This week marks the tenth anniversary of the war in Iraq and many people look back on the eight year military conflict with regret. According to Gallup, fifty-three percent of Americans believe the U.S. and its allies “made a mistake sending troops to fight in Iraq,” while forty-two percent stand by the decision to invade the country.
American troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, but the war still resonates with politicians and the American public. President Barack Obama alluded to its end during his second inaugural address, proclaiming “a decade of war is now ending.” Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops lost their lives and several still ask, “Why?”
In 2003, an overwhelming majority supported the invasion of Iraq, but public sentiment quickly dropped. In fact, according to Gallup, a majority of Americans haven’t supported the Iraq war since the summer of 2005.
As one might expect, Republicans, and voters who lean Republican, still believe that the war in Iraq was not a mistake by a wide margin. In fact, the poll’s results are nearly identical when comparing GOP sentiment for the war in Afghanistan to the Iraq war.
Democrats, however, look at both wars differently.
According to Gallup, seventy-three percent of Democrats, and voters who lean Democratic, believe Iraq was a mistake. That being said, the number drops when examining the conflict in Afghanistan. While a majority of Democrats/Lean Democratic said the war in Afghanistan was a mistake, forty percent said it wasn’t.
Interestingly, the poll also asked respondents to weigh in on the Vietnam War as it was another major military conflict in the modern era. Looking back on Vietnam, a clear majority of Democrats say it was a mistake while Republicans are evenly split.
It may not surprise many to know that there is a generational gap when it comes to recent U.S. wars, but what may surprise some to learn is what that gap looks like.
If one were to say that young people are more likely to believe that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam were mistakes, they would be wrong. According to Gallup, respondents 18-29 were evenly divided on the war in Iraq and fifty-three percent of this age group said invading Afghanistan was not a mistake.
The older the age group, according to the poll results, the more likely respondents were to say these wars were a mistake. There was a slight exception with the war in Afghanistan, but — for the most part — the trend remains the same for all three wars. The generations old enough to remember the development of these conflicts tend to look back with regret.
The debate over the war in Iraq and other military conflicts in the modern era will continue, but history will ultimately be the judge on whether or not Iraq was a mistake. While the number of Americans who believe it was a mistake is not as high as it was five years ago, a decisive majority continues to believe it was.