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The aftermath. Disenchantment with the outcomes of the intervention

To the extent that public opinion in Europe came to support the war or accept it as a fait accompli after the initiation of the war in March 2003, this support was short-lived (see Table 5.14, columns 5-10). Europeans were quick to conclude that the war had been 'a mistake', 'not the right thing' or 'not worth the costs' (depending on the wording of the question). Majorities among Europeans already felt so in the spring of 2003 after President Bush had, as it turned out somewhat prematurely, declared victory.

If there were any lingering doubts in the first half of 2003, by the fall of 2003, majorities in most European countries had come to the conclusion that, whatever the original arguments and justifications, the negative effects of the war now outweighed any benefits it might have had.

Also, among 22 countries in an international poll46 majorities in eighteen countries felt that after the conflicts involving Afghanistan and Iraq, the world had become 'a more dangerous' rather than a safer place. In 20 countries, it was felt that the US were generally 'too quick to use

Table 5.15 Military intervention of the US and its allies in Iraq justified?

Totally

justified

Rather

justified

Rather

unjustified

Totally

unjustified

Don't know/ No answer

Austria

2

10

29

57

2

Belgium

4

17

34

42

4

Denmark

19

38

22

19

1

Finland

6

25

38

27

4

France

3

15

26

55

1

Germany

4

21

35

37

3

Greece

1

3

13

82

1

Ireland

8

32

26

33

1

Italy

8

29

26

33

4

Luxembourg

6

16

28

47

3

Netherlands

10

29

26

33

2

Portugal

5

22

25

43

5

Spain

3

12

129

61

6

Sweden

8

29

31

27

5

United Kingdom

15

29

22

29

6

EU-15

7

22

27

41

4

Format of the question:

'Today, would you say that the military intervention of the US and its allies in Iraq was...'?

Source: Eurobarometer, fall 2003.

force', in 19 that the conflicts had done serious damage to the UN. In 12 states, majorities felt that the war had not brought the prospect of more stability and peace in the Middle East any closer. Only in five countries was it generally felt that the transatlantic rift could easily be overcome. In ten countries majorities felt that the war in Iraq had had a negative influence on their general opinion of the US (and pluralities in another ten felt the same way).

In the US, however, it took some more time for this disenchantment to arise. Pluralities of Americans continued to believe that the war was justified and worth the costs (in terms of casualties). By 2004, many Americans too had come to the conclusion, however, that, while one had to see things through in terms of the outcomes, going to war had not been such a good idea.47 This can also be demonstrated by poll data from mid-2006 (Table 5.16). While not majoritarian (yet), the feeling became strong that the negative side-effects had been stronger than the positive ones.

Table 5.16 American views on the impact of the Iraq war (in %)

Better off

Same

Worse off

No opinion

The Iraqi people

48

19

9

4

The war on terrorism

42

29

25

4

The prospects for democracy in the Middle East

40

29

29

2

The people of the United States

37

33

26

5

The image of the US around the world

11

26

60

3

Source: Gallup, June 9-11, 2006 (N = 1,002).

Format of the questions: 'Do you think each of the following is better off, about the same, or worse off as a result of the war with Iraq?'.

 
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