Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Last week, we had a visitor to the office from the home office in Brussels, a lovely man whom we have worked with for years and whom we like very much. So of course at some point we took a break from business conversation to discuss the impending war. (To keep from violating the rule of decorum not to discuss religion or politics, we were nominally discussing the expected impact of war on the markets, and on our positions specifically.) Well, it turns out according to our visitor's unscientific survey of Americans he met on the plane over and so forth that nobody in this country supports the war. That's right: everyone he talked to told him things like "I sure hope Bush has more cards in his hand than he's shown, 'cause the case he's made so far is laughable" and so forth. He even heard heartfelt tributes to France, stalwart ally trying to keep us from doing something stupid.
As you'd expect, the results of his unscientific survey do not exactly accord with the results of my own unscientific survey. Which just goes to illustrate the degree to which they are unscientific. But what about the scientific surveys, the ones showing overwhelming opposition to the war around the world?
Well, here's a nice reality check from the Chicago Boyz blog (thanks to Instapundit for linking to it), reading deeper into recent British polling data. Some highlights of his findings:
* Supposedly, most Brits think that this war is about oil. (Which, in part, it is. One thing we're trying to avoid is a situation in the future where a nuclear-armed Saddam invades or Finlandizes his neighbors and winds up controlling much of the world's oil.) But in fact, it's not a majority, it's a plurality - of 28%. The other 72% of Brits think it's a war to depose Saddam (24%), to eliminate Saddam's WMD (23%) and to prevent another September 11th (20%). Sounds like most Brits aren't so cynical about American motivations as are BBC reporters.
* About half of those polled agree with the premise that, post-September 11th, we have to act preemptively against "terrorist groups or dangerous states" and a bit shy of half think that sending more weapons inspectors would be a "diversion and not a solution." I'll bet that's a lot more support for this war on Iraq than the one in 1991.
* More than half believe that Saddam has links to al-Qaeda, 72% think Saddam has WMD (in violation of his obligations and of the binding resolutions of the Security Council that call for "serious consequences" upon violation), 69% think Saddam is trying to build nukes (another violation, and a major premise in the case for preemptive war), nad a plurality (44%) think there's enough evidence to warrant the UN taking military action (31% don't know). A clear majority (73%) support war with UN approval (though 55% support war *only* with UN approval).
What's the right way to parse this? It sounds like the British public wants France to get in line and support the war so things can proceed under a UN mandate. An overwhelming majority thinks that Saddam is in violation of 1441. Significant pluralities think that war is justified. The public is clearly nervous about war, and wants to limit the scope of collateral damage from war. There's a good reason why President Bush went to the UN: *if* the UN supports war, then the diplomatic fallout from war will be minimized. If it comes down to a situation where war means the practical end of the UN, but sticking with the UN process means leaving Saddam alone, it sounds to me like the British public is conflicted.
That's very far from solid opposition to war. But it does mean that if war proceeds without UN approval, and the war goes poorly or terrorist reprisals hit London, and/or Blair gets little or nothing from Washington in exchange for his stalwart support, THEN Blair has a problem.