Over at Open Left, Chris Bowers describes what he calls counter-intuitive polling on Iraq. Basically, people are less likely to say that want to leave Iraq the worse they think the situation is. But this isn’t surprising or counter-intuitive at all: it’s called guilt.
At the start of the Iraq War, roughly thirty percent of Americans opposed the war. Now, depending on the poll, roughly sixty percent think it’s a bad idea. That means that half of those who currently oppose the war were former supporters.
This leads to a lot of guilt. It also means that many who now oppose this war still ‘own’ it. If there is any advantage in having been demonized for opposing an invasion of the wrong fucking country, it is that one definitely lacks ownership of this war. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we’re not horrified by its consequences or that we want it to fail (right-wing propaganda notwithstanding), but simply that we’re not psychologically invested in its failure in the same way that war supporters, whether current or former are. Those who have turned against the war want to ‘make it right’, or at least, not hideously awful. Of course, often there is nothing you can do to make things right–you broke it and that’s all there is to it. Given that most of the original opposition to the war predicted that a civil war is precisely what would happen, I think most of us think there is very little we can do to fix this problem ourselves (which is one of the reasons why we didn’t want to invade in the first place).
So the less that people believe that we really fucked things up for Iraq, the more willing they are to leave because they won’t feel as guilty. I think this needs to considered when formulating a strategy to pressure the Congress–as well as a strategy to give Congress political cover.