American Public Support for U.S. Military Operations from Mogadishu to Baghdad

American Public Support for U.S. Military Operations from Mogadishu to Baghdad

Eric V. Larson
Bogdan Savych
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 278
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  • Book Info
    American Public Support for U.S. Military Operations from Mogadishu to Baghdad
    Book Description:

    The support of the American public is widely held to be a critical prerequisite for undertaking military action abroad. This monograph describes American public opinion toward wars and other large military operations over the last decade, to delineate the sources of support and opposition for each war or operation, to identify the principal fault lines in support, and to illuminate those factors that are consistent predictors of support for and opposition to military operations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4063-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  8. Glossary
    (pp. xxix-xxx)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    While anecdotal evidence suggests that public opinion is not a dominant factor in decisions on whether or not to undertake military operations, there is ample evidence that the public opinion environment shapes the way military operations are justified and even, in some cases, the way they are designed and conducted.¹ And, as shown in the Vietnam War, Lebanon, and Somalia, presidents ultimately can find that an unfavorable public opinion environment can impose constraints on the range of politically feasible policies.²

    This report describes American public opinion toward the global war on terrorism (GWOT), and it identifies the key factors that...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Understanding Support for Military Operations
    (pp. 13-28)

    The factors that lead to changes in support and opposition to military operations can be understood using two simple models that have strong theoretical and empirical foundations: a simple model of the public’s calculus of ends and means that captures the essential logic of how the public decides whether or not to support the operation, and a simple social process model that explains the diffusion of beliefs and attitudes about the operation.

    We first consider the main predictors of support—the specific beliefs members of the public hold about the importance of the stakes that are involved, the prospects for...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Past as Prologue: Mogadishu to Kosovo
    (pp. 29-90)

    In this chapter we review the nature and sources of support in a number of U.S. military operations in the 1990s. In turn, we assess sentiment toward withdrawal and escalation in the U.S. operation in Somalia, and toward support and opposition to the peace operations in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

    In response to a growing famine and increasing attacks on humanitarian relief operations in Somalia, and following a UN vote authorizing a U.S.-led Unified Task Force (UNITAF) there,¹ on December 4, 1992, President George H.W. Bush announced that U.S. troops would intervene in Somalia with the objective of establishing a...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR 9/11 and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan
    (pp. 91-128)

    In the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history, on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists from Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda group hijacked four U.S. airliners, flying two into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and another into the Pentagon in northern Virginia; the fourth airliner crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers, apparently having learned of the other attacks, rebelled against the hijackers before their aircraft could be used against another target. All told, the attacks claimed nearly three thousand victims.

    From the beginning, President Bush emphasized that the United States...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Operation Iraqi Freedom
    (pp. 129-212)

    The Bush administration frequently justified war with Iraq in two terms: first, as part of the war on terrorism, and second, as part of a larger effort to prevent U.S. adversaries from developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). A majority of Americans seem to have accepted these arguments: majorities typically have said that they consider the war with Iraq to be part of the war against terrorism,¹ and, as will be seen, they already had longstanding concerns about Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction.

    This chapter begins with some background to the war and then describes Americans’ attitudes toward renewed...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Main Findings and Implications
    (pp. 213-222)

    Based upon our analyses of the available public opinion data, including bivariate and multivariate analyses of individual-level data from polling datasets, the most important predictors of support or opposition for military actions in the GWOT—and the peace operations of the 1990s as well—are a small set of key beliefs that are linked to support or opposition in a very sensible fashion:

    Importance of the stakes. Beliefs about the importance of the U.S. stakes in a situation are systematically associated with support and opposition for military operations there: those who believe the United States has important stakes—whether in...

  15. APPENDIX Casualties and Consensus, Revisited
    (pp. 223-228)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-248)