In an August 24 op-ed, Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley spun poll data on Iraq to argue -- contrary to the findings of every recent major poll on the topic -- that nearly two-thirds of the American people continue to support the war in Iraq.
How did Blankley manage this feat? He wrote:
These mis-characterizations of the president's view on victory are important, because public support of the war is largely based on an expectation of victory. In a major USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll from three weeks ago 32 percent of the public said we can't win the war in Iraq. Another 43 percent predict victory, while -- critically -- 21 percent say "the United States could win the war, but they don't think it will."
If one adds that "could win, but don't think we will win" 21 percent to the 43 percent who predict victory -- one has a very solid 64 percent supporting the war.
To demonstrate that there is "very solid" support for the war, Blankley has devised a rather bizarre definition of support. An individual might think the United States will ultimately win the war but nonetheless believe the war was morally wrong or a strategic mistake. Conversely, one might believe that the war was the right thing to do but that it will ultimately be lost. So whether you believe that the United States will win, or that it could win, or that it won't win, has little to do with whether you believe the war is right. Nearly every American would agree that the United States could comfortably win a war against, say, the nation of Monaco*, which is less than two square kilometers in size and has only 32,000 citizens and no army, save its ceremonial Palace Guard. But that does not mean that every American would "support" such a war.
Perhaps Blankley pursued this strange line of argument because the last time polls showed anything like 64 percent support for the war was nearly two years ago. In December 2003, 65 percent told Gallup it was "worth going to war in Iraq," but that number has been below 50 percent since August 2004. In a June 2003 Washington Post/ABC News poll, 64 percent said the war was "worth fighting," but Post/ABC polls have shown support below 50 percent since September 2004. In December 2003, 63 percent of respondents told a CBS News/New York Times poll that "the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq," but that number has not exceeded 50 percent since October 2004.
Despite the overwhelming "support" for the war that Blankley gleaned from the results of a question unrelated to support for the war, he went on to cite one of two questions Gallup asked that were in fact on point:
It is worth noting that despite the doubts expressed by the public in that Gallup Poll, by 53 percent-46 percent those surveyed still said it was not a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq.
But in making this statement, Blankley ignored the most recent Gallup poll -- conducted August 5-7 -- to find one more to his liking. In the most recent poll, 54 percent of respondents said the war was a mistake, while 44 percent said it was not. But Blankley reached back to a Gallup poll conducted July 22-24 to find 53 percent of respondents saying it was not a mistake.
Correction: This item originally incorrectly identified Monaco as an island nation. In fact, Monaco is bordered on three sides by the nation of France.