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Poll: Iraqis say life better now than under Saddam ... or not (update)
Posted by: McQ on Monday, March 19, 2007

Seems an appropriate item with which to lead on the 4th anniversary of the war in Iraq:
Most Iraqis believe life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein, according to a British opinion poll published today.

The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week.

One in four Iraqis has had a family member murdered, says the poll by Opinion Research Business. In Baghdad, the capital, one in four has had a relative kidnapped and one in three said members of their family had fled abroad. But when asked whether they preferred life under Saddam, the dictator who was executed last December, or under Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, most replied that things were better for them today.

Only 27% think there is a civil war in Iraq, compared with 61% who do not, according to the survey carried out last month.
It is interesting that most Iraqis feel progress has been made and life is better while a good portion of this country is under the impression that it is worse. Of course that same portion is convinced there's a civil war going on in Iraq, while most of the population there don't believe that to be true at all.

And as we all know, one of the most important things which has to happen in the next few months to a year is the Iraqi people buying into and supporting the new government:
By a majority of two to one, Iraqis believe military operations now under way will disarm all militias. More than half say security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces.
IOW, they believe that this security operation will succeed at its purpose of giving the government and ISF time to stand up and take charge. They also believe that even after the US withdraws, if, obviously, they don't do so too soon, that security will continue to improve. That's a vote of confidence and critical to success.

Indicators that support their optimisim:
General Qasim al-Mussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi operation, said that the number of civilians killed in the past month had fallen to 265, compared with 1,440 from mid-January to mid-February. But there was no way to verify the figures independently.

Major General William Caldwell, the spokesman for US forces in Iraq, said that “there has been an over 50 per cent reduction in murders and executions” since Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Imposing the Law) began. But US and Iraqi forces still faced about 200 attacks each day.

“Attacks won’t stop suddenly but we’ll keep up momentum,” General Aboud Qanbar, the top military commander for the Baghdad security plan, said. Since mid-February two extra US military brigades have been deployed in the capital as part of the surge. Eventually an estimated 40,000 US troops will be in the Baghdad area, part of a force of about 90,000 US and Iraqi forces.

General al-Mussawi said that 713 insurgents had been arrested and another 1,152 suspects detained, while more than 2,000 displaced families have been returned to their homes.
I've mentioned the emphasized line in previous posts. This, at least to me, is the best indicator of progress. There isn't a bigger bet one can make than betting their family's safety by moving them back into Baghdad.

As Jules Crittenden points out, even AP is grudgingly pointing out the progress in Iraq:
Across Iraq, at least 20 people died Sunday, a sign that violence continued to abate as American and Iraqi forces press ahead with what many view as a last-chance bid to quell the sectarian violence in Baghdad and central regions of the country.

[...]

American forces are seeing some progress in their bid to drive a wedge between insurgents in Anbar province and more mainstream Sunnis who oppose them. The insurgent chlorine bombings were viewed as part of the building power struggle between those factions.
So 4 years in, we seem to be finally settling in to fight this war in a way which may turn out successfully in the long run (and yes, it is perfectly OK to be righteously angry that it has taken leadership this long to figure it out). The people of Iraq, apparently are beginning to see the progress they expected and have wanted. Of course final success may be dependent upon whether the feet-of-clay portion of our population, who obviously don't have the will (political or moral) to see this through, finally get their way and pull out our troops before the job is done.

UPDATE: Of course the poll cited above has to compete with this poll:
The optimism that helped sustain Iraqis during the first few years of the war has dissolved into widespread fear, anger and distress amid unrelenting violence, a survey found.

The poll - the third in Iraq since early 2004 by ABC News and media partners - draws a stark portrait of an increasingly pessimistic population under great emotional stress.

[...]

Fewer than half in the country, 42 percent, said that life in Iraq now is better than it was under Saddam Hussein, the late dictator accused of murdering tens of thousands during a brutal regime.
Interesting, no?
 
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Wow, its been a full force blitz to try to overshadow the good initial results of the surge.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Most Iraqis are Shi’ites, and Shi’ites will almost inevitably say anything is better than Saddam’s rule. But note that they are saying that things will be better after multinational forces leave; they have said that even before the current surge, so that cannot be interpreted as optimism about the current security operation. Rather, it must be interpreted as a belief that the US presence makes matters worse, rather than better.

In my blog today I point out that this war represents a policy failure. Even if we can manage to find a way out that leaves Iraq stable, we cannot lose sight of the failure, or else we’ll be making the same mistake we made with Kosovo — shift definitions of success and use PR to cover up a failed policy.

Still, it seems to be the perpetual optimism of the pro-war position that every new tactic, every election, every event is cause for believing things will get better. In the past it capturing Saddam. Then it was the election. Then the constitution. Then the next election. Then came claims of "slow progress." Now it’s "the surge" that creates optimism. In each past case, the PR machine gave data and quotes from Iraqis to support that optimism. But it was all an illusion. Is this optimism (of the war supporters) based on another illusion? The track record suggests there is a good chance it is. I think it may create a ’peace with honor moment,’ but I’d be very, very surprised if a stable, functioning democracy devoid of large amounts of ethnic violence will emerge afterwards.

I’ve argued against the optimistic assessments in the past but then as now, I hope I’m wrong, and I hope something brings the Iraqis stability and peace. But no matter what happens we have to take an objective, cold hard look at the policy of going to war with Iraq — the initial goals and expectations, and recognized that what happened was not at all like what was intended and expected. We need to learn from those failures, or else the next disaster will be even bigger (which happened in Iraq in part because we didn’t learn from the Kosovo failure).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
My outlook on Iraq is based on more then what the main stream media is reporting. My optimism is based on my faith.

There are several developments which, even in the savagery of the incidents, are indications that the status quo is no longer in effect.

Just in the past week, I’ve seen:

1) al-Sadr’s influence being severely curbed from his absence from the public eye.

2) Negotiations with elements of his militia.

3) His militia and al-Qaeda attacking the local government. The very people that both of these groups need support from, if they are to maintain any legitimacy as being opposed to the occupation.
this war represents a policy failure
War always represents a policy failure. But, then that assumes that there will always be some policy which can avoid conflict and violence.
Even if we can manage to find a way out that leaves Iraq stable, we cannot lose sight of the failure, or else we’ll be making the same mistake we made with Kosovo — shift definitions of success and use PR to cover up a failed policy.
But if Iraq is stable, then how is it not a success. I think we need to be more realistic about what success means in these kinds of conflicts. Now, we are learning as we go with regard to Iraq. We didn’t train to be peace keepers/nation builders, nor did we equip ourselves to do that. Something which should have been happening with the "Peace dividend."

BTW on the other thread, I find the personal attacks on you and others, very distasteful and a distraction to the debate. While I may not agree with all of your conclusions, you present thoughtful arguments, and should receive the same in kind.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
Most Iraqis are Shi’ites, and Shi’ites will almost inevitably say anything is better than Saddam’s rule.
Scott, are you implying that the ABC poll didn’t poll a representative percentage of Shi’ites?

Maybe you can run with that on your blog; you might give them the "Rather/Mapes" treatment, and your blog might gain respect similar to LGF.

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
I applaud you for putting up two contrasting polls.

Most polling I’ve seen over the years, Shiites consistently like now better than Saddamn and Sunnis consistently like Saddam better than now. Thus, a) divided opinions and b) civil war.


General Qasim al-Mussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi operation, said that the number of civilians killed in the past month had fallen to 265, compared with 1,440 from mid-January to mid-February. But there was no way to verify the figures independently.

I know I’m going to come under fire for saying this, but Iraqi ministries quoting civilian death totals are unreliable to the point of uselessness. Iraqis who report honest numbers are targets.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1721366,00.html

while more than 2,000 displaced families have been returned to their homes.

This represents, from the numbers I’ve heard, about 2%. It’s better than 0%. We’ll see if it continues. I’m not sure if this, by itself, means that the overall trend of mass emigration has changed. Although the recent all-but closure of Syria and Jordan’s borders may help shut that trend down anyway.


The only thing that really bothers me here is:

More than half say security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces.

being analyzed as: They also believe that even after the US withdraws, if, obviously, they don’t do so too soon, that security will continue to improve. That’s a vote of confidence and critical to success.

It seems to me like you’ve inserted "if they don’t do so too soon" in that response where it was not there.

I think a more direct way of reading a response that "security will improve after US forces withdraw" is "things would be better if you would leave."








 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I should add that the two polls don’t really swing that far on this question:

Fewer than half in the country, 42 percent, said that life in Iraq now is better than it was under Saddam Hussein,

That’s from the "negative" story.


Yet 49% of those questioned preferred life under Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, to living under Saddam.

There’s the "positive" story.

The data can be spun any way you want, but in both cases, the data is what it is. I think people here might be able to form an independent judgement about what it means that roughly 40-50% of Iraqis think life in 2007 is better than it was under Saddamn and 50-60% don’t.

I’m only going to add that, it’s time to stop laughing the people who said "Iraq would be a better place today if we’d never invaded" out of the room. Apparently half of Iraq agrees with them. It’s not 95%, but it’s not 5%.

Of course, the counterargument will be that progress is usually built on suffering. etc.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
glasnost - you have to put the one answer you quote in context with the previous answer...
By a majority of two to one, Iraqis believe military operations now under way will disarm all militias. More than half say security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces.
When you put it in context, McQ’s opinion of what it might mean holds.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
In the past it capturing Saddam. Then it was the election. Then the constitution. Then the next election.
The reason we were optimistic is that things did actually improve. When you look at the number of attacks plotted with time, you can actually see a dramatic reduction after each of these events. You look at the graphs and say "hey what happened here, here, and here?" Was the effect temporary? Maybe, but it was significant and obvious.

The problem is that since the current Iraqi government came to power, nothing has changed. The violence has been constant and it hasn’t been improving. The war has turned into a meat grinder for US forces and for the Iraqis and public sentiment reflects it. While we can blame the Iraqis, ultimately we’re just passing the buck. We need to be adapting and we haven’t been.
 
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
URL: http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com
Anopther poll with conflicting data
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
But if Iraq is stable, then how is it not a success. I think we need to be more realistic about what success means in these kinds of conflicts. Now, we are learning as we go with regard to Iraq. We didn’t train to be peace keepers/nation builders, nor did we equip ourselves to do that. Something which should have been happening with the "Peace dividend."
I understand your point. But I think we need to at the very least take seriously the various failures of policy over the last few years to make sure we don’t make similar errors. If (and that’s a big if) Iraq stabilizes perhaps one could say "We ultimately succeeded in stabilizing Iraq, but it was only after a string of policy failures from which we can learn." I consider these things policy failures: we failed to appreciate the difficulty of the task, we over-estimated our ability to shape political outcomes, we underestimated the cost in dollars and lives, and we weren’t prepared for the unintended consequences of choosing war.

I think that if you went back to 2003 and showed people what the choice of going to war would lead to, most people would not have made the choice. There was a strong belief that: a) the war would be short; b) Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the reconstruction of the country; c) a stable democracy loyal to the US would emerge relatively quickly; and d) this democratic Iraq would be a model to other states in the region on how democracy can function, put pressure on Syria and Iran to reform, and make it easier to have peace between Israel and the Palestinians as they would no longer face a military threat from Iraq. If we were told the price and that the result in 4 years would be hope that a Baghdad crackdown might lead to stability (which I still think is unlikely given the history of how hard it is to stop ethnic violence once it begins), most people would have said its not worth the cost.

Also, President Bush personally sacrificed the "ownership society" (much as LBJ gave up the "great society") to this war, as his efficacy and capacity for bold initiatives collapsed in his second term.

So, OK. If we get stability we can’t really call that a failure, that will be a success. But we need to acknowledge the failures along the way.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
But note that they are saying that things will be better after multinational forces leave; they have said that even before the current surge, so that cannot be interpreted as optimism about the current security operation. Rather, it must be interpreted as a belief that the US presence makes matters worse, rather than better.
Yet question 27 of the ABC poll: How long do you think U.S. and other coalition forces should remain in Iraq? They should…

35 Leave now
38 Remain until security is restored
14 Remain until the Iraqi government is stronger*
11 Remain until the Iraqi security forces can operate independently
02 Remain longer but leave eventually
01 Never leave
*In 2005, “Remain until the Iraqi government elected in December is in place”
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
"We ultimately succeeded in stabilizing Iraq, but it was only after a string of policy failures from which we can learn." I consider these things policy failures: we failed to appreciate the difficulty of the task, we over-estimated our ability to shape political outcomes, we underestimated the cost in dollars and lives, and we weren’t prepared for the unintended consequences of choosing war.
I think many are already to readily admit these things (or at least some of them.)

I just don’t think we can truly judge what the effects of the Iraq war and occupation will be in the region, until down the road.

4 years may seem a long time, but you certainly know the history of past conflicts. How long should stabilizing, rebuilding and reconciliation take? I don’t think there’s a formulaic answer to that. Each case is going to be unique in some ways, and similar in others. Our strategy for dealing with the aftermath, while it can contain broad outlines of what we want to accomplish, has to adjust to local conditions.

While Iraq is exceeding some of our expectations, ie the occupation is not going smoothly, it exceeded others, taking care of the Iraqi Army and hunting down a majority of the regime, took far less time then expected. As you’ve stated the war part of Iraq exceeded even our best estimates. We agree that we weren’t prepared for "winning the peace."
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
Perhaps ABC can blow life into the corpse of Saddam.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
the ABC poll: How long do you think U.S. and other coalition forces should remain in Iraq
I question the validity of poling the public on questions they do not have the information to answer. What you get is an emotional reaction based on incomplete and faulty information. This is only useful to politicians with their finger in the wind, and ideologies who spin the results in their favor.

 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
So, OK. If we get stability we can’t really call that a failure, that will be a success.

—Scott Erb
I sense a disturbance in The Force . . .
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics” Disreali You can say that about information coming from Iraq. The Washington Post, has a good take on this.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
I know I’m going to come under fire for saying this, but Iraqi ministries quoting civilian death totals are unreliable to the point of uselessness. Iraqis who report honest numbers are targets.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1721366,00.html
Any reason to trust the Guardian?
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
I sense a disturbance in The Force . . .
Hardly, he was responding to my statement, which I phrased to make sure I understood where he was coming from.

A stable Iraq is still a big IF. Many things can still go wrong. Many things can go right and it could still fail. That is the nature of human interaction.

As far as I can tell, Scott’s position isn’t that war/violence should be avoided at all costs, just that it should always be the last, and least favored option. I’m sure he will correct me if I’m wrong.

In a sense, that should be the default position of most anyone. We shouldn’t be seeking war. We should seek diplomacy and other means of dealing with conflicting interests, when possible. But, we shouldn’t capitulate or appease those who oppose us or the "will of the world."

I got sick and tired of being called "pro-war" in the lead up to the Iraq war. I really didn’t want war, but I thought we should confront Saddam, and was 100% behind giving him the ultimatums. Up until the 1st bomb dropped, the onus was on Saddam to meet the conditions set forth. I think he was certain that international pressure from those he bought and paid for would keep the war from happening.

Now, I had little hope that Saddam would do what he needed to do to avoid war. So, I felt that war was inevitable, whether it was in 6 months or 6 years. Sooner or later we were going to have to confront Saddam.

****
I question the validity of poling the public on questions they do not have the information to answer. What you get is an emotional reaction based on incomplete and faulty information. This is only useful to politicians with their finger in the wind, and ideologies who spin the results in their favor.
I agree, but then we’d have to do away with all polls (except maybe American Idol.) And probably get rid of the voting booth too...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
As far as I can tell, Scott’s position isn’t that war/violence should be avoided at all costs, just that it should always be the last, and least favored option. I’m sure he will correct me if I’m wrong.
That’s pretty accurate. I think my assumptions are: a) the incidence of civilian and innocent death is often very high in modern conflicts, and that has to be taken very seriously in the calculation; b) military action often has unintended consequences which can be very dangerous and potentially spread more violence — the possibility of this turning in to a regional Shi’ite-Sunni war is an example of one such possibility; c) military force by a major power to shape political outcomes elsewhere is often ineffective because it arouses local animosity to the foreign power and the foreign power very often doesn’t understand all the local forces at work; d) in a democracy you need to have the support of the public to fight a long term war, and that support is only present if there is a true consensus on a clear danger to the state; and e) the era of globalization is making traditional wars between states less likely, and weakening the value of military power. To combat terrorism and other non-conventional threats one needs multilateral cooperation and focused military action alongside an array of other counter-terrorism tools. This means that if military action is chosen, it should have international support (preferably the UN Security Council, but conceivably broad support in the case of a Security Council veto).

Finally, I think the traditional libertarian view that a large military with an activist/interventionist foreign policy leads to a government that is more powerful and more willing/able to curtail freedoms is accurate. The core of my ideological belief system is a distrust in centralized power, especially strong governments.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Any reason to trust the Guardian?


Normally I would say no. However in this case, other more reliable sources have also reported Iraqi Ministry numbers are not accurate.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
"I agree, but then we’d have to do away with all polls (except maybe American Idol.) And probably get rid of the voting booth too..."
American Idol is the only poll whare those being polled have the information neccesary to make an informed choice.

Considering the state of ignorance about Civics, History, Philosophy, and our system of governance. The boobwazee should have to take a test to show they have the knowledge necessary to cast an informed vote, before being allowed into the voting booth.


 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://

 
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