Support for the 'war on terrorism' by the United States

It is true that the United States initially neither needed nor made use of the active military support that a number of allies were willing to give them in the reprisal actions against the terrorist attacks, in Afghanistan in particular. (This would, of course, soon change, as the need to gain international legitimacy became equally as obvious as the fact that the US were militarily incapable of doing the tasks they had set themselves to fulfill entirely on their own). Therefore, in terms of showing the righteousness of their cause, the politically most important question from an American perspective soon became to what extent the United States found not only sympathy and understanding for its military actions but also a willingness to actively share their burden.

We shall first look at general support for 'the US-led efforts to fight terrorism' and then more particularly for the use of military force by the United States, and finally to the degree of willingness to actually participate in military action against terrorism.

Initially, the US enjoyed widespread and fairly general sympathy for their willingness to take vigorous action against terrorism. This sympathy declined strongly over time, however, most probably due to a combination of criticism of the way the 'war on terrorism' was conducted and disappointments about the lack of results.23 Most telling is perhaps that this was not so much a rejection of the use of force per se, but probably rather distrust in specific US policies.

A worrisome aspect from the American perspective was the fact that this decline of sympathy was a worldwide affair and included the European allies. In the fall of 2001, in Europe, support for US policies in reaction to the terrorist threat had been a majority view in almost all countries concerned. But by 2006 the opposite had become true. The data in Table 5.4 form a vivid illustration of the fact that over the years the US began to countenance a dramatic loss of international understanding and support as far as the fight against terrorism 'a la ameri- caine' was concerned. Hence, an increasingly serious public relations problem arose in connection with the policies of the Bush administration in this area. We return to both aspects below.

Just after the September 11 attacks, when Gallup International polled support in 37 countries worldwide, it became evident that, given the choice, respondents already almost universally would prefer to seek extradition of the suspected terrorists over military action (notwithstanding the also existing support for military force suggested in other questions discussed above). Among 37 countries, there were just three exceptions

Table 5.4 Assessments of the US-led efforts to fight terrorism (2002-2010) (in NET %*)

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2009

2010

France

52

21

3

3

-15

-14

39

34

Germany

45

25

12

5

-3

-9

43

22

Poland

70

-

-

32

-

1

42

50

Russia

57

23

53

21

17

17

29

25

Spain

-

31

-

-41

-57

-46

24

18

Turkey

-28

-49

-19

-54

-63

-70

-31

-40

UK

46

33

33

9

7

-11

36

27

US

81

68

58

54

57

55

63

*Percent 'Favor' minus 'Oppose'. 'Don't know' and 'Refused' responses excluded.

Format of the question: 'Which comes closer to describing your view? I favor the US-led efforts to fight terrorism, or, I oppose the US-led efforts to fight terrorism'.

Sources: Pew Research Center for the People & The Press: What the World Thinks in 2002, July October 2002; Views of a Changing World, June 2003; A Year After Iraq War, February-March 2004, April-May 2005, April 2006, May 2007, May 2009 and April-May 2010. These polls were held worldwide but in the context of this book, only figures for the US and European countries are given.

to this pattern: India, Israel and the United States itself, where 72, 77 and 54 percent respectively had the opposite preference. Replies to other questions suggest too that people were initially generally cautious with respect to actually going to war. Thus, in the same poll large majorities in all countries felt that in the case of military actions civilian targets should be avoided. This was also the favored option in the three countries just mentioned, but again in these cases by just a majority.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >