Do Americans Support a War on Iran?

Last week I wrote about some recent polling which suggests the American public, contrary to the collective narrative we hear about, is relatively supportive of military action against Iran in order to prevent it attaining nuclear weapons. Daniel Larison thinks that support is much weaker than it seems, given the wording of the questionnaire:

First, the wording suggests that military action can prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but that is misleading. It is much more likely that military action will do nothing more than delay Iran’s nuclear program and make it even more likely that Iran will decide to build nuclear weapons (which it has not done yet). The alternative being offered is avoiding war even if it means that Iran develops nuclear weapons, but it is not necessarily the case that Iran will build nuclear weapons in the future. Because the wording exaggerates the efficacy of military action and also inflates the risks associated with avoiding war, the result is bound to be skewed in a more pro-war direction.

Yes, the wording seems to make certain fundamental assumptions which may be misleading to the interviewee. Unfortunately, that is sort of the point. I’ve written endlessly about how military action against Iran is unlikely to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons and may even propel it toward that end quicker than otherwise. I’ve written even more about how, in fact, Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and has not demonstrated any intention of doing so, according to the U.S. military and intelligence community. I’ve also made the point that Iran is on the defense instead of the offense, contrary to the frightening way supposed Iranian aggression is commonly portrayed in the media and by Washington. All these things are important if we’re going to answer questions about how much or how little we support a war on Iran. The trouble is, Americans don’t seem to care about that. The misleading presumptions the questions seem to make are exactly the kind the public will be exposed to if war with Iran becomes imminent. And if history is any guide, they’ll buy into those presumptions, skewing, as Larison says, the results in a more pro-war direction.

In fact, one of the points I made in my previous post on this was the one that Trevor Thrall at The National Interest made, noting that “support for military action against Iran today is almost exactly the same as support for the invasion of Iraq right before the war began.” And that was after one of the most coordinated and aggressive propaganda efforts in American history. There is all sorts of pro-war propaganda on Iran happening right now, some of which certainly contributes to the pro-war slant of public opinion polls. But remember, this is while the administration is decidedly against war with Iran (preferring instead to cripple the Iranian economy and support proxy terrorism against Iranian civilians). Think of the onslaught of propaganda we’d see if the administration changed its mind. Think of how skewed public support for war would be then.

Unfortunately, I have a hard time believing Americans are suffering from Vietnam syndrome even after the disasters of the last decade. Although I do buy into Larison’s second point about Americans being much less supportive of taking sides in an Israeli-Iranian conflict.

Update: From Michael Calderone, a case in point: “…public misinformation about Iran’s nuclear project remains exceedingly high: in a 2010 poll, 7 in 10 Americans said they believe Iran already has the weapons. (In the Iraq War’s early days, 81 percent of Americans said they believed the country likely possessed WMD’s, an understandable conclusion given Bush administration statements and the media’s coverage).”

86 thoughts on “Do Americans Support a War on Iran?”

  1. Come, come now… Dropping a few ‘bunker busters’ on Iran is not a "War"…it's not even "hostilities". What are we even talking about here? Anyway, these types of decisions are not for "popular opinion" or "focus groups" in the first place…these types of things are for our "leaders", who know what's best, to decide.

    1. Yes the American people should have no input in a democracy and war shouldn't be up to Congress after vigorous debate as outlined in the Constitution, now should it?

      This neo-con brainwashing has turned people like you Ben into good Germans, who never question the leader, shame on you!

  2. The astounding ignorance of the average American, combined with the daily propaganda pushed by the msm, right-wing talk shows and tv pundits is a powerful combination in selling a war of aggression.

  3. Do Americans support a war on Iran? Well let's see, Democrats are backing the war monger-in-chief and all of the Republican presidential front runners are pro perpetual war. Meanwhile the one presidential candidate on wither side of the aisle who is anti-war is despised by the majority on both sides of the aisle for his anti-war views.

    It seems pretty obvious that the answer is yes, Americans support a war on Iran…or Syria….or Pakistan…or anyone else the government wants to attack as long as they or their children are not forced to do the fighting and the dying.

    1. Actually the anti-war candidate has a lot of support by the citizenry when you take into account the efforts made by the mass media, the GOP, the powers that be in general to ensure he has none

  4. my fantasy — I travel around the country asking people FACE TO FACE if they think we should go to war with Iran. I have a clipboard, ask a few questions, mark the answers carefully.
    Then I show them a blank map and ask the pollee to identify Iran on the map, locate its capitol, show where its nuclear facilities are and its major population centers.

    Our media AND our government should be educating the American people, not propagandizing them.

  5. Amerikans sit in front of their teles and support whatever a Doritos commercial is telling them to support. What passes as "polling" in Amerika is bullsh*t. Rig the numbers and remember the Maine. You know, the grift State of Maine that can't even offer up honest numbers that validate Ron Paul having won their caucus. Caucuses? Caucusi?
    I mean and after all, it's a numbers racket.

    1. The theft in Maine, and subsequent lies to cover up, only goes to show that the establishment and media poodles don't want any competing viewpoints. Polls you say? Lies, damn lies and statistics. Stalin would be proud.

  6. Not hope from America,her politicians are in the same measure ignorants,fulfilled with the US importance to be a leader and not a follower,with their fake:goodness,generosity,love of freedom as is American people,all are victims of self adulation propaganda.The only hope is that China and Russia and the real free world,namely not under US-Israel dictate will oppose that idiocy.Iran war will be a war of maxim stupidity because Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon program,it is a "threat" for no one.The only Iranian guilt is its independent way and the "insolence"to ask why Palestinians should pay for acts they didn't commit.

  7. When fascism came to America wrapped up in the privileges of the 14th amendment, it came with a smile, wrapped in the flag, and concealed in lies which it propagated through the entertainment industry and political leaders that it owned.

  8. (…)
    I’ve noticed recently the current discourse involving “threats” is mainly focused on prognostications of future events…what “could” happen. For example: “Gaddafi was ‘at the gates of Bengasi’ about to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent people”…”Iran ‘could’ develop a Nuclear weapon(s) and use it on Israel, if not the US itself”…etc…etc.. These arguments are useful for a number of reasons: 1. They are not ‘lies’ per se, as they are “predictions” of future events which have not occurred and 2. Considering the fact there is no way to “prove” a negative absolutely in the present time (i.e. Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction); refuting asinine “predictions” of future events is simply impossible if they are generally accepted as “plausible”.

  9. "The misleading presumptions the questions seem to make are exactly the kind the public will be exposed to if war with Iran becomes imminent."

    Exactly. The danger is if the terms of the debate start to revolve around the issue of whether Iran has nukes or not, with the underlying assumption being that, if it did, they should be bombed. So while it good to point out at this stage the lack of evidence for any nukes, this issue is kind of extraneous to the antiwar argument. More energy should be devoted to explaining why bombing Iran, even if it had nukes, is a moral (and strategic) mistake.

    1. CPC,
      I generally agree with your premise and what you said. I think there are other pitfalls and traps set with respect to how the national discourse and debate within the US is currently being framed; however, I view the discourse itself, at this time, as somewhat irrelevant, as it seems—to me at least—the decision to bomb Iran has already been made in Israel so at this point it seems to be just a question of when and who else will be involved.

    2. I think the only thing that can realistically be done, in the short term that is, to prevent the US's involvement in all of this militarily is to somehow convince Mr. Obama he will suffer an election costing political toll if the US does. Actually doing this might be a bit tough from my perspective for several reasons: one being he may conclude most people who would decide not to vote for him, who otherwise might, solely based on this one issue of military involvement in an Israel/Iran conflict will not be voting for him anyway—and this could be accurate. He also might conclude that not getting involved militarily would cause more political fallout than getting involved—which could also be accurate, depending on the circumstances and events at the time a decision needs to be made. My guess is that Mr. Obama simply wants this whole "issue" to just go away, at least until after the election, because it’s too unpredictable what will happen and “dealing” with this would ultimately blow up a lot of his time at the same time he's trying to raise money and campaign for his reelection; however, that’s not going to happen.

    3. Also, to your post, I would say if Iran did in fact have nukes, it would be very easy to explain and convince people why bombing Iran is not a good idea. You could even probably sell this concept to the craziest of crazy 'Neo-Cons' without too much effort if Iran actually did have nukes. That's part of the reason 'we' are where 'we' are today with this whole "situation".

  10. could military action not bomb Iran back into the stone age, and also just be repeated whenever necessary, as has been suggested in the case of other countries (Pakistan comes to mind).

  11. Anyway, these types of decisions are not for "popular opinion" or "focus groups" in the first place…these types of things are for our "leaders", who know what's best, to decide.

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