Are Airstrikes a Slippery Slope to Full-Blown Entanglement in Iraq?

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Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Americans are afraid Iraq is like quicksand: dip a toe in and next thing you know, you’ll be neck deep in another war. This is especially concerning for those who see that our economy is still more than a little gritty with sand; recovering does not mean recovered. But that doesn’t mean that President Barack Obama’s recent airstrikes have been met with with a wave of disapproval. In fact, according to August 14-17 Pew Research poll, 54 percent of¬†Americans are supportive of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq, compared to 31 percent who disapprove.

A clear majority do show concern that the U.S. will “go too far getting involved in [the] situation” at 51 percent, with 32 percent saying they worry the U.S. won’t go far enough to stop militants, and 16 percent saying both, neither, or that they don’t know. Compared to other nations the U.S. considered military involvement with, public opinion was polled at nearly the lowest for Iraq in Gallup‘s most recent poll, June 20-21. Compared to 1991, when 55 percent were in favor of potential American military actions in Iraq and the Persian Gulf, or 2003, when 64 percent were in favor, 39 percent were in favor of action in Iraq as of June. The only country Americans were less in favor of military action in was Syria in early September of 2013.

It could be that the phrasing of this poll was vague enough to conjure fears of boots on the ground in Iraq — something Americans are more sensitive to than less direct involvement like airstrikes. “Military action” could mean anything up to and including invasion, meaning American men and women might go overseas in large numbers once again, something the president has specifically said won’t happen at present.

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