. Karzai is in the opposite side of that split from the Taliban. While we look at it in terms of religion a lot of the Taliban issue can be seen as an uprising against the traditional oppressor. Karzai is playing right back into the role of traditional oppressor and hosts an amazingly corrupt government. Likewise we made a constitution that was too centralized, not playing up the decentralized nature (i.e. tribal) of Afghanistan.

    But honestly, there are no easy solutions and most of the debate pro and con is amazingly superficial.

    In a certain sense the issue is less troop numbers than strategy and tactics. I don’t think we should pull out, but I’m pretty skeptical more troops with the same strategy is the answer.

    My biggest problem with Obama’s handling is that he seems shell shocked unwilling to make a decision and stick with it. Part of me suspects he’s waiting to see what happens with Pakistan. We should remember though that the Surge in Iraq wasn’t just about troops but about working with all sides to bring them on board. It’s hard to know how to judge the current debate without knowing what outreaches to bringing the Taliban on board are going on.

  11. Jjohnsen, I’m not sure I agree with Obama’s strategy because so far he hasn’t adopted the strategy I put forward in #1. The deficit really has me worried. I mean big time worried about the future of this country. We simply can’t afford to continue to spend hundreds of billions overseas without literally bankrupting the country and causing even worse economic problems than we have now. So, in the last year or so I’ve come around to more a Biden/George Will/Ron Paul approach (notice this includes Dems, Republicans and Libertarians) which is: we need to get back to the real reason we went into Afghanistan, which was to fight against bin Laden and make sure we were not attacked again. We did not go into Afghanistan to build up a government with a group of people who do not want us there. It is crazy that we think we can do this when the British failed and the Russians failed. Get us out of there asap.

  12. Geoff, while I’m very sympathetic to that view, the neoCon counterargument is pretty persuasive as well. Afghanistan has one of the youngest populations in the world with one of the highest birthrates. If we let the Taliban win (i.e. recontrol) then you’ll have a much, much larger population with Al Queda sympathies who are largely ignorant, highly indoctrinated with anti-Americanism and who are attempting to destabilize Pakistan who have nuclear weapons. That is the long term costs are huge.

  13. Onan :

    I’m in favor of a pull out.

    (Look my name up you non-OT scholars.)

    And you definitely mean that in the biblical sense! Thanks for the uplifting addition. LOL.

  14. I say give the man his troops. I say this, as the mother of a future officer who very likely will do his time in Afghanistan. We cannot go around will-nilly getting involved in world situations and then pull-out. After all, we are still in Germany, Japan and Korea. It lowers our credibility and weakens us in the eyes of the terrorists.

  15. Generally I’m in favor of immediate pull out, and indeed that is what I selected. But after reading the first three parts of New York Times reporter David Rohde’s five part article about his 7 months spent as a prisoner in the Taliban enclave between Afghanistan and Pakistan, I’m not at all certain that an immediate withdrawal would keep the US safe in the long term, as Clark hinted.

    However, that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. I don’t like this preemptive war business.

  16. A few Sundays ago I was doing field training exercises with my unit and was unable to go to church. Some of the guys decided to have a 15min devotional. The person speaking brought up Matt 5:9 “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God” He then told us we are the Peacemakers.
    If we pull out now we leave them in a state of turmoil. We have only been their 8 years. It was 11 years after 1776 that we finally decided on the constitution that we have now and it took till 1865 and the 13th amendment till we really settled the whole freedom thing. We just need to give them more time as a people to sort things out for themselves and it is our duty to be there with them to guide them on the road to Democracy, otherwise it will create a breeding ground for more terrorists.

  17. According to Biden, what we need is an anti-terrorism strategy, e.g. drop bombs on terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan. According to the Defense Department, from Secretary Gates on down, what we need is a counter-insurgency strategy, and to do that successfully takes more troops, much like the successful counter-insurgency strategy did in Iraq.

    The military folks say they will salute and implement whatever option Obama goes for, but that the time for decision is now. Voting ‘present’ is not a viable option here.

    The strategic goal here is not to provide security for the Afghanis, it is to improve security and strengthen the Afghan government, so they can successful prevent an al Qaeda allied Taliban from taking control again, training terrorists to attack Western targets and so on.

    Of course Pakistan has its own problems. Whatever happened to the Obama who said he was going to attack the enemy in those areas, regardless of how the Pakistani government felt about it? At least the Afghans want our assistance.

  18. Tex, by supporting a pullout, I want to make it clear I have nothing against our troops, who are true American heroes. I love our troops too much to see them put in harm’s way unless it’s for something that is central to America’s needs and ambitions. I don’t see Afghanistan as being in that category, but that has nothing to do with not knowing our guys can get it done well if anybody can.

  19. I wanted to vote “either all in or all out”. The middle of the road is the last place to stay…

  20. Geoff B, I didn’t think you had anything against our troops. By pulling out it would make it allot safer on our troops and would bring them back to their families. I have nothing against someone wanting to pull out. I just think staying is worth the sacrifice.

  21. Mark, to be fair to Obama, he has gotten Pakistan to launch an all out offense against the Taliban. So I think he has attacked Al Queda in Pakistan stronger than Bush. But of course Bush wasn’t ignoring them there either.

    While in the media this is being presented as either anti-insurgence vs. anti-terrorist I think that somewhat misleading. But certainly some say better intelligence and going after particular groups is wiser than a broader strategy. The problem is that if we pull out of Aghanistan it’s not clear to me we’ll have sufficient intelligence to do what Biden wants. Likewise if we increase the number of potential terrorists then our defensive strategies (including bombing camps and the like) simply can’t catch everyone.

    I’m not saying I have an answer, because I don’t. But I think there are compelling arguments on both sides. Further, while Grand Strategy is important particular Strategies and Tactics are as well. I think it clear that even now there are huge problems in the military’s anti-insurgence strategy beyond the issue of troops.

  22. I’m late to the game, but we need to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, and also bring home the vast majority of the other 570,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in hundreds of countries around the world. We can no longer afford to sustain the American empire any longer.

    The British learned this lesson two generations ago—why are we still pretending it can or should be done?

  23. Maybe you are right Mike. I am leaning toward an all or nothing policy. Lukewarm actions do not work in war. If the US were to do what you purpose, the US would have to become a large scale Israel. Cause if we do pull out, our enemies will interrupt our action as weakness. They will then come at us full-tilt.

  24. I won’t go as far as Mike. I think there are reasons to keep our troops in Korea, for example. Germany? Why the heck are we still there? We could drastically reduce our troops in Japan. One of the good things about the Clinton administration (in retrospect) was that they actually did something to decrease costs, which helped lead to the 1990s economic boom.

    I am reading a book about the Iraq invasion (“In the Company of Soldiers” by Rick Atkinson) and one of the things that strikes me is how incredibly EXPENSIVE these invasions are. There were absolutely no attempts to control costs in any way. This mindset continues today. We HAVE to do something to get the deficit under control, at least to 2 percent of GDP. The continued spending is absolutely insane behavior. I think Mike’s comparison to the British empire is an apt one. It took the Brits decades to realize they couldn’t afford the empire anymore.

  25. Mike, that assumes the reason for their existence is empire. I think the big problem is that we don’t see it as empire but that the rest of the world, especially Europe, is free loading off our tax dollar. (This isn’t just peace keeping missions either – I think Europe freeloads off of us on medicine as well) I’m all for ending the freeloading. But I think it is naive to assume it’s all about empire. I think that were we to totally pull out of say Korea, Japan, the middle east, Europe and Afghanistan a lot would go to total hell. It would be a huge destabilizing effect on the world. Now if you think that’s fine and that this is the only way to get others to step up that’s one thing. I’d hope you’d agree an abrupt pull out would have huge negative consequences. (And of course is basically a non-starter politically as well – so it’s kind of pointless as a real position)

  26. Clark, there’s one big difference between our empire and the Brits’: The Brits made money off their empire, we just spend it, as you say, on free-loaders who don’t appreciate our efforts and make anti-Americanism a national sport.

    I agree with you that quixotic political positions are tough to defend, but I think there is growing support for new attempts to take a tough look at our international obligations with an eye to cost. At least I hope there is.

  27. I think my point was that there are many costs and that some forget the longer term costs (say over a decade) in preference to just short term costs. I think cost/benefit analysis is great though. For instance is our relative pull out from the waters around China due to our other “adventures” thereby giving China more influence really that bad? Is having China rather than the US patrolling more of those waters horrible? Of course not. So I’m all for cost/benefit analysis and think there’s fear mongering on both sides. But I also think that there are real costs that some advocates for a pull out from being the world’s protector neglect.

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