Time to exit Iraq, Afghanistan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 5, 2014


After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public doesn’t think the United States has achieved its goals in either country according to a recent poll by the respected Pew Research organization. About half of Americans (52 percent) say the U.S. has mostly failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan while 38 percent say it has mostly succeeded. Opinions about the U.S. war in Iraq are virtually the same: 52 percent say the United States has mostly failed in reaching its goals there, while 37 percent say it has mostly succeeded.

In both cases, evaluations of the wars have turned more negative in recent years. In November 2011, as the U.S. was completing its military withdrawal from Iraq, a majority (56 percent) thought the U.S. had achieved its goals there.

Similarly, the public’s critical assessment of U.S. achievements in Afghanistan stands in contrast to opinion in June 2011, shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed in neighboring Pakistan, according to Pew. At that time, 58 percent answered a forward-looking question by saying they thought the U.S. would achieve its goals in that country; the question in the current survey asks whether the U.S. has achieved its goals.

The recent national survey by the Pew and USA Today, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, finds more positive views of the original decision to take military action in Afghanistan than about whether the U.S. has achieved its goals. About half (51 percent) say the decision to use military force was the right one while 41 percent say it was the wrong decision.

However, the share saying the war was the right decision has fallen five points since November (from 56 percent) and 13 points since January 2009 (64 percent), shortly before Barack Obama took office.

The polling shows all groups have become more pessimistic about U.S. achievements in Iraq since the fall of 2011, and the decline has been especially steep among Republicans. In November 2011, Republicans (68 percent) were more likely than Democrats (56 percent) and independents (52 percent) to say the U.S. had mostly achieved its goals in Iraq. Since then, positive views have fallen 32 points among Republicans, 19 points among Democrats and 14 points among independents.

The decisions to use force in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to draw support among Republicans. Democrats are divided about equally over whether it was right or wrong, and Democrats continue to overwhelmingly oppose the decision to use force in Iraq. However, there are no significant partisan differences in opinions about whether the U.S. has achieved its goals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, just 37 percent believe the U.S. has mostly succeeded in achieving its goals in Iraq, a 19-point decline since 2011.

Perhaps this information will give Mr. Obama the fortitude to act in an expedient manner to extract us from this costly episode in American history.

Senate delays flood insurance hike

To the delight of Alabama coastal home owners, the U.S Senate has passed a four-year delay in legislation, known as the Biggert-Waters Bill, which would have overhauled the federal flood insurance program and would have dramatically increased premiums for homeowners living in flood-prone areas along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

The delaying legislation was adopted according to press reports, by a vote of 67-32, though both of Alabama’s senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, voted against it. Shelby has argued that it is time for the Federal Flood Insurance Program, awash in red ink, to be made fiscally sound, and for owners to foot the cost of the risk rather than taxpayers. That may be the case, but I suspect Sens. Shelby and Sessions will be getting an ear full from coastal property owners.

The bill delaying Biggert-Waters, called the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, faces tougher opposition in the Republican-controlled House, where Speaker John Boehner and leaders of the influential Financial Services Committee have expressed opposition to a delay.

It puts the newly-minted career of Rep. Bradley Byrne between both the House and Senate members in his state and his constituents. Byrne, it is expected, will likely vote with his local property owners and for the delay. When asked about Byrne’s position on Thursday, his office released the following statement:

“Congressman Byrne has said consistently that we need to slow down the implementation of flood insurance reform to make sure that any changes to insurance premiums are reasonable and affordable. He believes the science being used to implement Biggert-Waters is questionable and may result in poorly drawn or inaccurate mapping… He is interested in taking a look at this particular proposal to see how it will protect his constituents in affected areas while also bringing the program to solvency.”

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com