Thursday, October 6, 2011
Middle Eastern Wars
WASHINGTON (AP) — One in every three U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that after 10 years of combat America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on its own problems, according to an opinion survey released Wednesday.The findings highlight a dilemma for the Obama administration and Congress as they struggle to shrink the government’s huge budget deficits and reconsider defense priorities while trying to keep public support for remaining involved in Iraq and Afghanistan for the longer term.Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and about 1,700 in Afghanistan. Combined war costs since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have topped $1 trillion.The poll results presented by the Pew Research Center portray post-9/11 veterans as proud of their work, scarred by warfare and convinced that the public has little understanding of the problems that wartime service has created for military members and their families.The survey also showed that post-9/11 veterans are more likely than Americans as a whole to call themselves Republicans and to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s performance as commander in chief. They also are more likely than earlier generations of veterans to have no religious affiliation.The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization that studies attitudes and trends, called the study the first of its kind.The results were based on two surveys conducted between late July and mid-September. One polled 1,853 veterans, including 712 who had served in the military after 9/11 but are no longer on active duty. Of the 712 post-9/11 veterans, 336 served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The other survey polled 2,003 adults who had not served in the military.Asked for a single word to describe their experiences, the war veterans offered a mixed picture: “rewarding,” “nightmare,” “eye-opening,” “lousy.”There are about 98,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, where the conflict began with a U.S.-led invasion on Oct. 7, 2001.The Pew survey found that veterans are ambivalent about the net value of the wars, although they generally were more positive about Afghanistan, which has been a more protracted but less deadly conflict for U.S. forces. One-third of post-9/11 veterans said neither war was worth the sacrifices; that was the view of 45 percent in the separate poll of members of the public.Fifty percent of veterans said Afghanistan was worth it, whereas the poll of civilians put it at 41 percent.Among veterans, 44 percent said Iraq was worth it. That compares with 36 percent in the poll of civilians.Pew said its survey results found “isolationist inclinations” among post-9/11 war veterans. About 60 percent said the United States should concentrate on problems at home. In a Pew survey conducted earlier this year, a similar share of the public agreed.