Wednesday, December 14, 2005

# Posted 8:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FIRST THE (RELATIVELY) BAD NEWS: WHAT IRAQIS THINK ABOUT US. The place to start our analysis of the recent polls coming out of Iraq is with this this question, #26 in last year's survey, now #32:
Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the presence of Coalition Forces in Iraq?
Strong support has fallen slightly, from 13.2 to 12.8 percent. Moderate support has fallen noticeably from 26.3 to 19.4. Moderate opposition has risen slightly from 19.6 to 20.8. And mostly importantly, strong opposition has risen firmly from 31.3 to 41.7 percent. So no one should say that American forces are flat-out popular.

But this low approval rating for the occupation doesn't translate directly into a firm desire for it to end immediately. When asked how long Coalition forces should remain, 25% said they should leave now, up from 15% in 2004. (Question #29 in 2004 and #33 in 2005). Although hardly positive, I think it's interesting that only about half of those who strongly oppose the presence of Coalition forces want them to leave immediately.

What clearly is positive is that 30.9% want Coalition forces to stay until security is restored and 15.6% want them to stay until the new Iraqi army can operate independently. An additional 19.4% want the troops to stay until the government elected this month is in place. In other words, Iraqis understand quite well the necessity of having direct American military support until such time as they are capable of withstanding the insurgency on their own.

In 2004, 18.3% wanted Coalition forces to stay until security is restored with 35.8% wanting them to stay until an Iraqi government is in place. Thus the numbers have changed significantly, although it is hard to interpret that shift. Apparently, more Iraqi now phrase their acceptance of a continuing occupation as an issue of security, whereas it was formerly more of an issue of politics.

Another very interesting question from the 2004 survey was #27:
If you have had personally any encounters with Coalition Force soldiers, was your last encounter very positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative or very negative?
77.5 percent said they had never had a personal encounter with Coalition forces. The remaining respondents were evenly divided, with 9.3% citing positive experiences and 8.4% negative ones. Although one shouldn't read too much into such small numbers, they cut strongly against the grain of media coverage that portrays the Iraqi people as profoundly antagonized by aggressive American efforts to hunt down the insurgents, even if means breaking into private homes in the middle of the night.

But let's not lose sight of the fact that Iraqis clearly want the occupation to end, almost as much as Americans do. But how intense is that desire? Since politics is driven not just by what people want but how badly they want it, this is a very important question to ask. One survey question that touched on this issue was #8:
Thinking ahead to the next 12 months, what would be the best thing which could happen to Iraq?
33.3 percent said 'security', 19.3 percent said 'peace and stability', 7.6 said 'a better life', while 5.7 said an end to the occupation. When asked what the worst thing is that could happen in the next 12 months, more than 40 percent gave answers related to continuing violence while 8.9 percent said continued occupation.

Finally, there is one more question that was asked in 2004 but not again in 2005, namely whether respondents considered it acceptable to attack Coalition forces (#25). In 2004, 17.3 percent said yes, while 78.0 said no. I'd be curious to see what the numbers are now.

So all in all, what do these numbers tell us about attitudes towards the American occupation of Iraq? Clearly, Iraqis consider the presence of foreign soldiers to be far from ideal. At the same time, a strong plurality recognize that the presence of American forces is absolutely critical to the achievement of peace and security, the objective that Iraqis overwhelmingly consider to be their most important.

From the very beginning, I have said that I would judge the success of this occupation based on the ability of American forces to win Iraqi hearts and minds. Would achieving that objective entail Iraqis' open embrace of our soldiers as their heroes? Ideally, yes. But that hasn't happened.

Nonetheless, if a strong plurality of Iraqis believe that our presence is helping them accomplish their most important objective -- security -- then we have certainly won over their minds, even if their hearts are ambivalent. How many critics of the occupation ever expected that to be the case, or will even acknowledge that it is the case now?
(4) opinions -- Add your opinion

"77.5 percent said they had never had a personal encounter with Coalition forces."

So much for the terrorizing of women and children (and kids too) in the middle of the night that Kerry espouses.

On a more serious note, I've often thought that all the carping about the recommended levels of troops by Shinseki (that got him "fired" according to Kerry and others in their worldview -- Kerry pattern here?) was disingenuous; primarily because the unintended consequences of all those extra troops looking decidedly more like an occupying force is never addressed.

It seems obvious to me that the 77.5 percent number would be considerably lower in that instance and would have had an adverse effect.

We'll never know of course, but the other side of that coin is never acknowledged by the Dems and unfortunately, rarely brought up by the Reps.
Wow, that's some nice torturing of the data to come to your final conclusion regarding Iraqi confidence in U.S. forces.

Let's keep look at questions which directly ask what Iraqis think about Coalition forces, the invasion, and the occupation.

A majority now feels it was wrong for the invasion to have occurred in the first place. A majority has no confidence at all in coalition forces - add in those with "not very much" confidence and this numebr is @ 77%. 58% say that coalition troops have done "quite a bad job" or "a very bad job" in carrying out their responsibilities in Iraq. For those Iraqis who believe that security in Iraq has improved since the CPA dissolved, only 5.5% credit coalition forces. For those who think the situation has deteriorated, a plurality of 33.5% blame American/coalition forces for the deterioration.

Check out the British MoD poll and the U.S. DoD poll accessible in Brookings' Iraq Index for your answers for similar results, as well as the fact that a majority of Iraqis who believe that attacks on Coalition forces are justified. You could also consult the Cairo declaration which noted that attacks on American troops are legitimate national resistance for how the Iraqi political class thinks.
OxBlog does not torture the data, although it does reserve the right to subject the data to what some might construe as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Anyhow, I'm familiar with the MoD poll, but what DoD poll are you talking about? There's none listed in the Brooking Index. Did you mean the CPA?
Pg. 43 of the Brookings Index, labeled "American military", with a 90% sample taken from Baghdad.
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