Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Public opinion on Iraq: duelling political scientists

Peter notes this article about this document. As he notes, this is political science, not rocket science: people are willing to tolerate casualties as long as they think we’re winning, something that would be news only to those who don’t want to think about winning. For more on Peter Feaver, the Duke political scientist supposedly behind the document, go here. It turns out that the Post scooped the NYT back in June. Feaver, by the way, published a number of pro-Bush op-eds and articles during the first Bush (43) Administration.

Writing in the WaPo, Jonathan Rauch offers a different reading of public opinion on Iraq, one that owes a debt to Ohio State political scientist John Mueller, who holds the Woody Hayes (??) Chair of National Security Studies (and is cited as a critic of Feaver in the NYT article discussed above). Here’s the Mueller article that prompted Rauch’s piece. By focusing on Korea and Vietnam (and not taking into account WW II), Mueller argues, in essence, that all that matters in influencing American public opinion is the casualty rate, and that, once opinion turns against the war, the slide can’t be reversed. You can see earlier and shorter versions of the same argument here and here. In general, he looks forward to the pull-out, since it would cure us of our imperialist overweening. He doesn’t seem too troubled by the conclusions the Islamists would draw, taking them more or less in stride, though he does concede that if failure in Iraq leads to terrorism on U.S. soil, the consequence would be "politically devastating." Only politically?

Discussions - 2 Comments

I cannot speak to Prof. Mueller’s article, but I can attest that he is excellent in the classroom. I was fortunate enough to have a course with him my senior year at OSU and found him not to be a new (old old) lefty, but rather a Wilsonian in spirit.

On a seperate note: of course there is a Woody Hayes chair. The man was a true Conservative philanthropist--visiting the sick in hospitals, giving freely of his time and money, and teaching (yes, he taught at the college level, too) many young men and women to follow in his philosophical footsteps.

Andrew Kinney

Thanks for the note on Woody Hayes, who I remember simply as the OSU coach we MSU Spartans loved to hate.

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