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The conditions of support: a Transatlantic perspective
The conditions of going to war before March 2003. The importance of legitimacy
To begin with the pre-war situation: two international polls compared attitudes in the US and some European countries on the issue of the conditions under which war would be an acceptable course of action. The
Table 5.11 A summary of the evolution of support
Worldviews 2002 survey probed public attitudes toward the use of force in general but also more specifically, including the then still impending war on Iraq, an issue that, in June 2002, was starting to gain attention in the public media. Six months later, in January 2003, a comparable effort was made by Gallup International, providing additional information on other countries. At the time, the controversy over the war concentrated on the issue of whether support by the UN Security Council was necessary to lend international legitimacy to a war with Iraq or could be dispensed with. Contrary to what many people thought, before the war began, remarkable similarities between Europe and the United States emerged in this respect. On both sides of the Atlantic, respondents were asked whether the United States should 'never go to war against Iraq to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein', or should 'go to war only with a UN mandate and the support of its allies', or should 'go it alone if necessary'. The results are presented in Table 5.12.
In July 2002, on both sides of the Atlantic, support for the use of force was clearly contingent upon the same condition: multilateral approval. Given these three choices, only 26 percent of Europeans and 13 percent of Americans said that the United States should not invade Iraq at all, and, on the other hand, minorities of only 20 percent of Americans and
Table 5.12 Preferences in US and Europe on using US troops to invade Iraq (in %)
Sources: CCFR-GMF Worldviews 2002 survey.
Taylor Nelson Sofres/Gallup International Association, January 15-16, 2003.
ten percent of Europeans said the United States should invade Iraq even if they had to go it alone. Both Europeans and Americans were more likely by far (60 percent and 65 percent, respectively) to say that the United States should only invade Iraq with UN approval and the support of its allies. What is most striking about this transatlantic consensus of sorts at the level of mass public opinion is that on the one hand at the time only 26 percent of Europeans ruled out completely a strike against Iraq, and on the other hand that only 20 percent of Americans felt so strongly about an attack on Iraq that they would be willing for the United States to do so alone. These results are widely consistent with survey data from other sources discussed below. For the United States and with respect to various scenarios around the presence or absence of international legitimation in the sense of UN support, we summarize the results of all questions we were able to locate until March 2003, in which the respondents were called upon to reflect on the use of force with or without UN legitimacy (Table 5.13).
Irrespective of the different wordings of the questions, UN legitimacy appears to have been an important, if not the most important, consideration up to the very last minute before the outbreak of the war. Across different questions and surveys, support for a military action against Iraq always decreased systematically from about two-thirds to one-third of the sample in case of a unilateral military action by the US government. Conversely, explicit references to the 'opposition' by the United Nations44 apparently did increase the numbers of 'unilateralists', but the multilateralists remained still in the majority. The few available trend questions point to a slight increase in the percentage of those willing to support a unilateral American military action as time goes by. However, opposition to a unilateral military action still remained the majoritarian view until the very last days before the conflict broke out.
In other words, from mid-2002 to the beginning of the war, Europeans and Americans by and large shared the rationale for the war; however, they were also united by their general preference for only going to war with a UN mandate if war could not be avoided at all.
Six months later, however, the picture had changed considerably. Many Americans, presumably under the influence of their government's propaganda (Kull, et al. 2003; Foyle, 2004), had moved towards accepting the rationale for a war without a UN mandate, if needs be. They came to accept the way the Bush administration had framed the problem. As Holsti (2011: 137) argues, media and congressional doubters lost traction and fell into line, particularly because the Bush team framed the Iraq issue '... as a central part of the post-9/11 "global
Sources and Formats of the questions:
HARRIS/Chicago Council on Foreign Relations: There has been some discussion about whether the US should use its troops to invade Iraq and overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein. Which of the following positions is closest to your own? The US should not invade Iraq; The US should only invade Iraq with UN approval and the support of its allies; The US should invade Iraq even if we have to go it alone.
PIPA/Knowledge Networks: There has been some discussion about whether the US should use its troops to invade Iraq and overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein. Which of the following positions is closest to yours?
Harris Interactive/CNN /Time: If Saddam Hussein does not comply with UN resolutions passed last week that require Iraq to allow UN inspectors into its country to search for weapons of mass destruction, do you think the
US should invade Iraq with ground troops without UN authorization, invade Iraq with ground troops but only with UN authorization, or not invade Iraq with ground troops at all?
CBS News/NewYork Times: Which statement do you agree with more? Iraq presents such a clear danger to American interests that the United States needs to act now, even without the support of its allies. OR, The US needs to wait for its allies before taking any action against Iraq. (US shouldn't act (volunteer)) '...ORThe US needs to get the support of its allies before...'
Opinion Dynamics/Fox News: Russian President (Vladimir) Putin has said that the United Nations should approve any attack on Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Do you think the US (United States) should only attack Hussein after getting UN approval, go it alone if the UN won't approve the attack, or not attack Hussein under any circumstances?
Gallup: Which comes closest to your point of view about sending US ground troops to Iraq: the United States should send ground troops to Iraq only if the United Nations supports that action; the United States should send ground troops to Iraq even if the United Nations opposes that action; or the United States should not send ground troops to Iraq at all?
Gallup/CNN/USA Today: Suppose Saddam Hussein does not comply with the United Nations resolutions passed [today/on Friday]. Do you think the United States should invade Iraq with ground troops: only if the UN votes to authorize the use of US ground troops; even if the UN does not vote to authorize the use of US ground troops; or do you think the United States should not send ground troops to Iraq at all?
Hart and Teeter/NBC News/Wall Street Journal: Do you think that the United States should take military action against Iraq only with the support of the United Nations, or should the United States take military action against Iraq even if the United Nations does not support such action? (Never Take Military Action could be volunteered).
war on terrorism".', which permitted the US to act in self-defense. However, in the US, the issue of a UN mandate remained important, but the increasing polarization increased preferences for the two other options: either to go to war irrespective of what others thought or not go to war at all.
Meanwhile, many Europeans, on the other hand, had moved towards the opposite end of the spectrum of opinions and now believed (mistakenly) that, while the evidence against Iraq for hiding its weapons of mass destruction from the UN inspectors was pretty strong, the US should not invade Iraq without a UN mandate, not for the time being or not at all. If, on the other hand, there would be a mandate by the Security Council, at the beginning of 2003, surprising numbers of Europeans45 would be willing to support a war, although not, or not yet, that one's country should also participate in such a war.
Of course, there was some variation among the European countries. Danish and British people, for instance, were slightly more likely to support a unilateral military action by the US and its allies and readier to support their own country's participation than French or Germans. In none of these countries however, could one find support for the war in the range of 70 percent as was the case at the time in the US.
When the war approached, Europeans continued to show themselves much more concerned with the issue of international legitimacy compared to the Americans. The quasi-experimental EOS Gallup survey of January 2003, carried out in 15 European countries, enabled exploration, in some detail, of the importance attached to a UN mandate when presented as one among a number of scenarios (Table 5.14).
Scenarios E and F (war without consent of the UN or with the UN opposed) were almost generally rejected across all European countries. Cracks in this united front of rejectionists started to appear only when non-cooperation of Iraq with the UN inspectors was introduced in the question wording. And the balance shifted to positive (support) in some countries. This shift becomes even clearer as one moved to a situation where Iraq would become an actual rather than a potential threat to countries in the region. This would be a situation to which people in quite a few countries would also be sensitive and would affect the degree of support: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Turkey and the United
Sources and Formats of the questions:
A Do you consider that it would be justified or not that our country participates in a military intervention in Iraq if the United Nations Security Council decides on a military intervention in Iraq?
В Do you consider that it would be justified or not that our country participates in a military intervention in Iraq if the United Nations inspectors discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
C Do you consider that it would be justified or not that our country participates in a military intervention in Iraq if Iraq threatens other countries in the region? D Do you consider that it would be justified or not that our country participates in a military intervention in Iraq if the Iraqi regime does not cooperate with United Nations inspectors?
E The United States should intervene militarily in Iraq even if the United Nations does not give its formal agreement?
F Do you consider that it would be justified or not that our country participates in a military intervention in Iraq if the United States intervenes militarily in Iraq without a preliminary decision of the United Nations?
ALL AVER = Average of all observations (1-11)
Kingdom. People in other countries would, however, not be moved by this argument.
It is roughly also in these same countries that people were relatively sensitive to the other two remaining scenarios: participation in an intervention with a clear UN mandate and the situation when it would be discovered that Iraq indeed possessed weapons of mass destruction.
In about half of the thirty European countries in the survey, opponents would continue to outweigh supporters of action (including many of the traditionally 'neutral'): Austria, Bulgaria (contrary to its government), Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
On the whole, taking an average of all six scenarios, however, only three European countries could be called true allies, as far as public opinion at the mass level was concerned: the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. If one also takes column five, with the IPSOS data from April-May 2003, into account, one could perhaps add Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal to this set.
Incidentally, these figures give some, but not strong, confirmation to the thesis put forward by the US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, at the time that the real allies were to be found in what he referred to as the 'new Europe'.
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