War Journalism

Has the western view on Syria been affected by Iraq/Afghanistan

The anxiety of joining another war in the Middle East was eased slightly as the UK plans to strike Syria were axed following a vote in the House of Commons where the majority voted against the prime minister, David Cameron, and his plan to assist the US and France. Since, the US has also altered its approach to the situation, with President Barack Obama putting plans of a strike on hold as Syria agree to hand over it’s chemical weapons.

Syria protests outside parliament (Photo from the Independent/Getty Images)

You have to question whether the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a contributing factor in the public’s reasons to be either for or against another war in this volatile region. Certainly in the US this appears to be the case when you look at two different polls carried out by CNN. In one, they ask people if they approve of an invasion Iraq prior to March 2003, the majority regularly approved. However, if you take a look at a more recent poll, which ask whether they should get involved at all in Syria, in different scenarios, you can clearly see that the results are the complete opposite:

Public Support for Invading Iraq – June 2002-February 2003

An example of the CNN Poll results

When I asked two American citizens, Emily, a republican from California, and Nick from Missouri  who has no political allegiance, whether the US should get involved, Nick felt they should not get involved, whereas Emily believed that if there had been any military action it would have only happened to show that Obama’s words weren’t meaningless.

When asked if they were happy Obama was seeking Congressional approval before committing to anything they were just as impassive, with Nick suggesting he didn’t care if Congress approved or disapproved of bombing civilians, while Emily thought it is unnecessary, and if anything, too little too late.

Closer to home, the general feeling was the country did not want to follow the US into Iraq, however, in a surveys taken within days of each of before the official invasion date from two different sources, it shown that opinion was more mixed than first thought:

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 20.22.40

Survey results from two sources asking if the public approved of the Iraq invasion (Support percentages [L] Oppose percentages [R])

On the other hand, this poll regarding whether MPs were right to vote against strikes in Syria shown almost 3/4 of the people asked approved:

Source: ICM research for BBC

From my own research, I have found everyone asked was happy the government were listening to the people they represent and voted against strikes.

With this, I found only 25% of people asked thought Iraq/Afghanistan played a part in their opinion, with others saying they are either undecided, think it is a different situation altogether or just think we should not get involved at all as we have enough problems to deal with ourselves.

One concerning aspect of this situation is what the Ministry of Defense is doing behind closed doors. In an article by the Guardian, it was shown they were investigating ways of making war more palatable for the public, which is unsettling considering the public’s disapproval of this current conflict.

As expected, 75% of people asked echoed the opinion that war is never a good thing, our army should be protecting our country rather than attacking others, and war should only be used as a last resort, with the remainder believing that the MoD are carrying this out in the correct manner.

To conclude, due to the evidence I have gathered, I have come to the conclusion the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a minimal effect when it comes to the publics opinion on action in Syria but still enough that they feel another war for the country can only be a bad thing.

When you also take into account the loss of numbers in the previously named conflicts, as well as the cuts to the army which will lead to less resources, I can only agree.


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