The basic findings are straightforward
- Americans doesn't see the Afghanistan war as a mistake (unlike the Iraq war)
- They want it to end. Tis a forever war, and Americans don't like that.
- Support for withdrawal among civilians is pretty consistent, but among veterans, it matters whether the troops are coming home in victory or defeat, with support for withdrawal declining if it is in defeat.
- veterans tended to give civilian leaders credit for a victory
- nonveteran civilians tended to give military leaders credit for a victory
- veterans tended to blame civilian leaders for a defeat
- nonveteran civilians tended to blame military leaders for a defeat.
Of course, I had to raise a question about one key aspect: that 75% of civilians and 90% of the veterans expressed confidence in the military, sans experiment--is this too high? In most democracies these days, the citizens have more confidence in the armed forces than other institutions, and this makes some sense. Unlike most other institutions, such as the legislature, the executive, the courts increasingly, the media, the armed forces are not seen as partisan. That is a good thing. But the whole "support our troops" mantra may cause folks to be less critical of the armed forces than they should be.
While much of the blame for the forever wars rightfully should go to the civilians that put the militaries into difficult spots, the various armed forces have not always performed brilliantly. We saw the US military subvert the intent of the President who wanted population-centric war while the Marines went to Helmand instead. We saw a German colonel order an airstrike despite not having eyes on the ground, which led to more than a hundred Afghan civilians getting killed. Not one, but two prison breaks took place while the Canadians were in Kandahar. I can go on, but the major point is this: the armed forces of the US and its allies have had mixed success in the forever wars. Maybe we should not be quite as confidence in their competence? Or at least, maybe we should be asking questions, even if the answers ultimately lead to a clearer understanding of how outstanding they were.
PS I have a quibble--they state that Obama didn't talk about Afghanistan. They cite a previous Feaver piece to support that, but that piece has no numbers to show Obama talked more or less about Afghanistan than Bush did, especially Bush after 2005. I did count Harper talking about Afghanistan over time, which showed some interesting patterns in Adapting in the Dust.